When viruses, bacteria, dust, pollen, cigarette smoking, asthma or other substances irritate the nerve endings in the airways between the throat and lungs, this triggers a cough. A cough is the body’s mechanism of trying to clear the passages. A cough sprays out about 3,000 tiny droplets of saliva and mucus that contains germs at a speed of about 100 Km per hour.
The air passages of the lungs are lined with mucus-secreting cells, which in general traps dust particles. When the membrane comes in contact with foreign particles, they get inflamed, and this stimulates mucus secretion increases, and the air passages get irritated. Coughing produces a stroke by which excess mucus is expelled out.
Some highly effective natural remedies that are available may help to relieve a cough. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor herbal products. Therefore, there is a high risk of using adulterated, spurious, or substituted herbal products. Always purchase medicinal plants or herbal products from a reputed store.
1. Licorice roots (Glycyrrhiza glabra):
Licorice (Mulethi) root extract is best for the treatment of non-stop, persistent cough that comes at daytime and even at night.
Licorice contains glycyrrhetic acid that has a similar structure as hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex such as mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid. Glycyrrhetic acid present in licorice also exhibits steroid like anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic activity, similar to the action of hydrocortisone. The research has also demonstrated glycyrrhizic acid inhibits prostaglandin formation thereby exerting anti-inflammatory action.
Add about 30g of licorice root (preferably shivered) to a 1.5 litres (5 cups) water and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Reduce the water by half, so you’ll end up with 2-3 cups of licorice decoction. Turn off the heat and strain the herbs and discard. Transfer the decoction to a glass container and sip as needed. You can add honey if you want.
Note: Avoid using licorice if you have hypertension (high blood pressure).
2. Marshmallow (Althea officinalis):
Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) roots and leaves help to relieve coughs and sore throats. It contains mucilage which is a thick, gluey substance that coats the mucosal lining of the throat and protects it from irritants. Marshmallow also reduces the transport velocity of isolated ciliary epithelia and may protect mucosal layers in the hypopharynx, and it exerts spasmolytic, antisecretory, and bactericidal properties.
Marshmallow root and leaves are also available as a dried herb or as a bagged tea at online health stores. Add hot water to either (dried herb or a bagged tea) and allow it to cool. The longer the marshmallow root kept in the water, the more mucilage will be in the drink. Drink the infusion warm.
Note: You may experience stomach upset, but it may be possible to counter this by drinking extra fluids.
3. Pineapple (Bromelain):
Eating pineapple can help relieve wet cough containing thick sputum. Fresh pineapple comprises of an enzyme known as bromelain, which is present in abundance at the core of the fruit. “The U.S. National Library of Medicine,” says that the bromelain enzyme triggers the production of specific substances in the body that fight inflammation. Bromelain also has mucolytic properties, which break down thick mucus and expels it from the lungs.
Pineapple can cause an allergic reaction to some people sensitive to bromelain. People who take blood thinners or specific antibiotics (like amoxicillin) should not take bromelain as it increases the concentration of some antibiotics.
Note: Pregnant women should avoid eating large quantities of pineapple. Bromelain present in pineapple could stimulate uterine contractions, potentially increasing the risk of miscarriage.
4. Turmeric (Curcumin) with Milk:
Turmeric contains active constituent known as curcuminoids. There are three types of curcuminoids present in turmeric, namely diferuloylmethane, demethoxycurcumin and bisdemethoxycurcumin. Among these three curcuminoids, diferuloylmethane is responsible for the medicinal value of turmeric. Turmeric serves as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antiviral. The anti-inflammatory effect of turmeric helps relieve the chest congestion in people suffering from a chronic cough and helps get rid of phlegm or sputum.
Mix 1-2 teaspoonful of pure turmeric powder in a glass full of warm milk and mix thoroughly. You can boil milk with turmeric or add honey as well. Use this concoction twice a day, which relieves a cough within two days. This remedy works better for a cough caused by bacterial infection.
Note: Those with gallbladder problems, diabetes or are to undergo surgery must avoid turmeric. Turmeric could slow blood clotting. Hence, those taking blood thinners must be careful.
5. Gargle with Hot Salt Water:
Salt water gargle is the most effective treatment for a sore throat, a wet cough and throat irritation. Saltwater acts as a hypertonic solution that kills bacteria. It also reduces irritation, phlegm and mucus in the back of the throat which helps relieve a cough.
Take around half a teaspoon of salt and add into a cup of hot water and stir until it dissolves. Let the salt water sit at the back of the throat for some time and gargle. Gargle with salt water several times in a day (or whenever you feel throat irritation) until your condition improves).
-Extra care has to be taken while gargling if you are hypertensive, accidental swallowing of high concentration of salt water may raise your blood pressure.
-Do not use steaming hot water to gargle and avoid hot or salt water gargle in children below 12 years as they may not know to gargle and end up in swallowing salt water, which can be harmful.
6. Lemon in Warm Water:
Lemon is one of the best citrus fruit that is rich in vitamin C. A glass of lemon juice contributes one-third of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin C. Lemon can increase the immunity to fight off bacterial and viral infections faster. The antioxidants present in lemon juice can help in repairing and preventing cell damage.
