Lately I’ve been noticing a lot of people with dry coughs. It’s been a very hot and dry summer here in LA this year and people and plants alike are parched and bone dry. Not staying properly hydrated during this time of year can lead to stuck and stagnant mucus, the perfect home for summer cold and flu viruses. The incessant heat can make your lungs feel clogged and constricted or maybe you just get that annoying tickle in your throat. Don’t worry though, there’s an herb for that!
Types of Dry Cough
There are two main types of dry cough and it isn’t hard to figure out which one ails you once you understand them.
The first is a cough that feels like you have a swamp stuck in your lungs and no amount of forceful coughing will get the mucus out. You may feel like the chest is “tight” and there may be a wheezy sound when breathing. Any mucus that does come out is thick and gooey. This often means that there is mucus buildup in the lungs and it has no plan on coming out any time soon.
The best herbs for this type of cough include both stimulating and relaxing expectorants as well as demulcent herbs to help thin mucus and allow for easier expectoration.
The second type of dry cough is the kind that leaves you doubled over and gagging with no feeling of mucus at all. These are referred to as a dry spasmodic cough. The insistent dry hacking of these coughs can often keep people awake at night and the cough itself is painful, often with a burning sensation. The cough is almost always worse when you lay down.
The Best Herbs for Dry Coughs
There are a few ways to deal with both types dry cough, no matter how debilitating they can feel.
Demulcent herbs are a favorite of mine to use when the lungs and throat are dry and you have that “tickle” that won’t go away. They are moistening and soothing and work best as a tea or lozenge.
Demulcent Herbs Include:
• Marshmallow Root
• Licorice Root
• Slippery Elm
All of these herbs will help get rid of dryness so that your cough is much less painful. They will soothe sore throats from all the hacking too.
Antispasmodic herbs are another great way to treat dry coughs as they help to ease excessive coughing, especially when you’re trying to sleep. It’s important to use at least an antispasmodic herb when dealing with dry coughs so that your body can rest up and repair itself at night. Skipping these herbs can allow the cough to last much longer than it should so I can’t stress enough how important it is to pick one of these up at your local health food store.
Antispasmodic Herbs Include:
• California Poppy– Best used before bed
• Valerian– great to use before bed!
• Thyme– I know for a fact that this herb works
• Red Clover
An Important Note About Mucus…
All herbs have energetic properties meaning that they can be warming, cooling, sweet, bitter…ect. Their effect on the body can often be determined by how an herb smells and tastes.
With that said, you need to know which herbs are going to be good for certain types of mucus and a great indicator for that is color.
Yeah, I know. This sounds icky but honestly if you want to best results and fast relief for your type of dry cough, you’re going to need to know this stuff as it’s an important diagnostic tool.
So here it goes:
Yellow, green, and brownish colors indicate heat, so the herbs used should be cooling.
Examples of cooling herbs for dry cough are:
• Peppermint– soothing for painful and dry coughs. Take it as a tea.
• Linden– A popular herb in France, this herb is great for quelling relentless coughs and is very soothing for inflamed throats. I love it as a tea.
• Slippery elm– One of the easiest to use, add slippery elm to oatmeal or tea for its moistening effects. You can learn how to make slippery elm lozenges HERE.
• Marshmallow root– Moistens even the dryest coughs. I like it as a diluted tea.
• Plantain– a great herb for soothing dry mucus membranes. A must have for dry, insistent coughs. I like it as a tea.
• California poppy– Is a fantastic antispasmodic herb that works best for when your cough gets worse at night. I like using this herb as a tincture.
• Mullein– A wonderful herb for acute respiratory illnesses, mullein has been used for thousands of years. It is especially nice for deep spasming coughs. I like this herb as a tea.
• Red clover
• Licorice root
Clear or white color indicates cold, so the herbs used should be warming.
Examples of warming herbs for dry cough are:
• Valerian– Fantastic for the cough that won’t stop. Use as a tincture before bed.
• Thyme– This herb is great for getting out stuck mucus. A simple tea is all you need.
• Ginger– helps you expectorate mucus that is stuck like cement. Make a tea from the fresh root. Steep covered.
• Cherry bark– has a strong affinity for dry spasmodic coughs. Often found as a syrup.
These remedies should be taken 3 times daily for several days for best results. The only herbs recommended for dry coughs during pregnancy are ginger and peppermint teas.