Coughing is one of the body’s most basic defence mechanisms. We cough to expel foreign particles such as from our respiratory system, which can help to clear bacteria and viruses out of the system. Here at A.Vogel Talks Coughs, our immune system expert Dr. Jen Tan examines the various types of coughing, describes their causes and recommends suitable herbal and home remedies to ease any discomfort or pain. If you have a question, you can use our Q&A service to ask Dr. Tan directly.
Coughing is one of the body’s protective mechanisms. It serves the purpose of keeping our respiratory system clear.
The lining of our respiratory tract, from the back of our throat to the depths of our lungs, is richly supplied by nerve endings. When these are irritated, nerve signals pass to the cough centre of the brain, triggering a series of coordinated muscular actions leading to a cough. This is known as the cough reflex.
The larynx (commonly known as the voice-box) is closed momentarily by the epiglottis. This is followed, almost simultaneously, by the contraction of muscles in the abdomen and chest, which builds up pressure within the upper airways.
When the epiglottis relaxes again, the larynx opens and a short burst of approximately 1.5 litres of air from our lungs is released through the upper airways giving rise to the characteristic coughing sound.
This blast of air has been measured at speeds of up to 50mph, pushing unwanted material out of the upper airways and also releasing up to 3,000 tiny droplets of saliva.
The remedy that will cure your cough will depend on the type of cough and its cause. Cough remedies can be divided into two main categories:
Expectorants – these are usually used for chesty coughs and act by thinning excess mucus in your lungs making it easier for you to clear your respiratory system when you cough
Antitussives – these are used for dry, tickly coughs and soothe your throat, suppressing the cough reflex.
Both expectorants and anti-tussives are available as conventional medicines prescribed by your doctor or from your pharmacy, as well as licensed herbal remedies available from health food stores and pharmacies.
Most coughs, particularly those associated with colds and flu, disappear quickly. However, coughs can also be caused by other conditions, some of which may require medical attention. You should seek advice if you:
Cough up blood
Feel short of breath or wheezy
Experience chest pain or tightness in your chest
Suffer from asthma and experience a cough, especially at night
Echinacea is a traditional herb known to aid the body in its fight against colds and flu by supporting the immune system – but not all Echinacea is the same! Research shows that the fresher the herb, the more effective the remedy will be, which is why our Echinaforce cold and flu remedies are made using freshly harvested Echinacea.