Add 3-5 drops of lemon juice to a glass of warm water. You can add honey as well if you want. Adding honey can improve the taste of the drink, and it helps to soothe the throat.
You can also prepare lemon tea by adding 2-3 drops of lemon juice to your regular tea (without milk).
Try drinking a glass of freshly prepared lemon juice twice a day until your condition improve.
Note: Avoid using lemon if you are asthmatic. Consumption of lemon or lemon juice may trigger an asthmatic attack in some people.
7. Garlic with Honey:
Garlic is probably the best home remedy for cough. Garlic contains allicin, a dominant constituent that effectively kills bacteria and viruses when taken every few hours. It helps your body fight infections more efficiently and getting rid of a cough. Garlic is potent, effective, and tastes good enough to give to children when prepared with raw honey or an equivalent all natural sweetener. Its warming nature will break up mucus (especially the clear or white variety) allowing for easy expectoration when the lungs feel boggy and full.
Taking garlic after you get a cough will probably not affect your cough. However, garlic, when taken throughout the winter months, may not only prevent colds but might improve your immune system. Countering common cold might also prevent secondary infections that cause coughing, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
The sweetness of honey stimulates the salivary glands and induces the release of the mucus through the airways. Moreover, the antimicrobial and antioxidant effect of honey restricts the further formation of the mucus, thereby providing complete relief from coughing and soothes throat irritation. Honey is also very effective against a nighttime cough.
Chop 2-3 garlic cloves and mix it in a two teaspoon full of honey and consume it in the morning on an empty stomach. Do not eat anything for at least an hour after you consume this mixture. You can make a bottle of honey and garlic mixture, store and consume it on an empty stomach every morning especially in winters. This practice helps boost immunity.
Note: Avoid using garlic in the empty stomach if you are suffering from any gastrointestinal (GI) ulcers or hyperacidity.
8. Ivy leaves (Hedera helix):
The ivy leaves (Hedera helix) best known as a culinary herb contains saponins. These saponins exhibit a dilating effect on the bronchi. This dilating effect also depends on the concentration of saponins. Ivy is a vine that also contains compounds that act as an expectorant (agents that break down thick mucus and making it easier to expel).
Some studies show that ivy leaves extracts are effective against the symptoms of an upper respiratory tract infection that includes the recurrence and duration of a cough.
Note: Avoid using in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
9. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris):
Thyme is also best known as a culinary herb that contains thymol, a compound with expectorant properties that help get rid of phlegm. Thyme is an officially approved treatment for coughs, upper respiratory infections, bronchitis and whooping cough in Germany. The leaves of thyme also contain flavonoids that relax tracheal and ileal muscles involved in coughing, thereby reducing inflammation and irritation.
Add two teaspoonful of dried or crushed thyme to a cup of hot water. Keep it aside for 10 minutes then strain and drink this extract.
Note: Avoid if you have digestive system upset, headache, or dizziness.
10. Stay Hydrated:
One of the essential things to do when you have a dry cough especially during the dry winters of the year is to stay well hydrated. Drinking plenty of warm water keeps your throat moist, which can help reduce the scratchy irritation of your throat. You may also include regular tea or herbal tea during a seasonal cough.
Staying hydrated can also help relieve your wet cough which is often associated with thick sputum or phlegm. According to “American Thoracic Society“, if you become dehydrated the mucus also gets dehydrated, making it thick and sticky. Staying well hydrated may also relieve symptoms related to a sore throat.
11. Warm Fluids:
The most vital thing to do when you are suffering from cough or cold is staying hydrated. Research shows that drinking warm liquids can relieve conditions such as a cough, sneezing and runny nose.
Hot beverages also help improve symptoms such as a sore throat, chills, and fatigue. The symptom relief was immediate and remained for an extended period after finishing the hot beverage.
Include hot beverages in your diet if you have a cough or cold, like broths, herbal teas, black tea, warm water, hot soups.
Inhaling steam is highly recommended if you are suffering from a wet cough or nasal congestion. A wet cough produces mucus or phlegm. Inhaling steam can be helpful in wet cough. Invest in a steamer if you have nasal congestion or a cough. Inhaling steam frequently in a day can help you relieve from wet cough, cold, or nasal congestion. Drink a glass of water after inhaling steam to prevent dehydration.
Alternatively, add herbs or few drops of essential oils to the steamer along with water, such as eucalyptus or rosemary, which may also help relieve nasal congestion or cough due to allergy. Inhale the vapors for 5 minutes.
Take a small pot of hot water, pour the steaming water into a bowl. Add essential oils or herbs. Inhale the steam by covering over your head and steaming pot of water, so that the steam doesn’t escape. You can try this method if you do not have a steamer.
Note: Keep the distance from the steamer, to avoid direct contact with hot steam, that may burn the skin.
TheMedPharma has made every effort to make sure that all the information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up-to-date. However, this website should not be considered as a substitute for the advice, knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or licensed health care professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subjected to changes if required. The lack of warnings or other information for a given drug does not mean that the drug or its combination is safe, effective or appropriate for use in all patients.