Hoping To Stop A Bad Cough? 10 Options That Can Help

Coughing is your body’s way of breaking up mucus, clearing airways and getting rid of irritants. As annoying as it can be, it’s actually best to let your body take care of itself and do what it needs to do. But when your throat is painfully raw, or you’re trying to sleep, sit in meetings or handle business calls all day–persistent coughing is irritating and you want relief.

ExamplesHere is a collection of ten easy home remedies that I’ve gathered over the years, most are simple to manage with many ingredients found readily in your pantry. If I’ve missed your tried-and-true, please share it in the discussion area below :).

Homemade Syrup

1/2 cup honey
1 lemon (juiced)
1 TBS glycerin

  • Heat the lemon juice in a saucepan without bringing to a boil, add to rest of the ingredients, mix thoroughly.
  • Pour into sterilized glass jars and seal. Refrigerate.
  • Instructions for use: Take 1 to 2 tablespoons as needed.

Garlic Syrup

  • Good old-time remedy, this stuff can get pretty pricey to buy in the herbal/natural stores. Here are several different ways you can make your own (found at bottom of page).

Thyme or Basil Brew

  • Brew 1 tablespoon dried thyme in 1 cup boiling water. Strain then drink (if treating sore throats, gargle with this).
  • You can also make a basil version: Dried basil (1 tsp) per 1 cup boiling water. Steep then strain, add a spoonful of honey then drink.

Horehound Medicine

1 oz. dried horehound leaves
1 pint boiling water

  • Pour hot water over leaves and steep for 10 minutes. Strain.
  • Mix 1 1/2 cups of the infused water with 3 cups of honey. Pour into sterilized jars, seal.
  • Instructions for use: Take 1 tsp every 4 hours (during waking hours). Do not take more than 4 tsp a day.

Simmered Onions

  • Simmer roughly chopped onions in water until soft. Combine onions with honey and eat every four hours.

Another option is to strain out the onion after boiling for about 15 minutes, then bottle the juice. Drink the onion juice as needed.


  • Stir 1/2 tsp of ground ginger into 1 tsp of honey.
  • Another tip is to dip a piece of fresh ginger into coarse salt (to coat the ginger) then eat it.

Aloe Vera

  • Combine equal parts of aloe vera juice/gel with honey.

Apple Cider Vinegar Mix

  • This one’s easy, just combine 1/2 tsp of apple cider vinegar with 1/2 tsp of honey and drink.

Rose Hip Brew

  • Quite soothing, add 1 spoonful of honey to rose hip tea. Make tea with 2 tsp dried rose hips per 1 cup of boiling water, steep for 10 to 15 minutes (from Rose Hips: Recipes).

Garlic Plaster

This is used and prepared the same way as a mustard plaster (which is also something you could try). Minced onion can replace the garlic if preferred.

  • Chop garlic finely then cover garlic with olive oil, mix to make a thick paste (about the consistency of sour cream). Spread over fabric and fold so garlic doesn’t ooze out. Apply poultice to chest then cover with hot water bottle or a microwavable heat bag.


  • For relief from dry coughs, try a Herbal Decongestant Steam Blend.
  • Try adding a teaspoon of honey to your favorite tea–this might be all you need to find some relief!
  • If it’s chronic and just won’t go away after a few days, make sure to see your doctor. You could have more serious issues going on that need to be tended to.
  • Remember: Honey shouldn’t be given to children under 1 years old (risk of infant botulism).

Note: These are simply tips I’ve collected, they’re not professional medical advice.

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What Readers Are Saying: 27 Comments
  1. Tioedong says:

    and don’t forget chocolate CHOCOLATE, or that coffee or strong tea has caffiene that helps with mild bronchospasm that causes some coughs.

  2. kimmy says:

    When I was young in Denmark, warm milk and honey was used for coughs and colds.
    Another old cure that works; a tablespoon of sugar topped up with vinegar cures the hiccups.

  3. Feast on the Cheap says:

    I typically rely on the lemon/honey concoction mentioned above. But I’m loving that Tioedong also suggested chocolate. I can definitely get behind that…

  4. Esmeralda says:

    My cough made me feel desperate until I found the solution in Google. Red onion and honey was perfect and I could sleep soundly after a whole week without much sleeping. Thanks, Google!!!

  5. Pauline says:

    Chocolate works!!!! I needed something hot and steamy to breath the vapors into my stuffy head. Hot chocolate came to mind. I inhaled the steam of the hot beverage, drank the liquid cupful and my sinuses drained and opened…within a half hour.

  6. CrissyBarbz says:

    Thanks guys… I’m at work right now, but I went straight to the pantry and made myself a hot chocolate. As soon as I get home I’ll do the gargles and on my way home I’ll buy a new toothbrush!!!! Thanks!!!

