Coughs happen. But at this time especially, coughs can even cause social anxiety. No one, trust me, no one, wants to have a cough and go to the store right now! But luckily, there are several home remedies for cough that can save you from that embarrassment.
I was recently sick with a cough that just drug on for what seemed like forever. I was very diligent in wearing a mask, but still had to tell everyone that I had a cough but got tested and didn’t have “the virus”. This cough sometimes kept me up at night, and didn’t let me rest well enough. I often couldn’t do anything physical without having a huge coughing fit.
Luckily, I had some home remedies up my sleeve to help with my symptoms. Let’s talk about some of those, so you can help minimize symptoms of a bad cough.
Increasing your fluid intake can help a nasty cough, especially a dry one. Water, especially room temperature, can be very beneficial. But it doesn’t have to be just water! You can drink soothing hot beverages, which pull double-duty by alleviating sore throat, chills, and body aches. Try to stay away from caffeine in these fluids, though, as caffeine is a diuretic and will have the opposite effect.
Some good options for boosting your fluid intake include:
- Fruit juice
- Hot tea
- Herbal tea
- Broth-based soups
- Decaf coffee
Sugar can exacerbate coughs, and causes inflammation in the body. This inflammation can do damage to your immune system. And guess what – your immune system is what helps you fight what is causing the cough! If you absolutely have to have sweets, try to keep it to simple sugars like honey or agave nectar, which actually may be helpful for coughs.
Drink pineapple juice
Pineapple juice is an amazing home remedy for coughs. It contains bromelain, a natural enzyme that helps reduce inflammation and mucus. Pineapple is the only natural source of bromelain, so you should drink a lot if you have a bad cough. This juice was one of the things that really helped me through this last cold!
Gargle with salt water
When you have a cough, your throat can get sore and scratchy. Gargling with salt water is a good way to help relieve this, as well as help break up the phlegm that could be causing the cough. Dissolve a half a teaspoon of regular table salt into a glass of warm water. Take a small amount into your mouth and gargle. If you can, pause for a minute with the salt water in the back of the throat. Then gargle again and spit out, do not swallow.
Young children shouldn’t do this, since they might not be able to gargle correctly and may swallow it accidentally.
Honey, especially local raw honey, is a wonderful home remedy for cough, and can be used in several different ways.
- Take a teaspoon of straight raw honey to soothe your throat and ease coughs.
- Put a spoonful of honey, or honey and lemon in your cup of hot tea or herbal tea.
- Mix honey and cinnamon together and store in the fridge for an all-natural cough syrup. Take at least 3 times a day while cough persists.
- Mix 2 parts honey and 1 part lemon juice and store in the fridge. Take as often as needed.
- Make a hot toddy with honey and sip up.
- Layer onion slices with raw honey in a small pan and bring to a very low simmer, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes. Don’t heat it too much, or you’ll destroy the benefits of the raw honey. Pour the mixture into a jar and store in the fridge for an amazing cough syrup.
Please note that children under 1 year old shouldn’t be given honey due to the risk of botulism. But for everyone else, honey is one of the best home remedies for cough.
Spice it up with ginger
Ginger is a great anti-inflammatory, and is used in many home remedies for cough. The gentle heat helps sooth sore throats and coughs. The anti-inflammatory properties are thought to relax the airways to help soothe spasmodic coughing. Ginger is best known to help dry or asthmatic coughs. Brew it up into a tea, and add some lemon juice and/or honey to boost the benefits.
Use a humidifier or steam
A humidifier or steam vaporizer can really help a stubborn cough. It will help soften and moisten mucus so that it can more easily be expelled. This can be boosted even more with the addition of essential oils like eucalyptus, pine, menthol, or camphor. Just use with caution, as essential oils degrade plastic, so it could damage your humidifier over time.
Another option is to do an herbal steam. Heat up a pot of water to almost boiling. Throw in whatever herbs you feel drawn to, and allow to steep for a few minutes. Remove from heat. Breathe this in for several minutes. After it cools enough so you don’t get burnt, drape a towel over your head and the pot. Here are some good choices of herbs:
- Pine (you can just grab some pine needles for this!)
- Mint (any kind)
Take a hot shower
Take a hot shower – and no, not just for good hygiene! The steam from a hot shower will work the same way as a humidifier or an herbal steam, loosing mucus and phlegm and making them easier to expel. There are even herbal shower steamers that can add to the effectiveness of a plain ole’ hot shower.
Drink some thyme
Thyme is one of the absolute best home remedies for cough. Thyme is a natural expectorant, helping to thin and expel mucus. It also antispasmodic, so it reduces the lung spasms of coughing fits.
Thyme contains thymol, a volatile oil in the plant. Thymol has a soothing effect on the cough reflex, which helps soothe nasty coughs. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and antiseptic agent. Here are some great ways of using thyme to control cough.
- Mix 2 teaspoonfuls of thyme into a mug of near-boiling water. Let it steep for 10 minutes, then strain and drink. Thyme has a very strong, almost bitter flavor, so you may want to sweeten with some raw honey.
- Add a generous helping of thyme to your broth or soups to sip on.
- Put 2 cups of water, 3 tablespoons dried thyme, and 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger into a small saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Reduce the liquid by half. Remove from heat and let cool down enough to be handled. Strain the herbs, and pour the liquid into a jar. Whisk in 1 cup of honey, juice from 1 lemon, and 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Store in the fridge as a cough syrup.
Eat some garlic
While some people wouldn’t want to chew on a garlic clove, it is an amazing cough remedy. The active compound in garlic, allicin, is a strong anti-viral and expectorant agent. This expectorant action helps loosen phlegm and mucus from the airways, calming your cough.
Raw garlic is best. If you can stand it, lightly smash a clove of garlic with the side of a kitchen knife, and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Then either just hold it in your mouth, or chew it up and swallow it. You just might not want to do this remedy on your lunch break at work!
Drink some tea
In addition to the thyme tea that we spoke of above, other teas may help give you relief from a stubborn cough. Each of these has its own benefits, in addition to soothing the sore throats that accompany a cough. Here are some herbs you can make into a tea as great home remedies for cough.
- Licorice root
- Marshmallow root
- Lemon (I know, not an herb, but still helpful!)
- Slippery elm bark
Chicken noodle soup
Yes, I know, this one seems a little cliché, but it is actually a very effective home remedy for cough. The heat soothes sore throats, the liquid keeps you hydrated and nourished, and the herbs and spices can help open airways, break up mucus, and fight infection.
Elderberry syrup is not only a home remedy for cough, it also helps you recover from the illness causing it, faster. Taking it at the first sign of sickness helps to reduce symptoms and speed recovery.
I forage elderberries every single year to make my own elderberry syrup. It is a wonderful immune booster, and great medicine to have on hand.
Of course, my list of home remedies for cough wouldn’t be complete without mullein! I love this stuff – I can find it very readily along most roadsides here. And it grows throughout most of the U.S.. If you’re not familiar with this plant, you can read all about it in my post on mullein.
Mullein has been used for centuries as a natural lung medicine. Making a tea with it will not only calm a cough, it will help heal your lungs.
Home remedies for cough are usually as effective, if not more effective, than over-the-counter medicines. They also usually have less side effects. Why not try them before reaching for the pharmaceuticals? Let’s get back to our roots and make our own medicine!
Go check out some other home remedies posts: 12 Easy Home Remedies for Toothache, 10 Natural Remedies for Headaches (Plus Tips for Prevention), and 15 Old Home Remedies that Actually Work.