If the cough produces clear mucus, it's probably viral, so treat the source of the problem first. If the mucus is yellow or green, try:
* Echinacea, a natural bacteria/virus killer. As a cold remedy, it works particularly if taken as soon as symptoms appear (Curr Med Res Opin, 1999; 15: 214-27). The recommended dose is 200 mg four times a day.
* Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses a plaster infused with herbs, such as Ginkgo leaves and mustard seeds, which has proved to be much more effective than Western drugs (J Tradit Chin Med, 2002; 22: 5-8). To relieve coughing, TCM also uses the herbal medicines Hsiao Keh Chuan and Bai qian. Bakumondo-to, Jiawei Yupingfeng Powder, Bufei Keli and Kesuning Granules also work for COPD.
* N-acetylcysteine (NAC) at 600 mg twice a day for three to six months brings significant benefits (Eur Respir J, 2000; 16: 253-62). Available as a supplement, it is thought to stimulate production of glutathione, a natural antioxidant that is often depleted in bronchitic patients. NAC thins mucus and attacks harmful bacteria in the mucus (Eur Respir J, 1994; 7: 94-101).
NAC reduces the worst symptoms of chronic bronchitis by at least 25 per cent (Clin Ther, 2000; 22: 209-21). During the winter months, when Swiss doctors gave 400 mg/day of NAC to patients with chronic bronchitis, this halved the number of "acute adverse events", resulting in 50 per cent fewer patients requiring hospitalisation (Pharmacol Res, 2000; 42: 39-50). Studies from Germany have also shown impressive improvements in bronchitis symptoms.
Nevertheless, minor side-effects (nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea) affect about one in 75 patients (Fortschr Med, 1991; 109: 707-10).
* Don't forget short-term high-dose vitamins, particularly vitamin A or beta-carotene. This antioxidant is a potent weapon against acute or chronic viral infections, and can heal mucous membranes (8000-12,000 IU of vitamin A or 5000 IU three times a day of beta-carotene). Good old vitamin C and bioflavonoids also soothe inflamed airways (take 500 mg of each three times a day).
In addition, up your intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs). Harvard research has shown that GLA and EPA from borage oil and fish oils have significant anti-inflammatory effects in patients with bronchitis (Am J Clin Nutr, 2000; 71: 393S-6S).