As a self-proclaimed hypochondriac, I’m particularly conscious of the cacophony of sounds (and germs) that fill the air this time of year. The irritating, uncomfortable and annoying coughs — whether croupy barks, whopping gasps, dry hacks or wet ‘chesty’ ones — transform people into miserable and contagious Petri dishes shunned by the worried well. Alas, these bronchial ails can be soothed and healed with some simple home remedies.
Thyme is of the essence
Originating from Mediterranean climes, this Herculean herb with anti-microbial properties has been used as far back as ancient Greece to treat and cure respiratory infections and assorted coughs. Its little leaves contain a mother lode of healing flavonoids to relax muscles of the trachea and bronchi, and put the skids on inflammation to open up stuffy airways.
While its antiseptic properties make it a good gargle for laryngitis, brewed as a tea with honey and ginger it also soothes bronchitis. Add 2 teaspoons of fresh crushed thyme leaves to one cup of boiling spring water, a splash of fresh lemon juice, ¼-inch of shredded ginger and a spoonful of amber honey to quiet the cough and seek much needed comfort.
The Buzz on Honey
Sweet, rich, viscous honey acts as a soothing demulcent to coat the delicate mucous membranes and calm even the most aggressive coughs. An antibacterial powerhouse, honey also shortens the duration of the cough.
Of course, this healing food is taboo for young children, whose immature immune systems cannot fend off spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum contained in honey, making them vulnerable to infant botulism.
Just the flax, ma’am
A strong warrior against coughs is the mighty flaxseed, boiled in water (then strained) to produce a thick rich syrup to soothe an irritated throat. Amp up the relief with some antibiotic honey and Vitamin C and immune-boosting lemon juice for a powerful potion.
Full of ginger
The gnarly beige tuber with fibrous cream-colored flesh is either grated fresh, ground into pungent powder or formed into candied nuggets to give a smooth natural remedy for stuffy noses and scratchy throats in broths, teas or incorporated into a soothing syrup with fresh peppermint and honey. The spicy ginger in this homeopathic cough syrup loosens mucous from the lungs and airways, while the calming peppermint alleviates the irritating throat tickle that encourages coughing.
When buying ginger root, look for glabrous-skins with few knots and branches, and a fresh, spicy scent. For milder, less stringy ginger, pick immature, stubbier stems. Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Nothing to sneeze at
To tame a wet croupy cough, follow traditional Chinese medicinal practices by brewing a cup of black pepper tea to perk up circulation and the flow of sticky, stubborn mucous in the lungs and passageways. Simply steep 1 teaspoon of fresh cracked pepper (which packs a much more powerful one-two punch than the pre-ground spice) in a cup of boiling water, blended with a tablespoonful of organic raw honey. Strain, sip and relish the relief.
A classic folk remedy to hush an annoying cough is to suck on a lemon. Slice a juicy Meyer or Eureka, sprinkle with some sea salt and cracked black pepper, be brave and suck away.
Land of milk and mucous
According to the folks at the venerable Mayo Clinic, “while drinking milk does not cause your body to make more phlegm (mucous), drinking milk may make phlegm thicker and more irritating to your throat than it would normally be.” Yet a traditional folk cure claims that sipping a cup of warm milk and honey will temper an irritating cough. So know your body, and govern it accordingly with milk and other dairy products.
Packed with Vitamins B and E, zinc, phosphorous, and the same anti-inflammatory resveratrol found in red wine, this antioxidant super food has also been found to relieve bronchial ailments, especially nudging coughs. Blend ground almonds or almond butter into fruit smoothies, particularly those with an oomph of immune-boosting Vitamin C and antioxidants (organic berries, acai, raw pitaya aka dragon fruit, assorted citrus) and sip on.
Cough Calming Pitaya Smoothie
1 frozen pitaya pack (sold at natural food grocers)
1 frozen banana
2 tablespoons of ground almonds or almond butter
1 cup of frozen mixed berries
1 kale leaf
1/3 cup of almond milk
Method: Place ingredients in a blender and puree for 30 seconds until smooth. Pour into a glass and sip soothingly.