Although normally associated with cold and flu, cough may occur for various reasons and is a natural reaction of the respiratory system to any foreign particles that are blocking the breathing passage, which could be fluids, mucus or other irritants. Very often, coughing is related to lung problems resulting from smoking or asthma.
While an occasional cough is nothing to worry about, it should be dealt with when it becomes a persistent symptom. Many people tend to reach for over-the-counter medicines when they notice first symptoms of a cough. However, there are many home remedies that might be equally or even more helpful while dealing with a cough.
Types And Causes Of Cough
Coughs are generally divided into dry and wet coughs. When you suffer from a dry cough, which may be often a sign of a viral infection, there is no phlegm. With a wet cough, however, you see the production of fluid secretion in the form of yellowish or greenish sputum, which usually indicates a bacterial infection.
Coughing is usually a symptom of an infection in the upper respiratory system, but can also be a symptom of hay fever and rhinitis. Sometimes it’s caused by irritants, like smoke and dust. In those cases, it lasts up to 3 weeks. If it’s prolonged, it may be a symptom of asthma, GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease), a sinus infection, pneumonia or bronchitis.
Home Remedies For Cough
If your cough lasts less than a week, you can probably heal it with some simple home remedies. Below we present the list of very effective methods that will help you alleviate the symptoms of a cough and get rid of it in a short time.
Turmeric can be used as a home remedy for a cough in many different forms. You can make a turmeric tea by boiling a teaspoon of turmeric powder in half a cup of water for two minutes. You can also add half a cinnamon stick, which will increase the antiseptic properties of the drink. Take the water off the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Add a teaspoon of honey and mix everything until honey dissolves completely. Drink the turmeric tea throughout the day until you see that the cough symptoms have decreased. You can also prepare more tea straight away and drink it at room temperature later on.
Alternatively, you can roast turmeric root and grind it. Once you get a smooth powder, mix it with honey and water and drink this mixture twice a day. It works best as a remedy for a dry cough.
You can also add a teaspoon to a cup of water and use the solution as a gargle for your throat. Turmeric used in a gargle mixture kills bacteria in the throat and alleviates the pain.
Ginger relieves the pain, stimulates blood circulation and has antibacterial properties. It also stops the tickling sensation at the back of the throat, caused by the postnasal drip. That is why it’s a great remedy for a cough. You can chew on ginger root sprinkled with a pinch of salt if you like the taste of ginger. Alternatively, prepare some ginger tea. Cut a piece of ginger root and crush it as much as you can. Put it into a saucepan and add a cup of water. Bring it to boil, take off the heat and let it steep for 10 minutes. Once the water absorbs the properties from ginger, filter the mixture over a cup and drink the hot liquid. It works best when drunk hot.
Another way to incorporate ginger into your home treatment of a cough is to mix a tablespoon of ginger juice with a teaspoon of honey and a dash of black pepper powder and turmeric. This paste can only be taken in small amounts so don’t take a whole teaspoon at a time. Lick small portions of the paste three to four times a day. This will help you loosen up the mucus and clear up the airways.
If your cough is related to a bacterial infection, you need to increase the level of vitamin C intake. For that, the best option is to drink lemon juice. Obviously, it’s too bitter to be drunk on its own, so you can prepare a lemon syrup at home. Squeeze fresh juice of one lemon and add and an equal amount of honey. Mix the ingredients and you have the syrup ready. Drink a tablespoon of it three times a day.
Alternatively, you can make a drink of two tablespoons of honey, fresh juice of one lemon and a pinch of cayenne pepper. It’s got quite a strong and refreshing taste, but it helps fight the cough really fast if drank twice a day.
Garlic is known as a natural antibiotic. You should incorporate it in your diet regardless of the presence or lack of cough symptoms as it has a beneficial influence on various organs and gives a boost to your immune system. It has been proven that eating two cloves of garlic or daily intake of garlic supplements may reduce the probability of bacterial and viral infection by 63%. If you like the taste of garlic, you can simply cut a few cloves into slices or crush them and eat on bread with a bit of olive oil and oregano. If you are not a fan of this flavour, you can boil two crushed cloves of garlic in half a cup of milk and add a teaspoon of honey to the mixture. Drink it twice a day to alleviate the symptoms of a cough and fight any bacterial infection that might have caused the cough. Also, you can prepare many tasty dishes with garlic as it gives meats and fried vegetables.
