Q. Last month I had the flu for a couple of weeks with a lingering cough. Before I got better I caught a cold, and at the end of the cold, a cough returned that was much worse than the cough I had with the flu. It was the sort of cough that made my whole chest vibrate.
One evening I was coughing so badly I was afraid I would not be able to sleep. I tried everything I could think of: hot fennel tea with honey and lemon, cough syrup with codeine and tea made from fresh ginger. None of this was any help.
Finally I remembered hearing about sage. Scrounging in the kitchen, I found an old jar with dried sage in the bottom of it; I suspect it had been there for two or three years. I made tea from the sage, drank one cup, and the cough stopped! I was astonished!
The next day I bought some fresh sage and made tea from it for the rest if the week. It kept the cough under control until it was gone. Now I keep a bag of dried sage leaves in my kitchen cupboard all the time–just in case!
A. Sage has a long history as a healing herb, but scientists have not been able to confirm most of the benefits attributed to it. It does have a lot of tannin, which could make it useful as a gargle for sore throats.
We’d not heard before of sage as a cough remedy, but we’re glad it worked. There is some concern that one of its constituents may be toxic over a long period of time, so it is probably best to use it only occasionally, as needed.
Another kitchen spice that can help calm a cough is thyme. Use a teaspoon per cup and allow it to steep between 5 and 10 minutes. Sweeten with honey and add lemon to taste if you wish.
For more remedies that can help calm a cough you may find our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies, helpful. In addition, there are lots of practical, affordable simple treatments from the kitchen to help dozens of ailments.