There is nothing worse than having a nagging cough. Coughing can keep you up at night, interfere with your work and make you feel just plain miserable.
Coughing is a natural response to irritation or a blocked airway and often accompanies allergies, colds or the flu. There are many effective home remedies for coughing in general, but it helps to know what caused a cough in the first place.
A temporary block in the airway, say, from food particles accidentally entering the airway while swallowing, may make you cough hard, but it usually gets resolved pretty quickly. Bacterial and viral infections of the throat may initiate shallow, but painful coughing. Tackling the infection is the best way to resolve this kind of a cough.
Types of coughs
If it’s a dry cough, irritation of the airway lining could be the reason. Respiratory allergens often produce this type of coughing. Remedies that suppress coughing work better here because the bouts of coughing may further aggravate the airway.
Respiratory tract infections usually produce a deep cough that may bring up phlegm. It is good to get rid of this thick mucus that would otherwise clog the airway. A home remedy that lightens the mucus and facilitates its expulsion is preferable until the infection gets resolved. But a dry cough may persist even after the infections clear up because the mucosal lining of the airway may have suffered damage. Keeping the airway moist with increased hydration is the key here.
Home Remedies For Coughs:
Here are some home remedies that seem to be effective at reducing or eliminating coughing. Choose the method that works best for you depending on the type of a cough you have.
1. Salt water gargle
Salt has been used as an anti-infective, anti-inflammatory agent from time immemorial; in fact, papyrus scrolls from Egypt dated 1,699 B.C contain recipes of salt treatments. Dental surgeons still recommend gargling with a salt solution after surgical procedures to prevent infections and promote faster healing. When you gargle with a salt solution, a temporary increase in pH makes it difficult for the bacteria to survive.
To make a disinfectant solution that soothes an inflamed throat and relieves a cough, just dissolve a half teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. The idea is to get an isotonic solution––similar to tissue fluids in salt concentration––so that it doesn’t irritate the mucous lining of the oral cavity. Salt water gargle instantly relieves throat pain whether it’s due to strep throat, tonsillitis or common cold and allergies.
The anti-inflammatory effect of a salt gargle often lasts several hours, but the longer you have the solution in contact with the throat tissues, the better it is. So throw your head back and give it a good shot, repeating the procedure several times a day.
2. Steam inhalation
Inhaling steam is a simple, yet effective way to treat both a dry cough due to allergies and wet cough associated with bronchitis and other respiratory infections. Inhaling the warm vapors moisturizes the dry, irritated airways and helps relieve inflammation. It also lightens the phlegm accumulated in the respiratory tract, making it easier to cough up. Inhaling steam before bed clears up nasal and chest congestion and provides for a goodnight’s sleep, without bouts of coughing disrupting your sleep as well as everyone else’s.
Eucalyptus oil or menthol is sometimes added to the boiling water for extra effect, but it’s not necessary. Just plain water brought to a rolling boil can provide enough steam for the next 10-15 minutes. Cover your head with a towel and inhale the vapors from a safe distance to avoid burns. What you need is the water vapor rather than the heat. Be especially careful with kids.
3. Fresh ginger
The strong anti-inflammatory action of ginger helps relieve a sore throat and airway inflammation whether it’s from allergens or infections. You can extract ginger juice from a fresh rhizome and mix it with equal amount of honey to make a cough syrup. Take just a few drops at a time to soothe the throat and suppress a cough.
Making ginger tea is another option. Crush a few slices of fresh ginger and boil it in water two to three minutes. Sipping this tea warm can stop coughing bouts. Make several cups of ginger tea and store it in the refrigerator. Warm up a cup and drink whenever you need it.
4. Lemon and honey
If night time coughing fits are killing your sleep and disturbing others, let lemon juice, and honey come to your rescue. This light drink can be taken just before bedtime to soothe your throat and keep the respiratory tract well hydrated throughout the night.
Mix in the juice of a small lemon and two tablespoons of honey in warm water and drink it. It helps lighten the mucus and makes it easy to bring it up. Make several cups of this drink and use it as and when you need it. Here are another 11 reasons why you should drink a glass of lemon and honey water every day.
5. Dry ginger and pepper
Dry ginger and black pepper powdered together is a traditional Ayurvedic remedy for a cough. It’s a handy mixture to carry about for instant relief. It has to be mentioned here that dry ginger is nothing but the ginger root dried after light steaming, but it differs from the fresh herb not only in taste and flavor but in therapeutic function as well.
You need only a tiny pinch of the mixture on your tongue, but it is extremely spicy and pungent. Rock sugar is often powdered along with the spices to make it easy on the palate, or you can mix a pinch of ½ tsp pure honey and lick it off the spoon.
