Cough treatment with natural supplements, herbs, home remedy
July 20 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Cough is one of the top reasons why patients seek medical attention. There is no clinical evidence that over-the-counter cough expectorants or suppressants actually relieve it, at best they are very weak. A nonprescription cough remedy does little more than offer comfort to desperate patients. Cough can also be due a serious illness such as heart failure or serious lung infection such as tuberculosis. Most cases of cough do not respond to antibiotics.

Sometimes a cough can linger for several days or weeks after the common cold or the flu, even though there is no fever. Taking a bath for ten to twenty minutes and breathing warm moist air can be helpful in relieving this symptom once the infection is over. It usually takes about a week for the common cold infection to clear and some people have a cough that can linger many days  or weeks afterwards. If you wake up at night with a cough, try the hot bath approach. The moist bath or shower treatment can be done several times a day, and usually this is an effective action you can take to reduce annoying coughs, dry or wet. For a cough that is disturbing sleep, temporary use of a prescriptionn cough syrup consisting of codeine with promethazine can be helpful when used an hour or two before bed. Promethazine is a phenothiazine derivative that possesses antihistamine, sedative, antimotion-sickness, antiemetic, and anticholinergic effects. A prescription medication that I recommend to patients who have severe cough that disturbs sleep is Phenergan with Codeine taken in the evening. Ask your doctor for a prescription if you have a severe cough.
   If it is winter, avoid cold exposure. If you go outside wear a scarf around your nose to keep your breath warm. Wear a sweater at home to keep your chest warm. Cold air triggers the cough response.

Natural cough remedy due to the common cold or respiratory infection
Herbs used for cough suppression are very weak compared to prescription drugs such as codeine, but for mild cases they may be helpful.
Licorice herb

Marshmallow herb
Mullein herb
Iron deficiency may be a cause of chronic cough in some women.
A spoonful of honey reduce cough in some children.

Additional herbs potentially useful for Cough and Cold
Coltsfoot herb
Oroxylum Indicum herb

Phytomedicine. 2015. Antitussive effect of a fixed combination of Justicia adhatoda, Echinacea purpurea and Eleutherococcus senticosus extracts in patients with acute upper respiratory tract infection: A comparative, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Kan Jang® oral solution (KJ) is a fixed combination of aqueous ethanolic extracts of Justicia adhatoda L. leaf, Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench root, and Eleutherococcus senticosus (Rupr. & Maxim.) Harms root. It is approved in Scandinavia as an herbal medicinal product for respiratory tract infection treatment. The present clinical trial aimed to compare the antitussive effect of KJ with placebo (PL) and bromhexine (BH) among patients of 18-65 years old with non-complicated upper respiratory infections (URI; i.e., common cold). KJ exerted significant antitussive effects in URI. The present data further support the therapeutic use of KJ in upper respiratory tract infections.

Cough natural treatment testimonial
I am a 70 year old Norwegian who emigrated to the US from Norway with my American wife when I retired ( 3 years ago ). I had been suffering from a constant cough caused by post nasal drip since 1999. In Norway I got some pills on prescription from my doctor, and they worked, but unfortunately they are not on the market in the US. However, after having used Day Quil and Night Quil in relatively large quantities for some time I started to look for the active ingredient in the pills I got in Norway. It turned out to be Acetyl Cysteine. Looking for that in the web I found N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine which I promptly purchased. It works. My constant cough is gone. I take 3 pills a day. One in the morning, one about 4 PM and one around 10 PM. The first half hour or so after taking a pill I may have to clear my throat a few times, but that is all. After years of persistent cough the relief is almost unbelieveable. I have no idea why it works, but it does. I though that it might interest you.

Chest cold
If you have coughing, whether dry or with mild symptoms of small amounts of sputum or mucus, without much of a fever that would indicate a serious infection such as pneumonia, wear a sweater or two to keep your upper body and chest warm. Avoid going outside in the cold air since breathing cold air could irritate your lungs. Drink hot tea or hot water. Avoid tea or coffee in late afternoon or evening since this can interfere with sleep, drink hot water instead. I think keeping the chest warm with sweaters can help a lot. Each time I have had a chest cold and walked outside in the cold, my cough got worse.

Is there an herbal cough cure?
   I am not aware of an herbal cough cure at this time.

