Coughing happens when viruses, bacteria, dust, pollen or other substances irritate the nerve endings in the airways between the throat and lungs. A cough is the body’s way of trying to clear the passages, and what a valiant effort the body makes in this endeavor. We can cough at speeds up to 60 miles per hour, and the average cough produces enough air to fill a two-liter soda bottle about three-fourths full. The air of a cough sprays out several feet, and is accompanied by some 3,000 tiny droplets of saliva.
While chronic coughs can be a sign of a serious illness, most people consider the common cough to be more of an annoyance than a health issue. Although side effects like chest pain, exhaustion, and incontinence can accompany a cough, the more vexing complaints often have to do with a cough’s ability to interfere with your (and your household’s) sleep and the propensity to be annoying in otherwise quiet places. Coupled with the germ-spreading factor, it certainly seems like treating your cough is the kindest thing to do.
While many people reach for over-the-counter medicines, experts say that many of them are a waste of money. A Harvard University report notes, “According to American College of Chest Physicians guidelines, many of the active ingredients in over-the-counter cough remedies are ineffective.”
Here are some favorite Natural Cough Remedies.
Honey is a time-honored remedy for a sore throat. According to one study, it can also relieve coughs more effectively than over-the-counter medicines that contain dextromethorphan (DM), a cough suppressant.
You can create your own remedy at home by mixing up to 2 teaspoons of honey with herbal tea or warm water and lemon. The honey does the soothing, while the lemon juice can help with congestion. You can also simply eat the honey by the spoonful or spread it on bread for a snack.
2. Thyme tea
In Germany, thyme is an officially approved treatment for coughs, upper respiratory infections, bronchitis and whooping cough. The herb’s little leaves pack a potent punch of cough-calming compounds that work to relax tracheal and ileal muscles, and reduce inflammation. You can make a thyme tea by steeping two teaspoons of crushed thyme leaves in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes, then strain. Adding honey and lemon rounds out the flavor and adds extra soothing power as well.
You don’t usually think of pineapple as a cough remedy, but that’s probably because you’ve never heard of bromelain. There’s evidence to suggest that bromelain — an enzyme found only in the stem and fruit of pineapples — can help suppress coughs as well as loosen the mucus in your throat. To enjoy the most benefits of pineapple and bromelain, eat a slice of pineapple or drink 3.5 ounces of fresh pineapple juice three times a day.
There are also claims that it can help relieve sinusitis and allergy-based sinus issues, which can contribute to coughs and mucus. However, there is insufficient evidence to support this. It’s also sometimes used to treat inflammation and swelling.
Bromelain supplements should not be taken by children or adults who take blood thinners. Also, be careful using bromelain if you’re also on antibiotics such as amoxicillin, as it can increase the absorption of the antibiotic. Always speak to your doctor before taking new or unfamiliar supplements.
5. Fight with flax, honey, and lemon
Boiling flaxseeds in water gives you a thick, gooey gel that eases throat and bronchial tract discomfort. Honey and lemon act as mild antibiotics, and make this syrup super-soothing. For this at-home remedy, boil 2 to 3 tablespoons of flaxseeds in 1 cup of water until the water becomes thick. Strain, then add 3 tablespoons each of honey and lemon juice. Take 1 tablespoon as needed for cough treatment.
5. A hot shower
Crank up the hot water, close the windows and turn off the exhaust fan. Steam can be a cough’s worst enemy, and thus, your best friend. Steam works to soothe the airways and loosen sinus congestion and phlegm in your throat and lungs. (Although take note, WebMD warns that steam may exacerbate coughs caused by asthma.)
6. Brew black pepper tea for a wet cough
This home remedy is rooted in two very different traditions: New England folk medicine and traditional Chinese medicine. The rationale behind it is that black pepper stimulates circulation and mucus flow; honey is a natural cough suppressant and mild antibiotic. To make the tea, place 1 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and 2 tablespoons of honey in a cup. Fill with boiling water and let steep, covered, for 15 minutes. Strain and sip as needed. This remedy works best on coughs that produce mucus and isn't suitable for dry coughs. Black pepper also has 7 other weird benefits that you should be aware of.
Ginger has a lot of secret powers and it has been used for its medicinal properties since antiquity. Practitioners of Eastern medicine commonly prescribe ginger to treat symptoms of colds and flu because of its antihistamine and decongestant capabilities. You can make ginger tea by adding 12 slices of fresh ginger in a pot with three cups water. Allow it to simmer for 20 minutes and remove from heat. Strain, add 1 tablespoon of honey and a squeeze of lemon, and taste; if it’s too spicy, add more water.
8. Suck a lemon for fast-acting cough relief
This cough treatment isn't for the faint of heart, but it is one of the more commonly used home remedies: Quarter a fresh lemon, sprinkle it with lots of black pepper and salt, and suck on it for quick relief. If you're not feeling up to sucking on a lemon, try putting some in your water, it has incredible health benefits.
Peppermint leaves are well known for their healing properties. Menthol in peppermint soothes the throat and acts as a decongestant, helping to break down mucus. You can benefit by drinking peppermint tea or by inhaling peppermint vapors from a steam bath. To make a steam bath, add 3 or 4 drops of peppermint oil for every 150 milliliters of hot water. Drape a towel over your head, and take deep breaths directly above the water.
10. Blend almonds
Some ancient traditions believe almonds help relieve bronchial problems, including coughs. They recommend blending a few teaspoons of finely ground almonds with a cup of orange juice and sipping as a natural cough treatment. Having a handful of almonds every day can also help to lower your cholesterol.