Archive for the ‘Allergies’ Category

Coughing takes its toll on the body. Our ribs ache, our neck gets tight, and our throat aches. Coughing can be a symptom of many disease processes, from the common cold, to asthma, whooping cough, and more severe lung diseases.  Read on to prevent coughing that lingers from the common cold. Coughing that lasts more than a week or two after getting sick, or comes without a cold should be investigated more thoroughly by your doctor. That said, let’s look at the two primary types of cough, and how to calm them!

First type: the dry cough. This cough often lingers after a cold, is dry and raspy, has no mucus that it brings up, and often feels like a “tickle” in the throat. Strategies for calming this cough include soothing the throat and increasing moisture.

  1. Steaming. Try a hot shower, keeping the bathroom door closed (get steamy!). You can also put your face over a bowl of hot water and cover your head with a towel and breathe through your mouth for a facial steam. Try 1-2 drops of thyme and/or lavender essential oil on the shower floor or in the facial steam (close your eyes!) to calm the respiratory passages.
  2. Keep your face covered. Humidify the air you breathe by using a fabric facemask or scarf during the day, and covering your nose and mouth with the top part of your bed sheet while you sleep.
  3. Drink nervine and anti-spasmodic teas like lemonbalm, chamomile, lavender, and passionflower. Drink mucus-promoting cold teas of slippery elm, marshmallow, mullein, elecampane, licorice, or astragalus. Use a small amount of honey in the teas to coat the throat.
  4. Meditate. Meditation and deep yoga ujai breathing encourage the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases coughing spasms.
  5. Try cough drops. Look for ones with eucalyptus, horehound, lemonbalm, hyssop, thyme, and elder.
  6. Wild Black Cherry Bark extract (Prunus serotina). Many natural children’s cough elixirs have this to soothe coughs and coat the throat. Take as directed.
  7. Homeopathics. Try an anti-cough homeopathic mixture. Look for something with spongia, pulsatilla, dosera, coccus, and/or aconite. Take as directed.

Second type: the wet cough. This cough can happen during a cold or sinus infection, is wet sounding, brings up mucus (esp. in the morning), and may feel like mucus gets stuck in the chest/throat overnight. Strategies for soothing this cough include breaking up the mucus to cough it out, and drying the mucus. Please note that many wet coughs can be the result of an underlying infection/disease process, and should be seen by a physician.

  1. Steaming: try the instructions for steaming as above. You can add 1-2 drops of thyme and/or eucalyptus oil to the steam to thin mucus and fight infection.
  2. Prevent infection: many wet coughs are due to underlying infections of the sinuses/lungs. Support the immune system with Vitamin C, a multivitamin, and Echinacea/Goldenseal pills, 3x the daily dose. Continue until congestion resolves.
  3. Chest rubs: put one drop each of thyme and eucalyptus essential oil into a palmful of olive oil, rub your hands together, then rub on your chest and back. Best before bed to break up mucus in the chest.
  4. Hydrate. It may sound counter-intuitive, but increasing hydration can thin mucus. 10 – 15 glasses of water a day or homemade broths, chicken soup, bone broth, blend vegetables into smoothies, or mix ½ and ½ green vegetable juice and water.
  5. This is a great time to use a Neti pot! This is an instrument for nasal irrigation and can thin mucus. Follow the instructions (usually ¼ tsp of salt in a full pot of mildly warm water, one pot per nostril), and do 1-2 times daily.
  6. Use guaifenesin. This is an over-the-counter mucolytic (breaks up mucus) that is quite effective and has very few unwonted effects. Dose before bed to prevent mucus while sleeping, and in the morning to break up overnight congestion. For wet cough, find one that is not cough-suppressant.
  7. Immune support/antimicrobials: get Vitamin C packets, a multivitamin, and Echinacea/Goldenseal pills, 3x the daily dose. Continue until congestion resolves.
  8. Spice it up! Spices like chili pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, garlic, and cayenne can help move mucus. Use in cooking or shake into your daily beverage.
  9. Warming socks treatment: pulls congestion from the head overnight by increasing circulation to your feet. Take one pair of very thin socks, wet them with cool water, wring out well, and put them on your feet! Cover with thick wool socks and jump in bed. The socks dry overnight, and you have less congestion!

If your cough lasts longer than a week, consult your naturopathic doctor for a thorough workup and more treatment options!


Dr. Jean Lowe Carlson, ND


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