Coughing just sucks. Whether it’s a repetitive, dry barking cough or it’s deep, wet hacking, coughs are one of the worst symptoms of being sick. So, should you use natural remedies or go to the doctor?
If your cough is persistent and lasts more than just a few days then it’s out opinion that you should seek medical attention.
Do be careful, some physicians were put on the news for prescribing antibiotics for coughs.
Unfortunately, antibiotics won’t treat coughs themselves, but there’s still plenty you can do to make yourself cough less and make your coughing less painful. “Many coughs simply take time to go away,” says Dr Cindy Uypitching, a family medicine physician. “Most doctors will suggest you try natural remedies for your cough first, and there are several that can help make you more comfortable when you’re sick.”
But before you can deal with your cough, it’s important to understand what’s causing it and how serious it is:
What’s Actually Causing My Coughing?
Coughing can be caused by a variety of factors, but the most common culprits are bacterial and viral illnesses (like pneumonia, influenza, or a cold), allergies, a runny nose, heartburn and asthma, Dr. Uypitching says. Often coughing is worse at night, usually due to the position you’re in, as lying down can lead to more congestion and worsen heartburn. Sleeping with your head raised up by pillows can help, as can trying one of the natural remedies ahead right before bed.
How Are A Dry Cough And Wet Cough Different?
A dry cough is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and might be in reaction to a dry, itchy, scratchy throat or other irritation. A wet cough, meaning one that brings up mucus or other fluids, is typically caused by a virus like the cold or flu. Viruses can last up to a month—much longer than many people think.
What Should I Do If My Cough Lingers And Won’t Go Away?
If your cough doesn’t go away after three to four weeks, becomes chronic, or recurs under certain circumstances, then it’s time to go in and get it checked out by a competent physician who specializes in coughs and related illnesses.
Now, let’s get into the at-home solutions you’re dying for. But before your use any natural cough remedies that involve herbs, check with your doctor about how they may interact with any medications you’re on.
Natural remedies are meant to supplement any meds your doctor has given you and shouldn’t be used in place of any traditional treatment your doctor recommends when you’re sick.
1. Slippery Elm Bark
What Is Slippery Elm Bark
Slippery elm, or Ulmus rubra, is a tree native to the central and eastern United States and Ontario, Canada.
The tree is known for its dark brown to reddish brown bark and can reach a height of 60-80 feet. Native Americans would peel its slimy, red inner bark from twigs and branches and use it as a remedy for many common ailments, like fevers, wounds, coughs and sore throats.
They found that when the bark is mixed with water, it generates a sticky material known as mucilage, which is therapeutic and soothing to anything it touches. This led to the discovery of it helping with coughs.
The Native Americans would also wrap the inner bark of the slippery elm around their meat to keep the meat from going bad as the mucilage would form a protective cover.
Slippery elm bark was later picked up by American soldiers to heal gunshot wounds during the American Revolution.
It is still being investigated as to why this worked so well at healing gunshot wounds. It is thought that the mucilage covering the wound doesn’t allow bacteria or other contaminants to come in contact with the open flesh.
Slippery elm is also called red elm or Indian elm. The inner bark is the only part used for therapeutic purposes. The outer bark loses its ability to create mucilage as it hardens to protect the inner bark.
How To Use Slippery Elm Bark For A Cough?
There are two ways that work really well.
1. To make a nice tea, pour 2 cups of boiling water over roughly 2 tablespoons of the powdered herb and steep for a few minutes.
Drink it slowly over the course of a few minutes for best relief.
2. A company called Thayer’s has been making slippery elm lozenges since 1847. We have used them and they work really well, you can get all their flavors here slippery elm lozenges
2. Can Yerba Mate Help Relieve A Cough?
Sipping medium warm yerba mate with a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon in it has shown to help break up the mucus and allow your body to expel it.
Yerba mate has an incredibly high ORAC value (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), many times higher than other high ORAC foods of with an ORAC score of 1704 compared to those of cherries 670, red grapes at 739 and kiwi fruit at 602 per 100 grams.
This absorbance capacity of oxidative radicals is what makes it such a super powerful antioxidant. By sipping it all day you continually bathe your bodies insides with powerful antioxidants all day long.
The benefits of this are nearly immeasurable. This constant slow drip of antioxidants allows the system to clean up the oxidative radicals as they happen in real time instead of waiting for the next batch that may or may not be on the way. And acts as an expectorant to the mucus expelling it as it forms.
3. How Does Honey, Lemon and Ginger Help Your Cough?
This ancient elixir is one that has been passed down though the ages. Typically, if something lasts that long it is because it works.
But How Does Honey, Lemon and Ginger Work On A Cough?
Note: before we begin, it’s important to note that, the best benefits have been had when the honey is raw local honey (local to you), the lemon juice is fresh squeezed, and the ginger is from the whole root.
