Herbs for Coughs

Herbs for the cough season

We had a “meet-up” here yesterday and I wanted to share some ideas that we talked about.  No matter what the “problem” is, when we talk of herbs we often try to categorize them by their actions.  In terms of coughs, the actions are generally:

  • Stimulating/expectorant
  • Demulcent
  • Relaxant
  • Antimicrobial

Herbs often have more than one action and so it’s important to know the actions of each herb that you are using.  As important, you need to figure out what “type” of cough it is (wet/mucous or dry/hacking), as well as knowing something about the person who has the cough (are they naturally cold/dry, cold/damp, hot/dry, hot/damp).

Once you’ve decided what type of cough the person has, and the “constitution” of the person, you can put together your cough formula.  Most herbs for coughs today are given by tea or in a syrup although vinegar, wine and brandy are still used today.

Vitalist philosophy:

An allopathic cough treatment might include a cough “suppressant”.  Although this can be helpful in certain circumstances, it goes against the herbalist’s “vitalist” philosophy, which is to assist the body rather than to suppress it which means we want to get the cough’s energy up and out.  Suppressing a cough could actually make things worse.  E.g., postnasal drip leads to cough, which leads to bronchitis, which leads to pneumonia.

Teas/syrups:

  • Teas are either steeped or decocted (cold or hot).  Roots are generally done in a hot water decoction with the exception of marshmallow root which is a cold decoction.  Aerial parts are usually steeped.
  • Syrups are made from either honey or sugar and water.
  • “extracts” are made with wine or brandy
  • Vinegar was often used as a medium
  • Oxymels (vinegar+honey) have been used for thousands of years and the first one clearly written down was by Hippocrates who said it was be used for coughs with mucous and not given to people with a cold/dry constitution.
  • Garlic syrups were popular
  • Vinegar and cayenne was often used for sore throats
  • Onion poultices were popular for reducing mucus

Herbs for coughs

Demulcents: (soothing)

  • Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra)
  • Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
  • Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
  • Plantain (Plantago major)
  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • Grindelia (Grindelia robusta)

Relaxants:

  • Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) (always use caution with Lobelia)
  • Mullein
  • Wild cherry bark (Prunis serotina)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Black cohosh (Cimicifuga, Actaea racemosa)
  • Grindelia

Stimulants/expectorants: (often warming and drying)

  • Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Spikenard (Aralia racemosa)
  • Elecampane (Inula helenium)
  • White horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)
  • Lungwort (Sticta pulmonaria)
  • Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
  • Mullein (especially the flowers)
  • Thyme
  • Osha root (Ligusticum porteri)

Antimicrobial:

  • Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia)
  • Thyme
  • Garlic (Allium sativum)
  • Usnea (Usnea spp)
  • Eucalyptus
  • Osha root

Ginger and cinnamon are often added to teas or syrups when there is a lot of mucous.  Elderberry is also often for its antimicrobial effects and the concentrate tastes yummy.  Finally, many herbs can be found in homeopathic formulations, so check with Boiron or another homeopathic company if that is the mode that you prefer.

So, now that you know how to make your tea, no more coughing! :)

Blessings, Jayne

 

 

 

 

Herbs for coughs

 

Demulcents:

  • Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra)
  • Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)
  • Comfrey root (Symphytum officinale) (not really used today)
  • Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
  • Plantain (Plantago major)
  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • Grindelia (Grindelia robusta)

 

Relaxants:

  • Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) (always use caution with Lobelia)
  • Mullein
  • Wild cherry bark (Prunis serotina)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Black cohosh (Cimicifuga, Actaea racemosa)
  • Grindelia

 

 

Stimulants/expectorants: (often warming and drying)

  • Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Spikenard (Aralia racemosa)
  • Elecampane (Inula helenium)
  • White horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)
  • Lungwort (Sticta pulmonaria)
  • Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
  • Mullein (especially the flowers)
  • Thyme
  • Osha root (Ligusticum porteri)

Antimicrobial

  • Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia)
  • Thyme
  • Garlic (Allium sativum)
  • Usnea (Usenea spp)
  • Eucalyptus
  • Osha root
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