There’s nothing more frustrating than a cough that keeps you up at night—whether you’re the one coughing, or if it’s your partner or child.
The good news is that you don’t have to make a late-night trip to the 24-hour drugstore. You can easily whip up safe and effective cough remedies from ingredients you might already have in your kitchen. Some common household items that make effective ingredients in cough remedies include:
Along with being convenient, these do-it-yourself cough remedies are free of additives like food coloring dyes and alcohol that are often used in over-the-counter cough syrups and demulcents.
A demulcent is a liquid which soothes irritated mucous membranes. A 2001 report by the World Health Organization on cough and cold remedies indicates that these mixtures can increase swallowing and saliva production. Demulcents are also believed to interfere with the sensory receptors in the mouth and throat that trigger coughing.
How natural cough remedies work
For thousands of years, people treated illnesses and ailments with the tools that nature provided them. Plant extracts and compounds were the first medicine. Although people today have other options, nature’s remedies are still available.
Ginger ale and ginger tea are the go-to natural remedies for nausea and upset tummies. But did you know ginger can do much more?
The book Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects dedicates an entire chapter to ginger, which it calls “amazing and mighty.” The authors describe how ginger is used around the world to treat everything from colds and nausea to arthritis and cancer.
Ginger has antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory effects that can ease cold symptoms, including sore throats and coughing.
Honey is often mixed with other components to make homemade cough remedies. While mixing may offer benefits, even honey by itself could ease your symptoms.
A research study report published in The Journal of Family Practice in March 2013 compared the night-time coughing of children that swallowed 10 grams or about 1.5 teaspoons of honey with kids who didn’t get any honey.
The study found that feeding honey to a coughing child before bedtime reduced the frequency and severity of coughing, which helped the child sleep better. This allows Mom and Dad to sleep better, too.
The antioxidant and antimicrobial properties of honey are believed to be the reason why honey is an effective cough remedy. Honey’s demulcent properties could also be a factor in helping soothe the throat.
Lemons and other citrus fruits are high in nutrients, including:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
Vitamin C is a popular health supplement found in everything from cough drops to effervescent tablets. Many people believe that vitamin C has the power to prevent or shorten the duration of a cold.
There hasn’t been much scientific research to back that up. However, the authors of a research analysis published in Paediatrics & Child Health in November 2011 did find a connection between vitamin C and colds.
The research showed that children taking vitamin C experienced a more than 13 percent reduction in the duration of their colds. Some studies also indicate that athletes who take vitamin C experience shorter colds, even in chilly climates.
Make your own cough syrup
Combinations of these natural ingredients can help to soothe a cough. This is due to their demulcent properties in conjunction with the plant compounds, which can have positive health effects.
Ginger cough remedy
- Gather 2 matchbox-sized pieces of either chopped or ground peeled ginger.
- Boil the ginger in 4 glasses—about 32 oz.—of drinking water for 15 minutes.
- Once it’s cool, divide the ginger water into 3 parts. Mix in honey to sweeten the solution.
- Drink 1 part every 8 hours to soothe your cough.
Citrus cough remedy
- Add the juice of 1-2 lemons to a glass of water—approximately 8 oz.
- Add 1 large spoonful of sugar to taste and stir it well.
- Drink a glass of this recipe 3 times throughout your day to help control your cough.
Alternate Option: Substitute 3 small limes in place of the lemons.
Important things to note
All of the ingredients in these cough remedy recipes are natural and can be found in any grocery store. However, that doesn’t automatically make these recipes safe for everyone.
What to avoid for children
Never give exclusively breast-fed infants demulcent cough remedies or cough syrups. The sugar content could have an adverse effect on the infant’s appetite for breast milk, which could lead to nutritional problems.
Unless under the direct direction of a doctor, don’t give infants and toddlers over-the-counter cough syrups or medicines. There are risks associated with the chemical ingredients which could cause much worse problems than a cough. For that reason, natural cough remedies are often a better choice for young children dealing with a persistent cough. However, it is still advisable to consult your doctor, particularly if the cough persists.
Do not give honey to infants younger than one year of age as a cough remedy or as part of their diet. Honey consumption in infants leads to a risk of infant botulism, reports the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
What to avoid for adults
Adults on an aspirin regimen or taking blood thinners such as warfarin should generally avoid ginger unless directed otherwise by a doctor, as it also has blood-thinning properties.
When to consult a doctor
For both children and adults, the cough remedies described here may alleviate symptoms for a while, but none of these ingredients is a medical treatment or cure for the underlying cause of your cough. If you have a persistent cough that doesn’t go away on its own after a few days, you may want to visit your doctor and seek medical advice.