The inflammation of the respiratory and lung passages known as bronchitis is most often (at least 70% of the time) caused by a lingering viral infection. Antibiotics are useless for this condition, and may in fact cause harm, even though they are administered in over 80% of the cases of bronchitis that present clinically. These are the conclusions of Drs. Wenzel and Fowler, as reported in a clinical vignette published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
While bacterial bronchitis is certainly a possibility, and bacterial pneumonia (which can sometimes be a complication of untreated respiratory infections) certainly warrants aggressive treatment, it is ridiculous to jump right in with antibiotic treatment in most cases. So what is left? Watch and wait, according to modern medicine. And while I applaud the recent cautions concerning antibiotic use (aviod for ear infections; aviod for respiratory infections), and recognize the healthy fear antibiotic resistance has engendered in the medical community (finally! it only took 50 years), I cannot condone a "watch and wait" attitude, and that is not the strategy in my practice.
This is a perfect example of how a complementary therapy like herbalism, when integrated intelligently into the holistic picture of patient care, can contribute significantly to improved outcomes. Our strategies: boost immunity, encourage the natural eliminative function of the lungs and respiratory system, and guard against opportunistic infection. All of these goals are extremely amenable to herbal intervention, and the results are there (both empirically and as part of clinical trials) to prove it. Why can't all primary care providers take the road many are following, and suggest the advice of a competent herbalist for chronic or lingering bronchitis, rather than simply sending their patients away (or even worse, giving them a harmful treatment out of ignorance)?
So I agree: antibiotics are harmful in most cases of bronchitis. Leave your doctor's office, and go straight to your local herbalist to learn how to take care of yourself using plants that, very possibly, are growing in your garden or back yard.