    • Meghan says:

      Hot Chocolate is great because the steam and heat helps defuse the mucus congestion. I would also try something like Tea, a peppermint Tea works best. Also, if you have astma black coffee will make your astma symptoms so much better. It’s a great thing to use if you feel short breaths coming on, or trouble breathing altogether. Hope this helped even more.

  7. cheryl says:

    This is a recipe for cough syrup my mother got from our doctor when I was a child. Not the greatest tasting, but it works.

    1 cup molasses
    1 large onion, thinly sliced
    1 Tbsp. butter

    Cook onion and molasses until onion is glassy. Remove from heat and stir in butter.


    Take as needed for cough.

  8. jill c says:

    Up til I moved to a dry climate, I had bronchitis most of my life, once or twice a year. I always craved a sauteed onion and it seemed to break up the mucous. I cooked it in butter, but I guess you could cook it in oil as well.

  9. BMotor63 says:

    When I was young my mother would chop up an onion and sprinkle with sugar and cover it. By the next day there would be juice. She would give me 1 tsp. every little while to calm my cough. Believe it or not I really liked the taste so there was no fight! 🙂

  10. kritika says:

    my homemade recipe for cough is black tea, with ginger, garlic, black pepper, basil,clove, cardamom & lemon tea grinded & added to black tea. This really works. Also drinking warm water every night before going to bed.

    • Jothindra says:

      Ha! The good old ‘Kashayam!’ Hey! It really works. I remember when my child was 1 year old, no decongestent, prescribed by the doctor, worked. My grandmother just went around a playground and came back with a few herbs. Made a concotion out of it and lo! the relief was almost immediate.

  11. Kathy says:

    I had to add this to your list. For the unbelievable cough. 1/4 tsp red pepper, 1/4 tsp ginger, 1 T apple cider vinegar, 1T honey, 2 T water. Put in jar and shake before sipping each time. Spices does not dissolve. OMG it works.

    • Ramona says:

      Thank you Kathy! I tried your recipe and was finally able to sleep last night. And it even tasted good – maybe because I was so relieved!

  12. Melly says:

    Tablespoon with garlic glove, glycerin & apple cider vinegar.. Chew, gargle, swallow. Tastes horrible, but does work.

  13. Jo says:

    If you have a cough and want to sleep try rubbing Vick vapour rub on the arches of your feet before getting into bed…some put socks on some don’t ..what ever want to do..this is also good for children……. If you have a cough try to avoid dairy products as they cause mucus

  14. SJ says:

    You can make a cough mixture with:
    1 bottle of brandy
    1 or 2 bunches of thyme
    about a cup of honey
    Mix the honey into the brandy and put the thyme into the mix(with stems) leave it in the brandy bottle and keep it away for at least 2 weeks. Prepare it about a month before the flu season. Use as needed. I’m not sure about exact abounts used because my mum used to make it when I was little and we never needed it recently (got the stronger stuff, but this is a good and naturalish alternative that really works), if I get the exact amounts i will post it

  15. Addy says:

    My mother-in-law always made her home remedie cough med for bronquitis and it worked fast. Her recepie is: Aloe, Honey, Lemon Juice, and Star Anise. If not mistaking she would boil the Anise in water for a while then use that water to make the cough med. she would blend it all together and give me this mixture beleive it or not it works wonders.

  16. jb says:

    My mother-in-law swore by onion juice for a cough .. especially if it was going into the chest. Layer sliced sweet onion with 1/2 teas of sugar between layers. let this draw and take the juice when needed, about a tbsp. each time . it sure cleared up my kids coughs — but couldn’t get too close for a kiss.

  17. mary says:

    By chance is our m-i-l available to ask the quantities of each that she used? I get bronchitis several times a year. And am fighting a bad case at the moment. Greatly appreciate it efforts to obtain.

  18. sharon says:

    I have also found over the years… sleeping on my back helps with the cough better than sleeping on your side or stomach.

  19. tinkerbell says:

    My mom was told by a nurse at my doctors office when I was little to mix equal parts honey, lemon juice, and whiskey together and take a tablespoon as needed. This was the only thing that made my cough go away. It was gone within about 30 minutes.

  20. Lulu says:

    When I was a child, I had a cough so bad I was keeping the whole family up, and we lived in a huge house, so it was bad! I remember my dad getting me up and giving me a single dose of moonshine, with honey and lemon juice in it. That was over 50 years ago and I’ve never known anything else to work as quickly or as effectively. You can substitute the moonshine with vodka (I think the way they both burn going down cleans mucus off the vocal chords and throat), and the dose he gave me was a half filled shotglass.

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