Onion also fights off infections due to its antibacterial properties. Just cutting the onion is a remedy for a cough because while you’re breathing in the strong vapours of onion, you clear the breathing passages of the upper respiratory system. Once the onion is cut, blend it and add two teaspoons of honey to it. You will get a thick syrup that you should drink three times a day. Also, you can simply incorporate onion in your diet. It works almost the same way regardless of the form, so you can eat it raw, in a salad or make a delicious dish with caramelised onion. The latter on goes well with a wide range of foods and can even accompany sandwiches and pates.
If you don’t like the taste of onion, you can get some onion supplements in a health food store or a pharmacy. They usually have no taste or smell, so there are no unpleasant side effects to this treatment.
The king of home remedies can be used to boost the immune system, fight bacterial and viral infections and soothe the pain in case of a sore throat. It can be taken in in various forms. If you like its sweet taste, simply take a tablespoon of honey three times a day. It is recommended to have at least one spoon of honey a day as a means of prevention against infections.
A popular mixture with honey that relieves a dry cough and forms a protective film is the one of milk and honey. Heat half a cup of milk and add a teaspoon of honey. For a better soothing effect, you can also add half a teaspoon of butter to the solution. Drink it just before going to bed and you will finally enjoy a good night sleep, free of an irritating cough.
Alternatively, you can add honey and lemon juice to your tea and drink it throughout the day. This will soothe the pain and will clear up the respiratory tract.
Cayenne and Black Pepper
Cayenne pepper stimulates the blood circulation, reduces chest pains caused by coughing and warms up the throat tissue. Both cayenne and black pepper stimulate mucus flow and can be of great help in clearing the congestion. The best way to incorporate black or cayenne pepper in your home therapy is to mix ¼ tablespoon pepper with ¼ tablespoon ground ginger and equal amounts of honey, apple cider vinegar and water (one tablespoon each). Once you mix all the ingredients and get a smooth syrup, drink a tablespoon of this healing mixture two to three times a day.
Menthol contained in peppermint soothes dry coughs and facilitates breathing when you suffer from congestion because it opens up airways and breaks up the mucus. You can drink peppermint tea with lemon juice and honey or use peppermint oil for the inhalation. Pour two litres of boiling water into a bowl and add a few drops of peppermint oil. Sit with your face over the steam coming from the hot water, cover your head and the bowl with a towel and breathe the steam in for 10 minutes. This will help unblock the passages in the upper respiratory system and will loosen up the mucus in the nasal cavity and the sinuses.
Similarly to peppermint, eucalyptus ears up the airways and facilitates breathing as well as soothes the pain in the throat and chest, caused by prolonged coughing. It’s a popular ingredient of various chest ointments. Just breathing in the smell of eucalyptus oil might bring relief, but you can also use in for inhalations. Alternatively, you can use dry eucalyptus leaves, which are a bit more difficult to obtain, to make a tea with freshly squeezed lemon juice and honey. Eucalyptus oil can b bought in every health food store and pharmacy.
The soothing properties of chamomile have been known for ages. It can bring you a relief, especially when you suffer from a dry cough that wakes you up at night. Pour some hot, but not boiling water over some dry chamomile and leave it to steep for 10 minutes. Drink it in the afternoon and repeat before bedtime. This should guarantee you a good night’s sleep.
Carrots are loaded with vitamins and minerals that will give a boost to your immune system and hep you fight off the infection faster. You can simply eat some fresh carrots or – if you have a juice maker – prepare some delicious carrot juice. Take five carrots, one apple and one orange and put them into the juicer. For a more zesty flavour and greater health benefits, add a small piece of ginger root or a few leaves of peppermint. Drink the juice three times a day. It might be time-consuming to prepare it but it’s a time investment that will definitely pay off health wise in no time.
Grapes contain a lot of vitamin C and have expectorant properties, which means that they help loosen up and get rid of the mucus accumulated in the respiratory tract. You can simply eat half a cup of grapes three times a day or go for some grape juice. Make sure you choose its organic version or that you make your grape juice at home. The juice from the carton contains a lot of sugar and chemicals that your body doesn’t need while fighting with an infection and a cough.
Almonds contain nutrients and oils that soothe the pain and support the immune system. If you like the taste of almonds, you can simply eat them raw or roasted. It is recommended to eat between 5 and 8 almonds a day. Alternatively, you can soak almonds in milk or water overnight and use mortar and pestle to mash them into a smooth paste. Add half a spoon of butter and eat the mixture three times a day, one teaspoon at a time.
