Coughing happens when viruses, bacteria, dust, pollen or other substances irritate the nerve endings in the airways between the throat and lungs. A cough is the body’s way of trying to clear the passages, and what a valiant effort the body makes in this endeavor. We can cough at speeds up to 60 miles per hour, and the average cough produces enough air to fill a two-liter soda bottle about three-fourths full. The air of a cough sprays out several feet, and is accompanied by some 3,000 tiny droplets of saliva.
While chronic coughs can be a sign of a serious illness, most people consider the common cough to be more of an annoyance than a health issue. Although side effects like chest pain, exhaustion, and incontinence can accompany a cough, the more vexing complaints often have to do with a cough’s ability to interfere with your (and your household’s) sleep and the propensity to be annoying in otherwise quiet places. Coupled with the germ-spreading factor, it certainly seems like treating your cough is the kindest thing to do.
While many people reach for over-the-counter medicines, experts say that many of them are a waste of money. A Harvard University report notes, “According to American College of Chest Physicians guidelines, many of the active ingredients in over-the-counter cough remedies are ineffective.”
So, how to quell that cough without resorting to over-the-counter medicines that are possibly ineffective and may offer a host of their own side effects? With natural remedies, of course. Here are some favorite folk ways to relieve a nagging cough.
cough you have.
Salt water gargle
Salt has been used as an anti-infective, anti-inflammatory agent from time immemorial; in fact, papyrus scrolls from Egypt dated 1,699 B.C contain recipes of salt treatments. Dental surgeons still recommend gargling with a salt solution after surgical procedures to prevent infections and promote faster healing. When you gargle with a salt solution, a temporary increase in pH makes it difficult for the bacteria to survive.
To make a disinfectant solution that soothes an inflamed throat and relieves a cough, just dissolve a half teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water. The idea is to get an isotonic solution––similar to tissue fluids in salt concentration––so that it doesn’t irritate the mucous lining of the oral cavity. Salt water gargle instantly relieves throat pain whether it’s due to strep throat, tonsillitis or common cold and allergies.
The anti-inflammatory effect of a salt gargle often lasts several hours, but the longer you have the solution in contact with the throat tissues, the better it is. So throw your head back and give it a good shot, repeating the procedure several times a day.
Inhaling steam is a simple, yet effective way to treat both a dry cough due to allergies and wet cough associated with bronchitis and other respiratory infections. Inhaling the warm vapors moisturizes the dry, irritated airways and helps relieve inflammation. It also lightens the phlegm accumulated in the respiratory tract, making it easier to cough up. Inhaling steam before bed clears up nasal and chest congestion and provides for a goodnight’s sleep, without bouts of coughing disrupting your sleep as well as everyone else’s.
Eucalyptus oil or menthol is sometimes added to the boiling water for extra effect, but it’s not necessary. Just plain water brought to a rolling boil can provide enough steam for the next 10-15 minutes. Cover your head with a towel and inhale the vapors from a safe distance to avoid burns. What you need is the water vapor rather than the heat. Be especially careful with kids.
The strong anti-inflammatory action of ginger helps relieve a sore throat and airway inflammation whether it’s from allergens or infections. You can extract ginger juice from a fresh rhizome and mix it with equal amount of honey to make a cough syrup. Take just a few drops at a time to soothe the throat and suppress a cough.
Making ginger tea is another option. Crush a few slices of fresh ginger and boil it in water two to three minutes. Sipping this tea warm can stop coughing bouts. Make several cups of ginger tea and store it in the refrigerator. Warm up a cup and drink whenever you need it.
Lemon and honey
If night time coughing fits are killing your sleep and disturbing others, let lemon juice, and honey come to your rescue. This light drink can be taken just before bedtime to soothe your throat and keep the respiratory tract well hydrated throughout the night.
Mix in the juice of a small lemon and two tablespoons of honey in warm water and drink it. It helps lighten the mucus and makes it easy to bring it up. Make several cups of this drink and use it as and when you need it. Here are another 11 reasonswhy you should drink a glass of lemon and honey water every day.
A lot of liquids
Drinking a lot of liquids, whether any of the teas listed here or even just an increase in your daily water consumption can be helpful for a cough. Fluids help thin out the mucus in postnasal drip and keeps the membranes moist, which can help to reduce the need to cough.
Menthol cough drops work to numb the back of the throat, which can help tame the cough reflex.
Suck a lemon
Pucker up and suck a lemon? Indeed, this popular remedy calls for sprinkling a section of lemon with salt and pepper and sucking on it. (If nothing else, you will probably be so distracted by having a mouthful of lemon that you may forget to cough.) And if the idea of sucking on a lemon lacks appeal, you can try a hot-buttered lemonade … and swap the sugar with honey for good measure.
Commercial tea blends
Most health food stores have a wide array of teas to suit your home-remedy needs. The Traditional Medicinals brand offers Gypsy Cold Care Tea, an effective remedythat is made from 92 percent organic pharmacopoeial-grade herbs like elder flower, yarrow flower, peppermint leaf, hyssop herb and other organic herbs and flowers.
Black Seed oil
The tiny black seeds of Nigella sativa, commonly called black cumin or black caraway or simply black seed, pack quite a punch when it comes to medicinal properties. It’s not called ‘cure of all but death’ for nothing. Crushed seeds can be mixed with honey for treating a cough, but black seed oil is even more potent.
Mix one-half teaspoon of cold pressed black seed oil with one-half teaspoon honey twice a day. This mixture has been reported to relieve all kinds of a cough, irrespective of whether it’s caused by cold and flu, airborne allergens, tonsillitis, laryngitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, tuberculosis or asthma.
Humidify the environment
High humidity seems to ease a cough probably because it helps reduce airway irritation due to dryness. If you have a stubborn cough accompanied by chest congestion, it helps to have a hot bath or shower. It will loosen up mucus and help cough it up more easily.
When you have a dry cough due to allergies, set up a humidifier in the bedroom to prevent coughing fits.