6. Turmeric milk
Traditional Chinese and Indian Medicine has long been using turmeric in various herbal preparations to treat respiratory, digestive, and skin ailments. Not surprisingly, it is now recognized as having excellent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. The part used is the yellow-colored rhizome of Curcuma longa, a low-growing tropical herb related to ginger. The main active agent in turmeric has been identified as curcumin, which gives the spice its golden yellow color.
Since turmeric can fight both bacteria and viruses, besides relieving inflammation, it is very effective in treating coughs due to a throat and respiratory tract infection. To make turmeric milk mix one to two teaspoons of turmeric powder in a cup of hot milk and drink it twice a day. Traditionally, goat’s milk is recommended as cow’s milk is thought to increase phlegm. Alternatively, you can boil turmeric in water and add a tsp butter or coconut oil since fat enhances the bioavailability of curcumin.
7. Raw garlic
Eating raw garlic cloves is the simplest way to get rid of a cough, be it due to throat irritation or respiratory infections. It has a long history of being used to treat respiratory diseases from pneumonia to whooping cough. The bioactive chemicals in this pungent bulb have wide-ranging antibacterial activity against pathogenic bacteria, both gram-positive and gram-negative ones. Sulfur compounds like alliin and allicin and their derivatives are responsible for this effect.
Keeping a clove of garlic in the mouth and crushing it occasionally to release a little bit of juice can help control coughing bouts. Crushed garlic added to food may help prevent secondary infections that usually follow a common cold and respiratory allergies.
8. Onion juice
Onion is a milder alternative to garlic, but it contains many organosulfur compounds and flavonoid polyphenols that give it excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Onion juice is particularly useful in treating bronchitis and helps ease a productive cough by lightening the mucus. It can also inhibit bacterial growth in the throat, easing painful coughing.
Grate a red onion and squeeze out the juice. Take one-half teaspoon at a time, ingesting it slowly in case of throat infection. You can mix it with honey or rock sugar for taste, but unsweetened juice is just about palatable if you want to avoid sweeteners.
9. Hot soup
Hot broth and soups are soothing for the throat and particularly useful in relieving a cough that accompanies cold and flu. Chicken soup is the most popular, but studies show that it’s the spicy ingredients in the soup such as onion, garlic, ginger, and black pepper that do the trick, so any soup containing these should work.
As you sip the hot soup, the steam containing the volatile active agents in these herbs enters your airways and loosens the mucus, while the warm liquid soothes your throat. Drinking lots of broth and soup also helps increase your hydration levels.
10. Fresh grape juice
Fresh juice from red grapes sweetened with a teaspoon of honey is a delicious way to treat a deep chesty cough. When there’s chest congestion due to an accumulation of mucus thickened with microbes and their debris, it’s never wise to suppress it. Grape juice acts as a mucolytic expectorant, helping lighten the phlegm and making it easier to cough up. Make the juice fresh every time to take maximum advantage of the antioxidant phytochemicals in grapes.
Raisins are nothing but dried grapes. The sugars and other beneficial compounds in grapes are concentrated in raisins, so they make a handy cough remedy that you can easily carry around when you’re under the weather.
Using raisins as a cough remedy is particularly attractive to children who turn their noses up at many concoctions they’re forced to drink. For young children, make a smooth sauce by cooking ground raisins in water with some additional sugar to get a thick consistency. A teaspoon as needed will help ease coughing.
Licorice is the root of a leguminous plant Glycyrrhiza glabra native to parts of Europe and Asia. Dried roots of this plant have been used as a traditional cough remedy. Children are usually given a stick of licorice to chew on to prevent coughs. In fact, licorice candies came into being from this practice, although the ones you get today have no real licorice in them, only sugar.
Licorice can be used in several forms to relieve a sore throat, cough, bronchitis, and other inflammatory conditions of the respiratory tract. It can even treat hoarseness due to laryngitis. To make a naturally sweet herbal tea, boil one teaspoon of licorice root powder in two cups of water. Licorice powder can be added to black pepper or to herbal teas as a functional sweetener.
13. Mullein tea
The large, velvety leaves of the great mullein Verbascum thapsus was a traditional European remedy for a stubborn cough and lower respiratory diseases. It was a popular remedy for whooping cough (pertussis) when this disease was all too common before DTaP vaccine and antibiotics. The leaves were often rolled up and smoked like a cigar to relieve a hacking cough.
