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Home remedies for cough

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 313 views

There are many home remedies for cough . Herbal teas are often used – as herbal expectorants or cough suppressants. Onion juice, inhalation and chest wraps are also popular and proven remedies for coughs. Read more about the topic here: What helps with a dry cough? What has an expectorant effect on a productive cough? What to do against coughs in babies and children?

What helps against cough?

In the case of an uncomplicated acute cough (e.g. as a result of a cold or simple bronchitis), general measures such as drinking enough and not smoking are usually sufficient treatment. Various home remedies for coughs can be helpful. Which of the natural helpers are most suitable in individual cases depends in part on the type of cough:

  • Dry cough (irritable cough, unproductive cough) : Home remedies are intended to relieve the urge to cough. Certain herbal teas are often used as “cough suppressants”. Home remedies such as onion cough syrup or body-warm curd compresses also dampen the urge to cough.
  • Cough with sputum (productive cough) : Expectorant, expectorant agents are advisable here. In addition to suitable herbal teas, these include, for example, inhalations, onion cough syrup and various wraps and compresses.

The effect of various home remedies for coughs can also be supported with essential oils, for example inhalations, oil baths, liniments, wraps and compresses.

General tip for productive coughs: tap your chest and back regularly! This will help cough up the phlegm. Alternatively, you can also massage your chest and back.

Which tea helps with cough?

Soothing warmth and moisture for the inflamed airways in combination with the healing power of herbs – tea provides all of this. However, other medicinal plants are recommended for preparation against cough without sputum (irritable cough) than for cough with sputum (productive cough).

Tea for cough without sputum

How do you relieve a cough? This is the central question when you are tormented by a dry cough, which often causes unpleasant pain behind the breastbone and may even disturb your night’s sleep. Many people then rely on herbal home remedies: tea preparations with so-called mucus drugs help against dry coughs – medicinal plants that contain mucilage, which lay like a protective film on the irritated mucous membrane in the airways. This relieves the urge to cough. Well-known herbal slime drugs are for example:

  • Linden Blossoms
  • buckhorn
  • Verbena
  • marshmallow
  • coltsfoot
  • mallow
  • Icelandic moss
  • mullein

The medicinal plants mentioned also form the basis of many ready-made preparations such as cough syrup, cough syrup or lozenges. You can get these at the pharmacy without a prescription.

Tea for cough with sputum

Drinking enough is always important, but especially so when you have a productive cough. One to two liters of liquid a day help to liquefy the mucus in the airways, making it easier to cough up. This works best with warm drinks such as tea – and even more so when herbal expectorants are added to the home remedy. Some of the best expectorants from the plant kingdom are:

  • anise
  • fennel
  • Primula (Cowslip)
  • thyme
  • elder
  • licorice

In the pharmacy you can also get expectorant, expectorant finished preparations (drops, cough syrup, cough lozenges, etc.) based on medicinal plants – without a prescription. In addition to the expectorants mentioned, such cough preparations often also contain, for example, ivy, red soaproot or senega root.

Cough syrup – homemade

Cough syrups of different compositions are available in pharmacies. You can also make the proven home remedy for coughs yourself, for example with onions or black radish.

Onion juice for cough

The onion is a traditional medicinal plant for coughs. The essential oils and sulphur-containing compounds contained make them an all-purpose weapon against dry cough and congested airways. This is why you can use it, for example, to make a beneficial onion juice (onion syrup), for example using the following recipe:

Peel and finely chop an onion. Put in a saucepan with 3 tablespoons of sugar and an eighth of a liter of water and simmer for about 10 minutes. Then remove the mixture from the stove and let it stand for a few hours. Then press out. You can take one to two tablespoons of this onion syrup, which is generally recommended for colds, three to five times a day.

For example, there are also recipes for onion juice with honey. However, this is not suitable for children under the age of one. Honey can contain bacteria whose poison can cause fatal nerve paralysis in babies. So sweeten the onion juice for babies in other ways, for example with sugar or rock candy.

Radish cough syrup

Another ancient medicinal plant for colds and coughs is black radish. The juice from the radish root has a germ-inhibiting effect.

