Why do we cough?
Your body has many ways of defending you from the bugs that cause the common cold. One defence mechanism is the production of mucus, a sticky, slimy substance that entraps viruses and bacteria in its slippery layers.
The body may try to expel mucus from the respiratory tract by coughing. This is fine if the cough is moderate and productive, but not so great if the cough doesn’t result in the expulsion of catarrh, and continues unabated for ages. Lingering coughs can last for up to three months after a common cold, according to Professor Eccles, Director of the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff.
What herbs can help a cough?
Spasms of coughing rack the chest and prevent sleep both for the sufferer and those around them. Herbs that promote the thinning of mucus and its journey up and out of the respiratory tract are therefore very helpful in these circumstances, as Alfred Vogel well knew.
Fresh spruce shoots contain a volatile oil that is rich in terpenes, which have antiseptic, mucolytic (making mucus more liquid and therefore easier to move) and antibacterial properties. They promote the removal of catarrhal congestion from the lungs. Vogel recommended that walkers look out for fresh pine shoots and chew them as they rambled. For those of us not out on the pine-covered hills, it might be easier to find them in Bronchosan Cough Syrup.
Other herbs that frequently prove handy for those feeling chesty are Ivy and Thyme. Taken together these two herbs thin the mucus to make it easier to expel, and also ease the spasms in the bronchial tubes. This reduces the amount of coughing the sufferer experiences, but the remaining coughs are productive in that they get the clogging catarrh up and out. The result is a swifter end to the cough and a return to peaceful nights and painless throats.
Not sure what type of cough you have? Read my article on the topic, and find some handy remedies for each type.