Mullein has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and function as an excellent expectorant. The saponins in the leaves and flowers work like natural detergents, releasing phlegm from the lining of the respiratory tract. The herb is not known to have any undesirable side effects or toxicity, so mullein tea can be safely used long term to treat persistent coughs due to tuberculosis and other chronic lung infections.
To make the tea, steep one to two teaspoons of dried leaves or flowers in one and one-half cups of boiling water for fifteen to twenty minutes. You can drink up to three cups of this infusion a day and also use it as a throat gargle.
14. Homemade cough syrup
The cough syrups from the drug store are full of synthetic chemicals and often come with warnings of drowsiness or other potential side effects. But you can make a cough remedy with natural ingredients that’s just as effective as, or even better than, the commercial version, and you know exactly what goes into it.
The potent ingredients of this 100% herbal syrup are thyme and peppermint that act as decongestants and licorice and mullein that bring in anti-inflammatory effect. Steep two teaspoons of each herb for thirty minutes in a cup of boiling water. Strain the infusion and mix in half cup honey when cold. Fill into a glass bottle and refrigerate. Take one teaspoon of this cough syrup whenever you feel a tickling in your throat.
15. Black Seed oil
The tiny black seeds of Nigella sativa, commonly called black cumin or black caraway or simply black seed, pack quite a punch when it comes to medicinal properties. It’s not called ‘cure of all but death’ for nothing. Crushed seeds can be mixed with honey for treating a cough, but black seed oil is even more potent.
Mix one-half teaspoon black seed oil with one-half teaspoon honey twice a day. This mixture has been reported to relieve all kinds of a cough, irrespective of whether it’s caused by cold and flu, airborne allergens, tonsillitis, laryngitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis or asthma.
16. Echinacea tea/tincture
Echinacea or purple coneflower is an easily recognized North American wildflower. This Native American cough and cold remedy works in several ways to not only relieve a cough but tackle the underlying cause, although it’s not as fast-acting as other remedies.
It stimulates the immune system by promoting white blood cell activity, so it ideally takes before you develop a full-fledged infection. However, regular use has been found to be very effective against chronic coughs that don’t seem to yield to quick fixes.
Make echinacea tea by steeping fresh or dried flower heads in boiling water for twenty minutes. Echinacea tincture is made by infusing the herb in alcohol. You can add a few drops of the tincture to regular tea or herbal teas for the immune boosting benefits.
17. Marshmallow tea
The roots of marshmallow plant produce a viscous, mucilaginous liquid when it’s simply infused in water. It is a very safe and effective remedy for a cough accompanying sore throat and cold since it soothes the mucous lining and reduces inflammation.
It is an excellent antitussive for a dry cough, effectively moisturizing the mucous lining of the throat and upper airways and suppressing coughing due to tissue irritation, be it from allergens or infections such as tonsillitis, laryngitis or bronchitis.
Steep a handful of crushed dried roots overnight in four cups of warm water and filter out the thick liquid. Drink it plain or sweetened with honey or sugar.
18. Aloe vera juice
Aloe vera contains a natural gel that is extremely soothing to inflamed tissue, be it your skin or the lining of the throat. The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects of the aloe vera gel can relieve non-productive dry cough due to allergies and throat infections, besides helping fight the germs responsible. The gel also has a mild analgesic property, which is an added blessing.
Split open a two to four-inch section a mature aloe vera leaf and scoop out the clear gel. Eat it alone if you can take the slight bitterness, or sweeten with honey or mix with fruit juices to make it more palatable.
19. Sage tea
Common sage or Salvia officinalis is a medicinal herb that’s widely used all over the world for treating coughs as well as the respiratory diseases that produce this symptom. Many indigenous people have developed their cough remedies involving this highly aromatic plant, but a simple herbal tea made with the leaves is as good as any. That’s exactly what Dioscorides, the Greek physician from the first century B.C. ordered for coughs and hoarseness.
Steep a handful of fresh or dried leaves in four cups of boiling water for just five to ten minutes. You can drink up to three cups of sage tea a day and even use it for gargling if you have a throat infection.
20. Humidify the environment
High humidity seems to ease a cough probably because it helps reduce airway irritation due to dryness. If you have a stubborn cough accompanied by chest congestion, it helps to have a hot bath or shower. It will loosen up mucus and help cough it up more easily.
When you have a dry cough due to allergies, set up a humidifier in the bedroom to prevent coughing fits.
21. Increase hydration
Increasing body hydration, in general, has a positive effect on your immune function besides getting the body fluids moving more freely. This is particularly important when you’re running a temperature along with a cough and cold.
Drink warm water to soothe your throat, but you can also have fruit juices, herbal teas, and clear soups to stay hydrated.