Immune Support

Tired of Cough Drops? Try These 5 Home Remedies for Cough

By Justin Fowler-Lindner

Over-the-counter cough syrups and cough drops only mask symptoms, and that means your cough could return at anytime.

Instead of hoping for the best, you can use holistic treatments that target the underlying cause of even the worst coughs.

Here are five of the best home remedies for cough:

  • Essential oils
  • Raw honey
  • Marshmallow root
  • Proper hydration
  • Immune-boosting foods

Cough management requires a practical, comprehensive approach.

Here’s how to show your cough who’s boss.

How Coughing Works

Have you ever wondered what’s actually going on inside the body when you make that awful coughing sound?

Here’s what’s really happening:

  1. You take a gasp of air.
  2. The glottis covers the windpipe.
  3. The respiratory muscles contract.
  4. Pressure builds in the airway.
  5. The glottis bursts open and…you cough!

What Causes Coughing?

Coughing happens when you need to expel an irritant or cope with symptoms of a respiratory infection.

Acute coughing is coughing that lasts less than three weeks.

This includes brief coughing fits and reactions to short-term respiratory infections.

Acute coughs are typically “dry,” meaning there’s no mucus in the airway.

Chronic coughing, however, is coughing that lasts eight weeks or longer and requires professional medical intervention.

These coughs are typically “wet” and are characterized by heavy phlegm and mucus production as a response to inflammation in the lungs.

Common causes of chronic cough include:

  • Allergies
  • Respiratory infection (bronchitis, pneumonia, cold, flu)
  • GERD (acid reflux disease)
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Sinus infection (due to persistent nasal drip)

Chronic coughing may also be caused by a reaction to certain medications like ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers, which can irritate nerve endings in the throat.

5 Home Remedies for Cough

From therapeutic essential oils to immune-boosting foods, here are five of the top home remedies for cough:

1. Essential Oil Vapor Rub

Essential oils are extracted from the roots, stems, flowers, and leaves of various medicinal plants.

Most essential oils have a broad spectrum of antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, all of which can be ideal for fighting infection and treating the underlying causes of coughing.

Some essential oils, however, can also relax the muscles of the respiratory system and help expel mucus.

Eucalyptus, peppermint, and rosemary are some of the best essential oils for colds and coughs.

Here’s what the research has to say about essential oils for cough:

  • A recent rodent study found that cineole, the primary active compound in eucalyptus, can reduce inflammation in the bronchial tubes and inhibit mucus production.
  • An animal study published in the journal Pulmonary Pharmacology found that peppermint oil vapors can significantly reduce the frequency of coughs in guinea pigs with upper respiratory tract infections.
  • Peppermint contains menthol, which can deliver an immediate cooling sensation, relieve scratchy throat, and clear sinus congestion.
  • An animal study published in The Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that rosemary oil can reduce coughing in rabbits and guinea pigs.

By mixing 1-2 drops of essential oil with half a teaspoon of coconut oil, you can make your own DIY vapor rub.

Apply it to the chest and back of the neck for fast-acting relief.

2. Raw Honey

Raw honey’s immune-boosting antioxidants and antimicrobial effects may reduce cough symptoms.

According to a 2011 meta-analysis, researchers think that raw honey may treat coughs by reducing inflammation and relieving irritation.

In a 2007 study published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, honey was tested against the cough-suppressing medication dextromethorphan in children with nighttime coughing.

The honey group experienced a greater reduction in coughing than the dextromethorphan group.

To make your own DIY honey elixir, mix 1-2 teaspoons of raw honey in a cup of warm water with a few drops of lemon juice.

However, do not give raw honey to children under one year of age due to the risk of infant botulism.

3. Marshmallow Root

Marshmallow root extract has long been used in Germany as a main ingredient in natural cough remedies.

It has a high mucilage content, which eases coughing by coating the throat with a thick, gluey substance.

Here’s what the research has to say about marshmallow root for cough:

  • One small 2005 human study found that an herbal cough syrup containing marshmallow root, thyme, and ivy can effectively relieve coughing caused by respiratory infections after just 12 days of treatment.
  • In a 2018 study published in the journal Complementary Medicine Research, consumers reported on the efficacy of marshmallow root syrup as a treatment for irritative cough. The majority of participants reported a significant reduction in dry cough symptoms within 10 minutes of administration.

4. Stay Hydrated

In order to be fully cough-resistant, you’ll have to drink plenty of fluids.

Studies show that staying hydrated is essential to the treatment of coughs.

Not only is hydration critical to overall health, but it may also soften mucosal secretions and help clear the airway.

According to a 2008 human study published in the journal Rhinology, hot water and other warm drinks may be most effective.

Researchers concluded that, “A hot, tasty drink is a beneficial treatment for relief of most symptoms of common cold and flu.”

5. Eat Right

Eating immune-boosting foods is just as important as staying hydrated.

Here are some of the best foods for supporting immunity, reducing inflammation, and thinning mucus:

  • Probiotic foods: If you get frequent, recurring coughs, you may be more susceptible to illness due to a weakened gut lining. Probiotics like kombucha, coconut kefir, apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, and kimchi can reinforce the gut lining and fortify the immune system.
  • Bone broth: Drinking hot bone broth made from chicken or beef cartilage can thin the mucus and help repair the gut lining with collagen.
  • Ginger root: Ginger contains powerful anti-inflammatory compounds like zingibain and may relax the muscles in the upper airway that control coughing.

Other Helpful Tips for Cough Relief

As you seek to improve your intake of the right foods, you’ll also want to avoid pro-inflammatory foods like gluten, sugar, soda, fruit juice, dairy, hydrogenated oils, and processed foods.

If your nasal passages are congested, irritation from nasal drip can make your cough worse. If this is the case, you may want to try using a neti pot, which can flush out irritants and thin the mucus.

If you experience persistent coughing for longer than eight weeks, we recommend seeing a doctor for medical advice and treatment. At-home remedies are a great way to alleviate common cold or flu symptoms, but more serious complications may arise that require professional treatment.

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