a child taking cough syrup

What do you do for a nasty cough? You might smear Vicks VapoRub on the soles of your feet; many readers find that approach helpful. Or you might look for an over-the-counter cough syrup. In the US, these mostly contain dextromethorphan as the active ingredient. Researchers have questioned its effectiveness, especially for young children. Can you make your own cough syrup at home?

Thymol for Calming a Cough:

Q. I had a hideous cold with a racking cough on a layover at the Amsterdam airport about 20 years ago. I went to the pharmacy for help and was given a cough medicine that tasted exactly like a thymol-based cough syrup that worked well on chronic bronchitis when I was a kid. This Dutch elixir worked just as well. I’m guessing oil of thyme may be the magical ingredient.

Making Thyme Cough Syrup at Home:

A. Thymol, essential oil of thyme, is an effective cough suppressant. To make your own thyme cough syrup at home, here is Dr. Low Dog’s recipe:

Add two tablespoons dried thyme to one cup near-boiling water and steep for ten minutes. Strain and add one teaspoon of lemon juice and one-half cup organic honey. Take one tablespoon as needed. Store in the refrigerator.

Try a Cup of Thyme Tea:

If you haven’t made your cough syrup, you might want to try a nice hot cup of thyme tea. Steeping thyme in hot water seems to release thymol that can reduce the urge to cough. To make tea, use a half-teaspoonful of dried thyme leaves for a cup of hot water. Steep it for about five minutes. Then strain the tea and sweeten it to taste.

Do you have a favorite home remedy to quell a cough? Tell us about it in the comment section below.

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  1. Carole
    Sydney, Australia
    Reply

    Boil the Thyme (handful) in vinegar, 2 cups +/- with some fennel seeds (couple tablespoons full) add honey (or black molasses), mix well store in a jar with a tight lid in sunlight. Shake and Strain before use, the older the better. Proper name for this mixture is an ‘oxymel’.

  2. Laurie La B
    Arizona
    Reply

    A tablespoon of pure red wine has always worked for me.

  3. Barb
    Illinois
    Reply

    Years ago our pediatrician wrote out a cough syrup recipe on his prescription paper. It is the only cough medicine our family has used for over 40 years: Mix equal parts of lemon juice, honey, whiskey. This works better than anything on the market.

    • Terry Graedon
      Reply

      We don’t recommend this remedy for young children.

  4. Dagny
    Reply

    Thyme is also useful as a decongestant. I dump a small amount of leaf thyme (about a quarter cup) into a mixing bowl that’s roughly the size of my face, pour boiling water on it, and then put my face in the bowl and inhale until the steam dies down. Then the still very hot liquid can be poured through a strainer and drunk as tea. It doesn’t taste very good to me, but the results are worth it.

  5. Gail
    Reply

    The thyme cough syrup sounds great. We have found that mixing 1 Tbs whiskey with 1 Tbs lemon and honey works well. It taste awful but works well.

  6. Penelope
    St. Pete FL
    Reply

    One question about all these remedies. Isn’t honey not good for babies or very young children?

    • Marla
      Reply

      I believe that you are not supposed to give children under 1 year of age honey (because of the risk of botulism).

  7. Lexie
    USA - MI
    Reply

    1/2 tsp. elderberry syrup mixed with a 1/2 tsp. organic honey. Hold at back of mouth and let melt down throat.

  8. thea
    kentucky
    Reply

    Tennessee Hot Sauce takes care of a cough. 1/2 tsp took care of my cough for 6 hours.

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