by Glickman-Simon R

Acute bronchitis is swelling of the airways in the lungs (bronchi). In most cases, it is caused by a viral infection that happens during a cold. It results in coughing and problems breathing. It can worsen breathing problems in people with asthma.

The body must fight the virus. Rest and fluids may help, but over-the-counter medications only treat symptoms instead of the virus. Antibiotics may be helpful if there is also a bacterial infection. Some seek alternative treatments to manage symptoms.

Natural Therapies

The following alternative therapy may help in reducing symptoms.

Likely Effective

  • Pelargonium sidoides—Alcohol extract from the root of the plant. It has been shown to reduce symptoms and length of illness. B1, B2, B4-B7

Possibly Effective

The following alternative therapies may be possibly effective in reducing symptoms and length of illness:

  • Essential oil monoterpenes (from eucalyptus, citrus fruit and pine) A1-A7
  • Combination thyme and primrose root extract B3

Possibly Not Effective

The following alternative therapy may not be effective in reducing symptoms of acute bronchitis:

  • Vitamin A is thought to prevent lower respiratory infections. (Note: High vitamin A intake can build up to toxic levels.) C1

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Herbs and Supplements to Be Used with Caution

Talk to your doctor about all herbs or supplements you are taking. Some may interact with your treatment plan or health conditions.

  • Vitamin A can build up to toxic levels. It may result in liver injury, bone problems, fatigue, hair loss, headaches, and dry skin. If you have liver disease, diabetes, alcoholism, or are taking blood thinners or isotretinoin, talk to your doctor before taking vitamin A.C1


Essential Oils Monoterpenes

REFA1 Dorow P, Weiss T, Felix R, et al. Effect of a secretolytic and a combination of pinene, limonene and cineole on mucociliary clearance in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [in German; English abstract]. Arzneimittelforschung . 1987;37:1378-1381.

REFA2 Ulmer WT, Schott D. Chronic obstructive bronchitis. Effect of Gelomyrtol forte in a placebo-controlled double-blind study [in German; English abstract]. Fortschr Med . 1991;109:547-550.

REFA3 Behrbohm H, Kaschke O, Sydow K. Effect of the phytogenic secretolytic drug Gelomyrtol forte on mucociliary clearance of the maxillary sinus [in German; English abstract]. Laryngorhinootologie . 1995;74:733-737.

REFA4 Federspil P, Wulkow R, Zimmermann T. Effects of standardized Myrtol in therapy of acute sinusitis—results of a double-blind, randomized multicenter study compared with placebo [in German; English abstract]. Laryngorhinootologie . 1997;76:23-27.

REFA5 Sengespeik HC, Zimmermann T, Peiske C, et al. Myrtol standardized in the treatment of acute and chronic respiratory infections in children. A multicenter post-marketing surveillance study [in German; English abstract]. Arzneimittelforschung . 1998;48:990-994.

REFA6 Meister R, Wittig T, Beuscher N, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of Myrtol standardized in long-term treatment of chronic bronchitis. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Study Group Investigators. Arzneimittelforschung . 1999;49:351-358.

REFA7 Matthys H, de Mey C, Carls C, et al. Efficacy and tolerability of Myrtol standardized in acute bronchitis. A multi-centre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel group clinical trial vs. cefuroxime and ambroxol. Arzneimittelforschung . 2000;50:700-711.


REFB1 Matthys H, et al. Efficacy and safety of an extract of Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630) in adults with acute bronchitis. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2003;10(suppl 4):7-17.

REFB2 Chuchalin AG, Berman B, Lehmacher W. Treatment of acute bronchitis in adults with a pelargonium sidoides preparation (EPs 7630): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Explore (NY) . 2006;1:437-45.

REFB3 Kemmerich B. Evaluation of efficacy and tolerability of a fixed combination of dry extracts of thyme herb and primrose root in adults suffering from acute bronchitis with productive cough. A prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled multicentre clinical trial. Arzneimittelforschung. 2007;57:607-615.

REFB4 Matthys H, Heger M. Eps 7630-solution—an effective therapeutic option in acute and exacerbating bronchitis. Phytomedicine. 2007;14 Suppl 6:65-8.

REFB5 Matthys H, Heger M. Treatment of acute bronchitis with a liquid herbal drug preparation from Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630): a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre study. Curr Med Res Opin . 2007;23:323-331.

REFB6 Agbabiaka TB, Guo R, Ernst E. Pelargonium sidoides for acute bronchitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Phytomedicine. 2008 Jan 25.

REFB7 Timmer A, Gunther J, et al. Pelargonium sidoides extract for treating acute respiratory tract infections. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 Oct 22;(10):CD006323.


REFC1 Chen H, Zhuo Q, Yuan W, Wang J, Wu T. Vitamin A for preventing acute lower respiratory tract infections in children up to seven years of age. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(1):CD006090.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO NAT Review Board Richard Glickman-Simon, MD
  • Review Date: 02/2019
  • Update Date: 02/22/2019