25 Ways to Alleviate a Cough Naturally

When my baby boy woke up the other morning with what appeared to be an upper respiratory infection, I was pretty desperate to find something that would help him fight it off quickly.

He was wheezing, and lethargic, and his breathing was rapid- as if he couldn’t get a full breath.

garlic salve
garlic salve

Every time I got him out of his crib, he would just lay himself down on the floor and suck his thumb with his eyes half closed. It was a little frightening, to be honest. There was no fever, just a bad, very deep cough.

I scoured the internet for treatments, and I found a ton – some of which might surprise you! If you’re looking to cure a cough naturally, or even just to treat it, here are some ideas for you to try.

My Personal Favorite: The Garlic Salve

I immediately hit all of my herbal books, looking for something that would treat RSV type symptoms and cure a cough quickly. And I came across a recipe for a garlic salve in the book Be Your Own Doctor by Rachel Weaver, M.H.

I had all of the ingredients on hand, and I’m a total believer in the healing power of garlic, so I knew this was the one to try.

Garlic Salve Recipe


  • 1/3 cup Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic peeled
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil


  • Pour everything into a blender and mix until smooth.
  • Strain off the bits of garlic.
  • Store the liquid in a wide-mouth glass jar in the fridge. It will solidify as it cools.
  • If your child has super sensitive skin, you might try adding more coconut oil and olive oil.

Pour everything into a blender and mix until smooth. Strain off the bits of garlic, and store the liquid in a wide-mouth glass jar in the fridge. It will solidify as it cools. If your child has super sensitive skin, you might try adding more coconut oil and olive oil.

Apply liberally to the chest, back, and bottoms of feet (covered with socks) at least four times a day, and as often as every couple of hours, as needed. This isn’t something that you can overdose on, so don’t be afraid to use too much. If it doesn’t seem to be working, use more!

I made the salve, and slathered it on baby Elias’ chest, back, and the bottoms of his feet about every 2 hours or so throughout the day, and even a few times during the night.

I also ran a humidifier in his room and put some of the salve with a couple of drops of lemon eucalyptus essential oil in the cup where the Vapor Rub is supposed to go.

About half way through the day I also started rubbing oregano essential oil (1 drop diluted in 1/4 tsp. coconut oil) over the salve on his body.

By the next morning, his breathing was perfectly normal again, and he was actually up and playing! He still had a cough, but it now sounded looser, like it was more productive.

That garlic salve, along with the oregano oil REALLY worked wonders. I can’t tell you how relieved I was! This is now my go-to aid for treating coughs and supporting the immune system!

Stay Hydrated

When you’re sick, it’s important that you stay hydrated. In fact, drinking plenty of liquids can help alleviate the discomfort of a cough, as coughs are often made worse by dry conditions.

Warm liquids can help soothe a cough even more. The best options are warm water, decaffeinated tea, and clear broth.

Avoid Triggering Foods

If you have acid reflux or another medical condition, there are all kinds of foods that can trigger a cough. Avoiding trigger foods is one easy way to prevent a cough from ever arising at all.

Every person will have different triggers, but generally, if you have a cough you are going to want to avoid alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, dairy, fried foods, garlic, and spicy foods. Tomato- or onion-based foods can also be problematic for some people, but this varies.

Clean it Up

If your home is filled with allergens or inhaled irritants of any kind, you’re probably going to have a cough – that’s straightforward enough! Take some time to clean away mold, pollen, dust, perfumes, or other allergens.

You might need to wash all of your sheets and linens in hot water or scrub with a bleach solution. Investing in a HEPA-filter vacuum and air purifier can also help relieve and prevent a cough.

Saline Irrigation

If the culprit behind your cough is upper airway inflammation, irrigating your sinuses might help heal your coughing. Use a Neti Pot or bulb syringe to flush your sinuses with saltwater. It’s unpleasant at first, but you’ll feel much better afterward.

Get Steamy

If you’re suffering from a dry cough, steam can help loosen things up. Either take a hot shower or long bath and let the bathroom fill with steam.

Allow yourself to remain in the steam for several minutes – your symptoms should subside. If you find yourself sweating a lot after this steam treatment, drink a tall glass of water to prevent dehydration.

Tea with Honey

This one’s a classic – likely a treatment your grandma, your great-grandma, and even her great-grandma before relied on!

If you drink a cup of tea with some honey, you’re going to find that your cough becomes much less severe. The best honey to use is a dark honey, since it will supply the greatest relief from your cough.

For best results, mix together two teaspoons of honey with an herbal tea, like Echinacea or green tea. It will not only make you feel better, but it will taste great, too!


Bromelain is a unique enzyme that comes from pineapples. It has long been recommended as a treatment for sinus infections and other ailments. It’s also really good at relieving a cough.

Found in the core of the pineapple, bromelain has anti-inflammatory and mucolytic properties, helping to break down mucus and remove it from your body.

