It’s one of the most common medical complaints, and each year millions of people — up to 10% of the population by some estimates — seek their doctor’s help for it. Often, however, using one or two natural treatments may be all that’s necessary to get relief from a bothersome cough.


A cough is really a symptom — usually an indication of a respiratory infection or irritation of the throat, lungs, or air passages.

When to Call Your Doctor
If cough persists day and night, is exhausting, or is accompanied by shortness of breath, chest pain, weight loss, wheezing, or severe headache.

What It Is
Despite its seemingly unhealthy sound, a cough is actually a vital bodily function. Even though you may not realize it, you probably cough once or twice every hour to clear your throat and air passages of debris. Coughing causes trouble only when an environmental substance or an illness makes you hack uncontrollably. Coughs can be dry and nonproductive, meaning they bring up no fluids or sputum; or they can be wet and productive, expelling mucus and the germs or irritants it contains.

What Causes It
When an irritant enters your respiratory system, tiny cough receptors in the throat, lungs, and air passages begin producing extra mucus. This action stimulates nerve endings and sets in motion a sequence that culminates with the forceful expulsion of air and foreign material through the mouth — the cough. A variety of factors can trigger this reaction. Bacteria or viruses — such as those that cause the flu or the common cold — lead to an overproduction of mucus, which initiates a cough reflex (particularly at night, when sinuses drain and set off tickly coughs). Asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, and environmental pollutants — such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, or perfume — are other culprits.

How Supplements Can Help
Natural cough remedies can be used in place of typical drugstore cough medicines. There are two primary goals in treating a cough: The first is to subdue the cough reflex, especially when a cough causes pain or interferes with sleep; the second is to thin the mucus, making it easier to bring up so the irritant can be flushed from the body.

What Else You Can Do
Drink lots of water, warm broth, tea, and room-temperature fruit or vegetable juice to help thin the mucus.
Use a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier to moisten the air.
Don’t smoke and avoid contact with irritating fumes or vapors.
The herb plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is an effective cough remedy. However, the FDA warns that many products claiming to be plantain actually contain digitalis, a substance that can cause heart abnormalities. Avoid products labeled “plantain” unless the botanical name is given. And don’t confuse either type of plantain with the banana-like fruit Musa paradisiaca.

Supplement Recommendations

Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm
Dosage: As a tea, 1 cup up to 3 times a day as needed.
Comments: Use 1 tsp. dried herb per cup of hot water.


Dosage: As a tea, 1 cup up to 3 times a day as needed.
Comments: Use 2 tsp. dried herb per cup of hot water; can blend with slippery elm.


Dosage: 45 drops tincture or 1 cup tea 3 times a day.
Comments: Add tincture to water or to herbal cough teas. Or steep 1 tsp. dried herb in hot water with slippery elm or marshmallow.

Dosage: As a tea, 1 cup up to 3 times a day as needed.
Comments: Use 1 or 2 tsp. dried herb per cup of hot water. Can be taken alone or with other herbs listed.

Source:Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs

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