Home Remedies for Dry Cough

Written by: Katarina Subotich

What is cough?

It is an attempt of your body to expel substances like mucous, liquids, particles of solid food, etc. from the lungs. A type of cough we will talk about in this article is dry cough which arises due to irritated, inflamed and dry tissues. Obviously, there are different types of cough and there are different types of herbs we use in those situations. In the case of dry cough we will use demulcent (herbs that sooth the dry and inflamed mucous membranes) and antispasmodic herbs (the ones that relax the spasms-cough reflex- that always follow the dry cough).

Dry cough is unproductive cough, meaning the body does not produce any mucous. As you remember, in our first article, we said that we do not want to suppress signs of cold or flu, but dry cough is the only thing we want to suppress in order to bring relief and aid to rest. Often happens that, as soon as we lay down, we start coughing and cannot sleep. This will exhaust the body and weaken our system in fighting the flu. By using demulcent, soothing herbs we are not merely suppressing the cough, but are actually addressing the dry irritated membranes that cause the cough.

Herbs we use for dry cough are: 

-Marshmallow – Althaea fficinalis. It is demulcent herb; roots leaves and flower are used in cold brewed tea.

-Linden – Tilia cordiata. It is astringent, demulcent, antiviral and antispasmodic herb. The flowers are used and it is safe for kids.

-Licorice – Glycyirrhyza glabra. It is demulcent, anti-viral. Used over long period of time, it can raise blood pressure (be aware if you are prone to hypertension).

-Plantain – Plantago spp. Very common herb, probably growing in your back yard. It is demulcent, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary (healing wounds).  

Valerian – Valeriana spp. This herb is a sedative and it can help with the spasms caused by dry cough, especially during the night. 

California poppy – Eschscholzia califoniaca. Another antispasmodic herb, like valerian, that can powerfully relax the tense muscles.

Cramp bark – Vibrunum opulus. It is used for tense, cramping tissues in cases of cough, muscle spasms, menstrual pain. It does not have sedative properties so it can be used during the day.

Lobelia – Lobelia inflata. It is used to stop powerful bronchial spasms. It is helpful for dry cough, but also for asthma. 

Let’s see how we can practically use those herbs. 


Marshmallow infusion

Infusions are usually made with hot water.  In the case of marshmallow, we typically make cold infusion. It is the best way to extract its demulcent properties. You will need:

Marshmallow root

Lukewarm water

Fill the ¼ of a jar with marshmallow root. Fill the rest of the jar with lukewarm water and let it sit at least 4 hours or overnight. Strain it. The liquid you got should be thick. Use it as many times during the day to sooth irritated mucus membranes.


Antispasmodic Tincture

To make tincture using folk method, place dry herbs in the jar. Cover with alcohol and let it sit for 4-6 weeks. When done, strain the herbs and bottle in dark bottles. Always label your herbal preparations.

1 part  Valerian

1 part California poppy

1 part cherry bark

½ part licorice

You can use this tincture before bed time or when trying to stop the cough and get some rest. You can start with 30 drops. If in half an hour the cough does not stop, use 60 drops. Until you find the dosage that calms down the spasms.


Lymphatic Tincture

When having swollen lymphatic glands, not only during the flu, you can make the following tincture.

2 parts Echinacea

2 parts red root

1 part ginger

1 part licorice

Use 30 drops every hour until the symptoms decrease. 


Throat tea

1 part licorice root

1 part slippery elm bark

1 part marshmallow root

1 part cinnamon

½ part orange peel

3 cloves

1 liter of water

Bring water to boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the herbs and sip throughout the day (you may keep it in thermos to have it warm at all times).


Throat Spray

Applying herbs with spray can get them right on the place we need them, that is the back of the throat. 

1 part echinacea tincture

½ part propolis tincture

½ part licorice tincture

3 drops clove essential oil

Place ingredients in the bottle with spray and apply throughout the day on the back of the throat. This mixture can also be used for any mouth or gum infections.

In the next article we will get to know more about congestions and productive coughs.

Be well,


Northeast School of Botanical Medicine graduate