You can drink pineapple juice every day to reduce mucus, but it’s generally agreed that there isn’t enough concentrated bromelain in juice to relieve symptoms.

If you have access to a health foods’ store, taking a bromelain supplement might be a better option. Just keep in mind that it is possible to be allergic to bromelain – which of course can make your coughing and other symptoms worse!


Ginger is a natural spice that not only helps to soothe a cough but also has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. It can improve your immune functioning – preventing those nasty coughs from appearing in the first place – and can also relieve nausea.

Simply brew a few fresh ginger slices in a cup of hot water, just like you would tea. Let them steep for a few minutes. If you don’t like how ginger tastes, you can always add lemon or honey.


All kinds of mint are good at healing, but peppermint is particularly good at healing a cough. The menthol in the mint soothes your throat and also serves as a decongestant – breaking down mucus.

Either inhale peppermint vapor from a diffuser or steam bath or drink peppermint tea. Both methods are effective at relieving a painful cough!

Eucalyptus Oil

If you’re suffering from a cough, rub some eucalyptus oil on your chest. It can also be used ina vaporizer or diffuser.


Elderberry is an effective herbal remedy that can be taken as a supplement or as as yrup. It’s a slow acting treatment, but can often help prevent more coughing and other symptoms in the future.

Marshmallow Root

Marshmallow root is an herb with a fun-sounding name – it has long been used as a treatment for sore throat and cough. It eases irritation from coughing because it has high amounts of mucilage.

Licorice Root

Licorice root is an expectorant, which means it thins your mucus so you can cough it up more easily. You might not find that the duration of the coughing becomes shorter, but it will likely alleviate some of your symptoms over time.

Mucilage…now doesn’t that sound pleasant? Mucilage is a thick substance that acts like glue and coats your throat, making it a less hospitable environment for germs and allowing you to clear your throat more easily.

You can take marshmallow root as a dried herb or you can steep it in a tea. The longer you steep the tea, the more mucilage will be in your beverage. Just keep in mind that it can cause an upset stomach if you consume too much of it!

Ground Flax

Ground flax is really good at soothing your body’s cough reflex. You can combine two tablespoons of flaxseeds in one cup of boiling water. Let the water become thick – it will look a bit like coffee. Strain it, then add some honey and lemon juice for flavor before drinking.

Oregon Grape Root

A less common herbal remedy, Oregon grape root is super helpful when you are trying to relieve your cough. It contains an ingredient known as berberine, which has anti-inflammatory properties. It is best mixed with seltzer water to heal a sore throat and cough.

Apple Cider Vinegar

When mixed with honey, apple cider vinegar can help thin your mucus and alleviate coughing. It doesn’t’ taste great – so the honey can help.

Milk and Turmeric

I know, I said avoid dairy products – but this is one that might help. Mixed with turmeric, warm milk can fight cough because turmeric has powerful antioxidant properties. The milk will make it easier for you to fall asleep and will also coat your throat to allow the turmeric to do its work.

Mullein Flowers

The flowers of the mullein plant can be steeped and put into a tea – this is a super effective way of alleviating a cough.

Oregano Oil

Oregano oil can be bitter, burning a bit when you are already sick, but it works super well. Just a ply a single drop of oregano oil to each side of your tongue and let it slide back into your throat.

It will make you cough a bit at first, but over time, it will stop your coughing because it kills germs and triggers your immune system to heal your throat.


Thyme is a popular treatment for sore throat, cough, bronchitis, digestive issues, and other problems. It boosts your immune system and can also help relive cough with its antioxidants.

You can take a thyme supplement, but most people find it more effective to make a thyme tea. There are also some cough syrups that contain thyme.

Black Pepper and Sugar

For whatever reason, black pepper and sugar, when combined at a ratio of one teaspoon each and dropped into boiling water, are particularly effective together to ease a nighttime cough.

You’ll notice that the black pepper will settle to the bottom of your “tea,” but that’s okay – just sip the mixture as needed.

Take Probiotics

This is more of a preventative method than a cure, but it’s worth mentioning. Probiotics can boost your immune system by leveling out the numbers of good and bad bacteria there.

If you have a strong immune system, you’re going to have a much easier time warding off illnesses. One bacteria in particular, Lactobacillus, is especially helpful.

Gargle with Saltwater

If you’re suffering from a wet cough, consider gargling with saltwater. This can not only relieve your cough but it can also reduce the amount of mucus in the back of your throat, helping to relieve a sore throat, too.

Slippery Elm

A classic Native American treatment, slippery elm bark is used to treat both digestive issues as well as a severe cough. Like marshmallow root, it also contains a high level of mucilage and can help heal your sore throat.

Make a slippery elm tea by combining a teaspoon of it in dried form to hot water – steep for ten minutes.

Do you have a favorite home remedy to cure a cough and cold?

42 thoughts on “25 Ways to Alleviate a Cough Naturally”

  1. I know this is an old post now…but just wanted to answer a question posted here. Why is it applied to feet? Because nerves of the body start at the feet and go up. That’s why reflexology focuses on nerve points on the soles.

