4 Home Remedies for Combatting a Cough

Much as I love the glorious colors of the changing leaves, fall isn’t without it’s challenges. One of the worst: the onset of the dreaded cold and cough season.

As miserable as sickness in the home is, it’s even more miserable if you’re not prepared!

Sadly, studies have shown that many over-the-counter cough remedies perform little better than placebos. What can you do? Well, here are a few simple home remedies that have worked for previous generations… and still work for me.

Photo credit

Immune Boosters: ounces of protection

An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. Here are some simple ways to boost the immune system to hopefully avoid (or at least mitigate) coughs.

Home Remedies for Coughs

Updated and revised version of this post.

Honey Tea

This simple remedy works wonders in our family! I vividly remember my Rose’s first bad cough. She was miserable. I was miserable. She was up every few minutes all night with a deep racking cough.

Finally, around 4:30, I tried this remedy that my sister recommended.

Rose took a sip of the honey tea. Coughed once or twice. Then slept soundly the rest of the night!

It may not work quite as dramatically for everyone, but honey coats the lining of the throat and, if you use raw honey, has antimicrobial and antioxidant benefits!

To use: mix a large spoonful of honey into a small mug of warm water. Add lemon juice, if desired. I think lemon improves the flavor and fresh lemon juice adds Vitamin C, which certainly can’t hurt! Sip tea until the cough is soothed.

Precautions: Due to the risk of infant botulism, don’t give honey to babies under one.

Eucalyptus Oil (or Vicks Vapor Rub):

While honey lines the throat, Eucalyptus oil helps loosen phlegm. Since it’s loosening phlegm, Eucalyptus oil might temporarily cause a bit more coughing, but as the chest clears, the cough calms.

To use: first, apply a carrier oil, like olive or coconut oil. Then rub in a few drops of Eucalyptus oil. The carrier oil helps spread it evenly and keeps the essential oil from stinging.

Either apply the oil to the chest or to the bottom of the feet (and then cover with socks.) Both work well. Eucalyptus oil placed on the chest works directly to break up the cough. But whatever you apply to the sole of your foot spreads throughout your body. I’ve found placing the oil on the feet works really well for my younger kids.

I strongly prefer Eucalyptus oil (buy on Amazon) but you can also use Vicks Vapor Rub, which contains some Eucalyptus oil.

Precautions: Do not take Eucalyptus oil 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.

Humidifiers, Steam and Plants

Cough viruses love dryness. Fight them with humidity.

If you have a humidifier, great. (Just make sure to keep it clean and mold-free.) If you don’t have a humidifier, either stand in the bathroom while running a hot shower or boil water on the stove and let the steam escape into the room. Of course, children shouldn’t get anywhere near the steam itself! Just let the steam fill the room.

Did you know that houseplants also raise the humidity levels in a home? One more excellent reason to grow fresh air with plants!

 These remedies have worked for us, BUT I’m not a doctor, nurse, or scientist. The only hospital I have ever worked in is a doll hospital. There, a band-aid can fix a heart attack. Do your own research and talk to your health care professional if a cough is serious or persists. 

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

 What are your favorite home remedies for coughs? 

Linked up at Living Green, Healthy 2DayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Works for MeNatural Living, & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Post Signature


  1. Candace says

    Good ideas, Anna. I’m going to try the honey tea for Sophia, except I’ll mix it into some chamomile or another type of tea that she likes. Also, I just ordered some chewable Vitamin D for the girls, since they will be indoors more when the snow starts to fall.

Leave a Reply to Candace Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *