Recipes To Treat Coughs And Bronchitis


Coughing is the symptom that most often sends people to their doctors. Anything that irritates the airways—infection, tobacco smoke, other air pollutants, allergens, an inhaled foreign object—causes coughing. It’s one of the body’s defenses against illness. The most common cause of cough is acute bronchitis. Ninety percent of the time, the infectious agent is a virus. Typically, symptoms start in the upper airways with a sore throat and runny nose. The cough normally lasts three weeks, long after a bout of influenza.

1. Garlic Honey

How it works: Honey is antibacterial and moistening. Studies show that honey reduces nighttime cough in children more effectively than a placebo, antihistamines, and the cough suppressant dextromethorphan. Garlic is antimicrobial and an expectorant. Some of its chemicals are excreted across the lungs. Although that may give you garlic breath, the good news is some of garlic’s beneficial chemicals are coming into contact with your lungs.

  1. 4 garlic heads
  2. 1½ cups (480 g) honey
  • DIRECTIONS: Peel the cloves and gently squash each one with the flat of the knife. (Doing so activates an enzyme that converts an inactive chemical in garlic to one of the key ingredients.) Drop the cloves into a clean pint-size (475 ml) mason jar. Add enough honey to completely cover the garlic. Stir with a chopstick. Cap the jar. Let it sit for four to six weeks in a cool, dry place. (If you already have a cough, you can dip into the honey pot in two days.) You can eat the garlic cloves along with the honey.

2. Old Thyme Honey

How it works: Thyme helps open tight airways, combats infection, calms coughs, and helps expel mucus.

  1. 1 cup (43 g) dried thyme leaves or (38 g) fresh
  2. 1½ to 2 cups (480 to 640 g) honey

You have two choices for prep:

  1. Pour the thyme into a clean pint-size (475 ml) mason jar. Cover completely with honey. Stir to blend (a chopstick works well for stirring). Let sit for two weeks in a sunny window. At this point, you can either call the recipe done or strain the honey, discard the herbs, and rebottle. We don’t mind the thyme leaves and hate to waste the delicious honey clinging to the leaves. Store in the cupboard.
  2. Put the thyme on the top of a double boiler. Add enough honey to completely cover it. Add water to the bottom pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer. Keeping an eye on the honey, and stirring frequently, simmer for 2 hours. You can either bottle it with the thyme leaves or strain out the thyme leaves and bottle the herb-infused honey. Take honey by the teaspoon to relieve coughing.

3. Peppermint Honey

How it works: Peppermint reduces chest tightness and coughing and helps clear mucus.

  1. ¼ cup (80 g) honey
  2. 3 to 5 drops peppermint essential oil
  • DIRECTIONS: Put the honey and peppermint essential oil in a small, clean jar and blend with a chopstick. Cap and store in a cupboard. Take 1 teaspoonful up to four times a day.
  • WARNING: This recipe is for teens and adults only. Most of the time, essential oils are used externally only. However, peppermint is safe in small amounts.

4. Italian Steam

How it works: These Italian seasonings are all members of the peppermint family. As such, they relax smooth muscle (thus relaxing the airways) and discourage infection.

  1. 2 cups (475 ml) water
  2. ½ cup (about 24 g) Italian seasonings: fresh thyme, oregano, and/or rosemary leaves

Boil the water in a saucepan. Turn off the heat. Add a handful of the herbs and stir. Cover for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set on a hot pad. Remove the lid. Lean over the steaming water and cover your head with a clean towel. Breathe the vapors through your mouth for about 1 minute. Rewarm and repeat several times a day as needed. If you store the covered saucepan overnight in the refrigerator, you may reuse it the next day.
Optional: After you steam, strain the liquid into a warm bath. After discarding the herbs, soak.

  • NOTE: If you have eucalyptus trees in your area, you can substitute those leaves, crushed, for the Italian herbs.

5. Eucalyptus Steam

How it works: Essential oil of eucalyptus works against a range of bacteria and viruses. It also favorably alters immune function and helps clear excess respiratory mucus. By breathing in through your mouth, you allow the essential oil steam to come in direct contact with your throat.

