Coughing is a protective reflex to clear the lungs and airways of irritants, secre-tions and foreign material. Bronchitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the mucous mem-branes of the tracheobronchial tree. Natural medicine offers a variety of treatments without the side-effects of conventional drugs.
- Herbs. Tussilago farfara (cough-wort or coltsfoot) is a well-established remedy for dry, non-productive, irritating cough. In Germany, the official dose is up to 6 g/day: infuse 2 tsp of the finely chopped herb in a cup of hot water, allow to draw for five minutes and strain. This is not to be used in pregnancy or lactation, or for more than a fortnight (Schilcher H, Kammerer S. Leitfaden Phytotherapie. Munich: Urban & Fischer, 2000; 6.7.1: 415-6). As sweet-ness stimulates the nerves that increase bronchial secretion, thus easing coughing, add honey to the infusion (Schilcher H, Kammerer S. Leit-faden Phytotherapie. Munich: Urban & Fischer, 2000; 6.7: 413).
- Allium cepa (onion) cough syrup has anti-wheezing effects: place six chopped white onions in a double boiler and add half a cup of honey (manuka 10+, if available). Cook over low heat for 2 hours and strain; take at regular intervals, preferably warm (Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol, 1987; 82: 535-6; Biochem Pharmacol, 1988; 37: 4479-86).
- Ephedra sinica (ma huang) has a relaxant effect to reduce wheezing. Compared with adrenaline, it is weaker, but lasts longer (Chang HM, But PPH, eds. Pharmacology and Applications of Chinese Materia Medica, vol 2. Singapore: World Scientific, 1987: 1119- 24). It has a prompt anti-coughing action (Pharmacokinetics, 1975; 10: 407- 15), and patients should stop taking it at least 24 hours before surgery (JAMA, 2001; 286: 208-16). Given the possibility of addiction, Germay's Commission E recommends that Ephedra be taken only on a short-term basis. It is also prohibited by the German Sports Association and International Olympic Committee (Blumenthal M et al., eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council, 1998: 125-6).
- Glycyrrhiza glabra (liquorice) stimulates mucus secretion in the trachea, and forms a soothing film on the mucous membranes (Bradley PR, ed. British Herbal Compendium, vol 1. Bournemouth, UK: British Herbal Medicine Association, 1992: 145-8). However, its prolonged and excessive intake can cause hypokalaemia and, rarely, pul-monary or systemic hypertension (Clin Exp Hypertens, 1995; 17: 575-9).
- Arbutus uva-ursi (bearberry) has antitussive activity due to arbutin, and proved to be more potent than the conventional antitussive agent dropropizine (Pharmazie, 1991; 46: 611-2).
- Homeopathy. Galphimia glauca is useful for a wide variety of aller-genic respiratory complaints, including allergy-induced cough and bronchial asthma (Allg Hom"oop Z, 1967; 212: 533-42; Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol, 1992; 97: 1-7; Planta Med, 1993; 59: 164-7). In my practice, I find the 4DH potency to be most effective.
- Osteopathy. Useful osteopathic techniques include the thoracic pump technique and postural drain-age. The latter promotes coughing: lie down sideways on a bed with the top half of your body hanging off the bed, head downwards, using the forearms as support on the floor.
Do this for 10 minutes three times a day, and cough and expectorate into a basin or newspaper on the floor. Some patients may need a helper to carry out the procedure (Murray M, Pizzorno J Jr. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1990: 177).
- Acupuncture. Tiantu (Co-22) and Lieque (L-7) are two acupoints that I always include in my acupuncture treatments for coughs (Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine. Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text. Seattle, WA: Eastland Press, 1984: 557).
- Hydrotherapy. Any of three 'moist cold chest wraps' may be used:
the warmth-reducing wrap; the warmth-saving wrap; and the sudorific wrap. The intense sweat-ing and heat generated by the latter is viricidal and bactericidal. Your naturopath can tell you which one to use and how to go about it.
- Ayurvedic medicine. Coleus forskohlii (makandi root) as a tincture or in the standardized powdered form is an effective bronchodilator, and can help when coughs or bronchitis lead to bronchial asthma (Wien Med Wochenschr, 1986; 136: 637-41).
- Inhalation therapy. Olbas Oil, a mixture of pure plant oils (such as clove, eucalyptus, juniper berry
and cajuput), is traditionally used for bronchial congestion and other respiratory problems. Use two or three drops on a paper tissue (for children aged three months to two years, use only one drop, and avoid using it for infants under three months) and place it inside your pillowcase before going to bed.
Another helpful remedy is Karvol, a combination of pine oils, terpineol, menthol, thymol and chloral hydrate. Add one capsule (or six drops of the solution) to 500 mL of hot water, and inhale the vapours under a towel. Again, avoid using this for infants under age three months (British National Formulary March, 2008; section 3.8: 176).
When infection is present with cough, Hydrastis canadensis tincture (15 mL or 1 tbsp in a half-glass of water, three times daily after food) has confirmed antibiotic activity against both streptococcal and staphylococcal bacteria (Textbook of Natural Medicine, vols Hydras-1 to Hydras-4. Seattle, WA: Bastyr University Publications, 1992).
Harald Gaier, a registered naturopath, osteopath, homeopath and herbalist, practises at The Allergy and Nutrition Clinic, 22 Harley Street, London, and the Irish Centre of Integrated Medicine, Co. Kildare ( www.drgaier.com ).