Coughing always involves some type of irritation in the upper respiratory tract. It may be associated with a case of the flu, sinusitis, congestion, post nasal drip, or pneumonia. Additionally, coughing may be the result of chronic bronchitis, emphysema or COPD. Aside from over-the-counter cough suppressants or steroid drugs, there are no really effective conventional cough remedies. Regardless of its origins, most coughing responds to one or more herbal remedies.
White horehound has been used by Native Americans and Ayurvedic practitioners as an expectorant to loosen congestion in the chest and relieve dry coughs. It also possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties relieving spasmodic coughing related to bronchitis and asthma. White horehound is combined with honey and other medicinal herbs into a lozenge to relieve sore throats. Additional methods for using this herb are in herbal teas and mixed in herbal tonics.
Fenugreek loosens tightness in the airways and helps dry productive coughing. It has astringent properties that relieve sinusitis, helping to dry up post nasal drip. Fenugreek may be especially useful for allergic rhinitis, pneumonia and the flu with accompanying symptoms of cough and sinus congestion.
Licorice root provides relief from coughing and sore throats due to illness and allergies. It stimulates the body to create a protective mucus film preventing damage to the linings of the throat, airways and digestive tract. In particular, licorice root relieves pain associated with heartburn during coughing episodes when vomiting may occur. Licorice root is most commonly used as an herbal tea. It may raise the blood pressure in some individuals when used over a long period. De-glycyrrhizinated licorice, or DGL. is often substituted for licorice root. The product has had the glycyrrhizin removed, which makes it easier to tolerate with fewer potential side effects.
Like licorice, slippery elm causes the body to create a mucus film in the throat, airways and all the way down the digestive tract, protecting their linings and soothing sore throats and dry, tickling coughs. Slippery elm comes in a powder that is easily mixed with water and heated to form a syrup. It’s also available in lozenges.
Hot lemon and honey
Hot lemonade made with raw, organic honey, fresh lemon juice and hot water is soothing and will relieve most coughing. Lemons are high in antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin C, all known as immune system boosters. Honey soothes a sore throat and stops coughing by suppressing cough receptors to quiet the tickling sensation associated with most coughing.
Ginkgo biloga has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese for a variety of ailments including respiratory disorders. Along with relieving coughing, it’s also used for stopping wheezing and for helping to expel mucus and phlegm from the airways and lungs. Studies note that Ginkgo may provide relief from asthma and related coughing.
This ancient Chinese herb may prevent colds and flu, or lessen the severity of symptoms if you are already sick. Ginseng is a whole-body tonic that strengthens the immune system. Regular use helps to prevent the onset of bronchitis and coughing related to the flu and pneumonia.
Mullein is a commonly prescribed herb used either on its own or mixed in herbal cough tonics to relieve coughing from bronchitis, flu, or COPD. It acts as an expectorant, helping to clear the airways and lungs of mucus and congestion.
Fennel is often used in Ayurvedic medicine for several health conditions, including coughing from bronchitis, influenza and pulmonary ailments. Ayurvedic practitioners make this ancient culinary herb into a tea or syrup to treat acute and chronic coughs.
Certain herbs cause side effects. If you’re using unfamiliar herbs or treating young children, always consult with your natural health practitioner first.
Purdue University: Horehound
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
University of Maryland Medical Center: Licorice
University of Maryland Medical Center: Cough
University of Maryland Medical Center: Bronchitis
University of Maryland Medical Center: Ginseng