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Hacking, coughing, inability to breatheit`s no fun when you have a cough in the winter, and it`s certainly no fun if you suffer from chronic bronchitis and have to cope with lung inflammation all year long. In fact, it can be downright fatal. Chronic respiratory infections, such as chronic bronchitis, are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Yet, despite what those persistent pharmaceutical ads for inhalers might lead you to believe, natural remedies have been used to treat chronic respiratory diseases for centuries.
Studies are finding that yoga and Ayurvedic medicine can be particularly effective in treating the diseases, writes Ashley Maltz, MD, MPH, from the Stamford (CT) Hospital and Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness, in the most recent issue of the journal, Alternative and Complementary Therapies. If you`re suffering from a bad winter cough, or if you have chronic bronchitis, put down the inhaler or the antibiotics, and try one of these alternative therapies:
Holy Basil: This herb is often used to treat lung inflammation in India. For treating bronchitis, it`s best to get an actual leaf of the plant if you can, and chew on it raw. You can also find holy basil teas at most natural food stores, although those may be less effective.
Malabar Nut: Another good plant to use in combination with, or instead of, holy basil is vasa (Adhatoda vasica), commonly called the malabar nut tree. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend chewing on the leaves, but in the U.S., you may be able to find only liquid extracts of the plant. If that`s the case, take two teaspoonfuls three times daily, mixed with a little honey.
Turmeric: This anti-inflammatory spice, the benefits of which seem to know no end, is another Ayurvedic remedy. Add one teaspoon to a full glass of milk, and take that concoction two to three times a day, with the first being early in the morning. It works best on an empty stomach. Trikatu: A mixture of equal parts Piper nigrum (black pepper), Piper longum ("long pepper," a spice you may find only online), and dried ginger, it`s thought to remove colds and congestion and act as a stimulant. Taking the mixture regularly also strengthens your immune system, which can fight off bouts of acute bronchitis.
Umcka: Derived from an African herb called Pelargonium sidoides, Umcka is an herbal extract that has been found very effective at preventing not just bronchitis but sinusitis as well. In one trial, people who took it returned to work two days earlier than people receiving a placebo. You can find it in some natural health food stores and drugstores, or order it online. Yoga: With its focus on deep breathing and proper posture, yoga has a lot of well-documented benefits for bronchitis sufferers. The research cited in this paper found that it led to improved lung function and less of a dependence on inhalers or other "rescue" medications, particularly in people with chronic bronchitis. "Yogic cleansing techniques" such as use of a neti pot helps remove excess mucus, a symptom of bronchitis, and lowers inflammation in your airways. Another yogic breathing technique called kapalabhati improves the ability to breathe during intense coughing spasms. In one study, the authors found that just 20 minutes of yogic breathing exercises can help calm coughing bouts in bronchitis triggered by allergy or asthma.
Meditation: Like yoga, meditation`s focus on deep breathing strengthens lungs, allowing more oxygen to enter and possibly improving lung function. Learn how to hone your meditation technique to get the most benefits.