12 Home Remedies for Coughs

Home Remedies for Coughs - help for dry cough, hacking cough and croupy cough. All natural cough and sore throat care. Cough remedies safe for children.

When cold and flu season hits, it’s nice to have an assortment of home remedies for coughs on hand to sooth sore throats.  Most of these are suitable for coughs in adults or children.  The honey, syrups and milk with butter would be most helpful for dry coughs.  We’ve tried just about all of these at one point or another, depending on who’s coughing and what type of cough they have.  I hope you find them useful as well.

Home Remedy for Coughs #1 – Honey and Cinnamon

Pour some honey in a small container ( I used an 8 ounce mason jar) and mix in some cinnamon to taste.  Take one spoonful as needed to quiet cough.  Both cinnamon and honey are anti-bacterial and anti-viral, and the honey coats and soothes the throat.  (Bottom right image in photo.)

Home Remedy for Coughs #2 – Lemon

Lemon helps to loosen and clear phlegm.  You can mix it with your honey, make a lemon gargle (1/4 cup water plus 2 tablespoons lemon), or mix up a cup of warm lemonade (1 cup water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, sweetener to taste).

Bulk organic herbs, spices and essential oils.
Mountain Rose Herbs stocks many of the organic herbs listed in this post at affordable prices.
If you purchase through my site, I receive a small affiliate payment. Thank you!

Home Remedy for Coughs #3 – Elderberry Syrup

I was so relieved when I discovered how to make elderberry syrup, because it was something that my youngest could take that really helped quiet his cough but didn’t make him throw up.  He’s got a sensitive stomach, and when I tried OTC meds when he was younger (before I knew better), he’d hurl them back up again.  Learn how to make elderberry syrup. (Top right image in photo.)

Home Remedy for Coughs #4 – Hot Tea

Whether it’s herbal or regular, the steam and extra liquid provided by hot tea help to loosen congestion, keep you hydrated and soothe irritated tissues.  Learn more about herbal teas for congestion.

Home Remedy for Coughs #5 – Slippery  Elm

Slippery elm is good for sore throats and sore bellies.  It was commonly used in colonial America.  Because it is hydrophilic and absorbs a lot of water, it gets a slippery, somewhat gelatinous texture when heated with liquid.  Slippery elm gruel is recommended for diarrhea and sore throats (it bulks up stool and gently coats the throat and digestive tract).  I made up a batch using about 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons powdered slippery elm, and seasoned it with just a sprinkle of salt and a dab of honey.  I thought it was okay, but my eldest found the texture too slimy.  (Top left image in photo.)

Home Remedy for Coughs #6 – Herbal Cough Syrup

There are many variations of herbal cough syrup, but this season I’ve been using Rosemary Gladstar’s “Cough-be-Gone and Sore Throat Syrup”.  It’s made with an assortment of herbs and sweetened with honey.  You can find the full recipe at this Herbal Cold and Cough Care post. (Bottom left image in photo.)

Home Remedy for Coughs #6 – Herbal Cough Lozenges

You can purchase herbal lozenges like Ricola or Halls (the stronger flavored ones tend to work better than the sweeter ones) or make your own.  In the video below, Mountain Rose Herbs explains how to make homemade lozenges with slippery elm bark, licorice root and honey.  The herbs soothe as well as fight the underlying illness.


Home Remedy for Coughs #7 – Peppermint

Sucking on a peppermint candy or sipping a drop or two of high quality peppermint essential oil in a glass of water may also help calm a cough.  Use caution with this one – don’t use more than six drops of peppermint oil, and don’t use the oil with children.

Home Remedy for Coughs #8 – Steam

Few things are more comforting than a warm, steamy shower for loosening congestion and opening air ways.  This is likely to provide only temporary relief, but it sure feels good.  Keeping a humidifier running to moisten air will also help a dry cough/itchy throat.

Learn More About Common Sense Health

Home Remedy for Coughs #9 – Cold Air

We came across this remedy by accident when our youngest had a croupy cough as a baby.  During the course of taking him in to the ER one night when he was really miserable, we found that transporting him in the cold air quieted his cough.  The doctor advised us to use this trick again as needed if he was hit with another coughing attack.  The cold air helps reduce the swelling and inflammation in the throat.

Home Remedy for Coughs #10 – Booze

There’s a reason many over the counter medications contain alcohol.  Alcohol kills bacteria and acts as a counter-irritant in the throat (thus the burn on the way down).  Instead of high priced alcohol cocktail, adults may opt for a simple shot of liquor to calm their cough.  Mom used to dose us with peppermint schnapps. Just a sip can often have the desired effort.  Whiskey is another popular option, but I think the alcohol/peppermint combination is better, since peppermint also helps with coughs on it’s own.

