Acute bronchitis causes slight fever, cough (dry or productive), mucopurulent secretions, flulike symptoms, chest pain, and reduced respiratory excursion.

Chronic bronchitis results in cough, sputum, difficulty in breathing, wheezing, asthmatic episodes, recurrences of pulmonary infection, respiratory failure, and exhaustion. 

What is Bronchitis?

From Modern Western Medicine

Inflammation of the bronchial passages, the airways that connect the trachea to the lungs, results in chronic cough and, very often, significant amounts of phlegm. Bronchitis can manifest in one of two forms: acute, which is the sudden onset of the illness, and which usually has a short duration; and chronic, or the persistent form of the disease that can recur over many years.

Viral infection usually causes acute bronchitis, though air pollution can also trigger the onset of the illness. Symptoms may be relieved by humidifying the lungs (through humidifier or inhaling steam) and drinking plenty of fluids.

Chronic bronchitis is defined as a cough, and the expectoration of phlegm can last as long as three consecutive months and can recur during two consecutive years. Chronic bronchitis can result in significant narrowing of the bronchial passages, causing obstruction of the airways to the lungs. Smoking is often the main cause of chronic bronchitis. The disease often coexists with emphysema.


From Traditional Medicine

Virtually all lung conditions are caused by repeated suppression of the common cold through use of antibiotics and other forms of medication. The common cold is normal and healthful form of cleansing the body, and should be allowed to run its course. (See the chapter on the Common Cold.) Cough is one of the mechanisms by which the body eliminates mucus, airborne pollutants and other waste products from the lungs. Thus, the bronchitis cough is a natural mechanism for cleansing the lungs, though, like the common cold, it is usually suppressed, which only makes it more chronic. Traditional forms of medicine maintain that the main causes of bronchitis are poor diet, especially excess sugar, lack of exercise (which prevents adequate movement of the lymph), and accumulation of toxins in the lungs and bronchial passages that irritate the tissues and cause inflammation.

Who Gets Bronchitis?

Acute bronchitis attacks occur most often in winter, most commonly among the elderly, smokers, infants, and those who suffer from lung disease. Most of those who are afflicted with chronic bronchitis are men over the age of 40; most of these people are smokers or live in industrial cities, where they breathe highly polluted air.


Foods to Eat

  • Two servings daily of leafy green vegetables, especially mustard greens, watercress, kale, and collard greens
  • Use gingerroot as a condiment on vegetables twice a week. (Do not over use ginger.)
  • White vegetables, such as daikon radish, turnips, and radishes (all considered traditional herbs for the lungs)


Foods to Avoid

  • Refined white sugar and foods containing sugar and other artificial ingredients
  • Dairy products, which weaken the lungs
  • Spice foods, such as hot peppers
  • Acidic foods, such as spices, peppers, and tomatoes
  • Raw foods, especially salads, which irritate the lungs and exacerbate the condition


Chinese Medicine

Bronchitis can be a result of any of the following lung conditions:

Heat congestion in the lungs irritates the tissues and creates inflammation and warm phlegm. To treat, cool heat and reduce irritation and inflammation:

  • Prepare much of the diet in the form of soups.
  • Eat whole grains, such as millet, barely, and rice.
  • Eat leafy greens, especially watercress, cabbage, and bok choy.
  • Eat peaches, pears, strawberries, and citrus fruits.
  • Eat seaweeds.
  • Eat root vegetables, especially daikon, carrot, and pumpkin.

Phlegm in the lungs (if tongue coating is white, the phlegm is cold; if tongue is yellow, phlegm is hot):

  • Foods that digest easily, such as vegetables, fruits, sprouts, grains, beans, and almonds (small amounts)
  • Watercress (cooling for hot phlegm)
  • Onions (warming for cool phlegm)
  • Turnips (neutral, for both conditions)
  • Daikon radish (cooling for hot phlegm)
  • Seaweeds (cooling for hot phlegm)

Deficient yin of the lungs (resulting from chronic lung infection, inflammation, or long-term lung disease—suggests kidney yin deficiency):

  • Seaweed
  • Spirulina and chlorella microalgae
  • Fruits, such as orange, peach, pear, apple, watermelon, and banana
  • Tofu, tempeh, and soy milks
  • String beans
  • Rice syrup


Foods to Avoid

Chinese medicine states that the following foods either cause bronchitis or exacerbate its symptoms.

Heat congesting the lungs:

  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Animal products
  • Warming fish, such as trout, salmon, and anchovy
  • Onion family, especially garlic
  • Ginger


Phlegm in the lungs:

  • Dairy products
  • Meat and poultry
  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Soy product, such as miso and soy sauce
  • Sweeteners


Deficient yin of the lungs:

  • Warming foods and spices
  • Bitter flavors


Deficient qi if the lungs:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Salt
  • Dairy products
  • Cereal grass products
  • Seaweeds and microalgae (chlorella is okay)


Herbs to Treat Bronchitis

  • Yerba santa (stimulates digestive juices and good for all types of bronchitis): Use as a tea. Steep 30 minutes, 2 – 3 oz., three times a day
  • Lotus root tea or kudzu bancha tea with ginger (macrobiotic remedy for yin-type person): 3 – 4 times per day
  • Squill (expectorant for dry cough): Tincture, 5 – 20 drops, two or three times per day
  • Flaxseed: decoction, 2 oz. of dried herb, three times per day (for hot phlegm)
  • Gingerroot: grated into cooking (for cold phlegm)
  • Slippery elm bark powder (for yin lung deficiency): make into a gruel by mixing powder with small amounts of water. Sweeten with honey and take a tablespoonful. Teabags can be purchased. Especially good with a little licorice.
  • Elecampane (for deficient qi of lungs): 3 – 9 g
  • Lobelia (respiratory relaxant and stimulates catarrhal secretion and expectorant: tincture, 10 –15 drops, two to four times per day



  • Ipecac (for violent spasmodic cough): 5 – 15 drops tincture, two to three times per day
  • Belladonna (for short, dry cough that is worse at night): 2 tablets, three to five times a day
  • Pulsatilla (for a gagging cough that is dry in evening, loose in morning, and for which you must sit up in bed for relief): 2 tablets, three to five times per day as directed



Add pine needles, olbas oil, eucalyptus, and elecampane to boiling water. Either the herb or the oil form is okay. Make a tent covering yourself and the pot and inhale vapors.


  • Vitamin A (excellent for lungs): 200 – 20,000 IU, two to three times per day
  • Vitamin B complex: 25 – 50 mg, three times per day
  • Vitamin C: 1000 mg, one to three times per day