To make the cough syrup, peel and grate a radish and squeeze it with a juicer. Take one to two tablespoons of the juice several times a day. A cure with radish juice should last a maximum of three to four weeks, otherwise stomach irritation can occur. For small children, you should first discuss the administration of radish juice with the pediatrician!

If you don’t like the pure juice, you can alternatively make a radish-honey syrup (not suitable for children under the age of one because of the honey!). To do this, cut off a “lid” from a round black radish and hollow it out using a knife and spoon. Then pour in high-quality honey, put the “lid” on and leave the whole thing in the cool for several hours. Then decant the resulting syrup into a clean mason jar. Older children and adults can take two to three teaspoons of the natural cough medicine up to four times a day – directly or in a warm tea.

Inhale when coughing

Inhalation is a very effective home remedy for cough with sputum (productive cough). Pure water vapor inhalation is already helpful at the first sign of an infection: the respiratory tract is moistened by the inhaled water vapor. This makes the stuck mucus more fluid and supports its removal.

To increase the effect, you can add medicinal herbs to the hot water. A classic is the inhalation with chamomile blossoms . It has an anti-inflammatory, expectorant and blood circulation-enhancing effect and is generally recommended for respiratory infections. To prepare the inhalation solution, you can add two to three tablespoons of dried chamomile flowers to one liter of hot water.

Instead of a single medicinal plant, you can also use combinations of different medicinal herbs for inhalation if you are suffering from a cough and congested airways. For example, a mixture of 40 grams of oregano leaves and 30 grams each of chamomile blossoms and thyme has proven effective. From this mixture, add 3 tablespoons to a bowl of 1 liter of hot water. Then place a large towel over your head and upper body and hold your uncovered face over the bowl. Breathe in the rising vapors alternately through your mouth and nose for ten minutes . Afterwards, stay in a warm room and avoid drafts. You can do this inhalation at least three times a day.

You can find more about the correct inhalation technique and warnings that you should heed when doing so in the Inhaling article .

Wraps and compresses for cough

While herbal tea, for example, works from the inside out as a home remedy for coughs, compresses and wraps do this from the outside. A compress is a relatively small, local application (e.g. on the chest). On the other hand, with a wrap, one or more towels are wrapped around a part of the body (e.g. on the torso at chest height). Which type of compress or wrap you choose for a cough depends on the healing effect to be achieved (inhibiting inflammation in the airways, stopping the urge to cough, loosening stubborn mucus).

Below are some examples of compresses and wraps for coughs.

General information on the production and use of compresses and wraps as well as important warnings can be found in the article Wraps (poultices) and pads .

Moist and warm breast wrap (without additive)

A simple home remedy for cough with sputum is a warm, moist chest wrap without any additives. The moist warmth on the skin can loosen the mucus in the airways.

You can find out how such a wrap is made and used correctly in the article on the chest wrap .

beeswax compress

The cloth compress coated with beeswax is available in health food stores, well-stocked drugstores and pharmacies. It can store and release heat for a long time. Placed on the chest or back, this has a soothing and expectorant effect. It is therefore suitable for the treatment of coughs, colds and bronchitis. The home remedy is used as follows:

Place the compress in foil or a food-safe plastic bag and heat with a hair dryer or on a hot-water bottle until the wax is pliable. Always observe the manufacturer’s information! Then place the compress without foil or plastic bag on the chest or back, cover with a cotton cloth and fix with a towel or gauze bandage. Leave the compress on for at least 20 minutes to several hours. But take them off if your skin gets red.

You can use a beeswax compress once or twice a day. You don’t need a new one every time – the compresses are reusable. You can reheat them as often as you like!

Body-warm curd compress

A body-warm curd compress is a home remedy for (strong) coughing and bronchitis. How to make and use it:

Take 250 to 500 g of low-fat curd cheese out of the fridge and wait until it has reached room temperature. Then spread it about 0.5 cm thick in the middle of a gauze compress (on an area large enough to later cover the desired area of ​​the breast). Place the excess gauze and a cotton cloth on the pot. Place this pad on a filled hot water bottle or between two hot water bottles to warm it up briefly . Then place the compress on the chest and fix it with an intermediate and an outer cloth (e.g. towel).

