Trying to ease a cough can be a frustrating experience. If it arrived with a cold or another upper respiratory tract infection, it’s likely to go away eventually, but those 2 or 3 weeks of suffering until it does can be miserable. Way back before the end of the last century, Americans could buy cough medicines that worked. Codeine-containing antitussive syrups were widely available without prescription. Physicians also recommended terpin hydrate, an expectorant, from the late 1800s until the early 1990s. In theory, an expectorant simply loosens up the stuff in the lungs and makes it easier to cough up. But many people found that terpin hydrate offered more benefit.
Home remedies are not intended for a cough that has lasted longer than a few weeks, or one that is accompanied by fever, pain, or other symptoms of serious illness. They are aimed primarily at the annoying but not dangerous cough that often crops up at the tail end of a cold or the “flu” and hangs in there even though the patient is feeling much better otherwise.
When it comes to coughs and colds, be very cautious about medicating children. Although there are lots of products on the market aimed at kids, very few have been tested on children. And often, when they are tested on children, they don’t seem to work very well. For youngsters, less is definitely better.
Codeine-containing cough syrup is one of the most effective remedies for cough. It may be difficult to purchase without a prescription. But if your cough is troubling you, ask your doctor to write one. Don’t overuse it, because it can be constipating.

  • Vicks VapoRub, with its familiar aroma of menthol, camphor, and eucalyptus, is worth trying. If you don’t want to put it on your chest, try it on the soles of your feet (under your socks) for a cough-free night.
  • Chicken soup with thyme is a comfort food that could help control a cough.
  • Several herbal teas may be helpful. Try ginger, mint (menthol), elderflower, or linden flower tea. Sweetening the tea slightly with honey may help the brain’s own opioids kick in to help with that cough.
  • Suck on hard candy flavored with licorice or horehound.
  • The theobromine found in chocolate is active against cough. Perhaps the best way to get it is to melt a square or two of dark chocolate in your mouth.
  • Concord grape juice has its enthusiasts, and very little risk.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. EMA

    Beginning my 3rd week of almost constant coughing I was told about the Vick’s on the sole of my feet remedy. It sounded crazy but I was ready to try anything! The first night was almost cough-free. The second night was absolutely cough-free! I’m a believer but I would like to know why this works.

  2. SC

    I cough when I’m nervous, agitated or under stress. When all is calm or I am relaxed, no coughing. Is there a home remedy I could try to calm, what I feel is a nervous stomach, which liquids tickle the bottom of my esophagus. Doctor checked thyroid, and was normal. I couldn’t complete a endoscopy, due to I knew I couldn’t tolerate having the tube down my throat for monitoring of stomach acids. Is there a home remedy or herb I could try to calm my stomach, when stressful conditions arise!

  3. Ladyliza

    Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar works like a charm. Never drink it straight. Always mix with juice or water. Shake up the mother in the bottom before pouring. Vinaigre is a natural anti-biotic and works well for mucus, coughs and any lung issues. It great for many conditions. Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods have good brands.

  4. Jo Ann & Bill

    Do you have any remedies for post nasal drip and nightime coughing. Jo Ann coughs a lot at night.

  5. DM

    I found Vitamin B-12 sublingual very helpful for coughing. Morning and evening. take with a good B-complex with folate.

  6. Marcus

    I find the best thing for a cough is to catch it early. The second I start feeling even the smallest tingle in my throat, lots of OJ, vitamin C pills, chicken soup, and rest. I definitely think I’ll try out the chocolate next time though :)

  7. Carol

    It was taking forever to calm my cough and ticklish throat after a sinus infection. I was so tired of the taste of Halls but it was the only thing that stopped the cough. I remembered the Vicks on the soles of your feet idea from the Graedons and thought I had nothing to lose. It worked! Right away! I used it for about a week, nonstop. I cut up saran wrap into small squares and put them over the Vicks on my soles to keep my socks from getting greasy.
    Amazing! Next to try, the golden raisins soaked in gin for tendinitis in my upper arm.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.