Controlling a winter coughWinter is the peak season for coughs associated with colds and flu. While a cough helps to protect and clear your respiratory system from irritants and mucus congestion, it can be annoying, not only for you, but for your whole family too. An untreated cough can slow down your recovery process, as coughing can lead to fatigue and interrupted sleep, causing your body to become even more rundown.
Cough reflexSpecial cough receptors are located throughout your respiratory system and when irritants or excess mucus stimulate these receptors, an involuntary cough reflex is triggered. Coughs come in all shapes and sizes:
- acute – usually associated with infections related to colds and flu or inhalation of a foreign object
- chronic - usually associated with post nasal drip, chronic sinus infections, asthma, allergies, acid reflux or even some over the counter or prescription medications
- dry– no mucus secretions
- productive - profuse mucus secretions
Choosing a quality herbal cough remedyHerbs can make a valuable contribution in the treatment and relief of a cough. There are a number of important herbal actions to consider when choosing an effective herbal cough remedy:
- anti-inflammatory – reduces inflammation and irritation of the respiratory tract
- antispasmodic – reduces spasms associated with coughing fits
- antitussive – helps to reduce a cough
- bronchodilator – relaxes and dilates the bronchioles to reduce coughing
- demulcent – soothes and protects the mucuos membranes of the respiratory tract
- expectorant – helps to loosen and clear mucus congestion
- mucolytic – thins and liquefies thick mucus, improving clearance from the respiratory tract
Your top 4 herbs to address a winter coughHere are your top 4 herbs that not only address the mechanisms of a cough, they also provide you with quick symptomatic relief:
- Adhatoda A major Ayurvedic respiratory herb that helps to reduce coughing through its antispasmodic and bronchodilator activity (primarily) and its expectorant and mucolytic activity (secondary). Adhatoda doesn’t directly suppress a cough; it still allows mucus to be cleared from the respiratory tract. Adhatoda is traditionally used as an expectorant, to bring up and clear mucus from the chest and respiratory tract, relieve respiratory/chest mucous congestion, and as a respiratory antispasmodic to relieve coughs.
- Ivy leaf A well-known traditional respiratory antispasmodic, in addition to being expectorant, mucolytic and anti-inflammatory. As an important mucolytic, Ivy leaf is able to liquefy very thick mucus and is effective at reducing a cough through indirect beneficial actions, rather than being a direct cough suppressant. Ivy leaf is an expectorant that helps clear mucus from the chest/respiratory tract, relieves coughs and respiratory/chest mucus congestion.
- Marshmallow Marshmallow is a well-known demulcent that exerts a soothing effect by coating mucous membranes of the respiratory tract, helping to reduce irritation and inflammation. Reducing irritability and inflammation leads to decreased coughing and helps to soothe a sore throat. Marshmallow is traditionally used as a cough remedy and helps to soothe and relieve productive and dry coughs and to clear and relieve mucus congestion.
- Mullein Traditionally, Mullein is combined with other demulcent and expectorant herbs in the treatment of productive and dry coughs, and to help reduce irritation and inflammation. Mullein has also been shown to possess antiviral and antibacterial activity.