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A cough, one of the most frequent cardiorespiratory symptoms, is a voluntary or natural body reflex to clear the airways. Certain parts of the respiratory system, especially the bronchi and trachea, are particularly sensitive to foreign matter and may trigger coughing.

Pressure in the lungs can build up to 100 mm Hg, explosively expelling air at up to 100 mph. This clears matter from the mucous lining.

Coughs vary from mild to barking and come in two general forms: productive and nonproductive. Productive coughs are those which produce fluid or mucus, and are often caused by lung infections. Nonproductive coughs do not bring up fluid or mucus.

Persistent coughs are those which last for two or more weeks. If this occurs without other respiratory symptoms, disease of another organ is indicated. A cough may be an early sign of congestive heart failure.

The cough reflex is essential to life and therefore should only be suppressed with care since it serves the vital function of clearing the airways. This is especially true of those with chronic lung disease.

Treatment includes cough suppressants which inhibit the cough center in the brain and expectorants which ease the discharge of mucus from the respiratory tract.


Specific causes of coughs may overlap in the following categories:


ColdStrep throat
InfluenzaSore throat




PneumoniaLung abscess


DirtNasal drip
Icy airInsufficient moisture
Inhaling food into airway


Aortic aneurysmsPulmonary neoplasms
Pulmonary edemaMediastinal tumors
AtelectasisBronchiogenic carcinoma
Bronchial asthmaGranulomatous endobronchial involvement
Foreign bodiesAcute or chronic interstitial fibrosis


Irritating gasesChemical fumes
Cigarette smokingOccupational lung disorders

Very hot or cold air

Signs & Symptoms

A cough is itself a symptom of another condition. Sometimes coughs are preceded by an itchy throat, but they are always characterized by the rapid expulsion of air from the lungs.

Nutritional Supplements

Structure & Function: Immune System Support

General Supplements

No specific recommendations are given.

Several authorities have recommended bee propolis, for example, while honey has traditionally been used to sweeten many other cough preparations.

Garlic, an age old remedy, is now available in the more palatable (to some people) form of capsules, without any after effects.

Dietary Considerations

No diet is specifically prescribed for coughs by the American Dietetics Association.

Barring any underlying health condition, a general healthful diet, such as a Dietary Goals Diet should be followed to provide all the nutrients necessary for building a sound and disease-resistant body.

The addition of fluids, such as tea - black, cola drinks, or fruit juices to the diet will thin the mucus secretion and aid in expectoration.

Homeopathic Remedy

1. Croupy - Aconitum Napellus tinct. 15C - use hourly for 4 doses

2. Cold air reaction cough (any part of the body exposed to cold) - Hepar sulphuris calcareum .

3. Cold breath reaction cough (every breath) - Rum. crispus tinct. .

4. Dry, Hacking -
        Thuja occidentalis 30C or Lachesis mutus tinct. - 30C.
        (Nux vomica is also suggested)

5. Hard cough - Causticum
        [Hard & Tickling - Phosphorus]
6. Loose cough -
a. Bryonia alba tinct. - (chest pain).
b. Antimonium tartaricum tinct. - rattle, little output - 30C
7. Spasmodic - Ipecacuanha.
8. Tickling - Belladonna tinct. - 30C
        [Hard & Tickling - Phosphorus]
9. Violent Cough - Aconitum Napellus tinct.
10. Warm air cough (green catarrh) - Pulsatilla nigricans.
11. Whooping - Drosera rotundifolia tinct. - 6C.

Treatment Schedule

Doses cited are to be administered on a 3X daily schedule, unless otherwise indicated. Dose usually continued for 2 weeks. Liquid preparations usually use 8-10 drops per dose. Solid preps are usually 3 pellets per dose. Children use 1/2 dose.


X = 1 to 10 dilution - weak (triturition)
C = 1 to 100 dilution - weak (potency)
M = 1 to 1 million dilution (very strong)
X or C underlined means it is most useful potency
Asterisk (*) = Primary remedy. Means most necessary remedy. There may be more than one remedy - if so, use all of them.


Boericke, D.E., 1988. Homeopathic Materia Medica.

Coulter, C.R., 1986. Portraits of Homeopathic Medicines.

Kent, J.T., 1989. Repertory of the Homeopathic Materia Medica.

Koehler, G., 1989. Handbook of Homeopathy.

Shingale, J.N., 1992. Bedside Prescriber.

Smith, Trevor, 1989. Homeopathic Medicine.

Ullman, Dana, 1991. The One Minute (or so) Healer.

Tissue Salts

Calc. Phos.clear expectorant with albuminous (egg white) content;
Calc. Sulf.loose expectorant with matter, sometimes treaked with blood;
Ferr. Phos.First stage, dry, tickling cough no expectorant;
Kali Mur.loud, noisy, spasmodic cough;
Kali Sulf.Croupy cough, rattling of mucus in chest;
Mag. Phos.paroxysms of dry coughing, relieved by hot drinks;
Nat. Mur.clear, watery expectorant (also from eyes, nose or mouth);
Nat. Sulf.thick, ropy, green expectorant;
Siliceachronic cough, yellow-green expectorant;

Herbal Approaches


Licorice Root
Marshmallow root
Pleurisy Root
Slippery Elm
Wild Cherry

Note: The misdirected use of an herb can produce severely adverse effects, especially in combination with prescription drugs. This Herbal information is for educational purposes and is not intended as a replacement for medical advice.


Echinacea and Goldenseal have become so popular that wild harvesting has almost exhausted supplies.

The antitussive effect of Licorice Root has been compared to that of codeine.

Marshmallow root is recommended for a "dry" cough.

Myrtle is a major cough prescription in Germany, where it enjoys annual sales in excess of $25 million. Ivy is only slightly less popular, with sales just under $20 million.

Onion provides a simple kitchen remedy. It may be combined with honey and made into a syrup.

Slippery Elm may be used as a spray or gargle.

Wild Cherry helps to suppress a cough.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), whose botanical name Tussilago means "cough dispeller", is not surprisingly another very popular cough remedy.

Herbalist David Hoffmann recommends a cough tea made of equal parts of mullein, coltsfoot, and licorice.

Red clover is an expectorant and anti-spasmodic especially good for children (over the age of 2) with whooping cough.


Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Hoffmann, D: The New Holistic Herbal. Element, 1983. Third edition 1990.

Inoue, H et al., Inhibitory effect of glycyrrhetinic acid derivatives on lipoxygenase and prostaglanding synthetase. Chem. & Pharm. Bull. 1986, 34:901.

Aromatherapy - Essential Oils

Angelica EssenceAniseed Essence,
Chamomile Essence,Cypress Essence,
Eucalyptus Essence,Geranium Essence,
Ginger Essence,Hyssop Essence,
Lavender Essence,Lemon Essence,
Rose Essence,Sandalwood Essence.


Related Health Conditions

ColdSore throat
CroupStrep throat



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