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Childhood Cough Remedy Is Gone, but Home Remedies Can Help

Although terpin hydrate is no longer available, many home remedies can ease a cough.

Many people wonder what happened to the medicines they used as children. Although nostalgia may alter our perceptions of effectiveness, modern-day medicines don’t always seem to live up to our expectations compared to what mother used to give us. Here’s one medicine that has disappeared from drugstore shelves, but not from people’s memories:

Q. I am 59 years old. When I was a child, my mother would give us terpin hydrate for coughs.

It really worked, but I have not been able to find it anywhere! Do you know if it is available?

A. Terpin hydrate is not available in the U.S. The FDA decided in the mid 1990s that this old-fashioned cough medicine had inadequate proof of effectiveness.

It was supposed to work as an “expectorant,” loosening phlegm and making it easier to cough up. Perhaps the FDA was not impressed with the natural products in terpin hydrate. It was based on oil of turpentine from pine trees or other natural oils from oregano, thyme or eucalyptus.

Home Remedies to Ease a Cough

Instead, you may want to use a home remedy against cough such as honey, thyme or ginger tea or Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet. Vicks actually contains similar natural products, such as cedar leaf oil, turpentine oil, thymol and eucalyptus oil.

You’ll find details on these and other cough remedies (dark chocolate!) in the Guide to Colds, Coughs and the Flu we are sending you.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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