Coughing is a common ailment so a wide range of remedies have appeared over the years aimed towards relieving any discomfort or irritation associated with the symptom. Here, our immune system expert Dr. Jen Tan takes a look at cough remedies, ranging from home treatments to herbal alternatives, and recommends the remedies best suited to tackle your cough.
Cough remedies are amongst our oldest medicines. Today, both conventional medicines and licensed herbal remedies are available to treat coughs. This page describes some of the most popular cough remedies.
However, before we start, bear in mind that if your cough is the result of a health condition, it will be best to consider treating the underlying cause as well. For example, if you are coughing because of the common cold, you might like to consider the use of echinacea which has been shown in research to treat the symptoms of flu and colds by supporting the immune system.
These are cough remedies either prescribed by your doctor or available without a prescription from your local pharmacy. They can broadly be divided into two main categories:
Antitussives – these are cough suppressants or ‘anti-cough’ remedies, and are useful for dry or tickly coughs. They work by dampening the body’s cough reflex. Conventional antitussives usually contain the drugs dextromethorphan, diphenhydramine or levomenthol
Expectorants – these help to ‘bring up’ (expectorate) mucus and are used for chesty coughs. They have the ability to loosen or thin mucus which has built up in the chest, making it easier for it to be expelled when you cough. Conventional expectorant remedies usually contain the drugs ipecachuana, guaifenesin or ammonium citrate.
Some people with coughs go to their doctors expecting to be prescribed antibiotics. This form of treatment may be appropriate for some types of coughs – specifically, those caused by secondary bacterial infection. However, many coughs have other causes and in these situations, antibiotics may not be an appropriate treatment.
Herbs have been used for many years to treat both dry coughs and tickly coughs. Many licensed herbal remedies are now available from your health food store or pharmacy. These generally work by soothing and reducing the urge to cough and include:
Spruce – also known as pine, these are the trees we are familiar with in winter. Extracts of the young leaves (shoots) from the Norway spruce (Pinaeae family) have been used traditionally to soothe and suppress dry and tickly coughs. These extracts can be found in syrups combined with honey such as in A.Vogel Bronchosan Pine Cough Syrup
Slippery Elm – this is another tree, but native to North America. Extracts soothe the lining of pharynx (throat), suppressing the cough reflex
Marshmallow Root – this comes from the Malvaceae family. Like Slippery Elm, it suppresses coughing by soothing irritated or inflamed mucous membranes in the throat.
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.