Mucus, or phlegm, in the throat can be uncomfortable and lead to bad breath or other health problems. Chronic mucus may be caused by postnasal drip, allergies, acid reflux, sinusitis or other inflammatory infections. Determining the exact cause of the mucus blockage is an important first step. Conventional treatment may include steroids, antacids and reflux medications. Herbal teas with astringent or expectorant action may be effective home remedies, but it is important to consult a health care professional before beginning any herbal therapy.
Eyebright, or Euphrasia officinalis, is an annual herb native to Europe. Traditional healers have used it since medieval times as a remedy for acute and chronic eye ailments. The aerial parts contain iridoid glycosides, flavonoids and tannins, and the plant has astringent, anti-inflammatory and antimucus properties. Botanical.com notes that a homeopathic form of eyebright works on the mucus membranes of the nose and throat to reduce secretions. Herbalist David Hoffmann states that eyebright is an excellent remedy for problems involving mucus membranes. Its anti-inflammatory and astringent actions help the body eliminate excess mucus. Herbalist Penelope Ody also notes that eyebright can relieve mucus due to allergies or infections, and that it is related to the lung and spleen meridians in traditional Chinese medicine—which are associated with phlegm, or mucus buildup. Scientific studies are needed to confirm the traditional use of eyebright for mucus conditions. Due to the lack of studies, eyebright should only be taken at the recommended dosages and not during pregnancy.
Anise, or Pimpinella anisum, is an aromatic spice used throughout Asia in cooking and traditional medicines. It contains coumarins, flavonoids, sterols and a volatile oil rich in trans-anethole, dianethole and photoanethole. Herbalist David Hoffmann states that anise seeds enhance the flow of mucus. As a tincture or crushed in an infusion, they release the volatile oil and act as an expectorant to break up and expel mucus from the lungs and throat. Ben-Erik van Wyk and Michael Wink attribute the expectorant effect to anethole, an aromatic compound that stimulates coughing to expel mucus. Anise may cause allergies in sensitive individuals, and should not be used with anticoagulants.
Fenugreek, or Trigonella foenum-graecum, is an annual herb native to the Mediterranean and parts of Africa and Asia. The seeds, pale yellow and rectangular, are used medicinally as a digestive tonic and to treat sore throat, upper respiratory infections, anorexia, stomach ulcers, diabetes, high cholesterol and impotence. The active ingredients include steroid saponins, mucilage and alkaloids, and the seeds have expectorant and demulcent actions. “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” recommends fenugreek for reducing mucus secretions. Fenugreek works by loosening thick mucus; then its expectorant action helps the body to expel it and its demulcent properties soothe the mucus membranes. Studies are needed to confirm the efficacy of fenugreek for expelling mucus, and it should not be used during pregnancy.
- Botanical: Eyebright
- “Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine”; David Hoffmann; 2003
- “The Holistic Herbal Directory”; Penelope Ody; 2009
- “Medicinal Plants of the World”; Ben-Erik van Wyk and Michael Wink; 2009
- “Prescription for Nutritional Healing”; Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, and James F. Balch, M.D.; 2000