In times of coughing fits, people often reach for syrup, a drop or a pill for relief. Business for these companies is booming. But experts have begun to be highly skeptical of virtually all over-the-counter cough remedies. Such remedies may even be useless, meaning that natural and alternative ones could be quite important.
The issue is that there is no good evidence that over-the-counter cough medicines actually relieve a cough. There is a big difference between probably having the ability to do something and actually doing it. New guidelines from the Canadian Thoracic Society and the American College of Chest Physicians say that popular cough syrups and pills are more or less ineffective.
A cough can be one of three things. Acute means it lasts a few days and isn’t serious to your health. “Subacute” coughs go beyond three weeks; not too serious, but more painful. “Chronic” coughs are the worst, as they last beyond two months. It’s likely that a chronic cough is being triggered by an underlying illness.
Cough remedies should only be used for acute or subacute coughs. The guidelines recommend that you could try older drugs that combine antihistamines with decongestants. It will take some label reading and a brief conversation with the pharmacist.
If you choose over-the-counter remedies for a minor cough, pick older ones that combine an expectorant (brings up phlegm) with an antihistamine (fights allergies). A couple of ingredients are useful, so try for products with them: brompheniramine and seudoephedrine. But overall, these medicines may not do much at all. Many studies say that getting enough water in your system is the biggest step. A hydrated body is one that can overcome coughs. Some believe one glass of water is just as good as cough medicine.
You can also turn to alternative medicine, which has some excellent choices.
- Slippery elm: Your best natural cough cure. The tree’s bark alleviates throat dryness that comes with coughing.
- Peppermint: Supplements can relieve all cold symptoms, especially coughs. It soothes and moistens the throat.
- Mullein: This special herb soothes an irritated throat, which brings down cough. The Germans use it a lot for colds and coughs. Best taken in tea.
- Licorice: Glycyrrhizin supplements soothe the throat and eliminate cough. It’s an expectorant, too.
- Marshmallow: Supplements can soothe coughs by mimicking the actions of mullein.
- Plantain: This cough fighter is approved in Germany for that purpose. It’s been found effective against bronchitis, a condition marked by a bad cough.