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What is an expectorant?

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 will help you get a good night’s sleep and make you feel a little better while your immune system does its job.

Over-the-counter expectorants aren’t always effective, so many people turn to natural treatments. 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 can also try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air you breathe. There are many options available for purchase online.

Keeping your body hydrated will help it function at its best. Increase your fluid intake when you have a cough or cold. Drinking water or herbal tea is a great way to get more fluids.

Try to avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol while you have a cough. Instead, choose water or juice. Moderate use of caffeine is not a problem when you are healthy, as long as you drink enough water.

Honey is delicious, natural, and soothing. It may even loosen up the gunk in your chest.

However, few studies have been done to test the effectiveness of this sweet bee product on treating a cough. One study in children with upper respiratory infections found that honey relieved cough and improved the children’s sleep. However, the study collected data from questionnaires taken by parents, which can sometimes be biased or inaccurate.

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 of age due to the risk of botulism.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is used often as a flavoring for gum, toothpaste, and tea, but it also could be just what you’ve been looking for to treat your cough. Peppermint contains a compound known as menthol. Menthol may help thin mucus and loosen phlegm.

Peppermint tea is widely available in stores or online and is considered safe. You can also simply 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. Allergic reactions to mint are not uncommon, 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 if there’s a reaction.

The leaf of the evergreen climbing plant ivy (Hedera helix) has been shown to be an effective expectorant. Clinicians believe that the saponins present in ivy leaf help make mucous less thick so you can cough it up. Ivy leaf teas can be found in grocery stores and online.

One small study found that a combination of herbs consisting of dry ivy leaf extract, thyme, aniseed, and marshmallow root improved symptoms of cough. However, the study did not include a placebo and didn’t break down the combination into its individual components.

Several other studies have shown ivy leaf to be effective in treating a cough. Recent research has helped understand the mechanism of action.

Cough caused by upper respiratory infections such as the common cold is one of the biggest complaints seen by doctors, especially pediatricians. The goals of an expectorant are to 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, see your doctor. They can rule out a more serious infection.