Home Remedies To Get Rid of a Cough

If you want to avoid cough and cold medication, here are a few all-natural remedies to stop your cough.

Coughing is a reflex that protects your body from unwanted pathogens. They can be wet coughs—those that produce mucus and phlegm—or dry non-productive coughs. Coughs can be uncontrollable—known as paroxysmal—or a croup cough, a type of barking cough generally seen in children.

According to MedlinePlus, a cough is usually from the flu, a cold, or bronchitis—inflammation of the tubes that carry air to and from your lungs. When soreness strikes your throat, the first thing you want to know is how to get relief, fast. MedlinePlus tells us, antihistamines and cough medicine can relieve your cough. But there are also some quick home remedies, that will soothe your scratchy, aching throat.

Woman coughing
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Hit the Shower

When a cough crops up, take an extra-long shower. "Being in a hot shower is the best thing you can do," said Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, medical director at NorthShore's Integrative Medicine Program. "Stick yourself in there and let the steam soothe your breathing passages."

Dr. Mendoza Temple added that it helps reduce the over-excitement in your throat that stimulates hacking. There's no hard-and-fast rule about how long you have to stay in, but take your time. Step out and dry off when your cough starts to quiet down.

Use a Neti Pot

If your cough stems from allergies, your first step should be effectively treating those allergies and avoiding your triggers, according to MedlinePlus. One good option is a neti pot, which washes away pollen from the mucous membranes in your nasal passages, explained Dr. Mendoza Temple. Just make sure to use the neti pot safely—with sterile water (water that's been boiled and cooled down, or distilled water), according to the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Allergies get all the attention in spring, but they can be just as vicious in the fall—or even year-round if you have pet or dust allergies. "If you want to live with your pet, you have to remove the allergens from your nose," Dr. Mendoza Temple said.

Drink Marshmallow Tea

Warm tea and other hot liquids like soup are inherently soothing to an angry throat. "When you soothe the area, your body will stop trying to expel anything out," Dr. Mendoza Temple said. Hence, sipping tea throughout the day can help suppress a cough.

According to Dr. Mendoza Temple, you can use any tea you like but if you want something specific, go for slippery elm or marshmallow root tea (buy them separately or in teas labeled Throat Coat, which contains licorice root, slippery elm, and marshmallow root). "These herbs are very soothing to the tissues they touch," Dr. Mendoza Temple said.

Get Some Sleep

Sleep may not be a fancy herbal cure for a cough, but the basics are just as important.

"Sleep helps the body accomplish what needs to be done in terms of [getting better]," Termeh Feinberg, PhD, MPH, an epidemiologist in the Office of the Director at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).

Stay Hydrated

Sipping water is a remedy you're constantly told of when you're under the weather, and with good reason. Staying hydrated prevents infections, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. It also makes the mucus thinner, making it easier to cough, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Just like drinking tea or eating soup, water will soothe a dry, scratchy throat.

Add Eucalyptus Oil

Just like a shower can do wonders for a cough, so can a steam treatment with eucalyptus oil. Fill your sink with hot water and a few drops of eucalyptus oil. Then, put your head over the sink. Breathe deeply for 10 minutes. The eucalyptus oil will help break up nasal congestion, while the steam will moisturize a dry throat, according to PeaceHealth. You can also put a few drops of the oil in a humidifier, Dr. Mendoza Temple said, but remember to clean out the unit per the manufacturer's directions.

Drink Oregon Grape Root

As soon as Dr. Feinberg feels a sore throat and gets a cough, she grabs an Oregon grape root tincture. "This botanical contains berberine, a phytochemical with anti-inflammatory properties," Dr. Feinberg said. You can squirt it in your mouth straight ("This isn't for the faint of heart!" Dr. Feinberg said), or mix it in seltzer water since the fizziness can also feel nice on a scratchy throat.

Herbal Syrup

Before cold and flu season, stock up on a few herbs. Some herbs are known to improve cold symptoms. Elderberry improved the cold symptoms of the participants in this study from 2016, published in Nutrients. Additionally, chamomile was found to have antispasmodic qualities—meaning that it stops your coughing reflex—in this study from 2015, published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies.

Dr. Feinberg throws about a tablespoon of these dry herbs into a tablespoon of honey and lets it steep over low heat on the stove. Then Dr. Feinberg strains the syrup through cheesecloth. You can take the liquid straight a few times per day or stir it into a cup of tea.

While cough and cold medication can certainly provide relief for your cough, you can also try these home remedies for some quick relief. Between herbs, hot showers, and staying hydrated—there are plenty of options to relieve that cough.

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