A cough may be a symptom of bronchial irritation from an environmental irritant, such as cigarette smoke or pollen, or a respiratory illness such as a cold, flu or bronchitis. If you have a persistent cough, consult your physician to determine the cause and the best course of treatment. Herbal remedies such as ginger, lemon and honey can work with your doctor-prescribed treatment to relieve your cough as well as concurrent symptoms, such as a sore throat.
Lemon juice contains ascorbic acid, or vitamin C. The vitamin C supports immune function and, if your cough is caused by a virus or bacteria, will help your body fight the infection. The acid in the juice also helps clear phlegm in your throat, which can often contribute to a cough, according to Linda B. White, M.D., author of “The Herbal Drugstore.” To use the lemon juice alone, stir 1 tsp. into hot water, or hot tea, to help clear your throat. You can also inhale the steam from the hot beverage to clear your chest and sinuses.
White recommends honey for its mild analgesic, or pain-killing, properties. Honey also acts as a topical antibiotic and can help neutralize bacteria in the throat, such as from strep or bronchitis, which can contribute to a cough. When combined with hot water and lemon, it clears mucus from your throat and provides a soothing coating to relieve the irritation usually caused by coughing. You can add 1 tsp. of honey to a hot beverage or mix one part lemon juice with two parts honey in a bottle and take 1 to 2 tsp. an hour as a cough/throat syrup or add the mixture to a beverage.
Ginger root is used primarily for nausea and is a well-known herbal motion-sickness remedy, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The herb is also believed to reduce inflammation and may be effective in reducing the bronchial inflammation associated with certain respiratory diseases, such as bronchitis. Ginger can also relieve a sore throat associated with colds and flu. For cold and flu symptoms, UMMC recommends you steep 2 tbsp. of fresh, shredded ginger root in 1 cup of hot water and drink twice daily. Add 2 tsp. honey and 1 tsp. lemon juice to enhance the effects.
Ginger contains plant compounds called phenols that may interact with certain medications. Because ginger has some blood-thinning properties, those on warfarin or an aspirin regimen should avoid consuming ginger. Consuming too much lemon juice or ginger may cause gastrointestinal upset or mouth irritation. Parents should avoid feeding honey, or ginger, to children under 2 years of age. For children over 2, parents should use no more than one-third the adult dose of ginger. Consult your physician before starting any herbal regimen.