Natural home remedies for coughs
Coughing not only annoys you but also makes you persona non grata at the movies, the symphony, and any other place where people congregate. But if you have a “wet” cough, you don’t want to suppress it; that’s because it’s the body’s way of clearing out mucus. Rather, you actually want to encourage it so you can get rid of the phlegm faster and the coughing over with. If you have a “dry” cough, on the other hand, the trick is to coat the throat and tame the tickle.
Cure coughs with candy
• For “wet” coughs, suck on horehound candy, available in drugstores. A bittersweet herb, horehound acts as an expectorant, triggering the coughing reflex and helping bring up phlegm.
• For “dry” coughs, rely on slippery elm lozenges. Made from the bark of the slippery elm tree, these were once medicine-chest staples. Slippery elm is loaded with a gel-like substance that coats the throat and keeps coughing to a minimum. No slippery elm lozenges? For a dry cough, any hard candy will do because it increases saliva and causes you to swallow more, suppressing coughs.
• Lemon drops work especially well for “wet” coughs. Another remedy calls for combining peppermint candy, lemon juice, and honey. Heat the candy in lemon juice until it is dissolved. Then add honey and stir. Take 1 to 2 tablespoons as needed.
Dose a cough with homemade cough syrups
• Blend lemon juice with a little honey, then add a pinch of cayenne pepper and swallow. The honey coats your throat, soothing irritated tissues, while the lemon reduces inflammation and delivers a dose of infection-fighting vitamin C. The red pepper increases circulation to the area, which hastens the healing process.
• A very simple cough syrup calls for 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon honey. Heat until warm and take as many teaspoons as you need. Add a bit of grated onion for a stronger kick. Onions contain irritating compounds that trigger the cough reflex and bring up phlegm. Peel and finely chop 6 medium onions. Put them, along with a half-cup of honey, into the top of a double boiler or in a pan over a pot of boiling water. Cover and let simmer for 2 hours. Strain and pour the mixture into a covered jar. Take 1 tablespoon every 2 to 3 hours.
• For a throat-soothing syrup, mix 5 or 6 cloves with 1 cup honey and leave the mixture in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove the cloves and take 1 teaspoon or 1 tablespoon of the honey as needed. Cloves dull the pain of a sore throat, while honey soothes inflamed throat issues.
• Rock candy, made from crystallized sugar, and one of the oldest forms of candy, is the basis of several old-time cough syrups. One recipe combines 1 box rock candy, 450 grams raisins, the juice of 3 lemons, one half-cup sugar, and enough whiskey to form a syrup. Another calls for 450 grams rock candy, 4 jiggers brandy, a half-jar honey, and the juice of 3 lemons. You’ll have to make either recipe ahead of time, as it takes a few weeks for the rock candy to dissolve.
• For a tasty old-time cough syrup, slice 3 lemons and place them in a pan with honey and a bit of horehound leaves and flowers. Horehound, a bitter herb once popular in cough “candies,” acts as an irritant to trigger the cough reflex and bring up phlegm. Simmer the concoction until the syrup thickens. Strain the syrup and let it cool.
Brew up a cough-taming tea
• Thyme is an expectorant and also contains substances that relax the respiratory tract. To make thyme tea, place 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (1 tablespoon dried) in a cup of hot water. Allow it to steep, then drain out the herb, add honey if you like, and drink.
• Sip a cup of marshmallow tea. When combined with water, marshmallow yields a gooey mucilage that coats the throat and also thins mucus in the lungs, making it easier to cough up. To make the tea, steep 2 teaspoons of the dried herb in one cup hot water. Have a total of three cups a day.
• Add 45 drops of licorice tincture to a cup of hot water and sip. Licorice loosens phlegm and relaxes bronchial spasms. A caution: Don’t take licorice for more than a few weeks, as it can raise blood pressure.
• Steep 2 teaspoons horehound leaves or flowers in 1 cup boiling water, strain and drink.
• Practitioners of Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, recommend a spice tea that you can drink several times a day. To make the tea, add a half-teaspoon powdered ginger and a pinch of clove and cinnamon powder to a cupful of just-boiled water and drink.
Rub-on remedies for coughs
• Buy a chest rub that contains camphor or menthol and apply it to your throat and chest. They should not be taken internally.
• If you don’t have any store-bought chest rub, try making a mustard plaster to loosen up chest congestion. Mix one part mustard powder and two parts flour in a bowl. Add just enough water to make a paste. Spread the paste on a dish towel, fold the towel in half, and press it against the skin. (Never put the mustard mixture directly on your skin.) Check your skin often and remove the plaster if your skin becomes too red or irritated. Some people suggest using an egg white instead of water to make a plaster that’s less likely to burn.
Learn a new coughing technique
• If your throat is strained and irritated from nonstop coughing, try this technique to head off a coughing fit. The next time you feel a cough coming on, force yourself to take a series of small, gentle coughs, finally ending with a large one. The tiny coughs help move mucus toward the upper part of your air passage so you can expel more of it with that last, big cough.
Put some rhythm in your remedy
• If you’re at home and you have a partner who can help, use a chest-percussion technique to help clear chest congestion. Lie on your stomach on a firm bed or mat. Ask your partner to slap cupped hands rhythmically over the back, progressing from the lower back up toward the neck. Repeat several times until your congestion starts to loosen up.
Lights out, vapour on
• To help prevent nocturnal coughing, use a humidifier in your room to moisten the air, particularly in winter.
Also suffering from a sore throat? View our sore throat remedies for ways to soothe it.
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