Natural cough remedies are a great way to beat a cold or just a sore throat without reaching for the medicine cabinet.
In a time when you’ve got to figure out the difference between coronavirus and hay fever if you get a tickly throat in the summer, or whether your cough is actually a symptom of the flu rather than a result of the pandemic, it’s important to have a few tricks up your sleeve.
Just like natural remedies for anxiety, coughs can be treated at home without medication with one of these cures. From all the family favourites to clever new finds, if you’re only leaving the house for essentials, this is what you should add to the shopping list.
Natural cough remedies
We’ve all heard that honey does a great job of soothing irritated throats, it’s one of the most well known cures out there. But new research published in the British Medical Journal, released during the Covid-19 pandemic has put honey up there as “superior to usual care for the improvement of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.”
Researchers analysed studies that compared the effects of consuming honey in forms like teas, on its own or mixed with other ingredients to usual care, such as antibiotics or over-the-counter-medication like cough syrups. The study then compared the symptoms such as the severity of the cough, the frequency of coughs and the length of time the symptoms persisted for.
They discovered that compared to usual care, honey had a significantly greater effect in reducing the symptoms – especially the severity of the cough and the frequency of coughs.
The conclusion to the study revealed that honey is not only better than other alternatives for treating coughs naturally, but it also “provides a widely available and cheap alternative to antibiotics. Honey could help efforts to slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance, but further high quality, placebo controlled trials are needed.”
Dr Susan Hopkins, epidemiologist, infectious diseases consultant and deputy director of Public Health England, has previously said that this is a huge problem we’re facing at the moment. “We need to take action now to reduce antibiotic use.” She said, adding that new guidelines have been recently released to support GPs to reduce antibiotic prescriptions.
“We encourage patients to take their GP’s advice about self-care.”
Instead of just adding honey to water, make it even more effective by adding a pinch of black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. People also sometimes combine a squeeze of honey with hot water, a slice of lemon and some fresh ginger which has soothing, anti-inflammatory properties.
Ginger and garlic
For millenniums, ginger and garlic have been hailed as cure-alls for everything from heart diseases to the common cough. And there’s a reason for that, as research has now proven that ginger and garlic contain anti-viral agents which help to reduce the impact of coughs and reduce the length of them.
Multiple studies have shown that garlic has immune system-boosting properties because of a compound in it called alliin, which turns into another compound called allicin when when it’s diced up or chewed. These compounds trigger our white blood cells, essential in our immune response to disease, to kick into action and fight viruses that commonly cause colds and flus.
Ginger has recently been subject to a new study released in December 2020 as well. The findings showed that fresh ginger could stimulate our cells to move towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma in our bodies, helping us to recover from a cough or cold. But also, the study showed that ginger was effective in helping to prevent viruses from attaching to our airways, stopping us from getting the cough in the first place.
To make ginger and garlic edible together, you should blend fresh ginger root with a few cloves of fresh garlic and a little water to make a paste, then add a small amount to hot water, stir and drink throughout the day.
Thyme has antibacterial, anti-fungal and expectorant (ridding the body of excess mucus) properties. One study showed that a fluid extract containing thyme herb and ivy leaves helped to reduce coughing fits in a group of adults suffering from acute bronchitis with productive cough. While it may not have quite the same effect, you may want to try steeping time leaves in hot water for 15-20 minutes to make a tea to try and ease your cough.
Apparently dreams do come true – recent scientific studies have shown that chocolate is actually better at treating a cough than standard medicine!
According to Dr Sarah Jarvis MBE, a general practitioner in London, this is due to two reasons. The first is that chocolate, like honey, “forms a sticky coating on the throat that can protect the nerve endings which get irritated when you have a cold”, therefore helping to calm the cough itself. The second finding is that cocoa contains a substance called theobromine, which “has proved to be quite promising in studies looking a suppressing coughs.” The theobromine is believed to help with coughs as it cuts down the body’s need to splutter.
These reasons give us excuse enough to treat ourselves! However, before tucking in on a whole load of chocolate at once, it’s important to know that there is a certain way that you need to eat it in order for it to help as a natural cough remedy: by slowly sucking on a single square of dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate has less sugar and higher doses of cocoa than the milky version, which will provide a quick relief for a tickly throat.
The sweet liquorice herb has been used for centuries to as one of the natural cough remedies treat sore throats and alleviate coughing. Similarly to honey, it is a demulcent, which works to coat the irritated membranes in your throat and calm down the cough.
One study from 2015 has suggested that liquorice could be effective at preventing the growth of bacteria, fungi and even some viruses, alongside having anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. While another from 2018 relays the results from a study on mice, where it was discovered that some components in liquorice could reduce the frequency of coughs by between 30 and 78%
Place one teaspoon of the dried herb into two cups of water and boil. Allow it to steep before drinking. Equally, many cough syrups contain licorice extract. But licorice root is not suitable to give to children, so it’s best to only use for yourself.
Pineapple might not seem like one of the most conventional natural cough remedies, especially on a dark winter’s evening when you’d much rather have a cup of hot chocolate than a pina colada.
But bromelain, an enzyme found in the flesh of the tropical fruit, has been proven to suppress coughs and loosen mucus in the throat, the perfect treatment for a cough and a great natural remedy. Make sure you eat fresh pineapple, rather than a smoothie or dried versions for the best results.
Gurgling with salt and water
We’ve all heard of this one before but is it actually true? Well, in 2005 researchers surveyed 400 healthy volunteers and tracked their progress for 60 days during the cold and flu season. While some of the participants in the study were told to gargle three times a day, others weren’t. By the end, the group that regularly gurgled had almost 40 percent fewer infections in their upper respiratory tract compared to those who didn’t gurgle.
The study also concluded that “gargling tended to attenuate bronchial symptoms” so it might be unpleasant, but these researchers are suggesting that a quick gurgle with some salt and water could be a winner for both curing and preventing any nasty coughs.