Having a sore throat and cough at the same time can be a miserable experience – one that you’ll want to get past as quickly as possible. But you might be leery of powerful medications that could have severe side effects. Are natural cough remedies an option?
Yes, there are many natural cough remedies, as well as home remedies for sore throat, that are safe, gentle, and – just as important – effective. Here are a few to consider.
Natural Cough Remedies
If you’re looking for home remedies for coughing, you’ll find that you have plenty of choices. Just make sure you speak with your doctor first before trying any of them. You’ll want to rule out the possibility that they could interfere with any other kinds of medicines you’re taking.
But as long as you get the green light from your doctor, here are some natural cough remedies you might want to try:
When it comes to the best home remedy for coughs, a lot of people believe that honey reigns supreme. In fact, research shows that dark honey may be more effective than a medication commonly used as a cough suppressant.1
As it turns out, several herbs have been shown to be safe as home remedies for cough.
Marshmallow root – This is among the oldest natural cough remedies, having been used for years. One study showed that people who used a syrup containing this herb saw a substantial reduction in coughing.2
Thyme – Thyme is another herb known for its medicinal qualities. Researchers found that participants in one study saw significant relief from coughing when using a syrup containing thyme.3
Slippery elm – The bark of the slippery elm tree has been shown to be one of the more effective natural cough remedies. It has also been shown to help people find relief from digestive problems.4
If you’ve done any research into health recently — whether you’ve been looking for natural cough remedies or just about anything else — you’ve no doubt seen information on probiotics. These are the “good” bacteria and microbes that help balance out the bad ones in your gastrointestinal tract, or “gut.”
While probiotics themselves aren’t natural cough remedies, they can help support a strong immune system.5 And having a healthy, strong immune system may help reduce the chances that you’ll develop an illness that leads to coughing.
What if You Need a Natural Expectorant?
When too much mucus builds up in your chest, you could have a major coughing spell. A natural expectorant can help loosen up the phlegm that has accumulated in your chest and help you get back to feeling normal. Here’s a quick look at some home remedies for congestion.
Steam – Inhaling steam through a vaporizer or a cool-mist humidifier could act as a natural expectorant, helping to clear your chest.6
Essential oils – Inhaling the vapors of essential oils, such as cinnamon bark and thyme oils, may help clear your chest if you’re suffering from a respiratory tract ailment.7
Herbs – Ginseng, echinacea, and licorice root have been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of many illnesses that can lead to an accumulation of mucus in the chest.8
Home Remedies for Sore Throat
Just like there are a lot of natural cough remedies, there are also several home remedies for a sore throat. Some of these could be worth trying.
Salt Water Gargle
Gargling warm salt water is one of the more well-known home remedies for sore throat. And there’s science that points to its effectiveness. Gargling can help soothe irritated throat tissue, reducing swelling in the process. Mix a teaspoon of salt in an 8-ounce glass of warm water and gargle every three or four hours.9
Now, gargling with a mixture of salt and baking soda could also be effective for soothing your sore throat. Pour an eight of a teaspoon of salt into a cup of warm water, and then mix in a quarter teaspoon of baking soda.10 Just be careful not to swallow if you use either approach, because doing so could upset your stomach.
Ah, yes, the old standby, chicken soup. A lot of people swear by it to help relieve symptoms of the cold or flu. But it could help you get over a sore throat as well.
In one study, participants who consumed chicken soup reported that it did a good job of helping them clear mucus.11 When mucus drains into your throat, that can make it sore.12
Apple Cider Vinegar
Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, would prescribe a combination of vinegar and honey to help ease his patients’ sore throats.13 If it’s good enough for Hippocrates, it should work, right?
Modern science backs up this idea. A recent study that looked at the effectiveness of apple cider vinegar for medicinal uses found that ACV has antibacterial properties.14 This could help if you develop a sore throat due to a bacterial infection. Mix one part ACV with two parts water and drink.
If you’re suffering from a sore throat due to a cold or flu, consider reaching for a hot drink. Evidence suggests warm beverages could help ease sore throat, and might also help with other symptoms, such as fatigue and chills.15
Drinking clear broth, or even warm water might offer you some relief.
You might only think of licorice as a type of candy, but there is solid evidence it could help with the discomfort of a sore throat.
One study involving participants who had recently had a breathing tube removed found that licorice substantially reduced their throat pain. The same study found that licorice could actually play a role in preventing a sore throat for some people.
Participants gargled a mixture of a half gram of licorice extract mixed with 30 milliliters of water before surgery. According to the results, they reported less postoperative throat discomfort than participants who gargled a mixture of sugar and water.16
Ginger is often used as an herb or spice in cooking, but did you know it might also help reduce your chances of developing a sore throat? Researchers found that ginger extract killed some of the bacteria found on throat swabs taken from people suffering from respiratory infections.17
You should be able to find ginger tea packets or ginger lozenges at your nearest health food store.
When to See a Doctor for a Sore Throat and Cough
Now, there are some signs that you’ll need to see a doctor for a sore throat and cough. For example, you should seek medical help if you’ve been coughing for more than a week, or if your cough is accompanied by a fever or shortness of breath.18
For a sore throat, you need to get to the doctor if it comes on suddenly, or if you also have a stomachache, headache, or a fever or chills.19 Staying on the safe side could keep your issue from becoming something much more serious.
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