  2. my 10 month old daughter woke up with a nasty cough which I think her big brother (3yrs old) passed on to her. He has bronchitis. He is on his last day of antibiotics. I refuse to give my daughter antibiotics again. She’s not even 1 and has been on it twice for ear infections and bronchiolitis. I want to try this salve today and avoid yet another doc visit just so they can prescribe another dose of antibiotics. I have never used essential oils so I’m hesitant because I’m not educated enough. Would you help me with recommendations of where to buy, what’s the best brand, what to look for. I need to make this salve today to nip this cough since it just started. Thank you so much.

    -worried mom

  3. I mixed up 9 cloves of garlic because I’m sick of this cough, added oregano oil from four capsules, about a 1/3 C coconut oil, 2 Tbs Olive oil and some tender lavender leaves. It’s in the frig hardening up. Dear God I hope this works. I haven’t slept in 5 nights due to my constant coughing. You know the type where you’re splitting up a cup of fluid and its never enough – ugh.

    • IT WORKED! I did not cough up mouthfuls of phlegm over & over & over & over throughout the night!!! First time in 5 nights. I actually got some real sleep. I can’t wait to tell everyone about this!

      • Last week i blend a batch of garlics n oil for my son’s flu. I left him in my mom’s care.unfortunately she didnt use my ‘remedy’ n didnt store them in the fridge. After almost 1 week i went back home, the garlic oil turn reddish. Since i contracted cough, i use it on my feet. However my cough gets worse n worse..i thought.. maybe because the garlic is not fresh. So i went to cut n slice fresh garlic thinly n put them on my feet. In few minutes, the itchiness in my throat subsides. I dont have the urge to cough. Seriously..fresh garlic do wonders. Anybody who wants to reduce coughing ..can try this.it doesent cure right away..but it can help u lessen or stop the painful cough.

  4. We love garlic to fight viruses! Dr. Mercola says that it is most beneficial during the first hour of being crushed or chopped. The power of the chemical reaction when crushed, allicin, is excellent after about 10-15 mins of being crushed. So I crush it and chop, let it sit and apply quickly. Usually to the neck and bottoms of feet and/or chest, depending if there is a cough. Love garlic! -Vieve

  5. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back
    to your site? My blog site is in the exact same area
    of interest as yours and my visitors would genuinely
    benefit from a lot of the information you present here.

    Please let me know if this ok with you. Thanks!

  6. So glad you posted this! Jackjack and Little Peanut both have coughs, and I have all the ingredients in the cupboard to make this right away. J will think it’s funny that it goes on his feet. :o)

  7. Glad this worked for you, Kendra, and your baby is doing better. When my babies were babies (and not expecting babies of their own) I tried putting sliced garlic on the soles of their feet one night before bed secured with a bandage. If it says so in a book, it’s gotta be good, right? Wrong. All three woke up with blistered feet. Garlic is very potent. I also injured myself using garlic oil in a delicate location. I guess in Rachel’s recipe mixing it with the oils toned down its burning properties.
    As for Cathy’s question, choose books that have qualified authors or are thoroughly researched with citations for the studies they quote. “I read a study that said…” or “According to one study…” just doesn’t cut it as qualified research unless the study is cited so that you can look it up yourself. While anecdotal case studies are beneficial, they cannot be the sole guide. Rosemary Gladstar and James A. Duke are two of my favorites.
    Thanks for sharing. I enjoy your blog.

  8. I’d like to know what books you have! I have oil books, but I want to grow my herbal books. The one “natural healing” book I have seems kind of useless.

  9. Hi Just wondering which herbal books are your “go-to” titles? Just getting started and would love some recommendations

    Thank you

  10. I’m glad this worked for you but I have to say, as a Paramedic that sees these symptoms both through 911 and as an interfacility transport provider, those symptoms are very serious, do sound like RSV, and the patient should be evaluated and treated by a Physician. RSV in infants has the potential for death.

  11. I use a disposable plastic spoon to get Vicks Salve or anything like that out of the jar. It helps because I don’t have to get it under a finger nail or all over me.

    Vicks on the soles of my feet saved me. Does anyone know why that Vicks or garlic on the feet is a cough cure?

    When I can quit coughing, I don’t care what I smell like.

    • Practical Parsimony,

      I think it has something to do with circulation… maybe? LOL I’m not really sure, but it’s interesting that in Honduras they use leaves of certain plants poulticed on the bottoms of their feet to reduce a fever. Many traditional cultures put herbs and stuff on the soles of their feet. There must be something to it 😉

      • Just to throw in my 2 cents 😉 … as an LMT, we learn about how toxins can enter or be released through your feet. I would venture to guess that this works because it showed the healing elements to enter your body & begin their incredible work! 🙂

  12. I’m so glad that it worked! I just heard about applying Vicks to the soles of the feet; it didn’t seem to help me, but I’m glad it helped your little one. 🙂


Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating