Natural expectorants like moisture and certain teas may help relieve a stubborn cough by loosening phlegm. Expectorants can help make your cough more productive.
A cough can affect your work and sleep, and it can disturb others around you, too.
An expectorant is something that helps loosen mucus so you can cough it up. It does this by increasing the water content of the mucus, thinning it out, and making your cough more productive.
An expectorant won’t treat the infection that’s causing your symptoms, but it can help you feel a little better while your immune system does its job.
Over-the-counter expectorants may help loosen up phlegm, but natural remedies can also be effective. Generations of grandmothers have sworn by their own natural cough remedies, but how effective are they?
A simple and all-natural way to loosen up chest congestion is to take a hot, steamy shower. Warm and moist air can help relieve a stubborn cough by loosening mucus in the airway.
You may want to avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol while you have a cough. Instead, choose water or juice. The moderate use of caffeine is not a problem when you’re well, as long as you drink enough water.
Honey is delicious, natural, and soothing. It may even loosen up the gunk in your chest.
Research is emerging on how well honey can treat a cough. So far, it seems that the effectiveness of honey varies.
One 2021 study in children with upper respiratory infections found that honey relieved coughing thanks to its antimicrobial properties. However, the study only looked at cough severity, not whether the cough went away.
Try mixing a teaspoon of honey with a cup of warm milk or tea or just down a teaspoon of it before bed. Honey shouldn’t be given to children younger than 1 year old due to the risk of botulism.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is often used as a flavoring for gum, toothpaste, and tea. It could also be just what you’ve been looking for to treat your cough.
Peppermint tea is widely available in stores or online and is considered safe. You can also add a few fresh peppermint leaves to hot water to make your own tea. It has no side effects and poses no danger unless you’re allergic to it — and allergic reactions to mint are fairly common, according to one study.
Pure menthol is considered poisonous and should never be ingested. Menthol or peppermint oil applied to the skin can cause a rash in some people. If you decide to apply a diluted oil to your skin, test a small area first and wait 24 to 48 hours to see whether there’s a reaction.
The leaf of the evergreen climbing plant ivy (Hedera helix) has been shown to be an effective expectorant. Researchers believe that the saponins present in ivy leaf help make mucus less thick so you can cough it up. Ivy leaf teas can be found in grocery stores and online.
One 2021 study found that a cough medication with thyme and ivy was effective in treating 730 participants with mild to severe coughs. However, the study didn’t include a placebo and didn’t test whether ivy was effective on its own. This means that all participants used both cough syrup in addition to thyme and ivy.
Wondering which natural expectorant is right for you? Check out the answers to these frequently asked questions so you can confidently use natural expectorants to reduce cough symptoms.
What is the strongest natural expectorant?
The strongest natural expectorant for a cough is honey. Honey has been shown to reduce the symptoms of even chronic or severe coughs.
What is the most effective expectorant?
Honey has the largest body of research to support its effectiveness for treating a cough’s symptoms.
Which herbs are expectorants?
Thyme, ivy, and peppermint are all expectorants. It’s important to note that the research is mixed on whether these herbs are effective at getting rid of a cough or not.
When should you not take an expectorant?
You shouldn’t take an expectorant if you’re allergic to it. For example, those who are allergic to mint may actually make their respiratory problems worse by trying to treat a cough with peppermint tea. It’s always a good idea to consult a doctor before taking a new expectorant.
You may not want to take an expectorant before bed as they can increase the productivity of your coughs.
A cough can be caused by upper respiratory infections such as the common cold.
Expectorants help loosen the mucus in your chest and help make your wet cough more productive. These effects help you feel better while your body fights off the infection.
Few placebo-controlled studies have been done to prove the effectiveness of natural treatments.
If your cough persists for more than two weeks, consider talking with a doctor. They can rule out a more serious infection.