How Does The Honey Help With Your Cough?
Raw honey has a very powerful anti-microbial property that people have known about for tens of centuries.
It’s allowed honey to be used to treat open wounds, sunburns and even bad hair, just to name a few.
As for coughing the honey soothes the throat by helping the villi to become coated and therefore relaxed. It’s when the villi are agitated that you feel the tickling sensation in your throat that makes you want to cough.
How Does Lemon Help With Your Cough?
The specific citric acid strength of lemon juice helps cut through mucus and clear it from the throat so that it does not irritate the local nervous system or the villi which will cause the muscle spasms that induce coughing.
How Does Ginger Help Alleviate A Cough?
Ginger has unique phytochemicals slash antioxidants called gingerols that are actually found mostly in the oil of ginger.
One of the challenges is that because they are oils, they need heat to extract them from the ginger unless you chew the ginger, in which case the alpha amylase enzyme you produce by chewing will liberate the gingerols.
If ginger is just too spicey for you to chew then you can shred it, put it into a tea strainer allowing it to steep in the hot water until the oils are released.
The gingerols help to relax the muscles of the throat lessening their spasms and thus lessening the frequency of your coughing.
Together the combination of honey, lemon and ginger work in harmony to bring you back into it… Harmony that is.
4. Can Thyme Help With My Cough Or Cold?
The answer according to legend, lore and science is yes it can.
Thyme contains two novel compounds called carvacrol and thymol. Science is not sure which of these two exerts the greatest effect or if they must be used synergistically as it has not yet tested them as isolated compounds.
However, together they work as an expectorant, anti-spasmodic, antiviral and antibacterial that really does work to dislodge mucus, sooth the muscles of the throat and kill off both viruses and bacteria.
If you’re asking us, one item that can potentially do all that is an amazing find, but you hardly ever see it promoted by anyone.
The reason for that is simple, it’s a natural herb that you can grow at home if you like and so there is no money in promoting it.
You can use a mortice and pestle to grind your thyme into a mush, then add it to your tea strainer along with the above elixir of honey, lemon and ginger. This will cut the taste so that it becomes rather pleasant.
Otherwise, just straight thyme oil that has been diffused from the thyme into the hot water can be a bit much to drink for many people.
5. Can Marshmallow Root Help Get Rid Of A Cough?
Just like with slippery elm above marshmallow root contains mucilage that coats and soothes the villi as well as the muscles of the throat to help lessen the coughing.
Both work really well in our opinion. However, the marshmallow root does have a bit of a taste that can be a little off putting for many people.
It can be taken as a tea or in lozenge form, but not capsules of course because the herb would not come in contact with the throat, which it must, to be effective. We say this because there is at least one company selling it for the purpose of lessening coughs and their product is encapsulated.
6. Can A Saltwater Gargle Really Help My Sore Throat And Cough?
Purified water or at least clean water with salt added back has been used for hundreds of years as a remedy to sore throats and excess coughing.
This appears to work in a novel and indirect manner. The salted water does not seem to ease the cough directly. Instead, it seems that throats irritated and sore by virus or by the act of coughing itself are soothed by the salt water.
It is a must note that; the salted water we are referring to is not the salt water from the sea. No, in fact that has in some cases shown to actually cause infection due to the debris and organic life found in the seawater.
There can be contamination, pollution, bacteria, microbes and more found in ocean water. This would not be considered sterile and so should not be used.
Yes, we are completely aware of those that would say that; ‘but, the salt water is 100% natural, so it should be safe’. Well, then dirty stagnant pondwater would be safe because it is 100% natural too. But it’s not.
No, in this case, use clean pure water and a good quality salt.
The soothing and healing action can generally be felt right away.
This is a gargle, so be sure to gargle with every sip and not swallow it.
7. Can Ivy Leaf Help Get Rid Of My Cough?
Here is an unexpected one for most people. Ivy leaf, yes, Ivy leaf can help in a rather profound way according to science and lore, here’s how.
Ivy leaf contains a powerful expectorant that helps your body expel the mucus from your throat and lung areas.
It may sound gross at first, but when you’re coughing up mucus you need to spit it out. Hacking it up is a sign that your body wants to get rid of it.
So, do what your body wants and spit it out. Keep a spit cup next to you while sleeping or laying around waiting to get better, and when you hack it up, get rid of it.
Ivy leaf has been shown in studies to be rated by the participants as either good or very good at getting rid of mucus.
A very simple way to use it and to compound its power will be to add it to your previous mixture of honey, lemon, ginger and thyme.
Just grind it in your mortice and pestle, add it to your tea diffuser along with the other ingredients and once your tea is ready you should have one heck of a cough remedy brewing (pun intended).