Herbal Remedies for Wet Cough


One of the least pleasant types of cough is a wet one in my humble opinion. Reason being, at least with a dry cough you don’t need to go through 7 days of mucus. Sure it might be the type of cough that tries to keep you up at night, but at least a dry cough is easily and painlessly dealt with the right herbs, no need to cough up anything over several days in order to get better.

I know this is an icky subject, but it needs to be discussed. Believe me; if and when you come down with a wet cough like say bronchitis, you will be glad to have this little guide to help you get rid of it as soon as possible.

Wet Coughs aka Productive Coughs

All too often when faced with any type of cough many people head to the pharmacy to pick up cough medicine. These “remedies” usually suppress the cough and rarely take into account the type of cough a person might have. These cough medicines almost always suppress the cough. But ya know what? Coughs are good!

How can a cough be good you ask? Well let’s put it this way, imagine a clean lake that becomes stagnant and yucky because the river that flows into it is stopped up. Over time, pathogens and other types of germs make it their home and slowly, the once clean lake becomes boggy and marsh-like. A productive cough would be like breaking down that blockage and clearing out the “sickness” in the lungs. We need coughs to clear out pathogens, dust, and mucus so that the germs don’t get trapped and cause a more serious respiratory infection.

What is a Productive Cough? 

A productive cough is where you expel a lot of mucus with every cough. You can typically hear a lot of mucus in the lungs when breathing and of course when coughing. The lungs can often feel “swampy” or “boggy” in nature.

Most people don’t want to cough up mucus. It’s icky business especially when waking. This sort of thing makes cough suppressants sound like a really nice reprieve.

But guess what?

Wet coughs are your body’s attempt to expectorate mucus from the lungs and it is never a good idea to suppress this type of cough. Doing so could potentially be very harmful and will most likely prolong the illness or even allow it to progress into something more serious like pneumonia. We never want mucus to remain trapped in the lungs any longer than necessary.

Like I said, icky business. You just have to bear with it.

How to Treat a Wet Cough with Herbs

The best way to treat the “lung grunge” is by helping the wet cough become more productive. Promoting the flow of mucus will assist the body in clearing out the infection and shorten the duration of a chest cold.

When there is an especially excessive amount of mucus, stimulating and diffusive expectorants are used to thin phlegm making it easier to support the body’s natural function of getting it out. Again, we never want to use herbs that suppress a wet cough with a lot of mucus.

Some stimulating expectorants include:

Elecampane– tastes icky but GREAT for heavy mucus
• Ginger– great as a tea or infused/blended in honey. Try this awesome tea!
• Bee balm– a tasty tea!
Black pepper– add to teas…wonderful in herbal chai
• Horseradish– always a key addition to fire cider which incidentally is great for all manner of coughs
Hyssop– really tasty as an oxymel (vinegar and honey preparation)
Cayenne– add it to soups and teas…just a dash!
Osha root– one of my favorites paired with garden sage
• Pine– this one tastes great infused in vinegar or raw honey
• Mustard– this herb has been beneficial as a poultice/plaster
Horehound– make some homemade lozenges
• Garlic– great infused or blended raw into honey
• Onion– great infused in honey
• Cottonwood buds– also great for reducing the pain associated with forceful coughing
• Usnea– best as a tincture

Some of these herbs you may recognize as being a bit spicy or warming. These types of herbs are great for cutting through mucus (think runny nose and watery eyes) as I’m sure you have experienced when eating spicy food.

Stimulating expectorants are especially good for sticky, gooey, boggy types of mucus.

If the mucus membranes feel dried out, it’s a good idea to pair stimulating expectorants with more relaxing expectorants like slippery elm, marshmallow root, linden, or plantain.

Simple Wet Cough Syrup Recipe

So there are two different version of this depending on the color of mucus you have. The first is for mucus that is clear or white.

Ginger Honey Cough Syrup

All you need for this recipe is:

• A blender (a magic bullet works great for this)
• A head of garlic
• A cup of raw honey (regular honey will work in a pinch)

Loving Preparation:

• Pour the cup of raw honey into the magic bullet
• Seal the lid tightly and float the container in hot water (this will make the honey more liquidy and easier to blend)
• While the honey is warming, peel your garlic. At least a few good sized cloves
• Once finished, add one clove of raw garlic to the honey and blend until smooth
• If you can go stronger, add another clove of garlic and so on
• Once you reach a strength you can handle, pour the garlic honey into a clean jar and take by the spoonful as often as needed

Simple Herbal Tea for Wet Coughs

Usnea Tea

This is the second preparation.

While the herb itself doesn’t make much of a tea, the tincture added to a tea certainly gets the medicine delivered where it’s needed.

I like to mix a dropperful of usnea with peppermint tea to treat mucus that is yellow, green, and copious.

Be sure to drink the tea hot 3 times daily for best results.

You can find usnea at your local health food store or HERE. Since this herb might be hard to find, I recommend having usnea tincture on hand in your medicine chest during the winter months to avoid needing it and not being able to get it.