Prevention & Recovery

Natural remedies for coughing

Canadian Living
Prevention & Recovery

Natural remedies for coughing

Persistent coughing can be a real drag. It's annoying -- especially to those around you -- and it can really take a toll on your body. If you've suffered from a persistent cough, you know just how taxing it can be -- and how frustrating it is when you can't get rid of it!

But there are many natural remedies for coughing that will help ease the discomfort, and (hopefully) cure it for good.

 But before you hunt down these natural remedies for coughing, it's important to determine what type of cough you have. We asked naturopathic doctor Camille Nghiem-Phu about the different types of coughs and how to cure them, as well as when to seek medical attention for a persistent cough. 

Types of coughs

According to Nghiem-Phu there are two main classifications of coughs. The first is the dry, non-productive cough, where no mucus is formed. This cough can be sporadic (occurring once or twice daily to clear irritants) or spasmodic (occurring frequently with potential shortness of breath).

The second type of cough is the productive cough, where mucus and irritants from the lungs are formed during the cough. Coughing can be symptomatic of many things, Nghiem-Phu says, including the common cold, bronchitis, croup, whooping cough, pneumonia and tuberculosis. If you've got a persistent cough, be sure to check with your doctor or naturopath to diagnose what type of cough it is and how best to treat it.
Do you have a chronic cough?

How do you know the difference between a run-of-the-mill cough and one that's more serious and considered chronic? Nghiem-Phu says that a cough is generally considered chronic when three weeks have passed without it improving. "In the majority of cases, frequent coughing lasts one to two weeks and tapers off as the irritant or infection subsides," she says. Anything more than that is considered a chronic cough.

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When to seek professional help for your cough

No one likes to visit the doctor at the first sign of a cough, but there does come a point when you should. According to Nghiem-Phu, you should seek medical attention when your coughing:

• is accompanied by a fever and sputum production;
• fails to get better when other symptoms go away;
• changes in character;
• starts to bring up blood;
• interferes with your daily life or sleep cycles; or
• is accompanied by wheezing, shortness of breath or chest pain.
Natural remedies for coughing

Cough medicines abound on the shelves of your local drugstore, but there are also many natural remedies for coughing.

"Herbs such as fenugreek, ginger, garlic, licorice and echinacea support the immune system, increase white blood cell activity, are antibacterial and antiviral, reduce fever and congestion, reduce symptoms associated with a cold or flu, and provide antioxidants to help the lungs and lymphatic system rid the body of impurities," says Nghiem-Phu. "Cod liver oil is high in vitamins A and D, which help the mucus membranes to be less hyper-sensitive, and which also reduce inflammation."
Someone with a chronic cough can also benefit from eliminating certain mucus- and phlegm-producing foods from their diet, says Nghiem-Phu, such as dairy products, wheat and sugar.

Using natural cough remedies with drugs

Natural remedies can be effective ways to treat a cough, but only if used properly and at the correct potency, says Nghiem-Phu. And be careful about mixing natural treatments with over-the-counter or prescription drugs, as there could be dangerous interactions between the two.

"Your naturopathic doctor is trained to know these possible interactions and to cross-reference all of their natural recommendations against your prescriptive and over-the-counter medications," she says. So be sure to seek a professional opinion first.

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Homemade natural remedies for coughing

A natural remedy to soothe your nagging cough could be as close as your kitchen cupboards or refrigerator. Nghiem-Phu recommends the following natural remedies made with items you may already have at home.

• Drinking a warm glass of water with lemon juice and Manuka honey added to it is a great way of increasing your intake of fluid and bioflavonoids. Manuka honey is also a natural antibiotic.

• Drinking herbal teas including fenugreek, rosehip, licorice root, echinacea, lemon with ginger and Manuka honey may help to ease congestion and also provides the body with vitamin C.

• Steam inhalations of eucalyptus oil in a bowl of hot water may temporarily alleviate the nasal congestion associated with the common cold. Lean over the bowl with a towel over your head and spend 10 minutes inhaling the vapours.

• Eating pineapple helps to break down mucus congestion as it contains an ingredient called bromelain, which is an anti-inflammatory.

• Keep hydrated by drinking at least two litres of fluid per day. Dehydration will slow down your recovery time and reduce the amount of metabolic wastes excreted via the kidneys.

• Include plenty of garlic, ginger, chili peppers and horseradish in your diet, as these ingredients will act as decongestants and open up the sinus cavities.

• A supplement of vitamin C powder added to water and gargled will help to provide antioxidants to the respiratory system and help reduce inflammation in the throat. Add some echinacea or olive leaf liquid for an even better throat gargle.

• Get plenty of rest and sleep so that your body recovers properly.
Natalie Bahadur is the senior editor of and a contributor to

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Prevention & Recovery

Natural remedies for coughing