Most of us know how disrupting, irritating and painful a cough can be. Especially if it prevents you sleeping at night or if your job involves a lot of speaking and the cough prevents you from doing it. While the reason for the onset of the cough and the process of a cough can be sometimes quite difficult to zero in on, but getting rid of it is usually number one on our list of things to do. In some cases, it may be necessary to take some cough suppressing medicines but often, simple substances in your kitchen along with OTC medication can help you find an almost instant relief from cough.
As soon as you feel soreness in your throat, make it a point to gargle with salt dissolved in warm water. The salt in the water can help drain excess fluid from inflamed areas in the throat reducing the symptoms. According to the Mayo clinic book of home remedies, the gargling also removes irritants in the throat and thins the mucus.
2. Drink Warm Liquids
A cough is best not neglected (find out why). It can not only be extremly annoying but can also lead to several complications. Drinking warm water is a good way of soothing the inflammation in the throat*; but this does not have any taste and may be unappetizing for most people. A warm soup is a much better solution as is a glass of hot herbal tea.
3. Throat Lozenges
A study conducted at Wayne State University, in Detroit, showed that patients who took zinc lozenges every two to three waking hours cut the duration of a cold by almost half. The irritation caused by constant coughing can also be overcome by using throat lozenges. They are also known to prevent the progression of a sore throat to a cough. While some lozenges are medicated and contain ingredients such as dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) or benzocaine (an anesthetic), others contain natural soothing ingredients such as honey, menthol, peppermint oil or eucalyptus oil. In many homes, it is also quite common to make small children suck on the red-colored variety of rock candy (Mishri in Hindi) to stop cough.
4. Use Vaporubs
According to a study at the Penn State College of Medicine, children above 2 years of age had symptomatic relief and could sleep better after applying vaporubs. While the exact reason how vaporubs work remains a mystery, the ingredients such as menthol, camphor and eucalyptus may have a role in relieving congestion. Read more about productive cough.
5. Sleep With the Head Elevated
In some persons, a productive cough results when mucus drips from the back of the nose into the throat. This tends to grow worse at night when the body posture is conducive for such dripping. Sleeping with the head at a higher position helps to reduce such drainage and many people find this position helps reduce coughing at night and improves sleep.
6. Turmeric Remedies
A traditional remedy that most people swear by is the use of hot milk with turmeric. According to a study**, it is shown to even have antibacterial properties. Read about the amazing health benefits of turmeric.
Heat a glass of milk, mix in half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and drink warm to find relief from cough. A turmeric gargle also gives good results. To one cup of hot water, add in half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and half a teaspoon table salt. Use this liquid as a throat gargle and you are sure to experience relief from cough.
For a dry cough, turmeric powder mixed with a teaspoon of honey taken three to four times a day is effective. You could also try preparing turmeric tea by adding one tablespoon of turmeric powder into 4 cups of boiling water. Keep for a few minutes, strain and mix in some lemon and honey to the liquid and drink. Read more about why you have a dry cough and how you can recognise its symptoms.
According to Dr. Soumya Bhat, Ayurvedic doctor, inhaling the smoke of burning turmeric (dhooma paan) is also considered to be an effective remedy for cough and cold. Take a dried turmeric root, burn it and inhale the smoke. Another way out is to place a few pieces of red hot charcoal in a small mud pot that has been placed on a cup of water. Add a few dried leaves of turmeric over the charcoal and a spoonful of turmeric powder over the leaves. Gently blow to ignite the turmeric powder and inhale the smoke emitted.
7. Honey Remedies
Since ages, honey has been known to soothe the irritated throat linings and reduce cough. A study conducted at the Penn State School of Medicine on children above the age of 2 years showed that honey helped them cough less and sleep better.
There are different ways of using honey besides the one mentioned in combination with turmeric. A dry cough responds to a mixture of honey with juice from grapes. A glass of hot milk with some honey added just before going to bed is effective at relieving night time cough. Mix in honey and lemon juice to a glass of warm water and drink this three times per day for relief from cough. People suffering from diabetes can have honey too. Here is why.
