Coughs can be infuriating, and occasionally serious. A cough due to a serious bacterial infection or to chronic acid reflux should never be ignored. But many coughs start as a symptom of a cold or other viral infection. There’s not much medication that will be helpful in such cases. In fact, research has shown that the usual cough medicines are no more effective than placebos for children with colds. For children older than one, honey may work better than a drugstore medicine, and with less risk of side effects. (Note: Do NOT give honey to babies one year old or younger! They may not be able to handle botulinum sometimes found in honey.) Readers have come up with many home remedies to ease coughs.
CONCORD GRAPE JUICE
My wife used to get sore throats every winter. They’d hang on for weeks and develop into a loud, hacking cough. Until she recovered, neither of us would get much sleep. Then I remembered a remedy my sister recommended: drinking grape juice regularly. Both my wife and I started drinking a glass of Concord grape juice every day, fall through spring, and the problem vanished. Since then, we’ve almost never had a sore throat or bad cough. We drink half a glass of grape juice and add half a glass of water. We make the juice from frozen concentrate. Do you know why this works?
Purple grape juice has a surprising number of potential health benefits. Research has shown that it can reduce bad cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and help keep blood vessels flexible. Some data suggest that ingredients in grapes boost the immune system. Whether this would help ward off sore throats and coughs we do not know.
I need advice on coughs. My husband has been coughing nonstop, and nothing seems to help him. Can you offer a suggestion?
It is important for your husband to identify the cause of his cough. If it is related to an infection, his doctor will need to treat it appropriately. Some medicines for high blood pressure (angiotensin-converting enzyme, or ACE, inhibitors such as enalapril, lisinopril, or ramipril) can trigger coughing. If there is no obvious cause, your husband may benefit from thyme tea. Thyme has compounds that can calm a cough. Oils in thyme (thymol and carvacrol) reduce irritation in the respiratory tract. People have used the herb for centuries to loosen mucus and relax muscles that spasm during coughing. Just steep a teaspoon of dried leaves in a cup of hot water for five minutes. Sweeten to taste. Thanks for an interesting modification on an old remedy. Spices like thyme and ginger have a long history against coughs. They also have strong flavors and your solution is a way to make them palatable.
Thyme Cough Syrup
Contributed by Tieraona Low Dog
1 cup near-boiling water
2 tablespoons dried thyme (or 4 tablespoons fresh)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
½ cup organic honey
Pour water over thyme and steep for ten minutes. Strain. Add honey and lemon juice. Refrigerate for up to one week. For children 18 months and older: Take one tablespoon as needed. For those who don’t like the flavor of thyme, you can substitute fennel seed. Simmer the seeds gently on low heat for 15 minutes, and then strain.
One reader told us: “I don’t like the taste of thyme and ginger in a tea for relieving a cough. But if you add a low-sodium chicken bouillon cube instead of sugar, you have a tasty little broth that calms a cough.”
Here’s the recipe:
1 cup hot water
¼ teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
Dissolve bouillon cube in water. Add thyme and ginger root. Steep the mixture for four or five minutes, and then pour it through a strainer into a clean mug. Sip and enjoy!
A few weeks ago my granddaughter spent two nights coughing and kept both her parents awake. I told them of your suggestion to smear Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet to stop coughing. She resisted until her dad and older sister agreed to rub it on their feet too. Lo and behold, the coughing child slept all night, and so did the rest of the family.
Thanks for sharing your story. We don’t know why putting Vicks on the soles of the feet is so helpful, but it may have something to do with the anticough activity of menthol. Be sure to put on warm socks over the Vicks to keep the sheets from getting greasy.
My high blood pressure makes it hard to find safe cold or cough medicines. Black elderberry extract and zinc did the trick.
Elderberry-flower tea is a traditional remedy for colds and coughs. Many herbalists believe elderberry is more effective than echinacea. Studies of zinc as a cold fighter have produced mixed results. Neither remedy should increase blood pressure, though.
Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic