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Articles : A to Z Conditions (including Pertussis)
Natural Treatments for Cough: Back to Articles
by Lauren Feder, M.D.

Excerpt from Natural Baby and Childcare

Natural poultices and applications are excellent ways to alleviate the discomfort of a cough. Below are some simple suggestions:

Onion helps to break up thick mucus and congestion. As a healing application, it is both versatile and effective: try placing raw slices on a plate near your child’s bed, in a chest poultice, or in socks to wear overnight.

Lemon is good for watery, thin discharges, tickly coughs, and bronchitis. It can be used as a steam inhalation, warm chest compress, or a throat wrap.  Placing lemon slices near a radiator will help disperse oils throughout a room.

Chamomile, as a tea or remedy, is the great soother for chest congestion and bronchitis. It can be used as a compress or poultice to the chest.  Do not use chamomile for high fevers. Unfortunately, some children react to chamomile because of its similarity to ragweed.

A potato poultice on the chest can help break up congestion in the lungs.

Homeopathic remedies

A well-chosen homeopathic remedy can help shorten the course of illness, decrease the severity of the cough, and make the child more comfortable.  The following list includes some commonly used remedies for a variety of coughs. When choosing a remedy, pick the one that closely matches your child’s symptoms. 

Aconitum napellus is useful at the onset of many types of cough.  Aconite is also helpful for sudden attacks of croup at the beginning stages. Often arising after the child has been playing outside on a cool windy afternoon, the cough is of a hard, dry, barking character, and is usually worse before midnight. The child can be anxious, and can experience difficulty breathing, with a high fever. When Aconite is no longer working in cases of a croupy cough, consider Hepar sulph or Spongia tosta.

Antimonium tartaricum is used for rattling in the chest with a strong, loose cough.  The chest feels full of mucus, yet the child is too weak to bring up the phlegm (this is not unusual in young children).   The child tends to bend backward while coughing and is sleepy after a coughing fit.  There can be shortness of breath, a sense of suffocation, and the child feels better sitting up to breathe.  The cough can end in vomiting.  The child is often irritable, whiney, prefers to be left alone.

Bryonia alba is an excellent cough remedy for a cough that is dry, racking, painful in the chest and head, and made worse from motion and better from being still.  The child often holds her chest while coughing since any movement is painful.  Taking a deep breath triggers the cough.   This cough is worse from eating and drinking, and often grows worse at 9 p.m.  The child’s mood is irritable, “like a bear,” and she or he has a strong thirst for cold drinks.

Coccus cacti is a remedy especially noted for winter coughs.  The child might have a tickling in the throat, and feels better in the cold open air and drinking cold liquids.  The mucus is clear, thick, and ropey, and may hang out of the mouth. The strong fits of coughing can end in choking and vomiting.  Coughing spells are common from 6-7 a.m. and after 11:30 p.m.

Cuprum metallicum (Cuprum) is indicated for violent coughing fits that cause a child to turn blue in the face (cyanosis).  In general, Cuprum is strongly indicated for spasms and cramps occurring in the calf muscles, hands, abdomen, and throughout the body.  Coughs may be so strong that the child can suffer a seizure, and may also be accompanied by a rattling in the chest. The child desires cold drinks and to lie down.

Drosera is another remedy for violent coughing spells ending in choking, gagging, or vomiting.  In these instances, the cough is so strong that the child can hardly catch her breath. Often the child is worse when first lying down, and after midnight.  She is better in the open air. Drosera is indicated for barking coughs, whooping cough and croup.  Dryness and tickling in the throat trigger the cough. Bloody nose and a hoarse voice are common.

Hepar sulphuris calcareum is for croup that is worse in the morning, as well as the evening (until midnight). Often Hepar sulph is indicated following Aconite, especially with croup with rattling mucus in the chest and worse in the morning. The mood is sensitive, intolerant and irritable. The child complains of being chilly or worse from a draft. The cough is loose and rattling with mucus that becomes thick and yellow.  There is a desire for vinegar, and the child feels better with being warm.

Ipecacuanha is made from ipecac, which is used to induce vomiting. Prepared homeopathically, this remedy is good for whooping cough and other severe suffocative coughs that end in retching, vomiting, or cyanosis with stiffness in the body.  The child feels nauseated and has an aversion to food (including the smell of food). There is rattling in the chest with constriction in the throat before the cough. The child may also have bloody nose with the cough. The cough is worse at 7 in the evening and better in the fresh air.

Pertussin - Pertussin is indicated when the cough is dry, choking, and hacking, and triggered by a tickle in the throat or chest. The cough is deep sounding and croupy, and the face flushes after a coughing spell. There may be sighing at the end of an attack.   Pertussin 30C can be used once a week as an immune strengthener during whooping cough outbreaks. See your healthcare provider if you suspect you or your child has whooping cough.  

Pulsatilla is useful when there is a cough with yellow-green mucus.  The cough is worse at night, interfering with sleep.  The cough can be dry in the evening and loose in the morning. The child feels worse in a stuffy room and better with the open air. She typically is not thirsty. The moods are changeable and she can be weepy.

Spongia tosta is indicated for dry coughs that sound like a saw going through wood.  Often used for croup, though with a slower onset compared to Aconite, it helps in coughs often preceded by cold symptoms. Similar to Aconite, Spongia is useful for croup before midnight, accompanied by a dry, barking cough that can sound like a seal. Spongia follows Aconite, when there is no rattling.  The child may experience aggravation from a warm room, and indicate a desire to be cool.


The following is a list of common gemmos I use for all types of coughs. 

Lithy Tree (Viburnum lantana) targets the lungs and restores pulmonary function. Lithy Tree is helpful for severe coughs, bronchial spasm, and bronchitis.

European Hornbeam (Carpinus betula) is indicated when there is an abundance of mucus.  Well known as a sinus remedy, it is excellent for infections of the ear, nose, throat, and chest, as well as for spasmodic coughs and bronchitis.

Briar Rose strengthens a child's immune system and is useful for conditions involving ear, nose, throat, sinuses and chest. I use this as a preventative 2-3 times a week as needed during cold and flu season. During an illness, use twice a day.

Lemon Bark (Citrus limonum) is useful for spasmodic coughs.  It is also an excellent remedy for hiccups and headaches, including certain migraines.

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