Cough is a common symptom of colds, allergies, and the flu. It can cause problems breathing, eating, or drinking. There may also be throat pain.

It is treated with home care and medicine. Natural therapies have also been used to ease cough.

Natural Therapies

Likely Effective

These herbs and supplements are likely to ease cough:

  • Primrose is a flower that can be taken as a supplement or used as an oil. B5
  • Thyme is an herb that is common in cooking. B5

May Be Effective

These herbs and supplements may help ease cough:

  • Andrographis is a plant that is often used in South Asian medicine. (Note: It should not be taken by people who have problems with their immune system.) B3, B5, B6
  • Chinese medicinal herbs are given to restore energy balance to the body. B7
  • Ivy Leaf is an evergreen vine that can be taken as a supplement. It can also be taken as a syrup or tea. B11
  • Licorice is a plant that has been used to flavor food and sweets. The root can be taken as a lozenge or used as a mouthwash. (Note: It should not be taken by people who take medicine for depression, blood clotting, and urination.) B3, B6
  • Viola odorata is a flower in the violet family. B4

Not Enough Data to Assess

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution

Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse, such as:

  • Andrographis may make the immune system more active. Talk to your doctor before taking it if you have problems with your immune system.
  • Licorice should not be taken by people that take medication for depression, blood clots, and urination.


REFA Cupping Therapy

REFA1 Cao H, Li X, et al. An updated review of the efficacy of cupping therapy. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31793.

REFB Herbs and Supplements

REFB1 Saxena RC, Singh R, et al. A randomized double blind placebo controlled clinical evaluation of extract of Andrographis paniculata (KalmCold) in patients with uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infection. Phytomedicine. 2010 Mar;17(3-4):178-185.

REFB2 Oduwole O, Udoh EE, et al. Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;4:CD007094.

REFB3 Gupta D, Agrawal S, et al. Effect of preoperative licorice lozenges on incidence of postextubation cough and sore throat in smokers undergoing general anesthesia and endotracheal intubation. 2013;22(2):173-178.

REFB4 Qasemzadeh MJ, Sharifi H, et al. The Effect of Viola odorata Flower Syrup on the Cough of Children With Asthma: A Double-Blind, Randomized Controlled Trial. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2015 Oct;20(4):287-291.

REFB5 Wagner L, Cramer H, et al. Herbal Medicine for Cough: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Forsch Komplementmed. 2015;22(6):359-368.

REFB6 Honarmand A, Safavi M, et al. The efficacy of different doses of liquorice gargling for attenuating postoperative sore throat and cough after tracheal intubation. Eur J Anaesthesiol. 2016;33(8):595-596.

REFB7 Jiang H, Liu W, et al. Chinese Medicinal Herbs in the Treatment of Upper Airway Cough Syndrome: A Systematic Review of Randomized, Controlled Trials. Altern Ther Health Med. 2016 Mar;22(3):38-51.

REFB8 Kim KI, Shin S, et al. A traditional herbal medication, Maekmoondong-tang, for cough: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016 Feb 3;178:144-54.

REFB9 Nitsche MP, Carreño M. Is honey an effective treatment for acute cough in children? Medwave. 2016;16(2):e6454.

REFB10 Peixoto DM, Rizzo JA, et al. Use of honey associated with Ananas comosus (Bromelin) in the treatment of acute irritative cough. Rev Paul Pediatr. 2016 Dec;34(4):412-417.

REFB11 Schafer A, Kehr MS, et al. A randomized, controlled, double-blind, multi-center trial to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a liquid containing ivy leaves dry extract (EA 575®) vs. placebo in the treatment of adults with acute cough. Pharmazie. 2016;71(9):504-509.

REFB12 Hu XY, Wu RH, et al. Andrographis paniculate (Chuān Xīn Lián) for symptomatic relief of acute respiratory infections in adults and children: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2017;12(8). Erratum in: PLoS One. 2018 Nov 14;13(11):e0207713.

REFC Mindfulness Meditation

REFC1 Young EC, Brammer C, et al. The effect of mindfulness meditation on cough reflex sensitivity. Thorax. 2009 Nov;64(11):993-998.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC
  • Review Date: 02/2020
  • Update Date: 05/26/2020