Natural expectorants such as honey and peppermint can help soothe your throat. But these need to be taken with caution.

A stubborn cough that refuses to go away can be exhausting. If all medications and lozenges have failed, you might turn to natural expectorants. An expectorant helps you loosen mucus so that you are able to get it out while coughing. They increase the water content of your mucus. But it is important to note that it may relieve cough, but it is not a cure for cough. It is important to understand the correct way of using an expectorant.

What is an expectorant?

Expectorant is a substance that facilities cough production. It acts as a stimulant that promote cough. It has to be noted that it does not act as a cough suppressor, says Internal Medicine specialist Dr Dipankar Sarkar.

In certain cases, or situations where cough production is suppressed due to a disease, expectorant acts as an important vehicle to clear the mucus from the airway. However, if you have a cough due to an infection, that infection cannot be treated with a natural expectorant.

Natural Expectorant: What is it, Benefits, Side Effects
Water is the best natural expectorant. Image courtesy: Freepik

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What are the various natural expectorants?

1. Moisture

Warm air, which is laden with moisture, is great to help loosen mucus. You can try a nice hot bath if you have a cough. Alternatively, humidifiers can also be used.

2. Honey

A study published in BMJ Journals suggests that honey has anti-microbial properties that helps relieve cough. So, it will help in decreasing severity of the cough, but it can’t cure it totally.

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3. Peppermint

Peppermint contains Menthol, a compound that is a common ingredient in cough drops. Consumption of menthol can give you a cool sensation and even relax you airway muscles. This study, published in Canadian Respiratory Journal, confirms the same.

4. Ivy leaf

A study published in Scientific Reports suggests that Ivy leaves can be used to treat acute cough. It helps to make the mucus thinner.

5. Water

Increasing your fluid intake will help your body function better overall. A cup of herbal tea might do the trick as well. But stay away from caffeine and alcohol based drinks.

How does an expectorant help in relieving cough?

It helps you to cough out your phlegm. Apart from some selective cases, natural expectorant play the role of a placebo. People suffering from cough may take an expectorant. “However, an expectorant need to be consumed with an abundant amount of water under medical advice. Though, there is no clinical role of an expectorant apart from specific clinical situation,” says Dr Sarkar.

All expectorants are not recommended to be consumed without an expert’s advice or consultations.

Bottles of honey
Honey is a good natural expectorant. Image courtesy: Freepik

What is the strongest natural expectorant?

Water is the strongest natural expectorant. It is advised to maintain proper hydration and use of expectorant must be under medical supervision. “Therefore, patients with certain medical conditions causing water restriction are not advised to take expectorant. There are medical conditions with difficulty to cough out the sputum or severe bronchospasm where it can be recommended under medical supervision,” says Dr Sarkar.

What should you keep in mind before taking an expectorant?

Expectorant is often mistaken as a cough suppressor. However, it is not something that must be taken every time you have a cough. “It is not a cough syrup and expectorant are not required in 95% cases where people with cough get cured without it,” says Dr Sarkar. Also, it is important to note that if a cough persists for more than two weeks, then you must show yourself to a doctor so that the infection can be treated.

How can you stop a cough instantly?

It is not advisable to stop cough instantly rather it should be a gradual process. “It must include simple remedies such as consumption of warm water, gargle with salt water and to speak lesser until the cough gets cured. Suppression of cough to be done on clinical merit,” says Dr Sarkar.

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