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Man, coughing and holding his chest

Respiratory health: 7 natural cough remedies

Do you regularly suffer from a dry or productive cough, occasionally or persistently, daytime or night-time? Here are 7 natural cough remedies, excellent for supporting your respiratory health.

What exactly is a cough?

A sudden, loud exhalation of air from the lungs, a cough is a sign that the airways are irritated. It’s actually a natural defensive reflex designed to expel mucus and/or irritants of the throat, windpipe, etc. (1)

A cough can thus have a number of origins: while most are caused by viral infections, allergies, and pollution, acid reflux and numerous other factors can trigger a cough. Natural remedies should therefore be selected according to the cause of the cough.

And it goes without saying that if you have a persistent, troublesome cough, it’s essential to seek medical advice.

The tried-and-true hot toddy with honey

A universal and multi-beneficial remedy as old as the hills, a hot toddy with honey (with or without alcohol) always brings some welcome warmth and a feeling of well-being when you’re suffering from a cough, especially an irritable night-time cough (2).

So, to increase your chances of a peaceful, cough-free night, how exactly do you make a hot toddy? Simply add two spoonfuls of honey to a mug of hot water, plus one or two slices of lemon, and an optional 1-2cl of rum, and then take yourself off to bed!

Easing a cough by inhaling essential oils

Inhaling essential oils is another traditional remedy widely shown to be effective at relieving the airways. It soothes irritated mucous membranes and the steam makes it easier to breathe.

All you do is take a bowl of just-boiled water, add a few drops of essential oil (4 or 5 is usually enough), place a towel over your head to trap the steam, and with your face just above the bowl, breathe slowly until the water has cooled and there is no more steam (3).

The most common choices are essential oils of lavender, mint, eucalyptus, thyme and maritime pine.

Maritime pine and turmeric for respiratory health

Rich in proanthocyanidins, flavonoid compounds with antioxidant activity thought to be greater than that of, amongst others, vitamin C, maritime pine bark is recognised for its beneficial effects on the respiratory tract (4).

Meanwhile turmeric has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. With a high content of the powerfully antioxidant phenolic compounds curcuminoids, it is recognised for its ability to support the immune and respiratory systems(5).

Using these two plantssynergistically (by taking the supplement Lung Detox, for example) is therefore extremely helpful at dealing with a cough.

A rub of menthol or mustard on the throat

Our grandmas clearly had everything they needed to treat a cough naturally! Another key feature of their natural ‘toolbox’ were rubs or poultices made from menthol, eucalyptus or mustard, remedies which anyone under 20 has probably never heard of (6).

But again, the principle is simple: rub the chest and/or throat with a neutral oil containing either a few drops of essential oil of menthol or eucalyptol, or some mustard powder. This acts as a decongestant for the airways and therefore helps to relieve a cough.

A vegetable juice to help counter over-secretion

Sometimes used to help detoxify the liver, black radish is also known to be a good natural cough remedy.

Rich in isothiocyanates, glucosinolates and raphanin, black radish juice is believed by some naturopaths to combat hypersecretion in the upper respiratory tract due to winter ailments such as colds, sinusitis, etc. (7)

To make the juice more palatable, try adding ginger and lemon which also bring their own benefits.

Effective plants for allergic coughs

As mentioned in our introduction, coughs can have many origins, so a specific natural remedy is sometimes called for, such as when the cause is an allergic one:

  • astragalus, an adaptogen plant which supports general well-being and a healthy immune system (8);
  • maritime pine, with the benefits mentioned above;
  • spirulina, rich in vitamins and antioxidants which helps to support the immune system(9) ;

Synergistic use of these plants (such as in the supplement Aller Fight for example), provides maximum benefit from their properties and helps to regulate the body’s defences against airborne allergens (pollen, dust, mites, etc.)

In addition to allergens, pollution can often cause coughs (indeed, air pollution is thought to be responsible for one in five deaths globally) (10).

Fragrant verbena to support physical well-being, rosemary for immune health, as well as olive and Sophora Japonica: using these plants synergistically is an excellent way of boosting the body’s resistance to external aggressors (11-12).

Cough relief from herbal teas

Last but not least, another traditional cough remedy: herbal teas! Opt for rosemary, which, as mentioned, supports immune health, thyme, a recognised anti-bacterial with proven efficacy against bronchitis and coughs, and borage, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory and humectant effects making it an effective aid to soothing irritating, dry coughs (13).

You can, of course, always add a spoonful or two of honey to your tea to maximise its effects and increase its soothing effects even more ...


  1. CHUNG, Kian Fan, BOLSER, Don, DAVENPORT, Paul, et al.Semantics and types of cough. Pulmonary pharmacology & therapeutics, 2009, vol. 22, no 2, p. 139-142.
  2. COHEN, Herman Avner, ROZEN, Josef, KRISTAL, Haim, et al.Effect of honey on nocturnal cough and sleep quality: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Pediatrics, 2012, vol. 130, no 3, p. 465-471.
  3. HORVÁTH, Györgyi et ÁCS, Kamilla. Essential oils in the treatment of respiratory tract diseases highlighting their role in bacterial infections and their anti‐inflammatory action: a review. Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 2015, vol. 30, no 5, p. 331-341.
  4. COS, P., BRUYNE, T. De, HERMANS, N., et al.Proanthocyanidins in health care: current and new trends. Current medicinal chemistry, 2004, vol. 11, no 10, p. 1345-1359.
  5. PANAHI, Yunes, GHANEI, Mostafa, HAJHASHEMI, Ali, et al.Effects of curcuminoids-piperine combination on systemic oxidative stress, clinical symptoms and quality of life in subjects with chronic pulmonary complications due to sulfur mustard: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of dietary supplements, 2016, vol. 13, no 1, p. 93-105.
  6. GRAHAM, DOUGLAS. The Effects of Warm Douches, Massage and Friction upon the Expansion of the Lungs. The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, 1894, vol. 131, no 23, p. 559-561.
  7. LUGASI, A., DWORSCHÁK, E., BLAZOVICS, A., et al.Antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties of squeezed juice from black radish (Raphanus sativus L. var niger) root. Phytotherapy Research: An International Journal Devoted to Pharmacological and Toxicological Evaluation of Natural Product Derivatives, 1998, vol. 12, no 7, p. 502-506.
  8. CHO, William Chi Shing et LEUNG, Kwok Nam. In vitro and in vivo immunomodulating and immunorestorative effects of Astragalus membranaceus. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 2007, vol. 113, no 1, p. 132-141.
  9. KHAN, Zakir, BHADOURIA, Pratiksha, et BISEN, P. S. Nutritional and therapeutic potential of Spirulina. Current pharmaceutical biotechnology, 2005, vol. 6, no 5, p. 373-379.
  10. https://www.santepubliquefrance.fr/les-actualites/2021/pollution-de-l-air-l-oms-revise-ses-seuils-de-reference-pour-les-principaux-polluants-atmospheriques
  11. LENOIR, Loïc. Effet protecteur des polyphénols de la verveine odorante dans un modèle d'inflammation colique chez le rat. 2011. Thèse de doctorat. Université d'Auvergne-Clermont-Ferrand I.
  12. AL-SEREITI, M. R., ABU-AMER, K. M., et SENA, P. Pharmacology of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis Linn.) and its therapeutic potentials. 1999.
  13. DAUQAN, Eqbal MA et ABDULLAH, Aminah. Medicinal and functional values of thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) herb. Journal of Applied Biology & Biotechnology, 2017, vol. 5, no 02, p. 017-022.


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