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You Can Make Your Own Natural Cough Syrup with Thyme

Thyme is rich in thymol, a compound that can help ease coughs. Use it to make your own natural cough syrup.

Wouldn’t it be great to know how to make your own simple medicines? You could easily make a natural cough syrup. Some readers are as enthusiastic as we are about using thyme for a respiratory infection.

Make Tea with Thyme:

Q. A great natural decongestant is dried culinary thyme used to make a tea. Add 1 teaspoon to 8 ounces of hot water and steep for 2 to 4 minutes. Strain the thyme out unless you use a tea ball.

I like to sweeten it with honey or stevia and serve it hot. It works for adults and children without causing the insomnia or nervousness I get from pseudoephedrine. It tastes great too, so there is no fight to get kids to drink it.

A. Your recipe sounds terrific. We may even be able to explain how it works.

Cough associated with an upper respiratory infection like a cold seems to be driven by transient receptor potential (TRP) channels. Thymol, menthol, camphor and eucalyptus activate these channels and reduce cough and irritation (Respiratory Research, Feb. 8, 2023).

Of course, congestion is a different symptom. Unfortunately, we can’t explain how thyme or thymol would make you feel less stuffy. PErhaps inhaling the steam from the tea is the ticket. 94% of the French and Swiss people who responded to a survey about home remedies use thyme inhalations for colds and believe it is effective (Family Practice, Nov. 23, 2023).

Natural Cough Syrup with Thyme:

Q. I recently read your book, Spice Up Your Health: How Everyday Kitchen Herbs & Spices Can Lengthen & Strengthen Your Life. I used it to make thyme cough syrup for my husband when he had bronchitis. We were both extremely pleased with the results.

What Thyme Does:

A. Thyme is terrific. It has been appreciated since Roman times. In the 17th century, it was recognized as a helpful remedy for coughs. You might discount that as hearsay from long ago, but science has now validated this folklore.

One of the components of the thyme plant, thymol, helps to ease cough (Forschenden Komplementarmedizin, Dec. 2015).  This herb also appears to have antibacterial and anticancer activity. Thyme is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet and may help with digestion and cholesterol control.

Want More Information?

Anyone who would like to learn more about thyme and dozens of other herbs and spices, from anise, chamomile and cinnamon to peppermint, rosemary and sage, may find our most recent book, Spice Up Your Health, helpful.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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