Over the last few years, we’re learning that over-the-counter cough medicines aren’t safe for little children and the pharmaceutical companies are starting to change the recommended ages on those medications.
So what are you to do when your kiddo starts coughing in the middle of the night?
Below are 10 ingredients you should have on hand to help your little one calm their cough.
10 Must-Have Ingredients To Help Kid’s Coughs
Honey is probably the best-known home remedy for soothing coughs. Honey is known for its antibacterial properties, but did you know it’s also hygroscopic? That means that it draws moisture to itself. Honey creates a coating on the throat that helps to moisturize the dry, itchy skin of the throat, and at the same time providing some anti-bacterial goodness for your throat and body!
WARNING: Don’t give honey to children under 1 year old.
According to A Modern Herbal, lemons are the most valuable of all fruits for their preservation of health.
The first thing most people think of when they think of lemons is Vitamin C… which is great for colds and illnesses that lead to coughs. Lemons are also high in citric acid which happens to be known for its ability to fight off bacteria and viruses. As far as actions of lemons go, they are astringents (they’re drying) and they are anti-inflammatory.
Fresh lemon helps to break up mucous that can be causing a cough as well as soothe an irritated throat. Some people think the fresh squeezed juice alone will work while others argue that the lemon must be boiled first to kill enzymes in the rind.
Everyone has garlic in their kitchen, and it’s super easy to use, especially for a cough. Garlic contains allicin which has antibacterial and antiviral properties and can help your body fight the infection or virus that’s causing the cough in the first place. You can crush a clove of garlic and let it steep for 5 minutes in boiling water to make a Garlic Tea to drink or you can crush the garlic to make a poultice for your kiddos chest or feet. If you’re interested in getting rid of the cause of your kiddo’s cough, garlic is a must!
Onion is from the same family as garlic, but it works in a different way. Onions are expectorants… meaning they loosen mucus that can cause a cough. They also are proven anti-virals, and they contain a compound called quercetin which gives the onion it’s anti-inflammatory properties. All of the above are great for treating coughs.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Yep, ACV is very beneficial for a cough, but I know what you’re thinking. “Gross! I CAN NOT drink that!” I know you’re thinking that because I’m thinking it too! But the good news is that you don’t have to take it alone. You can if you want, but you can also mix it with water or mix it with honey and other things on this list. Plus, the recommended dosage for helping with coughs is 1 tablespoon 2-3 times a day. Not too much!
6. Cacao Powder
You’re probably wondering what chocolate has to do with helping coughs so let me explain.
The main reason I added cacao powder to this list is for flavor. (Thank you, Joan!) Whenever you’re combining some of these ingredients together to form a natural cough syrup it doesn’t always come out tasting great. Adding in some cocoa powder can really help make your concoction taste nice and chocolaty so your kids will take it.
But, on the other hand, chocolate does suppress coughs. What!? Yep. Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine that gives it anti-tussive (a fancy term for stopping or slowing down coughs) properties (Usmani, 2005). The problem is… it requires a lot of it. Check the article out to find out more. Either way, no matter how much is needed, chocolate that tastes great and helps with a cough is a winner in my book!
Be sure to check back this Wednesday. I’ll be sharing my recipe on making a Chocolate Herbal Cough Syrup that my family LOVES!
7. Sea Salt
The NY Times reported a study performed by the Mayo Clinic using 400 random people who gargled with salt water three times a day. The study found that participants were 40% less likely to end up with a respiratory infection as a result of gargling. In their book – The Mayo Clinic Book Of Home Remedies – Dr. Philip T. Hagen, editor-in-chief, stated that a saline solution can draw excess fluid from inflamed tissues in the throat, making them hurt less and that gargling also loosens thick mucus, which can remove irritants like allergens, bacteria and fungi from the throat.
Of course, I didn’t need to wait for a book to come out to tell me that. My mom’s been saying this same thing for years! Sea salt is a must have!
8. Respiratory Herbs
When it comes to using herbs for respiratory issues, there are a good amount that will get the job done, but today I want to share some of the best with you… the ones that are primarily used in cough formulations.
Wild Cherry Bark
- Wild Cherry Bark is perhaps the most well-known herb for sore throats and coughs. Cherry is common in OTC cough medicines although it’s typically just a flavoring.
- Wild Cherry Bark is an astringent/expectorant (it pulls extra fluid or toxins from swollen tissues and loosens mucous), anti-inflammatory (decreases swelling), as well as a sedative (helps to relax the urge to cough).
- Contains the compound quercetin which gives it it’s anti-inflammatory properties (just like onion).
- It is not for long term use or use in high quantities. It contains a phytochemical called hydrocyanic acid which can be toxic in large doses.
- Wild Cherry Bark is very sensitive to heat. Do not boil it in water. If making a tea, let your water cool a bit after boiling it before adding your cherry bark to steep.