Thyme and Licorice Teas
Thyme is a popular ingredient of cough lozenges as it soothes the pain due to its anti-inflammatory properties and the high level of flavonoids that relax the throat muscles which get sore with prolonged coughing. You can’t consume thyme oil as it’s toxic when ingested but you can make thyme teas using dry leaves of the plant. For best results, add a teaspoon of honey to your tea.
Liquorice root is also used both in lozenges and as a tea ingredient. It thins the mucus and helps to relieve the respiratory tract. The enzyme contained in liquorice helps fight inflammation and unblock nasal passages. To make liquorice tea, you need to boil two teaspoons of liquorice powder in half a cup of water. Once you bring it to boil, mix it for two minutes, then take off the heat and leave it to steep for 10 minutes. Drink it two to three times a day.
Increase Fluid Intake
If your cough is related to congestion and flu, you should drink more liquids than normal. Fever and expelled phlegm devoid your body of water so you need to make sure you replenish the supplies. Drink at least two litres of water every day and increase the amount of hot drinks. Try preparing some of the teas we mentioned above to soothe your throat and reduce the cough. You can also drink fruit and vegetable juices that are not only very tasty but also packed with vitamins and minerals that will strengthen your immune system.
Those beneficial microorganisms support your immune system and help fight off various infections, including those of the respiratory system. The best source of probiotics is yoghurt. However, eating a lot of dairy products when you are congested might be a bit risky since they may thicken the phlegm. That’s why it is not recommendable to eat more than two yoghurts a day while you’re suffering from a wet cough. An alternative to this would be taking some over-the-counter probiotic products. Talk to your pharmacist and he will recommend the best product for you.
With the first signs of a cough and soreness, you should disinfect your throat with gargles. Dissolve half a tablespoon of salt in half a cup of warm water. Sip a bit of it and gargle for one minute. Don’t swallow the solution and make sure you spit it out because it contains bacteria and viruses that were present in your throat. Repeat the process two to three times in one session and have three sessions a day. Salt gargle has great antiseptic properties and it thins the mucus so it will be easier to clear up the passages of the respiratory system.
Vaporubs contain a combination of etheric oils from menthol, camphor and eucalyptus. Applying vapour rubs on your chest or simply breathing in the smell of the mixture will relieve the congestion and facilitate breathing, For this reason, it is highly recommendable to use vapor rubs before bedtime. You can also add some vapor rub to the water used for inhalation. This therapy will both hydrate and decongest your respiratory system. It is safe and can be used to heal a sore throat and coughs in children of only 2 years of age.
Elevate Your Head
If the cough is bothering you even when you sleep, then try changing your sleeping position. Normally, elevating your head should prevent you from coughing at night. Just try to add an extra pillow so that the mucus dripping from your nose to the throat does not cause the reflex of coughing. For some people, who are accustomed to sleeping on a flat pillow or without one, it might not be the most comfortable position, but it will give them a better chance of getting proper rest at night, which is crucial when your body is fighting an infection. This trick, combined with a glass of warm milk with honey before bedtime should assure a good night’s sleep.
Lozenges soothe the throat and make the cough less irritating. Some of them also contain ingredients of antibacterial and antiviral properties. The most popular and effective of them would be honey, menthol, peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil. If you suffer from cough and sore throat, you should suck a throat lozenge every two to three waking hours. This is a proven way of reducing the duration of a cough by half. Also, lozenges will alleviate the sore throat and reduce the irritation. This is especially important if – regardless of your cough – you have to work and talk for the whole day.
If a cough becomes unbearable or you need a very quick and effective solution, you can reach for some over-the-counter products. Depending on the type of cough you have, you should look for a medicine designed specifically for a dry or wet cough. The syrups and lozenges for a dry cough normally contain dextromethorphan that suppresses the cough. For a wet cough, choose a product with ingredients that have expectorant properties, which should help you clear out the mucus. Some of the over-the-counter medicines additionally contain the antihistamine, which is of a great help if your cough is connected to an allergic reaction. If you are suffering from a cough related to cold and your nose is blocked, which causes dripping from the nasal cavity to the throat and results in a cough reaction, you can try a special nose spray that will dry out the mucus temporarily and will facilitate the breathing. The pharmacist will help you choose the right product to alleviate the symptoms.
When Should I Contact The Doctor
Whatever remedy or medicine you choose to treat your cough, make sure you observe the symptoms on a continuous basis and if there is no sign of improvement after over a week, contact the doctor as your cough might be caused by an infection that requires a medical intervention. The doctor will diagnose the problem and will prescribe appropriate medication. Remember that a prolonged cough may hurt your lungs and chest muscles. No infection that lasts over a week or two should be ignored as it may develop into a more serious condition.