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Whether it’s keeping you up at night, interrupting meetings at work, or leaving your throat sore, a persistent cough is never fun. Over-the-counter cough medicines can contain harmful ingredients, like pseudoephedrine, codeine, and antihistamines, which, if taken in excess, can be toxic. Many ingredients in these preparations have similar effects, so their toxic effects are additive. So how can you relieve your cough while avoiding these medicines?
Try out the following four natural cough remedies to soothe your symptoms and get through the day.
Volatile oils found in thyme called thymol and carvacol are smooth muscle relaxants, meaning they can relax the muscles in the respiratory tract, helping to suppress coughing. Thyme is also very effective when combined with other herbal remedies like primrose oil and ivy.
A combination of thyme and primrose oil, as well as thyme and ivy, were both superior to placebo in reducing cough symptoms when administered for 11 days.[3,4] Try making your own thyme tea by mixing a few teaspoons of chopped thyme leaves in a cup of boiling water and letting them steep.
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Licorice root has long been use to treat coughs, mucous congestion, and bronchial problems. A compound called liquiritin apioside and its metabolite, liquiritigenin, are likely responsible for this effect, as they are antitussive (cough suppressing) compounds. These two compounds can relieve cough for approximately 4 hours. Polysaccharides in licorice also have antitussive activity. Make a tea using a teaspoon of dried licorice root in a few cups of boiling water.
Zinc is often used to treat the common cold. Zinc lozenges, in particular, are the most effective. A study in the Journal of Infectious Disease found that the average duration of cough for subjects taking placebo was 5.36 days, and only 2.14 for those taking zinc. Find all-natural zinc lozenges at your local grocery store.
One of the most well-known remedies, a spoonful of honey, can be very effective at helping treat a cough, especially in children. Honey has antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory qualities.
In one study, parents rated 10 g of honey before bedtime superior to placebo for relief of their children’s nighttime cough and sleep difficulty. Buckwheat honey can also reduce cough frequency and improve quality of sleep in children with the common cold. Swallowing just a small spoonful of honey can help soothe a cough.
Share Your Experience<
What are your favorite natural cough remedies? Do you use any of the remedies listed above? Share your tips for relieving a cough in the comments section below.
Originally published in 2014 and updated.