Home Remedy for Coughs #11 – Milk and Butter

This was a new one on me, but in Home Remedies What Works, they suggest combining 1 cup of warm milk with two tablespoons sweet butter for dry coughs.  This will work better for a dry, unproductive cough (not much mucus), because it will coat and relax the throat.  (Skim doesn’t have enough fat to get the job done.)  Warm coconut milk would probably also work well for this.

Home Remedy for Coughs #12 – Chinese Hot Mustard, Wasabi or Horseradish

If you can brave them, these fiery spices can kill your cough – and possibly your taste buds – as well as clearing out congestion in a hurry.  You can use them liberally on food, or take them straight.  What I don’t recommend is something a college friend of mine did on a dare – inhaling Chinese hot mustard right up your nose.  He won the bet and cleared his congestion, but I don’t think his sense of smell has been the same since.

You may also enjoy other posts in our Home Remedies series, including:

These remedies are a combination of personal experience and suggestions from Home Remedies What Works by Prevention.

This post is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace a trained healthcare provider.  If pain is severe, incapacitating or lasts more than 24 hours, please see a trained health professional.

Your amazon purchase through this site earns me an affiliate payment at no extra cost to you.
Thank you for supporting the site!
Featured at Fat Tuesday and Homestead Barn Hop #96.

Posts may contain affiliate links, which allow me to earn a commission to support the site at no extra cost to you. Thank you!
Print Friendly


    • arlyn van cleave says

      i was told this by an aunt., and it had been used over a hundred years ago. used for all of my children and still use for myself. wrap neck in a cloth that has been soaked in very cold water and wrung out, wrap again in large wool sock or scarf, pin in place, will usually stop a cough within minutes. i caught a bad cold just a week ago, could not breathe, this stopped cough, relaxed me enough to get my breath. TRY IT.

  1. Krystal Kuehl says

    I just want to mention that slippery elm is on its way to becoming endangered. Its better to find your own source and see if you can harvest without harm.

    • says


      I checked with Mountain Rose Herbs about their slippery elm, and here is the response I received:

      “According to my conversation with our Lab Manager, slippery elm is endangered in some areas. However, Mountain Rose Herbs sources its slippery elm from harvesters who want to continue the population. They are harvesters who work consciously to promote it. Please let me know if I can offer additional information.”

  2. Eric says

    One strange cough remedy i have heard is to rub Vick’s Vapo-rub on the Cougher’s feet. I tried it on myself the last time I had a cold and don’t know if it was the Vicks, or just the idea, but it really seemed to work!

  3. says

    Those were awesome ideas! Thanks for sharing.
    We use essential oils for our colds and coughs. Melaleuka oil and an essential oil blend called “Breathe” (a blend of laurel leaf, peppermint,eucalyptus radiata, melaeuca alternifolia, lemon & Ravensara) work fast and effective for coughs! A few drops rubbed right on the chest stops coughs immediately!!! If you use a certified pure, therapeutic grade, they are safe for even babies. (See http://www.essentialoilsbydoterra.com/doterra-mother/doterra-babies)
    The doTERRA Mother

  4. Nancy Gass says

    The milk and butter was a good thing for colds also — but you have to add minced garlic. In the morning, you are all better! Grandma’s potion!

  5. Athena says

    I cut thyme, oregano, mint, and rosemary from my garden and crunch it up in a bowl of just boiled water and inhale the steam. Thyme and oregano both have antimicrobial properties and the steam helps loosen your cough and open airways. You could also use this combination of herbs as a tea with honey, which is also antibacterial.

  6. says

    @ doTerra Mother..I’d be careful using eucalytpus radiata on babies..Radiata smithii would be the better one to use, eucalyptus radiata and globulus are recommended for adults..love Ravevsara, lemon and peppermint..Also, peppermint essential oil is not recommended for children under 7years old, as there have been reports that the menthol fumes can be toxic to little ones, even when applied topically. Also, the menthone, which is a keytone can also be toxic. Spearmint is recommended for babies, known as the ‘peppermint for babies’. It is imperative to know the blending factors of each essential oil also, as they are extremely powerful. One can not be just adding essential oils, without any prior knowledge concerning their chemical constituents etc..Yes therapeutic grade, or organic is definitely the way to go, and whatever you do, do not use adulterated oils..bless :)