- Licorice is a great herb and safe for all ages. Herbalists differ on its safety while pregnant or nursing so it’s best to skip it during those times if you’re concerned. Be sure to read this post I wrote about using licorice root while breastfeeding.
- Licorice is used for many things, and is considered a catalyst herb which means it helps your body better use other herbs taken with it.
- Licorice is a good herb for the respiratory system and is known for its effects on the throat and coughs.
- One of the other great things about licorice is that it tastes great! It’s sweet and it’s used to mask the flavor of other bitter herbs that may be used in a combination formula.
- One note of caution about licorice, it’s dosages should be low and it should not be used ongoing for more than 6 weeks as it can be toxic in LARGE doses. Refer to the above breastfeeding post for more info, and by all means, research licorice online and in herbal resource books.
- Mullein has long been the go-to herb for respiratory ailments. It has saponins that help loosen mucous and expel it out of the body, iridoid glycosides give it it’s anti-inflammatory properties, and the mucilage soothes mucous membranes.
- Mullein is a natural pain-killer. Most likely due to the anti-inflammatory properties.
- Mullein leaves are fuzzy and can be irritating to the throat when drank as a tea. Be sure to strain the tea through a coffee filter before drinking to remove the tiny hairs!
- Red Clover is everywhere! It grows in hay fields and along roadsides. It stands up about 1-2 feet high, has green, oval-shaped leaves in clusters of three with a white “V” in the center of each leaf, and at the top a pinkish, purple flower.
- Red Clover, when used for coughs, is known for its antispasmodic properties. It’s very calming to dry, hacking coughs and particularly good for Whooping Cough.
- The bitter compounds found in Red Clover are what give it it’s anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties.
- Lobelia is best-known as a powerful relaxant, and its use in children is mixed although the majority of herbalist are in favor of it… as am I.
- Lobelia calms the entire body, and if you happen to give too much of it and your kiddos get overly relaxed or sleepy, you can reverse the effects with Cayenne, a stimulant. How great is that! But a word of caution… Lobelia, in high doses, will cause vomiting… so start with small amounts.
- Lobelia is particularly useful in Whooping Cough and Croup so not to trigger the spasm like coughing associated with it.
- It has anti-spasmodic (calms coughing), expectorant (loosens and expels mucous), and sedative (calming, relaxing) properties.
- Horehound is best known for its ability to soothe coughs and expel mucus from the lungs.
- Used in dry coughs like Whooping Cough, Croup, and asthma, as well as wet, productive coughs from bronchitis and pneumonia.
- It has anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and sedative properties.
9. Essential Oils
There are many essential oils that are great for the respiratory system, but below are some that are specific to coughs. Click here and here to read some great articles about how they specifically work for helping coughs.
Keep in mind that certain essential oils aren’t safe for certain aged children. You can learn more about using essential oils with children here.
Did you know spices can help with your cough? Yes, they can. Check out some of the best below.
- Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin which has anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties that are great regarding coughs and is used in many healing remedies.
- The typical amount used is around 1 teaspoon a day, and you can combine it with the above ingredients like lemon and honey.
- Be sure to use a dash of Black Pepper along with your Turmeric as it’s said to increase your bodies absorption of the anti-inflammatory component of Turmeric by 2000%. Two thousand percent! Yes! You read that correctly!
- Thyme has expectorant and antibacterial properties so it helps loosen mucus and get the crud out of your chest while at the same time helping your body fight any infection that may be brewing.
- Thyme is safe for all ages and you can use as much as you like. It’s typically used in combination with other herbs.
- Sage is part of the Mint family, and is primarily known for drying things up! It has astringent properties and helps to draw out excess fluids which is great for inflammation and excess mucus from colds and coughs.
- Sage also has anti-bacterial and antiseptic properties.
- Sage is primarily used as a tea with lemon.
- Sage is safe for all ages, but DO NOT use it if you’re pregnant or nursing.
Humidifier/Vaporizer – Helps to keep the air moist. Coughing will be worse if your throat gets dry. Plus you can fill these contraptions with herbal tea and essential oils to get more medicinal goodness out of it. You can learn more about using a steam vaporizer for coughs here.
Menthol Bath Bombs – These are great in the bath, shower, or for facial steams. They release menthol with is opening to your sinuses and help to decrease the need to cough. Be careful if using these for facial steams… the menthol vapors can sting your eyes so keep them closed and breathe deeply!
There are many, many at-home, natural remedies for coughs that are simple, easy, and cheap to make. Stick around because I’m going to compile many of them here in a post soon.
The herbs, essential oils, and spices listed above are some of the best, but there are always others that will work too. If you don’t have one, substitute it for something else.
Did I miss something here that you use to help with coughs? Let me know about it in the comment section below, and share your wisdom with the rest of us!
- Usmani, O. S., Belvisi, M. G., Patel, H. J., Crispino, N., Birrell, M. A., Korbonits, M., … & Barnes, P. J. (2005). Theobromine inhibits sensory nerve activation and cough. The FASEB journal, 19(2), 231-233.