  1. 2 cups (475 ml) water
  2. 2 to 3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
  • DIRECTIONS: Boil the water in a saucepan. Turn off the heat. Transfer the pan to a hot pad. Add 2 to 3 drops of eucalyptus oil. Bend over the pan and cover your head with a clean towel. Inhale the steam through your mouth for about 1 minute. Repeat four or five times a day. Because the essential oil vaporizes quickly, you’ll need to reheat the water and add fresh eucalyptus essential oil each time.
  • NOTE: Inhaling vapors from the smell of essential oils may trigger asthmatic coughing. If you have asthma, try plain steam first. If the steam doesn’t trigger your asthma or worsen your coughing, add 1 drop of essential oil. If you tolerate that, work your way up to three. People with asthma usually have no problem using chest rubs that include essential oils, such as eucalyptus.

6. Cough-Cutting Peppermint Tea

How it works: Peppermint and thyme both help calm coughs and combat infection. Peppermint can also ease throat discomfort associated with coughing.

  1. 2 cups (475 ml) water
  2. 1 teaspoon (1 g) dried thyme
  3. 3 teaspoons (5 g) dried peppermint leaves
  4. Honey (optional)
  • DIRECTIONS: Bring the water to a boil in a small pan. Add the herbs. Remove the pan from the heat. Cover and steep for 15 minutes. Strain and add honey, if desired. Drink the tea and inhale the steam through your mouth. Try to drink several cups a day.
  • NOTE: Buy a box of peppermint tea bags and keep them handy for this remedy.

7. Lemon Up

How it works: Lemon packs flavonoids and vitamin C for fighting infection. Pepper increases circulation, which helps the healing process.

  1. 1 lemon
  2. Less than ¹∕8 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • DIRECTIONS: Slice the lemon in half. Sprinkle the black pepper over one half. Suck in the liquid and swallow. Brush your teeth afterward to remove the acidity from your teeth.

8. Mustard Plaster

How it works: Mustard contains irritating chemicals that stimulate blood flow. The idea is that increasing blood supply promotes the delivery of infection-fighting white blood cells. While the infection isn’t in the skin, this plaster can create a deeper sense of warmth. This traditional remedy has not, as far as we know, been subjected to scientific study. However, many people swear by this remedy.

  1. 1 tablespoon (9 g) dry mustard
  2. 1 tablespoon (8 g) all-purpose flour
  3. 1 tablespoon (15 ml) warm water, plus more as needed
  4. 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil

Mix the mustard and flour in a small bowl. Blend in the water. Add more water as needed to make a spreadable paste. Cover your chest with olive oil (it will protect the skin from mustard’s somewhat irritating effects). Place a clean cloth on your chest (use a bandana, thin dishcloth, or muslin—something you don’t mind turning yellow).
Spread the mustard plaster over the cloth. Cover the plaster with a plastic bag.
On top, place a warm, moist hand towel (your assistant can heat it in the microwave on high for 30 to 60 seconds). After 5 minutes, remove the mustard plaster and wash your skin. Do not leave on longer, as blistering can occur.

  • NOTE: If you have sensitive skin or allergies, try a small test patch first. Cases of contact dermatitis (allergic skin reactions) have been reported. Do not apply to inflamed skin or open wounds.

9. Eucalyptus Chest Rub

How it works: The antiviral and antibacterial essential oil of eucalyptus is absorbed across your skin to help fight congestion. It also favorably alters immune function and helps clear excess respiratory mucus.

  1. ¼ cup (55 g) petroleum jelly or unscented hand lotion
  2. 2 to 3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil (half that much for pregnant women and children)
  • DIRECTIONS: In a small bowl, blend the petroleum jelly or lotion with the eucalyptus drops. Rub on your chest. (Wash your hands before putting your fingers near your eyes or other sensitive tissues.) We recommend wrapping up in a warm sweater or blanket and sipping hot herbal tea, which will further increase circulation to your chest, thereby promoting healing.

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