  7. Bob says

    When I was a kid my Mom and Grandma made a cough medicine by slicing a raw white union just like you would slice to put on a sandwich, she then placed these slices in a shallow bowl and poured 1 cup of white sugar over the slices and places the bowl to the side with a thin white towel she called a tea towel,the union wilts in the bowl and gets juicy, Mom would then mash the remaining Juice from the onion slices and remove them from the bowl mixing the sugar and juice giving us one tablespoon (Not Teaspoon)every 4 hours or as necessary and the only side effect was, no body wanted to kiss you!!
    I’m 64 now, never missed school and still use Mom’s Magic ( That’s what I call it) for coughs

  8. Motleydragon says

    Here is an interesting bit: I just came from my doctor’s office with a nasty case of bronchitis that is trying to turn into pneumonia. He told me to take honey and cinnamon, roughly three parts honey to one part cinnamon (tbsp of honey to a tsp of cinnamon for example) and warm it as warm as you can handle it (not so hot it burns but warm enough to help your throat) and swallow a couple teaspoons just before bed. He says it is better than any over the counter cough suppressant out there, and says it beat out dextromethorphan in clinical trials. Obviously make sure you are not allergic to either honey or cinnamon, but if you are not, people this is from a real live MD. They are beginning to incorporate more and more holistic things instead of just reaching for drugs.

  9. SLC says

    My grandmother made a cough syrup that works when others don’t

    She used a pint jar with lid.
    Pint of good whiskey
    1 orange cut in slices and put in the jar
    a box of sugar crystal candy

    Put the orange in the jar fill with the whiskey. Take the sugar crystal candy and put it in and close the lid
    leave till the sugar candy dissolves take the orange out and anyone can eat it.
    Dose is a Tablespoon when you need it. It works when everything else don’t.

  10. Carrie says

    #10 most definitely works and unless there’s an infection set it will get rid of your cough soon. My Mammaw would keep a toddy of Jack Daniels and a King Lion peppermint stick in a small jelly jar. The peppermint eventually melts and that’s when it’s ready. She gave it to us all the time and took it herself too! Yes we were kids! A couple teaspoons of JD never hurt a single thing. Nowadays she probably would have CPS pay her a visit and my mom, aunt and uncle taken away from her or my brother and I if people knew she gave that to us. Yet they give their own kids Robitussin like it’s no big deal. Ever read how much alcohol is in there? None of us had to be told not to take the entire bottle or have it locked up like Ft Knox the way these hellions being raised today do. Can’t get any medicines OTC anymore because they aren’t smart enough not to shoot it up their arm or worse somewhere else

    • says

      So true on the alcohol on OTC cough meds, plus other strange ingredients. One of my brothers got buzzed on cough meds when he was around 12. He kept taking more because he kept coughing, ugh, yeah buddy, not the best idea. I’ll take the simple booze and mint (which mom left on an open shelf, when it sat and collected dust, except for on special occasions).

  11. says

    For Remedies #11 and #12 you link to the Amazon book “Home Remedies What Works”.
    Amazon says the book is “Currently unavailable”.

    • says

      It’s an older book (published back in the 1990’s), so copies are getting hard to find, but I wanted to note that I did use it for a reference. I linked some similar books at the bottom of the post that are currently available.

  12. Kelly Birnbrich says

    Thieves Lozenges are key with any sickness, including headache. Infused with essential oils: Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Peppermint.

      • Kelly Birnbrich says

        Actually, they are pre-made, to purchase. You can also spray the back of your throat with Thieves spray. (make by adding 3-4 drops Thieves essential oil blend to a small, travel-sized spray bottle filled with distilled or purified water. It is slightly numbing and useful as cough medicine. Amazing that the same concoction can also be used to clean with because Thieves essential oil is a blend of highly antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-infectious essential oils. How to Use this Antibacterial Essential Oil Blend. I also have 50+ other uses for it…..

        1. For sickness – diffuse in the air or use topically or internally via capsule

        2. House cleaning

        3. As a mouthwash

        4. Dental issues – occasionally swish with 1-2 tsp of coconut oil with about 4 drops of antibacterial oils added to address dental concerns.

        5. Wound Healing, etc………

      • Tiffaney says

        There are homemade versions of this though.
        I use doTERRA so I use OnGuard personally, but there is a Thieves recipe online.
        Make sure you use theraupeudic grade oils that can be put on your skin.

