The 12 best natural cough remedies, according to doctors

Coughing is crap. Whether it is a repetitive and dry cough or a deep and wet hack, the cough is one of the worst symptoms of being sick. So, should you use natural remedies?

Unfortunately, antibiotics will not treat a cough by themselves, but there is still much you can do to cough less and make your cough less painful. "Many coughs simply take time to disappear," says Dr. Cindy Uypitching, a family medicine doctor. "Most doctors will suggest that you try natural cough remedies first, and there are several that can help you feel more comfortable when you are sick."

But before you can deal with your cough, it is important to understand what is causing it and how serious it is:

What really causes cough?

Cough can be caused by a variety of factors, but the most common culprits are bacterial and viral diseases (such as pneumonia, influenza or cold), allergies, runny nose, heartburn and asthma, says Dr. Uypitching. Often, the cough gets worse at night, usually due to the position it is in, since lying down can cause more congestion and worsen heartburn. Sleeping with your head raised by pillows can help, as well as trying one of the natural remedies before bedtime.

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What is the difference between a dry cough and a wet cough?

A dry cough is exactly what it looks like, and it can be a reaction to a dry, itchy throat, or other irritation. A wet cough, that is, one that produces mucus or other fluids, is usually caused by a virus such as a cold or the flu. Viruses can last up to a month, much longer than many people think, says Dr. Uypitching.

What should I do if my cough does not go away?

If your cough does not go away after three to four weeks, it becomes chronic or recurs under certain circumstances, then it is time to go in and have it checked, says Dr. Uypitching. You may have progressed to a more serious infection or it may indicate that you have reflux, allergies or asthma, all of which can and should be treated by a doctor. Contact your doctor immediately if you have other symptoms that get worse, such as fever, chest pain or shortness of breath, he adds.

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Let's look at the solutions at home for which you die. But before using any natural cough remedy that involves herbs, check with your doctor about how they can interact with any medications you are taking, says Dr. Uypitching. And remember, natural remedies are meant to complement any medication your doctor has given you and should not be used in place of any traditional treatment your doctor recommends when you are sick.

Natural remedies 101

Hopefully, these 12 natural cough remedies make your cough less bothersome and make it easier for you to rest and feel better.

1) orange juice

The key to controlling cough is to make sure you are drinking a lot of fluids, says Dr. May Loo, a specialist in integral medicine. "The lungs need to be well hydrated to minimize mucus formation," he explains. Orange juice is not only a tasty way to hydrate, but it also contains a lot of vitamin C. It was found that high doses of vitamin C help reduce symptoms, including cough, in patients with pneumonia in a meta-analysis published in Nutrients.

2) thyme

"Thyme works like a culinary herb and a medicine," says Dr. Michael S. Fenster, interventional cardiologist, author and professional chef. The leaves and flowers contain thymol and carvacrol, which act as antispasmodics, expectorants and contain antibacterial and antiviral compounds, all of which can help improve cough, he explains. Add the herb to your meals or enjoy it in a relaxing tea.

3) Boswellia

This herb, more commonly known as incense, has been used for centuries to treat a cough, particularly those that come from inflammation of the lungs or other areas, says Dr. Fenster. He explains that its potent anti-inflammatory compounds can help calm the cough and fight the oral pathogens that can cause them. Dissolving boswellia in hot water and inhaling the steam helped reduce asthma cough and bronchitis, according to a study published in the Magazine of traditional and complementary medicine.

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4) ginger

"Eating spicy spices, such as ginger, cinnamon and anise, can help strengthen your respiratory system," says Dr. Loo. These spices can be prepared in a delicious herbal tea and warm water and steam have the added benefit of helping to open the lungs, she says. Purified ginger placed in a nebulizer helped relax people's airways and reduce coughs, particularly "dry" coughs related to asthma, according to a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology.

5) chili peppers

Spicy foods are a natural way to strengthen your respiratory system, says Dr. Loo. But some spicy foods, particularly those containing capsaicin, such as hot peppers, can significantly reduce congestion and coughs that come from the constant post-nasal drip of allergies or rhinitis, according to a study published in The annals of asthma, allergy and immunology. They found that patients who used a nasal spray containing capsaicin saw an improvement in less than a minute that lasted up to an hour.

6) Marshmallow Root

Marshmallow root has been used for centuries to help treat cold symptoms, including cough, and may actually help, according to a meta-analysis published in International Journal of Pharmaceutical Science in Invention. Marshmallow herb contains a compound called mucilage, which covers the throat and relieves irritation. Researchers recommend taking it in capsule form or drinking marshmallow root tea.

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7) almond milk

The idea that eating or drinking dairy products causes an increase in mucus and cough is a myth, nor does it make a cough of an existing cold worse, according to research published in The American Review of Respiratory Disease. But many people associate dairy with congestion because the milk has a texture and viscosity similar to mucus, which can make it feel as if it stuck in your throat, according to the Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy. If you have a dry cough and want something creamy to cover your throat and relieve scratch, but you want a thinner texture, almond or coconut milk is a good replacement, says Dr. Loo.

8) honey

One of Dr. Uypitching's favorite cough home remedies is a large spoonful of honey. Not only is it tasty, but it has also been shown to be as effective in suppressing coughs, particularly those caused by upper respiratory tract infections, such as some over-the-counter cough medications. Patients who received a tablespoon of honey before bedtime got as much or more relief than when they received dextromethorphan, a common ingredient in cough medicines, according to a study published in The archives of pediatric and adolescent medicine.

9) salt water gargle

The cough is not just because of lung problems. In fact, pain, irritation and inflammation of the throat are a very common cause of cough, says Dr. Uypitching. A good way to help soothe the throat and cough is to make a warm solution of water and salt and gargle for 30 seconds, he says.

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10) chicken soup

Chicken soup is a remedy for the traditional cold in many cultures and for good reason, says Dr. Uypitching. Not only does it combine several other proven cough remedies (warm water, steam, herbs, salt, liquids), but it can also have cough-fighting properties. Chicken soup significantly reduced the signs of cold and flu infection, in a study published in Chest.

11) Neti pot

A Neti pot is a small teapot that is used to clean the sinuses. Fill it with a warm solution of salt water and then gently pour it into one of the nostrils, allowing it to travel through the sinus cavities and exit through the other nostril. While it may sound strange, it is actually an effective cough remedy caused by sinusitis or nasal congestion, says Dr. Uypitching. Just be sure to use purified water so as not to introduce other germs into your sinuses.

12) steam shower

Research on steam, alone, as a cough remedy is surprisingly mixed, with some studies showing that it helps, while others show no benefit. But regardless of whether or not it produces statistically significant results, many cough patients find that a hot shower is very comforting and relaxing and it certainly won't hurt to try, says Dr. Uypitching. One way to make steam more effective is to combine it with other things, such as herbs or menthol, she says.

This article was originally published in

Image credit: iStock

Charlotte Hilton Andersen

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