Q. My mother-in-law always used to swear by Vicks on the bottom of the feet for a cough. I thought that was ludicrous.
Mom might have been right after all. I have an upper respiratory virus and haven’t slept for two nights because of coughing. All day today, I couldn’t speak more than two or three words at a time without coughing. My doctor said to try some Mucinex and let the virus run its course. Mucinex hasn’t worked for me in the past so I thought of my mother-in-law’s remedy.
I rubbed the bottoms of my feet with Vicks and put on some clean white cotton athletic socks. Within minutes, literally, I could get out a full sentence. I still have an occasional cough this evening, but it is 95 percent better. I hope this will give my sore ribs a rest for a few hours.

A. We have no scientific explanation for why rubbing Vicks on the soles of the feet would calm a cough. Nonetheless, we have heard stories similar to yours from many other readers. You can learn more about Unique Uses for Vicks in our Guide or discover other ways to control a cough in our book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies (both online at www.PeoplesPharmacy.com).
Research at Penn State has shown that for children’s nighttime coughs, honey works better than cough syrup, without side effects. Adults report benefit from sipping thyme tea. It may be that the menthol and thymol in Vicks VapoRub get into the circulation to help ease a cough like yours.

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  1. Steve

    Tried this remedy last night after my wife’s mom read about it in the Dallas Mornign News. We decided it couldn’t hurt to try, since Mucinex, Symbicort and various other methods had failed to reduce my cold-induced post nasal drip-cough. Imagine our surprise when it worked almost immediately, allowing us both get the good night’s sleep in three days. We’re going to buy Vicks in a gallon jug size.

  2. jh

    My family has successfully used this amazing “remedy” for years. Can’t remember where we first learned it.

  3. Michael M.

    My mother did this to me 60 yrs ago and it worked (in my case it was a cold).

  4. RED

    I heard about this remedy last year after suffering about two weeks coughing every night and losing sleep. Nothing would stop the cough. Then I tried the vicks and had the first good night of sleep. Now I use it every time I get a cold.

  5. Shari

    Just last week, my grandson was staying here and had developed a cough starting that morning. When it didn’t go away, I searched my cabinet for cough medicine only to find out I was out. So…I remembered reading about the Vicks on the soles of the feet here and decided to test it out.
    It was unbelievable. He stopped coughing immediately and didn’t cough again until later the NEXT day. I was blown away! It really worked for him. I’m not sure it would work for everyone and for every cough, but I was really impressed.

  6. mb

    My grandma used Vicks on the bottom of feet….I am 70, so you know how long ago that was…I swear by Vicks on the feet, chest, under nose, but not in nose….must be something???

  7. Ellen

    There is no doubt that ingredients in Vicks Vaporub are absorbed systemically. I thought this treatment had to work psychologically, but I was willing to try it when I had a lingering cough from a common cold. Much to my surprise, within a very few minutes the taste of Vicks filled my mouth, and my cough was significantly suppressed. Now about that bar of soap to cure leg cramps . . .

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