If you or a family member comes down with a cold, one of the most aggravating symptoms can be a persistent cough. It can last for as little as an afternoon or extend to several days, and the insatiable chest itch and the associated pain from constant coughing can ruin almost any experience. But before reaching for a drug-based cough syrup, consider the number of proven remedies you can make at home with common kitchen ingredients. Best of all, they’re simple to make and side effect-free.
- Raw Honey Spoons: This is basically spooning honey out of the jar and slowly sucking it down. According to Dr. James M. Steckelberg of the Mayo Clinic, two teaspoons of honey can reduce of severity of and duration of a cough as effectively as dextromethorphan, the primary active ingredient in the majority of pharmaceutical cough syrups. Honey has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, especially in its raw, unheated form, that kills pathogens as it moves down the throat and esophageal tract where the core itch of the cough is generally localized. Moreover, it reduces congestion and coats the raw and inflamed areas coughing creates, thus providing relief and a mild barrier against the pain of coughing.
- Raw Honey and Lemon Tea: The combination of raw honey and lemon work because the above-mentioned properties of honey, and the ability of lemon to break-up some of the phlegm and mucus that can be responsible for the upper chest itch, thereby reducing the need to cough. While the lemon also has vitamin C, the vitamin C has more with strengthening the general immune system and reducing the duration of the cold as a whole, not necessarily in providing direct and immediate relief to cough symptoms.
- Raw Honey and Onion Syrup: The honey has obvious benefits with this one, but the feature here is the onion. German researchers have found that onions contain a variety of unique substances strong enough to thwart even an asthma attack, let alone a mere cough. To make this, you can use sugar or something like maple syrup if you don’t have honey, because the sweetener just acts as a carrier for the onion. You can prepare this remedy in two ways. First, you can slice up two onions into layers, and then reconstruct them in a bowl using honey liberally as a binder between each layer, before covering up the bowl and letting it sit overnight. Alternatively, you can chop up two onions in a pan, pour on a liberal amount of honey or a half cup of sugar, and heat in the oven on a low heat setting for 30 minutes. Either way, you’ll have a homemade cough syrup you can easily store in the refrigerator to head off a cough at the first sign of trouble. A tablespoon of the syrup every three to four hours should be sufficient to get the job done.
- Onion Poultice: You can get many of the cough-suppressant benefits of onions simply by breathing them in. Just fry sliced onions until brown, place them warm between two cloths, and place on the chest. Let it sit and breathe in for at least 20 minutes, and you’ll notice a significant improvement.
- Black Pepper Tea: It might not sound appetizing, but brewing ground black pepper in hot water is a centuries-old remedy for wet coughs, meaning coughs that produce mucus, both in traditional Chinese medicine and in New England folk medicine. Black pepper has the ability to break up mucus, and brewing it in hot water with a sweetener for taste can give you a warm liquid that if slowly sipped allows the pepper to penetrate the mucus and phlegm concentrations as it passes down through the throat and esophagus. To really boost the effect, you can sweeten it with honey and lemon.
- Lemon Wedge with Salt and Pepper: This can be hard to take, but it’s an old wives’ remedy that works. The lemon and black pepper work for the above-stated reasons, and the salt is primarily for taste, though that can help other cold symptoms like sore throats. Just take a thick a lemon wedge, sprinkle on a generous amount of sea salt and black pepper, and suck on it until dry. Repeat as needed every hour.
- Apple Cider Vinegar Pillow: A dose of apple cider vinegar on your pillow before you sleep can lessen the severity of a cough, and make it easier to sleep, so this remedy can be great if you don’t want coughing to keep you up all night. According to Dr. Earl Mindell, the mere smell of apple cider vinegar soothes and calms throats, reducing the amount of coughing you might otherwise do.
- Whiskey: Whiskey? Yes, but you don’t need to take even a shot. Just a few drops of whiskey in water or juice, with a sweetener for taste, is usually enough to make a big difference. The scent of the whiskey alone can help clear up sinuses by breaking up mucus.