        Again, I use doTERRA, but balance test to find out what works best for you.
        I used Young Living before, and wasn’t impressed (didn’t notice any results for any of the oils), but doTERRA had a result for me (relieved all issues I was trying to resolve, using same types of oils, just doTERRA brand instead).
        So find out what works for YOU! 😀

        Homemade Anti-infectious Recipes
        In a dark glass bottle add the following essential oils:

        Recipe #1
        40 drops of Clove Essential Oil
        35 drops of Lemon Essential Oil
        20 drops of Cinnamon Essential Oil
        15 drops of Eucalyptus Essential Oil
        10 drops of Rosemary Essential Oil

        Recipe #2
        200 drops of Clove Oil
        175 drops of Lemon Oil
        100 drops of Cinnamon Bark
        75 drops of Eucalyptus Oil
        50 drops of Rosemary Oil

        Recipe #3
        1 tbs. Clove Essential Oil
        1 tbs. Lemon Essential Oil
        2 ½ tsp. Cinnamon Bark Essential Oil
        2 tsp. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
        2 tsp. Rosemary Essential Oil

        Recipe #4
        2 tsp Clove Oil
        1 1/2 tsp Lemon Oil
        1 tsp Cinnamon Bark Oil
        3/4 tsp Eucalyptus Oil
        1/2 tsp Rosemary Oil

  13. Kir says

    For overall colds and flu, and broncial stuff, I can’t recommend enough Congaplex, from Standard Process. You have to get it from providers but I think you can order it online. I take 3 capaules, 3x’s a day with meals and within 2 days usually, whatever it is is gone. Yesterday I felt bronchitis coming on and I immediately started on it. This morning my cough is now more loose and breaking up and I’m coughing less. Hopefully by this time tomorrow it will be much better. The stuff is amazing. Also, i’m not a coffee or tea drinker but like the feeling of the warm liquid. So I heat up a cup of water and put a Stevia packet in it. I don’t eat sugar so sipping on warm, sweet water is a treat for me and is soothing to the throat.

  14. says

    There are some wonderful ideas in here, and as it happens I have a sore throat and cough. AND I’m an ESL conversation instructor, which means losing my voice is truly more than inconvenient. Going to try that honey and cinnamon one for sure tonight.

    In ‘purchased’ rather than homemade, I have to second Ricola. They are much milder than the strong menthol in Halls or similar, which I have to spit out about halfway because it just freezes my whole mouth! Ricola’s herbal taste is pleasant, and the result definitely soothing.

    And I love my ‘Sniffle Kit’ from HeavenScent. It contains a rub (beeswax, coco oil, soy, menthol, eucalyptus, camphor, rosemary, hyssop, and peppermint) which is really effective, a mini inhaler and the essential oils to refill it, a healing lip balm, and some teabags. I think I bought it over a year and a half ago (I live overseas) and it’s still going strong.

  15. Steve says

    For head congestion, put a couple of cloves of garlic into a mixture of 1 cup water and 1 cup (apple cider) vinegar. boil the mixture and breathe in the steam by wafting it toward you with your hand. Be careful! The hot steam can burn you if you inhale directly over the pot or get your hand too close!

  16. justmarsha says

    I didn’t see corn bags mentioned. When my throat is scratchy I will warm up a corn bag and lay down with it on my neck, at night, when I go to bed. It is usually gone the next morning.

  17. Nancy Dunn says

    I have asthma and my chiropractor advised when I get an attack or my chest is tight, take a shower and make the water as cool as you can. Stay there for a few minutes…..this truly works GREAT! Sometimes in the morning, I will take a “cold” shower to start my day.

  18. Naomi Maxwell says

    A cough can be caused by a number of factors: illness, environment, or simple throat irritation. When you cough, it is your body’s way of trying to expel phlegm or other irritants that are in your respiratory system. Most conditions that can cause a cough are not life-threatening. There are many over-the-counter and prescription treatments for cough, but you might start with a tried and true home remedy for this ailment: honey and lemon!

    Benefits of Honey and Lemon for Cough
    The combination of honey and lemon is a traditional cure for cough that has gained a great deal of respect in the medical community due to the individual and combined power of the ingredients.

    Honey has known antibacterial properties that can rid your body of the harmful bacteria causing the cough. Honey is full of vital nutrients including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium and fluoride that repair and stimulate tissue growth and act as anti-oxidants to remove the harmful free radicals that are in your body. The best honey is low in water content so naturally attracts water to be used in surrounding tissues.
    Lemon is very high in vitamin C; in fact, the juice of one lemon contains 1/3 of the recommended daily allowance for an adult. Vitamin C is one of the most important vitamins to help the immune system and it also acts as another powerful anti-oxidant. Lemons also have been shown to have very strong antibacterial and antiviral properties.
    Recipes of Honey and Lemon for Cough
    There are several easy-to-make “recipes” for cough using ingredients you probably have at home. The basis for each of these recipes is, of course, honey and lemon, so be sure to keep local honey and fresh lemons on hand.