The curd compress can be left on for 20 minutes to about four hours, depending on body temperature. If you have a high fever, the warm compress can cause heat build-up if left on your chest for too long!

The patient should not cool down (cover up if necessary) while using the curd compress and especially after removing it!

You can find out more about envelopes and wraps with the dairy product in the article on curd wraps .

thyme compress

If the cough is due to bronchitis (or airway inflammation in general), a chest compress with thyme can help. It can be used a maximum of twice a day. For production and use:

Prepare a thyme tea – one to two teaspoons of thyme herb to 500 milliliters of water, steep for ten to fifteen minutes, then strain. In the meantime, fold an absorbent cotton cloth to the desired size (at least twice) and then roll it up from both sides towards the middle. Fold the rolled-up inner towel lengthwise into a wringing cloth (e.g. tea towel). Place this “roll” in a bowl with the ends of the wringing cloth hanging out. Now pour the hot tea over it, let it steep for a moment and then wring it out vigorously (if necessary, put on household gloves to avoid burning yourself).

Then remove the hot, damp inner cloth and fan the area of ​​skin to be covered (e.g. chest) with the patient lying down – this is how the skin gets used to the heat. As soon as the warmth is acceptable to the patient, apply the inner sheet quickly and without any creases. Quickly and tightly wrap a preheated outer cloth (e.g. Molton cloth) around the torso to fix the compress and keep the heat longer. Leave on for approximately 20 to 30 minutes (as long as the patient finds it comfortable). Then remove the compress and rest for about half an hour.

Onion Breast Wrap

The old bronchitis and cough home remedy onion can not only be used internally (as onion cough syrup or syrup), but also externally – as a chest compress.

To do this, place one or two finely chopped onions on a cotton cloth and fold them into a flat “package”. Heat it up, for example on an upturned saucepan lid that lies on a pot of hot water. Place the warmed “package” on your chest, cover with a cotton cloth (healing wool) and fix with an outer cloth or tight cotton shirt. Take it off again after half an hour.

Potato Compress

Are you tormented by a persistent cough? Then a chest compress with potatoes can give you relief. The hot and humid pad is a good heat store and can therefore give off heat to the body for a long time. In the chest area, the inflamed, congested airways benefit from this – the mucus dissolves more easily and can be coughed up more easily.

You can read how to make the compress or wrap with potatoes and use them correctly in the article Potato wraps .

Mustard flour compress

A mustard flour compress is a suitable home remedy for coughs caused by pneumonia or obstructive (spastic) bronchitis . The skin-irritating ingredients in the mustard flour increase local blood circulation, causing the tissue to heat up. This boosts the metabolism and has an expectorant effect.

You can apply such a mustard flour compress once a day, preferably in the morning. Here’s how to do it:

Apply 10 to 30 grams of black mustard flour to a piece of pulp about an inch thick. Then fold it in such a way that no flour can escape. Then wrap it in an inner cloth the size of which corresponds to the desired contact area. Carefully roll up this compress from both sides and then place it in approx. 250 milliliters of water at a temperature of 38 degrees. Allow to soak briefly, then remove and carefully squeeze out (do not wring!).

Now place the damp mustard flour compress on the desired part of the body (e.g. breast) without any creases and secure it with an outer cloth (e.g. bath towel). After a short time, the skin under the compress begins to burn, as intended; leave it for another 1 to 10 minutes and then quickly remove it. Rub the reddened skin with an oil, for example pure lavender oil. Then, well covered, rest for half an hour to an hour.

Cover sensitive skin areas such as nipples with Vaseline beforehand. In addition, the patient should not be left alone during the application – it is important to observe his reaction closely and to remove the compress if the burning sensation is too great.

