Holistic Cough Remedies

In the winter months, kids experience lots of viral illnesses. Most of these illnesses come with cough. What is a parent to do?

Why do kids cough?

Viruses enter the body via nose, mouth eyes. When the virus tries to invade the nasal mucosa (skin inside the nose) the body produces a sticky stringy fluid to prevent the virus from invading. This snotty substance also traps dust, smoke, bacteria, and viruses and expels them from the body. Furthermore, this yucky substance also contains antibodies and bacteria killing enzymes.

Some of this snot comes out of the nose, but a lot of it trickles down the back of the throat and is being swallowed. When mucous trickles down the back of the throat it can lead to a hoarse voice, sore throat, dry cough, or productive cough. Furthermore, snot trickling down the back of the throat irritates the upper airways leading to cough. A dry cough generally indicates inflammation or irritation. A juicy cough often means the body is getting rid of viruses, bacteria, and other irritants.

How long do coughs last?

Generally coughs start out dry for 1-3 days and then turns juicy. Coughs get worse day 3-5 of illness and then gets better. Most of the time coughs resolve within 7-10 days, but some coughs can last up to 3-4 weeks. Just because a cough lasts more then a week, does not automatically mean that antibiotics are needed.

Holistic Cough Remedies

NOTE: if your child has been diagnosed with asthma or other chronic lung disease please follow your doctor’s instructions and consult with her before adding Complimentary Medical Interventions. Do not stop the medications prescribed to you without discussing with your doctor first.

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Pantry Items:


In one study, children age 2 and older with upper respiratory tract infections were given up to 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) of honey at bedtime. The honey reduced nighttime coughing and improve sleep as well as the common cough suppressant ingredient, dextromethorphan. Do not use honey in children under 1 years old.


Minced garlic and raw honey in equal amounts. Let garlic sit for 15min after chopping to increase potency. Combine honey and garlic in a jar and let it sit for 24hrs. Refrigerate. Dose: 1 tsp every 3hrs.


The herb’s leaves pack a potent punch of cough-calming compounds that work to relax tracheal smooth muscles and reduce inflammation. Make a thyme tea by steeping two teaspoons of crushed thyme leaves in a cup of boiling water for 10 minutes, then strain. Add ginger, lemon, and or honey. Dose: 1 cup every 3hrs as needed.


Add 1 tsp of fresh or dried rosemary leaves in 8-10 oz of boiling water. Steep for 3-5 min. Strain and sip. Dose: 1 cup every 3hrs as needed.


Simmer a few slices of ginger in 2-3 cups of water. Add lemon to taste and sweeten with raw honey if desired. Dose: 1 cup every 3hrs as needed

Licorice Root

Prepared licorice tea by boiling a few sticks of licorice in 2-3 cups of water


Mix a spoon of licorice powder with a spoon of honey and have it. It is a popular ayurvedic solution for kids. Dose 1 tsp every 3hrs as needed.

Marshmallow Root

Found in herbal preparations containing dry ivy leaf extract, thyme and aniseed, it has been shown in a clinical study to reduce the duration of cough and common cold.


Bromelain is an enzyme that comes from pineapples. It is most plentiful in the core of the fruit. It has anti-inflammatory properties and may also have mucolytic properties, which means that it can break down mucus and remove it from the body. According to NCCIH, it has been shown to be effective in reducing swelling of nasal and sinus passages. Pineapple juice may be effective, however, it is hard to get the concentration of bromelian needed just from juice. Here is a dosing guide.



Nasal Spray

In older kids – a Study done in Eastern Europe showed that kids who used saline nose sprays 3 times a day versus kids who used any over the counter remedies, got over their colds faster and needed less antibiotics in the long run. (Grandmother’s around the world rejoiced at this study). Spray, suck in, blow the nose. In babies, it is ok to use, don’t forget to suction the boogers afterwards.

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Epsom Salt Bath

Epsom Salt Baths are rich in magnesium, a mineral that relaxes smooth muscles, helps open airways and is an anti-inflammatory. There have been many clinical trials demonstrating the benefits of magnesium on cough. Add 2 cups of Epsom salts to a warm (not cold) bath and soak (10-15 minutes for children and 20-30 minutes for adults). 1 cup for Toddler baths. 1/4 cup in baby baths.

Salt Rooms

Turns out, salt therapy isn’t new at all. Back in 1843, a Polish physician by the name of Feliks Boczkowski noticed that salt mine workers did not experience respiratory issues or lung disease vs other miners. Almost a hundred years later, a German named Karl Hermann Spannagel noticed that his patients’ health improved after hiding out in the salt caves while avoiding heavy bombing during WWII.

A European study demonstrated that salt chambers can be effective in reducing coughs, even in those suffering from asthma. There are no studies done in the US on this matter. My patients have found that going to salt rooms has been beneficial for their children’s cough.



A steam shower will help thin mucous thus improve cough. Turn on the shower super hot, let the bathroom fill with steam, turn shower off, take a seat and relax. Hang out in a steamy room for 15-20 min to benefit from this therapy.

Drink lots of fluids. The more hydrated your body is, the easier it will be to keep snot thin and get rid of cough sooner. I recommend water, teas, kombucha, raw coconut water, or broth. Please be weary of sugary drinks like gatorade, soda, or juice!! Sugar suppresses the body’s immune response.

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12 Essenatial Oils

  1. Eucalyptus and Rosemary contain the compound cineole which may help to break up mucusand reduce inflammation.
  2. Peppermint can help relax smooth muscles
  3. Frankincense decreases inflammation associated with cough
  4. Oregano has antimicrobial activity
  5. Thyme and Geranium have been shown to be effective for coughs
  6. Bergamont, Nutmeg, Cypress – contain Camphene, a compound similar to camphor
  7. Cinnamon can protect against germs causing cough
  8. Tea Tree can prevent the growth of bacteria known to cause sinus infections

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Cough Drops

Menthol cough drops work to numb the back of the throat, which can help tame the cough reflex. Just don’t overdo it. A 2018 study found that too many cough drops, especially the menthol kind, can make coughs worse.

My favorite cough drops are Breathe by Doterra. Ingredients: Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Lemon Oil, Peppermint Oil, Cardamom Oil, Eucalyptus Oil, Thyme Oil, Melissa Oil. FYI – Peppermint’s active ingredient is Menthol.



I have put together an entire blog post about supplements HERE.

Seek Medical Treatment if:

  • your child cannot speak in sentences
  • is belly breathing
  • is sucking in at the ribs and above the clavicles
  • child appears dusky, blue-ish
  • continuously coughs
  • has chest pain and high fevers
  • overall getting worse

In good health, Dr. Ana-Maria

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