Spring is finally here, and I, for one, couldn’t be more thrilled to retire my winter coat to the back of the closet.
For up to 40 percent of Americans, though, there’s one remnant of winter that continues into spring: a nagging cough that just won’t go away. In fact, according to a study published last November in the Lancet, a persistent cough is the most common reason in for seeing a doctor in the US.
And of course, far too many doctors end up prescribing antibiotics for these sorts of unexplained, “non-specific” coughs. But unless your cough has an underlying bacterial cause (which is very unlikely), antibiotics won’t help. What they WILL do is contribute to the dangerous problem of antibiotic resistance in this country.
The good news is, in most instances, a nagging cough will go away on its own. It just takes longer than you might expect. According to a study published in 2013, the average duration of a normal viral cough is almost 3 weeks (18 days, to be exact).
But you don’t have to be miserable while you’re waiting it out. There are some effective natural ways to soothe a cough (ones that are much safer than over-the-counter cough suppressants).
Why the most common natural cough remedy may not be your best bet—and what to do instead
The most common natural cough remedy is honey. And there is quite a bit of research behind it, including an interesting study published recently that tested a honey and coffee mixture against two mainstream treatments for cough—the oral steroid prednisone and guaifenesin, a common ingredient in many over-the-counter cough medicines. The honey/coffee mixture was the clear winner. It reduced the severity and frequency of the patients’ coughing episodes significantly better than either drug.
But as you know, I’m not a huge proponent of honey. Your body reacts to honey the same way it does to sugar. In fact, honey has slightly more carbohydrates and more calories per teaspoon than sugar. So that makes it a bad idea for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Fortunately, there are other natural ways to soothe your cough that won’t wreak havoc on your blood sugar.
Research shows the herb thyme can help relieve coughs. It opens up the airways and helps relax the muscles of the trachea and bronchial tubes. You can make a nice, soothing cup of tea by pouring boiling water over a handful of fresh thyme sprigs (rub them between your palms a bit first to release the essential oils). Let it steep for 10-15 minutes and drink two or three times a day.
There’s also some evidence showing that the natural enzyme bromelain (which comes from pineapple) can help thin mucus and quiet a cough. A dose of 200 mg per day is usually plenty.
And of course, the best way to fight off a lingering cough is to make sure your immune system is in good working order. I detailed my complete immune protocol in the May 2014 issue of Logical Health Alternatives, so if you’ve got a nagging cough, this is a good time to review it. If you don’t still have your copy, you can download and view it for free by logging in to the Subscriber area of www.DrPescatore.com
 “Therapeutic advances for treatment-resistant cough.” The Lancet epub ahead of print 11/25/14
 “How Long Does a Cough Last? Comparing Patients’ Expectations With Data From a Systematic Review of the Literature,” Annals of Family Medicine 2013; 11(1): 5-13
 “Honey plus coffee versus systemic steroid in the treatment of persistent post-infectious cough: a randomised controlled trial,” PCRJ 2013; 22(3): 325-330