Ginger wrap (ginger flour wrap)

This home remedy helps with bronchitis with chronically narrowed airways (chronic obstructive bronchitis) and pneumonia. The poultice with ground ginger relieves cough and other symptoms. Here’s how to do it:

Mix one to two teaspoons of ginger powder (freshly ground if possible) with a little water and let it swell briefly. Then stir the swollen mass into 500 to 750 milliliters of hot water (approx. 75 degrees). Now roll up a cotton towel from both sides to the middle, roll lengthways in a tea towel and place in the water so that the ends stick out. Let the wrap pull through and then wring it out. Then take the cotton cloth out of the tea towel and briefly fan the skin area to be treated (chest, back) with it to get the skin used to the increased temperature. As soon as the heat is bearable, put the cloth tightly and wrinkle-free. Then wrap a preheated outer towel around the torso to hold it in place and keep it warm. Leave the ginger wrap on for a maximum of 15 to 30 minutes, then remove.

You can put on a ginger flour wrap for several days in a row, but not more than once a day (preferably in the morning). When using for the first time, the patient should not be alone if local intolerance reactions occur.

The ginger wrap ensures that the body is warmed up slowly and intensively. This can increase sensory perception, also in connection with dreams. During the application, the patient should therefore lie in a darkened, quiet room.

Essential oils for cough

What helps against a dry cough and coughing up mucus apart from medicinal plants? The essential oils found in many plants. A large part of the healing power of various plants is based on them. Instead of a medicinal plant, the essential oil extracted from it can often be used as a home remedy for coughs, for example in the form of liniments or oil baths. Basically, the essential oils of thyme, eucalyptus, fennel, anise, spruce, fir, pine and lavender are suitable for this.

The recipes below are for otherwise healthy adults. Before using essential oils in children, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, the elderly and people with certain underlying diseases (such as asthma , epilepsy ), you should first consult an experienced doctor or aromatherapist! In these groups of people, some oils may not be used at all or only in reduced doses in order not to risk serious side effects.


As a home remedy for coughs, you can rub essential oils individually or in combination on your chest and/or back – not directly, however, but after diluting them in a fatty oil (such as jojoba oil). Here is an example of the recipe for a cough oil against a dry cough :

Mix 8 ml jojoba oil and 2 ml black cumin oil as a fatty base oil. Then add two drops of each of the following essential oils:

  • Cupressus sempervirens (Mediterranean cypress)
  • Eucalyptus staigeriana (a species of eucalyptus with a mild and lemony scented essential oil)
  • Lavandula officinalis (true lavender)

With one to two milliliters of this cough oil, you can gently rub your chest and back for a few minutes if you have a dry cough. In principle, patients should rest well covered for about half an hour after rubbing in their chest and/or back.

You can repeat a breast rub two to three times a day as needed. You can rub the back once or twice a day. It is particularly beneficial to rub in the “cough suppressant” before going to bed – many of those affected can then sleep more peacefully at night.

oil bath

Essential oils are also suitable as a bath additive for coughs. Thyme and eucalyptus oil in particular help against coughs. To do this, mix a few drops of the oil with an emulsifier (e.g. cream, milk, honey or salt). Then pour the mixture into the running bath water.

The bathing temperature should not exceed the measured body temperature. The patient should bathe for about ten to twenty minutes, then dry himself well and rest in the preheated bed for half an hour. Many patients find a bath in the evening beneficial against coughs at night.

In pharmacies and drugstores you can also get “ready-to-use” oil baths that you simply have to pour into the bath water. Instructions for use can be found in the manufacturer’s instructions.

Inhale with essential oils

As mentioned above, inhaling can loosen stuck phlegm and thus support sputum production during a productive cough. Apart from medicinal herbs, pure essential oils such as thyme are also suitable as additives:

Add one to two drops of thyme oil to a tablespoon of honey and then stir this into a quarter to half a liter of warm water. Hold your face over the bowl (with a towel over your head and upper body) and slowly and deeply breathe in the rising vapors. Keep your eyes closed to avoid irritation. Thyme inhalation is recommended as a home remedy for coughs, congestion and colds.

