Natural Parenting Natural Remedies

Stopping the Cough, Naturally {3 Homemade Cough Remedies}

The recipe for getting better in our house is homemade, pasture-raised chicken soup, Netflix, and one or two of these favorite homemade cough remedies.

Like many households, we are passing around and getting over various winter bugs with their share of fevers, aches, sniffles, sneezes and coughs. Often hanging around for days (or even weeks) after the initial cold is gone, coughs are the worst. Anything that causes you to lose sleep while straining all the muscles in your chest, back and neck is something you want to heal as quickly as possible.

The recipe for getting better in our house is lots of homemade, pasture-raised chicken broth, Netflix videos, and one or two of these favorite homemade cough remedies.

I can’t take credit for inventing any of these natural cough relievers; they came to me over time and were adapted to fit our needs, just as they have probably been passed along from mom to mom, with minor variations for thousands of years.

So in the spirit of the generations of mothers who want desperately to soothe their child’s railing breath, I pass these recipes on to you.

Related: Homemade Vapor Rub for Colds and Sore Muscles

Honey-Ginger Throat Salve

Take 2-3 times a day, as needed to soothe sore throat and dry coughing.

  • A 2-inch knob of fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. organic, raw honey*
  1. Peel, then finely grate ginger into a small bowl.
  2. Squeeze grated ginger through a fine mesh sieve (or just use your fingers) to release about 1 teaspoon of juice. Discard pulp.
  3. Mix the teaspoon of fresh ginger juice thoroughly into the Tablespoon of honey.
  4. Take the syrup right away, swallowing slowly and deliberately.

* Do not give honey to infants under the age of 1.

Onion, Garlic and Ginger Cough Syrup

Take 2-3 times a day, as needed to soothe sore throat and wet or congested coughs.

  • 1-2 onions (any type)
  • 1-3 heads of garlic (any type)
  • 1 large hand of ginger
  • 3-4 cups dehydrated cane juice, Rapadura, panela or coconut sap sugar
  • 1 Quart (1 L) canning jar
  1. Peel and slice the onion, garlic and ginger as thinly as you can.
  2. On the bottom of the Mason jar, layer slices of onion, garlic and ginger about an inch thick.
  3. Pour dehydrated cane juice over the onion mixture until you can’t see it anymore from the top, making another layer about an inch deep.
  4. Add another inch-thick layer of onions, garlic and ginger slices, then pour in the cane juice to cover. Repeat this process, making an onion and sugar “parfait” until the jar is almost full.
  5. Top off with a bit more cane juice and close the lid tightly.
  6. In one hour, the sugar will be soft. In two, you will start to see liquid forming in the bottom of the jar. In three hours, you will see the syrup forming, and in four hours, the syrup will be complete.
  7. Don’t remove the onions, garlic and ginger from the syrup. Just press the mixture back with the spoon when you administer the syrup. Keeps for 6 months to a year unrefrigerated.

Thyme Oil Vapor Steam

This simple, time-tested remedy for clogged noses and congested lungs is also anti-bacterial.

  1. Boil the water till steaming, then fill the bowl with it.
  2. Add the thyme oil, starting with 10 drops.
  3. Cover your head with a towel and hold your face over the bowl, allowing the towel to form a steam tent around your head.
  4. Inhale and breath deeply and calmly. If the scent of thyme is not strong enough to make a difference to your sinuses add another 5-10 drops, as needed.
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About the author

Dawn Gifford

Dawn is the creator of Small Footprint Family, and the author of the critically acclaimed Sustainability Starts at Home - How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. After a 20-year career in green building and environmental sustainability, chronic illness forced her to shift her expertise and passion from the public sphere to home and hearth. Get the whole story behind SFF here.


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  • Personally, I drink a lot of tea with ginger, lemon and honey to get rid of cough. It helps to soothe sore throat. Next time I will definitely try your cough syrup, thanks for sharing!

  • I made the vapor salve this morning – not sure if I’ll like it only because I used cocoa butter (with a little coconut oil to help keep it a bit softer) as my base. It has such a strong scent and mixes kind of strangely with these essential oils. I think a more subtle base would be better next time….but just used what I had:)

  • Thanks for posting the vapour rub recipe. As a little girl (some 50+ years ago) we used to each winter make our vapour rub recipe when someone was overcome by the flu. Your post has made me go down memory lane and as we’re in the middle of winter here (Aust) it certainly will be put to use. I can remember we used to use camphor (in a solid state) that we had to melt in the petroleum jelly. Many thanks once again.

  • My understanding is that putting vapor rubs on the bottoms of your feet helps because the skin is soft and the blood vessels are close to the skin making absorption easier. Plain old athletic socks will work as they are mostly to keep the vapor rub from rubbing off on everything else. My dad even remembers having vapor rub applied to his throat and then a wool sock wrapped around and secured with a safety pin!

  • This is a beautiful website! I love your ideas.. you should check out my website and perhaps you can guest post on it? I am now a follower too! Found you on Monday Mania. I posted the Asian Lettuce Wraps.. ~Dr. Lisa

  • These are amazing. How brilliant. My husband wouldn’t touch anything that resembles medicine but he would take this all natural cough syrup made  from foods he eats all the time. I got into drinking thyme, camomile, ginger and honey tea last time I was feeling well. Yours would be a power house of healing. Thanks for sharing this with us at Whole Food Wednesdays. I hope to see you back next week.

  • Found you on Frugal Days, love these ideas! Just wanted to share the love. Wish I had them last week when our entire house was sick, ugh. I’ll be keeping these for future use.

  • In the 2nd recipe I wonder if you could substitute honey for the dehydrated cane syrup. As beekeepers, we always have honey on hand. LOL   I like that the recipes can be made in advance and kept for long periods or indefinitely. Great post, I definitely want to give these a try.

    • The granulated sugar has a chemical infusion reaction with the other ingredients, so I’m not sure how honey would be able to do the same thing. That said, honey is great for sore throats, so you might want to give it a try and see if it works!