Cause, short term and chronic, cough due to medications
Colds and flu are the most common causes for short term symptoms. Chronic coughing is defined as one that lasts longer than 4 weeks. This can have several causes such as postnasal drip, pneumonia, bronchitis, cigarette smoking, acid reflux, heart disease, lung cancer, tuberculosis, and medications such as ACE inhibitors used for treating high blood pressure. Cough from ACE inhibitors occurs commonly and may persist for weeks after the medications are stopped. Some patients may think they have bronchitis and there could be mild changes on X-ray readings. Many doctors do not warn their patients on lisinopril, benazapril, and other blood pressure lowering drugs that chronic cough can occur.

Benazepril (Lotensin) Captopril (Capoten) Enalapril (Vasotec) Fosinopril (Monopril) Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril) Moexipril (Univasc) Perindopril (Aceon) Quinapril (Accupril) Ramipril (Altace) Trandolapril (Mavik).

Testimonial, patient reaction
I am 51 and recently diagnosed with high blood pressure (taking Cozaar) and due to a few tests put on statin drug (atorvastatin) 6 wks ago which I had to stop due to annoying cough I developed for 3 weeks. I have been off it now 1 wk and still have cough but not quite as bad.

With heartburn, it may be from acid reflux – acid that backs up into your throat. Asthma also can cause chronic cough. Allergy can cause chronic cough, also, mostly due to postnasal drip – mucus from your nose or sinuses that builds up in your throat.

Among people suffering from chronic cough, more than half have symptoms of depression. The good news is that the depression seems to lift as the symptoms improves.

Antihistamines and cough
Although an antihistamine medicine may reduce cough severity, the sedation and side effects are annoying. The older-generation antihistamines that work include chlorpheniramine. Newer, brand-name antihistamines such as Claritin and Zyrtec are not likely to be helpful for cough.

Dry cough
A natural home remedy for dry cough, especially a type of cough that lingers after a cold or flu is gone, is to stay in the hot bath for at least 15 minutes 3 to 6 times daily and inhale the moist air. This can be done in the middle of the night if the cough is persistent and causing insomnia.

Smoker and smoking
Cough often occurs in smokers, and in those who get COPD from chronic smoking over many years.

Cough drop benefit
Cough drops or throat lozenges are tablets which people can suck to soothe the throat or to reduce the severity of coughing. They are usually small, sweetened, and contain an oral anesthetic, such as menthol, which numbs the receptors in the throat that cause the cough reflex. The occasional use of "lozenge" (first used in 1530, according to the Oxford English Dictionary) is due to the original lozenge shape of cough drops. Popular brands of cough drops include Fisherman's Friend, Halls, and Ricola. There is little research to support their effectiveness in reducing the severity or intensity of a cough.

Codeine cough syrup
A codeine cough syrup, combined with an antihistamine, could be helpful for chronic night cough, especially at night to help sleep although research is not conclusive. In my opinion, the combination of Phenergan and codeine works well when used in the evening for cough due to the flu or common cold. However, a new study shows that codeine may not work well by itself for chronic cases.
     Codeine is a standard ingredient in cough remedies, but it seems to be no more effective than an inactive "placebo" compound, at least in people with chronic lung disease. Dr. Jacyln Smith of South Manchester University Hospital Trusts and colleagues note that codeine is the standard anti- cough agent to which others are compared. Laboratory studies suggest it is effective for cough due to different causes, but little is known about its impact on cough in people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) such as emphysema. To investigate further, the researchers conducted a study of 21 such patients who complained of cough. The patients were challenged with citric acid to induce cough and then, on two separate occasions, they were given either codeine or placebo 1 hour before returning home. There they wore a lapel microphone to record the sounds of "explosive" coughing during the day and night. At the start of the study, they subjects experienced an average of 8 seconds of coughing per hour. After placebo treatment this fell to 7 seconds per hour. After codeine, it dropped to 6.41 seconds per hour. Although the time spent coughing was less after codeine, there was no major difference between codeine and placebo from a statistical standpoint . They conclude that the findings are "consistent with the view that any (anti-cough) effect of codeine is attributable to a placebo effect." Smith and colleagues say that studies of cough in other clinical situations are "urgently needed" if codeine is to continue to be used as a cough remedy. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2006.

Cough Suppressant Syrup and children
Kids under 2 years of age should not be given over the counter cough or cold medicines since serious side effects are possible. Children should brush their teeth after swallowing syrupy cough and cold medications since the syrup can cause enamel decay.