If you have a particularly nasty cough, try this remedy. Take about 3 tablespoons of flaxseeds in 1 cup of water and boil. When the water starts thickening, strain the liquid and mix in 3 tablespoons each of lemon juice and honey. Swallow about 1 tablespoon of this mixture when you experience a severe coughing fit. Honey also works well in combination with betel leaf (paan). Grind a few washed betel leaves and extract the juice; add 1 teaspoon of honey to 2 teaspoons of this juice, mix and consume about half an hour after meals. Repeat for about 5 days to find relief from cough.***
8. Ginger Remedies
Ginger has a number of amazing benefits, it is also great to treat a cough. For a dry cough, one of the easiest ways of finding relief is to cut a piece of fresh ginger, sprinkle some salt on it and chew on it for a few minutes. However, not everyone likes the strongly aromatic taste of ginger and in such cases, a tea made with ginger is equally good. Chop ginger into fine pieces, add into a vessel containing one cup of water. Keep boiling the liquid till the volume reduces to half the original quantity. Strain the liquid, add one teaspoon of honey and drink when warm to give a soothing effect against cough. How does it work? Dr Eccles, Director of Common Cold Centre at the Cardiff University, told netdoctor.co.uk that ginger seems to work by ‘promoting salivation and mucus secretion and will help relieve cough symptoms’.
Ginger in combination with tulsi is also an effective remedy for cough. Crush about 10 leaves of tulsi, mix with juice extracted from a small ginger piece. Add in an equal quantity of honey and mix; swallow about a single teaspoon of this about thrice a day to get relief from cough.
People who don’t mind the strong spicy flavour of pepper can also add in some black pepper powder and turmeric into a mixture of ginger juice with honey. When this paste is slowly licked for 10 to 15 minutes thrice a day, it helps reduce congestion in the throat and reduces cough. A simple ginger tea is easy to prepare by boiling ginger with water; then add tea leaves or tea powder, drop in some tulsi leaves and pepper powder, strain and drink for relief from cough. (Read: Natural remedies for frequent cold and cough)
9. Garlic Remedies
Garlic is an effective antimicrobial and expectorant and this makes it a valuable agent to fight cough. The University of Maryland Medical Center cites one study that suggested that garlic might help prevent colds and lessen their symptoms. People who took a garlic supplement for 12 weeks caught 63 percent fewer colds than people who took a placebo.
Lightly crush about 5 cloves of peeled garlic and sauté in a teaspoon of ghee; consume when still warm for relief from cough and cold. Include crushed garlic sautéed in ghee in other dishes where possible. Do this with rasam, and you have a medicinal soup that soothes your throat and also helps liquefy the thick mucus, making it easier to cough out the phlegm.
10. Jaggery Remedies to Get Rid of Sputum
Sputum buildup can lead to a feeling of congestion in the chest and the entire respiratory tract; expelling this sputum therefore provides relief from cough and congestion. Dr. Soumya Bhat, Ayurvedic doctor, recommends the following remedies for such relief. Make a decoction by boiling a few corns of pepper with water for about 20 minutes; mix in a little cumin and jaggery and drink. Cut a quarter part of an onion, keep a small bit of jaggery in the middle of it and chew on this for expelling sputum.
Relief from cough is even faster if you use over the counter (OTC) cough medications along with home remedies. Besides medicated lozenges, you could also try cough suppressants that contain ingredients like dextromethorphan. These are particularly useful if you have a hacking or dry cough. If you have productive cough, an OTC product with ingredients that have expectorant properties can help to clear out the mucus in the airways. Often, OTC products of both types – suppressants as well as expectorants – contain an antihistamine and this can help you sleep better at night.
Coughs are of different types, so are their solutions. Using home remedies or OTC products can help provide relief from cough. However, it is equally important to remember that if you find the cough persisting for an extended period of time, it is best to see a doctor to identify if there is any underlying serious problem that is causing the cough.
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** Bhavani Shankar, T. N. and Sreenivasa Murthy, V., Effect of turmeric (Curcuma longa) fractions on the growth of some intestinal and pathogenic bacteria in vitro. Indian J. Exp. Biol., 1979, 17, 1363–1366.