9 natural alternatives for a chesty cough

9 natural alternatives for a chesty cough

There are several types of cough medicines available in pharmacies and supermarkets to help with a chesty cough. To find out more about these, consult your healthcare professional.

In addition to cough medicines, you can try these natural alternatives at home, which may help relieve your chesty cough.

9 natural alternatives for a chesty cough

1. Hydration

Keeping your fluids up while you have a cough or cold will help your body function at its best.1

Drinking room temperature water is ideal, and can help relieve a cough and runny nose. Drinking hot liquids, such as herbal tea, can also help relieve other cold symptoms, including a sore throat, mild chills and mild fatigue.2

Caffeine and alcohol cause dehydration and should be avoided when you have a chesty cough.2 You should also be aware that consuming milk and other dairy products may make your phlegm thicker, making it uncomfortable to cough up.3

2. Ivy leaf

Ivy leaf is something you may not have thought could help relieve a chesty cough. You might have seen houses and trees covered with the ivy plant, but did you know that extract from its leaves has been used in cough medicines?

Saponins present in ivy leaf may help make mucus less thick, which helps loosen it from your chest and makes it easier to cough up.4

Ivy leaf can be found in naturally derived cough medicines available in pharmacies and some supermarkets – ask your local pharmacist for more information.

3. Herbal tea

A warm mug of non-caffeinated tea before bed is a great way to try and have a relaxing sleep in spite of a cough. Warm liquids can help clear your airways, helping you to breathe without interruption while you sleep.5

Add some honey and lemon to your tea – it will taste great and provide additional mucus-clearing benefits.

4. Steam

Taking a hot, steamy shower when you have a cold can relax your muscles and leave you feeling comforted, but it can also help your chesty cough. Warm and moist air relieves a productive cough by loosening mucus in your chest, making it easier to get rid of.1

Drink some cool water after your shower to prevent dehydration and bring your body temperature back down.2

An alternative way to get the benefits of steam is to fill a bowl with hot water, lean over it and place a tea towel over your head to trap the steam. Inhale the steam for 5 minutes, making sure to take a break if it feels too hot. Add some eucalyptus oil to the water to help clear a blocked nose.2

5. Thyme

Thyme is a herbal ingredient that has been traditionally used alongside ivy leaf in the relief of coughs and mild bronchitis.6

Thyme leaves contain flavonoids, compounds which reduce inflammation and calm the throat when it is sore from coughing.6

Make some thyme tea at home by adding 2 teaspoons of fresh or dried thyme to hot water, steeping for 10 minutes and then straining.4 Wait for it to cool and enjoy!

6. Pineapple

You might be surprised to see this one on the list! Pineapples contain the enzyme bromelain in their fruit and stem, which may help both dry and chesty coughs.4

Drink a small glass of fresh pineapple juice with breakfast or have a slice of pineapple as an after dinner snack – it is recommended to have at least three servings of pineapple a day.3

Make a yummy smoothie with fresh pineapple pieces, freshly squeezed lemon and fresh mint leaves – your taste buds will thank you and it will help your cough as well.

7. Salt water gargle

Gargling is a traditional way to ease a sore throat, and doing so with salt water can have the added benefit of reducing phlegm and mucus in your throat.2

Add half a teaspoon of table salt to a cup of warm water and stir until it dissolves completely. Let it cool to a comfortable temperature and gargle for 30 seconds.2 You can do this several times a day – just avoid swallowing the salt water.

Please note that children under 6 may have difficulty gargling – consider one of the other natural alternatives on this list to help out your younger kids.3

8. Air humidifiers

The humidity of the air around you can affect your chesty cough – experts recommend a humidity level of 40% to 50%.3

Air that is too dry can worsen your cough, but air that is too humid can attract dust mites and mould – both of which can trigger hayfever allergies and increase your coughing and other symptoms.5

Consider using a humidifier in your bedroom to help you get a good night’s sleep if you have a cough and if allergies are an issue for you.

9. Sleeping on an incline

This is a great tip for when your chesty cough is stopping you from getting a good night’s sleep.

Sleep on a slight angle with your head above your body – you can do this by sleeping on an extra pillow or propping up the head of your mattress on some durable objects.

This will help reduce mucus and phlegm from pooling in your throat while you sleep, and also help stop irritating stomach acids from moving up into your throat during your sleep.5


1 Heathline 2017, 5 Natural Expectorants to Kill Your Cough (Accessed 30 May 2019). https://www.healthline.com/health/natural-cough-expectorants-cough

2 Medical News Today 2018, What can I do to make my cough go away? (Accessed 30 May 2019). https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322394.php

3 Healthline 2016, The Best Natural Cough Remedies (Accessed 30 May 2019). https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/best-natural-cough-remedies

4 Holzinger F. and Chenot J-F. 2010, Systematic Review of Clinical Trials Assessing the Effectiveness of Ivy Leaf (Hedera Helix) for Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, doi:10.1155/2011/382789.

5 WebMD 2017, 8 Tips for Nighttime Cough Relief (Accessed 30 May 2019). https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/features/nighttime-relief

6 Kemmerich B., Eberhardt R. and Stammer H. 2006, Efficacy and Tolerability of a Fluid Extract Combination of Thyme Herb and Ivy Leaves and Matched Placebo in Adults Suffering from Acute Bronchitis with Productive Cough, Arzneimittelforschung, DOI: 10.1055/s-0031-1296767.

MAT-AU-2003225, Dec 2020

MAT-AU-2003225, Dec 2020

Show me products for

You might also like

What is Ivy Leaf and how can it help my cough?

What is Ivy Leaf and how can it help my cough?

Ivy leaf is the leaf of the common ivy plant, also known as English ivy or Hedera helix. It used as a herbal medicine, and has been for hundreds of ye...

Learn more
What is a chesty cough?

What is a chesty cough?

When having a cold, people will often suffer from a cough, which can either be chesty or dry. A chesty cough means you are expelling mucus or phelgm....

Learn more
How can you help reduce the chance of getting a cough or cold?

How can you help reduce the chance of getting a cough or cold?

Please be aware that many surfaces in our environment (like doorknobs, supermarket trolleys etc.) can be contaminated with viruses from people sufferi...

Learn more

Store finder

Search for your nearest store by postcode