    Comment and Instruction
    Honey and Lemon Juice

    The simplest recipe is a combination of 1-cup of warm, local honey and 3-tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
    Add ¼ cup of warm water the mixture and then stir until smooth.
    Take 1-2 tablespoons of the mixture at the first sign of cough and be sure to take a dose before bed for a good night’s sleep.
    Refrigerated, the leftover mixture so be fine for up to a month.
    Honey and Lemon Juice with Vegetable Glycerin

    Although you may not have Vegetable glycerin at home, it is a good ingredient because it has great moisturizing properties. This recipe is particularly good if you have a raw, scratchy throat.
    In a saucepan, boil an uncut lemon in water for 10 minutes.
    Cut the lemon and squeeze the juice.
    Mix in 2 tablespoons of honey and 2 tablespoons of Vegetable glycerin.
    Take 1 teaspoon of this mixture to relieve a cough and scratchy throat.
    Refrigerate the leftovers for later use.
    Honey and Lemon Juice with Garlic
    If you have congestion that is causing your cough, add some garlic to help break down the phlegm causing the congestion.
    Squeeze the juice from half a lemon into a sauce pan.
    Finely grate about 1/8 teaspoon of garlic into the lemon.
    Add one cup of water and bring the mixture to a boil.
    Pour the mixture into a cup, mix in 1 tablespoon of honey, and drink the mixture.
    If you want to make a larger quantity, double or triple the recipe and refrigerate the leftover mixture for future use.
    Honey and Lemon Juice with Ginger
    For a cough you just cannot get rid of, add some ginger! Ginger contains many essential oils and antioxidants but also contains oleoresin which is a great cough suppressant.
    Grate about 1 tablespoon of ginger root into a sauce pan with 2 cups of water.
    Squeeze the juice of ½ lemon into the mixture and bring it to a boil.
    After boiling, take the pan off the heat and let it cool for 20 minutes.
    Add 1-2 tablespoons of honey and drink the mixture.
    Honey and Lemon Juice with Coconut Oil
    Another ingredient you may have to purchase is coconut oil. Rich in antioxidants, antibacterial, and antiviral substances, coconut oil may provide a boost to the immune system and may help decrease the severity and length of an illness.
    Mix 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, ¼ cup of honey and 2 tablespoons of coconut oil in a sauce pan.
    Heat until the coconut oil is melted; do not boil this mixture!
    Take a tablespoon of the mixture and refrigerate the rest for later.
    NOTE: Because the coconut oil will harden, you will have to heat the mixture each time you want to use it.
    Warnings of Using Honey and Lemon for Cough
    Before using honey and lemon as a home remedy for cough, there are a few warnings you should be aware of:
    If you are allergic to either ingredient, do NOT use these recipes!
    If you have heartburn or gallbladder disease, consult your healthcare provider before using concentrated lemon.
    Wsh your teeth 40 minutes after the use of Lemon juice because its acidity can harm the enamel of your teeth.
    Before using this remedy on your child, consult the pediatrician.
    Honey contains a form of botulism that may be deadly to children under the age of 12 months old. Do NOT give honey to these children! Try to always buy local or pure honey (lets save the bees)
    If you cough up green, yellow or blood-streaked phlegm, you should consult your doctor.
    If your cough is accompanied by fever, shortness of breath, or noisy breathing, consult your doctor.

  19. meranda giffin says

    Well I will say that all of these remedies are marvelous. Especially the booze lol im totally kidding. Anywho I did the honey and cinnamon and mixed lemon with it and it soothed my cough within about 10 minutes.

  20. Michelle Proper says

    Thanks for sharing all these natural home remedies! I can’t wait to try them out! I am always on the look out for great remedies :)

  21. TaylorJ says

    I’ve recently caught a cold and I’m coughing all the time. :( I hope some of those home remedies will help me. Thanks for the tips!

  22. Sally says

    Hi, thanks for sharing these remedies. I use a mixture of 2 teaspoons turmeric powder,3 or 4 tablespoons honey and 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar. I adjust the honey according to taste. Mix it up and have a teaspoon 2 or 3 times daily. It breaks up the phlegm in a day. I used this mixture minus the honey for my infant son as well when he got real bad cough and flu.
    Take care

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *