Coughing is a normal part of the body’s immune system and respiratory defense sys- tem. Quick, sudden bursts of air and ﬂuids from the respiratory tract help expel microbes, dust, chemicals, and other irritants, as well as foreign objects, from the airway.
Coughing can be a symptom of an underlying infection of the bronchial tubes or lungs, such as bronchitis, pneumonia, or croup. In some cases, it can suggest more serious diseases, such as asthma, lung cancer, or heart problems.
The goal in treating a cough is to address the underlying cause. For example, with infections, the immune system must be stimulated, and for allergy-produced coughs, the allergen must be removed or you must become desensitized to it. In any case, remember not to suppress a cough too much. In cases of infection, this is particularly true. The goal is to allow the body to expel foreign matter and to detoxify, while simul- taneously soothing the cough to make a person more comfortable. This will prevent suppression of the disease, so that it doesn’t turn into something more serious (such as bronchitis becoming pneumonia).
Be aware that certain drugs, such as some blood pressure medications, are known to cause coughing as a potential side effect.
If a cough lasts more than two weeks or if you have difﬁculty breathing or blood in the sputum, consult a doctor immediately.
• Dry or wet cough
• Allergens (environmental or food)
• Obstruction in the airway
The following tests help assess possible metabolic reasons for coughing: Food and environmental allergy testing—blood or electrodermal Infection—blood work Obstruction of airway—x-ray
To thin mucus secretions, drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours.
Homemade chicken soup also thins mucus. Add garlic or ginger for ﬂavor and immune support.
To reduce phlegm, have some hot barley soup.
Onions are an old folk remedy and have anti-inﬂammatory properties, so eat them often.
If you have bacterial bronchitis and are taking antibiotics, consume nondairy sour products, such as keﬁr or sauerkraut, daily to replenish disease-ﬁghting bacteria.
Food to Avoid
Eliminate foods that encourage mucus production: dairy products, chocolate, and bananas, as well as processed, reﬁned, fried, and junk foods. Avoid simple sugars, as they suppress immune function.
Fast on water, soup, juice, and herbal tea for a few days to let your body turn its full attention to ﬁghting the infection. Fasting will also speed the elimination of mucus, especially when expectorant herbal teas are part of the regimen. (See the following herbal recommendations.)
Super Seven Prescriptions—Cough
Super Prescription #1 Homeopathy
Use a combination cough remedy, as directed on the container, or pick the rem- edy that best matches your symptoms under Homeopathy in this section. For acute coughs, take a 30C potency four times daily. For chronic coughs, take twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consultation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Super Prescription #2 Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
Licorice reduces coughing, enhances immune function, and soothes the respira- tory tract. Use caution when supplementing licorice root if you have high blood pressure. It is best used short term under the guidance of a holistic doctor. Take 500 mg of the capsule or 1 ml of the tincture four times daily.
Super Prescription #3 Cherry bark
This reduces coughing, especially for wet coughs. Take 500 mg of the capsule or
1 ml of the tincture four times daily.
Super Prescription #4 N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
NAC reduces the viscosity of sputum so that it is easier to expectorate. It’s useful for acute and chronic wet coughs (especially for smokers or people with asthma or emphysema). Take 300 to 500 mg twice daily.
Super Prescription #5 Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Take 500 mg of the capsule or 2 ml of the tincture four times daily. This herb pro- motes the discharge of mucus and has soothing and anti-inﬂammatory effects for the respiratory tract.
Super Prescription #6 Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
For acute bronchitis with a wet cough, take 500 mg or 2 ml of this combination four times daily. Both herbs enhance immune function, and goldenseal works to dry up mucus.
Super Prescription #7 Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Astragalus is an excellent treatment for chronic, as well as acute, bronchitis. It strengthens weak lungs and increases the body’s general resistance to infection. Take 500 to 1,000 mg or 3.5 ml of a tincture two or three times daily. Do not take astragalus if you have a fever.
Vitamin C enhances immune function for acute bronchitis and has anti-allergy ben- eﬁts for chronic bronchitis. Vitamin C is particularly important for smokers. Take 500 to 1,000 mg three times daily.
Garlic (Allium sativum) has antimicrobial effects. Take 300 to 600 mg of garlic extract twice daily.
Bromelain has a natural anti-inﬂammatory effect and enhances the effectiveness of some antibiotics. Look for products standardized to 2,000 M.C.U. (milk-clotting units) per 1,000 mg or 1,200 G.D.U. (gelatin-dissolving units) per 1,000 mg. Take 500 mg three times daily between meals or along with antibiotic therapy.
Colloidal silver has an antimicrobial effect, especially for bacteria. Take 1⁄2 to 1 tea-
spoon, or as directed on the container, three times daily for ﬁve days.
Vitamin A enhances immune function. Take 25,000 to 50,000 IU daily for ﬁve days. Ivy leaf (Hedera helix) may be helpful for chronic bronchitis for both children and
adults. Take as directed on the container.
Other herbs that are useful and can be found in respiratory formulas include horehound, pleurisy root, plantain, marshmallow, ginger, peppermint, and cherry bark.
Antimonium Tartaricum is for a congested, wet cough that produces a rattling noise in the chest. The person has trouble expectorating and may ﬁnd it hard to breathe at times. The person feels better in a cool room and with the windows open.
Arsenicum Album is for a cough with a burning pain that feels better with sips of warm drinks. The person feels anxious and restless and may be very fatigued. Symp- toms are worse from 12 A.M. to 2 A.M.
Bryonia (Bryonia alba) will treat a dry cough that causes stitching pain in the throat or the chest and that is worse at night. Movement of any type feels worse. The per- son has a great thirst and prefers to be left alone.
Coccus Cacti is for a cough that produces stringy mucus. The person feels a need to constantly clear the throat. Coughing often leads to vomiting.
Drosera is for a dry, barking cough that may end in gagging. The cough is worse lying down and worse after midnight.
Hepar Sulphuris (Hepar sulphuris calcareum) is for a rattling, barking cough that comes on after exposure to dry, cold air. The person coughs when uncovered and feels chilly and irritable. There is often yellowish mucus.
Kali Bichromium is for a hoarse cough that produces thick, stringy, yellow mucus. The cough is worse from eating and drinking.
Phosphorous is for a dry, tickling cough that is worse in the cold air, with talking or laughing, and when lying on the left side. The person may have a burning sensa- tion in the chest and feels better with cold drinks.
Pulsatilla (Pulsatilla pratensis) will clear up a cough with yellow or green phlegm that is looser in the morning and drier at night. The person has a low thirst and feels better near an open window. The cough is worse when the person lies down.
Rumex Crispus is for a dry cough that begins as soon as a person lies down. The person feels a tickling sensation in the throat that leads to a cough. The cough is worse in cold air.
Silica (Silicea) is for a person who seems to have bronchitis all winter long. The person has weak immunity and low stamina and feels chilly. Coughing up mucus takes a lot of effort.
Spongia Tosta is helpful when someone has a dry, barking cough that is better with warm foods or liquids.
Sulphur is for bronchitis with burning pains that feel better with cold drinks. The person feels warm and desires a cool room. Sulphur is often used after a long bout of bronchitis, for complete recovery.
• To relieve chest congestion, massage Kidney 27, Conception Vessel 22, and
Lung 1 and 7.
• If you have difﬁculty breathing and need to calm your emotions, use Bladder 38.
A back massage will break up excess phlegm. If you have chronic coughing, you might want to schedule regular sessions with a professional massage therapist. If
you’re generally a strong and healthy person, ask your therapist to use percussive motions, which are highly effective at releasing phlegm. People who suffer from an occasional bout of acute bronchitis might prefer to rely on a loved one to perform this task each evening.
Sit in a hot, steamy bath or a sauna to thin mucus secretions and sweat out toxins. If you have hypertension, do not use saunas.
Constitutional hydrotherapy works well for acute and chronic coughs. Follow the directions for treatment
Add eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon balm, or tree tea oil to a hot bath or a steam inhalation to drain congestion. You can also add any of these oils to a base oil and rub it directly onto your chest.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Stress can weaken your immune system and leave your lungs open to infection. If you’re vulnerable to frequent bouts of bronchitis or suffer from chronic bronchitis, experiment with the techniques in the Exercise and Stress Reduction chapter until you ﬁnd one or two that you like. Then practice them on a daily basis, or more often as needed.
Bach Flower Remedies
Select the remedy that meets your needs, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
Take Clematis if you tend to give in when feeling a respiratory infection coming on.
Red Chestnut is for people who worry a greating deal about their loved ones, even to the extent of neglecting themselves.
• Rest, preferably in bed, while the illness is at its worst. When you feel better, move around to keep the infection from settling into your lungs, but continue to rest after periods of activity.
• Don’t take a cough suppressant. The lungs must expel phlegm to get healthy;
suppressants keep them from doing so. Consistent suppressant use can lead
to worse cases of acute bronchitis or even to chronic bronchitis or pneumonia.
• Encourage expectoration by applying warm compresses to your chest.
• Don’t smoke or expose yourself to secondhand smoke.
• If you have chronic coughing and live in a damp, cold climate, you may have to move to another location that’s dry and warm. You should have your doctor consider mold allergies as a cause of chronic coughing.
• People with chronic bronchitis need to keep their lungs as elastic and strong as possible. Exercise, breath deeply, and, if you enjoy music, take up a wind instrument.