While coughs in children are worrisome and annoying, cough syrup is not the answer. These medicines are not useful in children and can actually be harmful. In most cases, a cough that is unrelated to chronic lung conditions, environmental influences, or other specific factors, will resolve on its own. Dextromethorphan, often listed on labels as DM, and diphenhydramine, an antihistamine, do not offer any more relief to children suffering from cough than sugar water does. In 2000 the FDA warned against the use of common over-the- counter cold remedies and diet pills containing phenylpropanolamine (PPA) after researchers found it raised the risk of stroke in women.

Hyland's, 4 Kids Cold 'n Cough , 4 fl oz (118 ml)

Common Cold Cough and how to treat it
Cough due to the viral infection is probably the most common cause of acute cough. In a significant subset of patients with "postinfectious" cough, the etiology is probably an inflammatory response triggered by a viral upper respiratory infection (ie, the common cold). The resultant subacute or chronic cough can be considered to be due to an upper airway cough syndrome, previously referred to as postnasal drip syndrome. Taking a bath for ten to twenty minutes and breathing warm moist air can be helpful in relieving the cough once the infection is over. It usually takes about a week for the common cold infection to clear and some people have a cough that can linger many days afterwards. If you wake up at night with a cough, try the hot bath approach.

Over the Counter medicines
Cough-suppressant therapy, previously termed nonspecific antitussive therapy, incorporates the use of pharmacologic agents with mucolytic effects and/or inhibitory effects on the cough reflex itself. The intent of this type of therapy is to reduce the frequency and/or intensity of coughing on a short-term basis. However, over the counter cough medications, at best, are minimally effective. Quite a number of medications are sold with limited research to back up the claims, for instance Halls cough drop. Many American parents give over-the-counter cold medicines to kids under age 4 even though they're too young for such product. In young children, these medicines can cause allergic reactions, increased or uneven heart rate, slow and shallow breathing, confusion or hallucinations, drowsiness or sleeplessness, convulsions, nausea and constipation.

Cough remedy danger
Widely used over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under 6 years of age. The majority of over the counter cough medicines do not work and some can be dangerous in young children. Between 2004 and 2005, approximately 1,500 children younger than 2 years old were treated in U.S. emergency departments for adverse events associated with cough and cold medications,

Croup relief
It is not recommended to give cough medicine to a child under 4 years old. Never give a child aspirin. Run a humidifier in your child's room. Place a warm, wet washcloth over your child's nose. Ask the child to breathe through the cloth. Sit with your child for about 10 minutes inside a warm, steamy bathroom outside the shower. The shower should be running hot.

Whooping cough
Whooping cough (pertussis) is still a very serious infection when it occurs in children under the age of one year old. But thanks to an effective vaccine and prevention against infection, whooping cough is now quite rare. Before the vaccination was introduced, three out of four children caught the disease and some died every year. Today only a few get whooping cough.

Viruses are spread
As many as 10,000 to 20,000 viruses are expelled in an average cough, which may be sufficient to infect many people -- particularly those who are not vaccinated. Julian Tang, a consultant at Singapore's National University Hospital's Division of Microbiology, has found as many as 3,000 tiny droplets are produced in a standard cough.


Have you ever heard of what presents as allergy cough to be helped by increased serotonin levels? I have had such cough for 18 years and no allergy, asthma, reflux meds every help in any way. I have been to numerous ENTS, allergist, enviromental doctors, holistic doctors and had every test and except for mild obstruction in pulmonary tests (which I feel could be from the coughing itself stressing the lungs) I have no wheezing, shortness of breath and can run 5 miles. I have always told my doctors what DOES help :When focused When relaxed When kissing, etc When I take Klonapin Drink alcohol Have hot pasta Have massage or in hot tub. From what I have researched these all increase serotonin? Doesn't Klonopin increase 5 htp? I know not great solution but info at least to get to answer. I no longer can deal with regular doctors with their blinders on. Also just got a virus and I asked close friend whom is Hematologist but personally very into holistic med why when I get sick I cough less and he indicated when immune system gets in full gear increases endorphins which contain serotonin, etc. He also feels I probably have ingrained negative emotional issues that reduce these levels on daily basis...Anyway...have you ever had similar inquiry on chronic cough?
    Not yet. The mechanism of action is: Klonipin or clonazepam exerts its action by binding to the benzodiazepine site of the GABA receptors, which causes an enhancement of the electric effect of GABA binding on neurons.