I don’t know about you, but to me coughing and sore throats are probably the worst cold symptoms—worse than all the others combined! When I get a sore throat in the winter months, it’s a surefire sign I’m about to be feeling like crap for a few days, and the pain can be unbearable. (When you can’t even swallow because it hurts—ugh.) A hacking cough isn’t any fun to deal with either.
Of course, the first line of defense against sore throats and coughs is to keep your immune system working properly through eating the right foods, getting plenty of rest and managing your stress level. But, when the inevitable sore throat or cough strikes, here are 8 natural ways to kick it to the curb:
8 Natural Cough + Sore Throat Remedies
1. Saltwater Gargle
I always opt for this attack as soon as I feel the first tickle in my throat. Dissolve 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt in a glass of warm water and gargle as long as you can possibly stand. (Don’t eat or drink anything for a few minutes afterwards.) This easy treatment can soothe your throat and relieve swelling. Repeat every couple hours if your symptoms return.
Raw, organic honey has antibacterial properties, and can help reduce swelling and inflammation in your throat. It’s also used as a cough suppressant (although you shouldn’t give raw honey to kids under 2). Take a couple teaspoons as is, add a drop of oregano essential oil, and/or add it to a mug of hot water. Even better, make a hot toddy by adding the juice of half a lemon and an optional tablespoon of brandy or whiskey to your hot water and honey. Not only will it soothe your throat, it’ll help you stop coughing, relieve sinus congestion and help you sleep. If you do include the booze, use this remedy in moderation, of course ;)
3. Garlic, Straight Up
A friend introduced me to this trick years ago, and it works! When you first feel a tickle in the back of your throat, eat a raw garlic clove, making sure to chew it throughly so all the allicin (a powerful antibacterial compound, which is released for a short time when raw garlic is crushed) is released right into your system.
Know that this method is not for the faint of heart. The garlic is hot, and if I do it on an empty stomach, I usually end up nauseous. Mix it into some honey if you need to, and repeat every 4 hours or so if needed.
4. Boycott Sugar (and Maybe Dairy and Caffeine) Immediately
It never fails. The day after Halloween, the day after Thanksgiving, the day after my mom’s annual holiday cookie-baking day and the day after Christmas, I wake up exhausted with an awful sore throat and the sniffles. You might not have the same reaction, but for me sugar is often the culprit when I get a cold—probably because taking in too much simple sugar like alcohol and sweets (especially if you’re not consuming it a lot normally) depresses the immune system.
If I avoid sugar— sticking to veggies and soup for a day or so—without fail it goes away much more quickly than if I kept gorging on Mom’s sugar cookies. It disappears even faster if I stay off dairy and alcohol, too.
5. Homemade Cough Drops
It’s easy to feel like you’re living on cough drops when you have a cough or itchy throat, and the sugar hangover from the store-bough kind is not very pleasant. Good new, though: With a few pantry ingredients you probably already have on hand, you can make soothing lemon-ginger homemade cough drops that won’t put you in a cherry lozenge sugar coma.
6. Homemade Cough Syrup
You can also make homemade honey-thyme cough syrup if you’re not a fan of choking down (and being knocked out cold by) over-the-counter cough suppressants. Boil 2 cups of water in a pan. Remove from heat and add 3 tablespoons of fresh thyme. Let steep for at least 10 minutes, or until cool. Stir in the honey. Continue stirring until dissolved. Strain out the thyme, if desired, and transfer to a glass jar.
Immune-boosting DIY elderberry syrup helps soothe inflamed mucous membranes and stop coughing; it can be made for a fraction of the cost of store-bought.
7. Make a Green (or Red or Yellow) Juice
Mom might have given you OJ when you felt under the weather, but the sugar in OJ can offset any vitamin C benefits. Instead, make a fresh juice with immune-boosting and cold-fighting ingredients like lemon, turmeric, ginger, beets and greens. Here are 3 cold-busting recipes to get you started.
Seriously, what isn’t tea good for? In addition to making your throat feel instantly better, herbal teas like lemon balm, rooibos, mint and ginger (which contains antihistamines) can speed up your recovery and tame that annoying cough. If you’re not avoiding caffeine, the antioxidants in green tea will help boost your immune system as well.4