candied ginger, fresh ginger, digestive distress, crystallized ginger, ginger ale

Q. My daughter has a cold and cough that is keeping us all awake at night. She hates the taste of cough syrup. We’ve tried cherry, grape and honey flavors but she can’t stand any of them. Are there any decent-tasting natural cough remedies that might work?

A. Dextromethorphan (DM) is the primary ingredient in most liquid cough medicines. Some people object to its bitter taste, even masked with fruit flavoring.

Years ago, a research review of cough remedies in the British Medical Journal (Feb. 9, 2002) concluded: “Over the counter cough medicines for acute cough cannot be recommended because there is no good evidence for their effectiveness.”

In a more recent study, pediatricians found that parents rated honey higher than dextromethorphan in effectiveness for their children’s nighttime cough (Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Dec., 2007)

There is not a lot of research on herbal cough remedies either, but ginger tea has a long tradition for easing coughs and congestion. Other herbs that might be used in tea or syrup to treat cough include horehound, sage and thyme.

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  1. Athan

    While there are food items that help in eliminating mucus, there are also snacks that aggravate your condition. If you want to succeed on how to stop coughing, avoid sugar and junk food. By loading up on junk food you are making your body feeble and susceptible to diseases. Have fresh fruits and vegetables so that your immune system is sturdy and equipped. Avoid sweet foods because these may exasperate your tonsils more.

  2. eurokid

    Hi, Brent B. You recommend taking NAC (N-Acetyl-Cystein with Vitamin C, could you elaborate on the reason for the pairing?

  3. Brent B.

    You should also consider that coughing is the body’s way of getting rid of mucus. Certainly if you are experiencing excessive coughing, you might want to suppress it. But why not look into thinning the mucus as a first strategy? Some good herbs to do that are mullein, marshmallow root, and even saw palmetto. There’s also a great amino acid you can take called N-acetylcysteine, best taken in combination with vitamin C. And you can also use the honey / lemon / ginger — I see a lot of natural liquid cough and cold medicines for sale in the newspaper ads for local pharmacies. But some of them tend to clot up in the bottle so you may want to add water after a while.
    And black elderberry is another good one — great for flu and other viruses. It’s astonishing that we have so many OTC products with limited effectiveness (and sometimes stunning side effects) while herbal remedies have been used successfully for thousands of years. If only the major media would figure this out, our national health would considerably improve!

  4. abigail

    Some people can be allergic to chamomile which is in the daisy family. echinacea ditto.

  5. Rinchu

    Hello, My apologies. I responded to your concern about your daughter coughing, at 3:00AM and didn’t read it very carefully. I neglected to notice that your daughter has a cold. My suggestion to get at the core of the problem was inappropriate. Other than that, my recommendations still hold true. I hope she feels better soon and you all get your needed sleep. Renee

  6. Sandy C.

    A recipe would be helpful. Thanks.

  7. cpmt

    vicks vapor rub on the feet will help.

  8. crandreww

    I have been using Honey for my sons coughs for about 3 years, and it works fantastic… Better than ANY over the counter cough “remedy” even better than RX cough… I have also found that Vicks Vap-o-rub on the soles of the feet also relieve much of my and my family’s cough and colds…. I was a Critical Care RN for 12 years, and was very skeptical about these remedies initially, but after trying them once, and having great success, I am sold!!

  9. Rinchu

    I am concerned about your small daughter having a cough that keeps you up at night. What is the reason for that cough? Cough medicine is only a band-aid. It would be good to eliminate that cough, if possible. I think warm chamomile herbal tea with honey and lemon is very soothing. Manuka honey 16+ is healing and they have cough syrup made of it.

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