Home remedies for coughs
June 9, 2004 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Anyone have a great herbal/home remedy for a serious cough?

I've been to the doctor; the diagnosis was viral bronchitis. I got a shot in the rear that's supposed to work in a few days, and an inhaler that doesn't seem to help much. I rattle when I breathe, and I feel like I've pulled every muscle from my rib cage up. Anything to quiet it down while I wait for "the virus to run its course" would be greatly appreciated. I googled, but there's a thousand natural remedies out there, and I have no experience to help me sort through them.
posted by donnagirl to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Throat-coat Ginger Tea:

Boil 2 quarts of water with 4 nickel-sized slices of fresh ginger, for about 4 minutes.

Pour a cup of the stuff, put the rest in the fridge for microwaving later.

Into the hot cup, pour honey - 1-2 tbsp. (to taste).

Into the hot cup, pour lemon - about 1 tbsp. (to taste).

If you want to add some heat to clear up your sinuses, sprinkle cayanne powder (sparingly) or flakes.

Get well!
posted by scarabic at 12:39 PM on June 9, 2004 [2 favorites]

I second the ginger tea suggestion (with honey).
but it doesn't do much if you're really in bad shape. are you inhaling an antibiotics solution?
posted by matteo at 12:45 PM on June 9, 2004

Best answer: Find some lavender oil/essence (which shouldn't be too hard to locate -- any health food store or even your local Bath and Body Works type place should have it), put a few drops in a steaming bowl of hot water, place a towel over your head and breathe deeply. The hot water + the lavender will work to clear your nasal passages and soothe throat irritation.

Hot tea with honey and lemon should also help. Obviously, the warm water will soothe your throat, but the honey and lemon also contain properties which should advance healing.

Hot compresses place on your throat and chest will aid in breaking up mucus.

Carrot juice has also been proven to help coughs (high doses of vitamin A seem to knock out viruses (virii?)), but I personally haven't tried this remedy.

Over-the-counter expectorant cough syrups are worthless, in my opinion. They mask symptoms instead of treating them, and are usually chock full of additives and sugars which, theoretically, delay healing further.

Those are just a few. Hope you feel better!
posted by Zosia Blue at 12:47 PM on June 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

On preview, scarabic's tea sounds perfect. Ginger is also a great cold/flu remedy, and should at least ease your symptoms a bit.
posted by Zosia Blue at 12:49 PM on June 9, 2004

Are you opposed entirely to standard pharmaceutical remedies? 'Cause I've always had great results from dextromethorphan, which essentially causes the coughing reflex to relax. I'd recommend getting a formulation without expectorant, such as Robitussin Maximum Strength.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:06 PM on June 9, 2004

scarabic's tea + shot of whiskey = Homemade NyQuil :-)
posted by WolfDaddy at 1:29 PM on June 9, 2004

Response by poster: I'm not anti cough syrup, but was looking for something to really help clear out the gunk, rather than just suppress the cough.
Matteo, my inhaler is albuterol. No antibotics for me because it's viral, not bacterial.
Thanks scarabic and Zosia Blue for those suggestions. Carrots, ginger, lavender - sounds lovely! Off to the natural grocery I go!
posted by donnagirl at 1:55 PM on June 9, 2004

Albuterol is known as a rescue inhaler. IOW, you're in breathing distress and this opens your airways NOW! It's helpful for us asthmatics. Just don't exceed the daily safe dosage.

For clearing out the gunk: Lots of hot tea as previously suggested. Mint seems to also work well for me. Black teas may dry you out a bit but not be as soothing. Lemon and honey, mixed but without the tea, will help sooth your throat and suppress the cough.

Lots of hot, steamy showers (No, not those kind you dirrrrty minded lot. Those for when she feels better.) The steam helps loosen it up and you can cough it up. Anything that'll get the warm, moist air into your lungs really will help loosen it.

Other than that, patience, lots of rest and not pushing yourself for a couple of weeks after you feel better. Relapses suck.

Oh, if you can stand it, sleep sitting up. It'll make you feel like there's less of a weight on your chest and may make it easier to rest. Trust me on this one. I sleep sitting up any time I get bronchitis or a bad cold.

Feel better soon.
posted by onhazier at 2:16 PM on June 9, 2004

A vaporizer at night and sometimes during the day have been a lifesaver when I've had that kind of cough. Just a cheap old drugstore vaporizer. Depending on how hard your water is, you add a little salt to the water, plug it in, and off it goes.

I second the tea/ginger/lemon/etc. suggestions and add that I sometimes just have hot water when I'm sick of teas. Also the sleeping sitting up.

And lastly--SLEEP. Anything, and I mean anything (short of harmful), to help you sleep. Sleeping has always helped me the most.

For some reason Albuterol doesn't work for me when I'm quite sick. So I have an additional and different type of inhaler(Flovent) for those times. You might want to check back with your doctor and let them know the albuterol isn't working well.
posted by lobakgo at 2:36 PM on June 9, 2004

Best answer: And things to avoid? Smoke or smoking, obviously, but also milk/dairy, spicy foods, yeasty foods or beer, and heavy carbs like potatoes. Bread is out.
The best diet would probably be cooked greens, non-dairy soups, (Vietnamese Pho or similar light brothy chicken soups) and any slightly astringent fruits like rhubarb, citrus, and berries. Try to lay off eating much, and try to get a lot a lot of sleep.
Use a hot rice pack or heating pad on your chest along with some Vick's or stronger similar rub, (Tiger balm) and you can also use a hot pad on your back and sore stomach muscles. You can also take hot baths with ginger oil, peppermint oil, or the like, but not too much oil or you'll irritate your skin.
Do sleep with lots-o-pillows under your back like onhazier says. Also follow the advice about taking it really, really easy for a good couple of weeks.

Good luck. We're pulling for you.
posted by pomegranate at 2:37 PM on June 9, 2004

For me, moisture, sleep and hot beverages help bronchitis. I also use Vicks Vaporub (the humidifer kind and the stuff you rub on you -- they are different). Hot teas, no milk. If from the coughing, my throat gets sore, I make what my mom and grandmom have always done: a little mixture of sesame tahini (making sure to get some of the oils) with honey. Mix to taste.

hope you feel better.
posted by jerseygirl at 3:41 PM on June 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Man, you guys are the best. I'm taking all your advice, and hopefully will be better soon. I also got some elderberry elixir from the natural grocery, on the recommendation of the clerk. Elderberry has anti-viral properties. It tastes kinda nice in hot water.
Thanks especially to pomegranate for the diet advice. I haven't been able to eat much of anything, and your suggestions helped me understand that it's ok that anything that's not sour or bitter doesn't really sound good right now.
posted by donnagirl at 8:08 AM on June 10, 2004

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