If you’re dealing with a nagging cough due to a bout of cold or flu, or because of a chronic illness like bronchitis or sinusitis, fast relief from symptoms is a must. But what can safely and reliably ease a persistent cough without risk of serious side effects, including dependency?

Medicated cough syrups often contain psychoactive ingredients like dextromethorphan (DM) and promethazine-codeine, which can be habit forming and dangerous, especially for children. With potential side effects including irregular heartbeat, liver damage, extreme agitation, brain damage and even death, it makes more sense to reach for something holistic. Here are some holistic antitussive remedies to relieve your cough naturally, without the risks.

Marshmallow Root – Marshmallow root is an edible plant that has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes.  And yes, it gave the popular confection its name.  A natural mucus fighter, the fibers of marshmallow root swell when exposed to water, providing a protective coating to membranes. Thanks to this ability, the sap from the marshmallow plant was once used to treat ailments like cough and sore throat, as well as reduce swelling and inflammation in nasal passages, bronchial airways and your digestive system.

A 2020 study evaluating the efficacy of marshmallow root for management of cough and other respiratory problems, analyzed both human and animal studies and found that marshmallow root extract, when combined with other plant extracts, was a good choice for cough, sore throat and other respiratory ailments thanks to its expectorant and antitussive effects.

Honey – Pure, golden honey is one of nature’s oldest gifts to humankind. Honey’s traditional medicinal applications run the gamut, from easing insomnia, thanks to a hypnotic action, to restoring balance to the lungs.  Both of these effects combine to make honey a great substitute for narcotic nighttime cough medicines, especially for children with cough and troubled sleep.

Ivy + Thyme – You may be surprised to learn that ivy is a traditional medicinal in many parts of the world. Used to treat asthma, bronchitis and cough, ivy’s anti-mucolytic and anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to be as effective as the mucus dissolving drug ambroxol for treating chronic bronchitis.  Combining this potent extract with thyme, a medicinal and culinary herb with antispasmodic effects, can accelerate recovery and enhance the treatment of cough associated with infection.

Black Seed – Nigella sativa seeds, known as black cumin or black seed, have been used as a traditional herbal medicine for thousands of years. Black seed’s ability to ease breathing and reduce phlegm make it a popular natural treatment option for sufferers of bronchial asthma and chronic cough.

A 2019 meta-analysis on the clinical and experimental effects of Nigella sativa on respiratory and allergic disorders found that black seed possesses an array of therapeutic properties that benefit cough, including anti-inflammatory, antihistaminic, antiallergic, antitussive and bronchodilation properties.

Homeopathy – The practice of homeopathy has been around for hundreds of years and is based on the principle that “like-cures-like.” A homeopathic treatment will generally be a diluted form of whatever substance is causing symptoms in a healthy person. For example, seasonal allergies may be treated by a diluted solution of those same allergens to build a naturally robust immune response to exposure.  Homeopathic treatments for mild viral infections are usually directed at providing relief from symptoms such as cough, fever, muscle aches and sore throat.

Acupuncture / Acupressure – When treating a chronic cough, it is important to address the underlying cause, or root cause, as it is known according to the philosophy of acupuncture and East Asian Medicine. Once the root cause is cleared up, the chronic cough will clear up. However, no matter what organs need rebalancing to address the root cause, treatment of the lungs is necessary.  Acupuncture and acupressure stimulate pressure points on the body that help balance and correct the flow of energy in the body.  In the case of coughing, the flow gets reversed and instead of normal breathing patterns, the breath gets interrupted by blockages or irritants, which creates the cough.  The application of acupuncture or acupressure returns the correct flow of air through the lungs and also helps to break up any mucus so the body can expel it.

If you are suffering from a chronic cough or asthma, contact us.  If we can’t help, we will refer you out to one of two other practitioners around town.  Karen Lynn Burr at Materia Medical Herbal Blending Bar in Greenwood is a master herbalist using locally grown or foraged plants to create her incredible remedies.  Richa Bhatia at Healing Tree Homeopathy in Zionsville is a master homeopath who grew up using homeopathy and is now helping others heal with her knowledge and training.  Regardless of what type of treatment you choose, don’t let a cough hold you back from enjoying life.

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