Natural Remedies for Acute Cough

In our house, we’re just going through our first family cough of the season.  And as the elder kid hacks, she says, “Ha!  Take that, virus!  Get out!”

Apparently sheʼs actually been listening to me all along.

Coughs, as you may know, are our bodiesʼ way of moving a virus / bacteria / fungus / pollen / foreign body out of our airways. As we cough, air if forced out and along with it, any intruder that might be causing trouble. Add some mucus to trap that intruder, and itʼs an ingenious system to expel pathogens.

That all said, coughs can be uncomfortable and shouldnʼt last beyond 7 -10 days. There are many wonderful naturopathic therapies to help soothe a coughing airway and support your body to purge the germs causing the illness. Good to know since pharmaceutical cough medicines are no longer recommended for children under the age of 12. And the puffers recommended for coughs are pretty heavy duty. Great to have them if necessary, but even better to help the body do the work, itself.

Here are a few natural cough helpers:


Soothing for the throat, it actually contains antimicrobial properties to help kill germs. Conventional medicine has been studying honey recently and the conclusions have been that it is an effective medicine for coughs. Local honey that is not highly processed is best. Add it to a warm water with lemon, herbal tea or warm rice milk with a little organic cocoa to entice a sick kid to drink it up. Babies under 1 year old should not have honey.


I love this herb. It soothes irritated mucus membranes (the lining of airways) and helps spasms of coughing. It doesnʼt suppress the cough altogether but it calms down spasms and eases breathing. We call it the “sore throat cough tea” in our house. The flavour is mild and if you add honey to it, youʼve got a double whammy cough remedy. Mullein is generally safe, however, it is best to check with a qualified practitioner (ie. herbalist of naturopathic doctor).

Homeopathic Remedies

Homeopathic remedies are quite specific in their effectiveness for coughs. Some work best for dry coughs, others work best for productive, gunky coughs. Like mullein, homeopathics donʼt suppress the cough, but help the body work more efficiently to get the intruder out. Some common remedies for coughs include: Pulsatilla, Phosphorus, Drosera, Ferrum phos. Check with your practitioner to find a precise single remedy or remedies may be combined in a liquid cough medicine, available at most health food stores and some conventional pharmacies.


Elderberry juice, elderberry tea, cooked elderberries – all are wonderful to help ease coughs and fight colds and flus. (Sadly elderberry pie has too much sugar to join the list.) Cooked elderberry products are generally safe for children and most adults, however, uncooked berries and ariel parts of the plant are poisonous if not cooked. If you have young children around the house, I would suggest using the pre- made juice or cough syrup so there are no tempting berries for little ones to eat. Elderberry juice with honey added is delicious as well as soothing for coughs.


Garlic is tremendously anti-microbial when used raw. Raw garlic can sometimes be a hard sell for children, but I find that if I add extra crushed up raw garlic to hummus, dips, or spreads, I can usually get a little extra into my kids. For adults and kids with a wide palate, crush a clove of garlic in a mug, pour boiling water over top and add honey. Drink as a tea and eat up the garlic bits at the bottom of the mug.

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg of naturopathic remedies we can use to help the immune system fight pathogens. There are deeper acting herbs and remedies that may be used for people dealing with recurrent infections or infections that take ages to get better. These are best recommended by a qualified practitioner – ie, an herbalist or naturopathic doctor.

Hereʼs to supporting a cough and getting rid of that infection!

Published by kimcallaghannd

naturopathic doctor with focus on women's health, children's health, hormones, foodie, knitter, hiker, mom

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