Honey, Eucalyptus Oil & Steam: Home Cough Remedies

Sadly, no winter with little ones seems quite complete without at least one cough.

Coughs are exhausting, disrupt sleep and account for about 3% of all out-patient doctor visits.  “Consumers spend billions of dollars each year on OTC cough and cold medications despite little evidence that these drugs provide significant relief,” says Megan W. Manlove .

Recent studies show that common over-the-counter medicines worked little better than a placebo—and carried potential side effects.

Antibiotics are even worse. They kill bacteria (good and bad) but don’t help fight a cold. Using them unnecessarily has led to the rapid rise of antibiotic resistance.

Enter grandma’s old remedies:

photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian

Honey Tea

Two teaspoons of honey mixed in a mug of heated water is a time-honored cough remedy. (It also helps soothe sore throats!)

The first time I tried honey for a cough, my daughter was about two. She coughed and coughed. Nothing I did seemed to help. She couldn’t sleep and, of course, neither could I. Then I decided to try honey tea that my sister had recommended.

It worked wonders!

She stopped coughing almost immediately and slept soundly the rest of the night.

Honey coats the lining of the throat as well as provides antimicrobial and antioxidant benefits.

Medical research backs up what our great-grandmas knew. Researchers at Penn State College of Medicine conducted studies that showed honey tea performing overwhelmingly better than cough medications or no treatment.

The only drawback is you cannot give honey to babies under 12 months because of the rist of infant botulism (a rare form of food poisoning.)

Eucalyptus Oil:

While honey lines the throat, Eucalyptus helps loosen phlegm. Rubbed into the chest, it helps soothe a cough.

First, apply a carrier oil, like olive or coconut oil. Then rub in a few drops of Eucalyptus essential oil. [Amazon has a large selection of oils or purchase at your local health food sore] The carrier oil helps spread it evenly and keeps the essential oil from stinging.

The eucalyptus helps loosen phlegm, so it sometimes causing a bit more coughing for a few minutes. After helping to clear the chest, the cough calms down.

Precautions: Do not take orally unless expressly told to do so by your health care professional. Eucalyptus oil is toxic. Don’t put it your child’s nostrils or near the mouth. Do not use on children under two.


Cold viruses love dryness. Fight with humidity. Use a humidifier (just make sure you keep it clean!) If you don’t have a humidifier, stand in the bathroom while running a hot shower or boil water on the stove and let the steam escape into the room.

You can add a few drops of Eucalyptus oil for added benefit.

Of course, children shouldn’t get anywhere near the steam itself! Just let the steam fill the room.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a nurse. The only hospital I have ever worked in is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can fix a heart attack. Please do your own research and check with your health care professional before treating a child.

Articles and scientific studies, for nerds like me:

MayoClinic: Honey an Effective Cough Remedy

Honey for Childhood Coughs: results of Penn State research 

University of Maryland: Overview of Eucalyptus

MayoClinic: Cold Remedies: What Works, What Doesn’t & What Can’t Hurt

These home remedies have worked for us. What works for you?

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  1. says

    I just wanted you to know that I love your disclaimer. 🙂 I used to play “missionary doctor” and “hospital” all the time. My friend and I came up with all kinds of illnesses that no doubt would have convulsed a real doctor. 😀

    So glad Rose is still enjoying the story. I hope she is going to become a “Friday Fiction Fan.” 🙂

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