Other essential oils are also suitable for this purpose. You can also loosen stuck mucus by inhaling tea tree oil (stir two to four drops on a tablespoon of honey in a quarter to half a liter of warm water).

Home remedies for cough in babies and children

There are very gentle home remedies for babies and children with coughs. Some of the applications mentioned above are also suitable for small patients, for example the cough syrup with onion, the chest compress with curd cheese or potatoes (both can also be applied as a wrap) and inhalation with chamomile. Here are some other home remedies for coughs in babies, toddlers and older children:

Onion juice with rock candy

Onion juice (sweetened with honey, sugar, or maple syrup) is generally a good home remedy for coughs. But what if the child rejects him? Then onion juice with candy is often better.

For the home remedy for dry cough and blockage of secretion, peel and dice a large onion. Put the diced onions in a saucepan with 100 milliliters of water and 100 g of rock candy and boil it down to a syrup over low to medium heat. Because the mixture burns easily, stir constantly and add a little water if necessary. Finally, strain and store closed in a clean jam jar. Your child can take a teaspoon of this onion juice several times a day when they have a cough.

Black currant juice

The juice contains a lot of vitamin C and can be very beneficial if you have a cold or flu with a cough. It is best to dilute the unsweetened juice with hot water and drink it in small sips. Even during the recovery period (convalescence), the little patient can drink a glass with lunch and dinner.

honey milk

It is a well-known remedy for dry coughs in children over the age of one, but it also helps against sore throats and insomnia . Honey milk soothes the irritated throat mucosa, relieves the urge to cough and also promotes sleep. To do this, heat milk for a glass or mug and dissolve a teaspoon of honey in it. You can also add a pinch of butter if you like.

Drink the honey milk in small sips before going to bed. This relieves the dry cough, which allows the child to sleep more soundly.

fennel honey

Many children who are plagued by coughing up sputum (phlegm) love fennel honey. The home remedy is suitable for patients aged one year and older. To produce it, ten grams of freshly ground fennel fruits are stirred into 100 grams of honey and left to stand for ten days. Then strain.

Cough patients should drink a cup of hot water mixed with one to two teaspoons of fennel honey several times a day. This can relieve the cough and make it easier to cough up.

As mentioned above: Children under the age of one should not be given honey (due to the potentially bacterial toxin it contains).

Full bath with thyme infusion

This full bath prepared with thyme herb is an antispasmodic and expectorant for coughs (e.g. for colds, bronchitis or whooping cough ). Afterwards, the phlegm can be coughed up more easily, so that the child can sleep better – so the bath is particularly beneficial in the evening.

For the bath, pour one liter of boiling water over 50 g of thyme herb and leave covered for 20 minutes. Then strain the infusion and pour into the 37 degree warm bath water. The child should bathe in it for about ten minutes. Use a bath thermometer to check that the bath water is not cooling down. If so, let the hot water run in at the foot of the tub.

As soon as the child gets out of the tub, you should quickly dry them off, put them in warm nightwear and put them to bed.

You can read more about children & coughs and possible causes of the symptom (e.g. barking cough in pseudocroup ) in the articles Coughing in babies and Coughing in children .

Essential oils in children?

As with adults, home remedies for coughs in children can often be treated with the help of aromatherapy (e.g. hot and moist chest compress with lavender oil). To be on the safe side, always discuss the use of essential oils with children with an experienced doctor or aromatherapist first.

This is especially true if a toddler has a cough (or other ailment) and you wish to seek help from aromatherapy. Special caution is required with a baby: Coughs and other symptoms should only be treated with essential oils by an expert (doctor, aromatherapist), if at all.

Home remedies for cough have their limitations

Home remedies for coughs can be an effective help – but they also have their limits: If the symptoms persist over a longer period of time, do not get better or even get worse, you should always consult a doctor.

You should also be alert if coughing patients show signs of a serious illness. So, a rough, barking cough in toddlers can be caused by pseudocroup. This is a respiratory tract infection caused by a virus, which can be serious under certain circumstances: If you have a severe coughing fit with signs of oxygen deficiency, you must call the emergency doctor immediately! Home remedies for the cough are not enough.

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