Health

How to Make 2 Types of Cough Syrup

cough syrup

There’s nothing that can make you or a loved one feel worse than having a cold with a nasty cough or sore throat to go along with it. Trying to treat cold and cough with over the counter medications can get pricey. Believe it or not, all those cough medicines in the pharmacy boil down to just 2 different types of cough syrups, antitussive or expectorant. If you’re looking to learn how to make these 2 types of cough syrups and customize for your cough, so you can save a little money in your budget, we can help.

Before you can adequately treat a cough, it’s very important to know why you have a cough and what type of cough it is. Home remedies can definitely help treat coughing but it’s also critical to rule out a serious medical condition before you try to treat a cough on your own. If you have other symptoms along with your cough, you may want to add additional ingredients to your cough syrup to help relieve those symptoms as well.

In this article we’ll describe the five different basic types of coughs, explain the 2 types of OTC cough medicines and when to use them, and then give you ingredients and recipes to show you how to make customized versions of 2 types of cough syrups on your own to replace those OTC cough medicines.

5 Common Types of Coughs

There are basically five different types of coughs. The best way to know which type of cough you have is to see a doctor who can diagnose your cough and rule out any underlying condition that requires antibiotics. But if you’re determined to forgo pharmaceuticals, below are the types of cough you need to learn to recognize so you can learn how to make types of cough syrups:

1. Whooping Cough which can start with what seems like cold symptoms and then progress to serious coughing that lingers several weeks. Whooping cough is highly contagious and requires a vaccination to be protected against it. It can be fatal, especially in young children.

2. Post-Viral Cough caused by throat inflammation and typically occurs following an infection of the upper respiratory tract

3. Chest Cough which is also called a productive cough because the coughing serves a purpose of expelling mucus from the chest.

4. Bronchitis cough typically results in yellowish-gray phlegm and frequently comes along with additional symptoms such as fatigue, stuffy nose, and headache.

5. Tickling, Dry Cough results when the throat fails to produce sufficient mucus. Throat feels dry, irritated which results in frequent or continuous coughing.

So now that you know the five types of coughs that are most common, we will look first at OTC medications to treat cough and how they work. Then we will explore some of the natural ingredients you probably already have in your cupboard or fridge that can be used to treat coughing.

Finally we’ll give you suggestions on how to combine those ingredients so you can learn how to make 2 types of cough syrups and suggest ways to customize them to treat other symptoms you may be having with your cough.

2 Types of Cough Syrups

Antitussives (Cough Suppressants)

What Do Antitussives Do?

Works to suppress coughing. Believed to work by disrupting the reflex to cough by inhibiting the corresponding region in the brain stem. Benzonatate is a non narcotic antitussive that essentially numbs receptors in breathing passages and thus squelches the coughing urge. The primary ingredient in most antitussives is dextromethorphan.

Common brands of antitussives are Robitussin Cough, Triaminic Cold and Cough, or Vicks 44 Cough and Cold. There are also antitussive topical ointments, such as Vicks VapoRub, specifically designed to quell coughing when applied to the throat, chest, or even the bottom of your feet.

When to Use Antitussives?

Antitussive type cough syrups are best for dry coughing that is frequent enough to interrupt sleep or daily functioning. If coughing lasts more than 7 days, or you have a fever that lasts more than two days, see your doctor for further evaluation and treatment.

Warnings About Antitussives

• Antitussives are NOT recommended for children without doctor monitoring and supervision
• Most OTC antitussives are derived from opioids (codeine, dextromethorphan, pholcodine)
• Do NOT use an antitussive for a wet or productive cough without first checking with your doctor.

Expectorants (Decongestants)

What Does an Expectorant Do?

The purpose of an expectorant, or mucolytic, is to help thin and loosen mucus throughout the bronchial passages and make it easier to breathe. Phlegm is easier to cough up from the lungs and this helps to remove secretions and irritants from the respiratory system. The most common expectorant is Guaifenesin, the primary active ingredient in brand names such as Robitussin Chest Congestion and Mucinex.

When to Use an Expectorant

• If you or a loved one has a “wet” cough
• When chest is congested but little phlegm is being produced with coughing
• If coughing is producing thick white, green, or yellow phlegm that is difficult to get up

Warnings for Expectorants:

Expectorants can cause some side effects in some people including:

• Drowsiness
• Headache
• Nausea
• Dizziness
• Vomiting
• Rash

Do NOT use an expectorant type cough syrup if you are also taking sleeping aids, muscle relaxers, antidepressants, anti-seizure medication, or narcotic pain medication without the approval and supervision of your physician.

If your cough is accompanied by chills, fever, or shortness of breath and phlegm is yellow, green, or sometimes bloody, you should see a doctor to rule out pneumonia.

Natural Ingredients for Cough Syrups

When it comes to making the 2 types of cough syrups on your own, you likely have a lot of ingredients already in your kitchen. Below are some of the common natural ingredients you can use to make either expectorant or antitussive type cough syrups at home.

Water/Steam

One of the best ways to treat viral coughs is to drink more fluids, especially water and increase humidity in the airways using a dehumidifier or moist steam. Drinking fluids if you are congested helps to thin mucus and make it easier to expel. Any cough that produces phlegm that is pink, red, or brown in color could be a symptom of a serious medical problem and you should make an appointment with a physician as soon as possible.

Honey

This all natural ingredient is a natural way to coat your throat, reduce congestion, and relieve coughing. Honey, especially honey from local sources in your area, can even help prevent cough due to allergies. Honey contains numerous antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes your body needs to fight infections. The anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of honey work to reduce inflammation and boost your immune system and reduce coughing.

Cayenne Pepper

This spice which is probably already in your kitchen cupboard is believed to pair well with apple cider vinegar to relieve inflammation and pain caused from coughing. It may also work to stimulate a more productive cough and help to clear lungs and airways.

Apple Cider Vinegar

This common kitchen ingredient is known to work as a natural cough suppressant to reduce coughing. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin E, probiotics, and acids. ACV is believed to work to break congestion and boost your immune system as well as shorten the duration of the common cold.

It can be used to gargle (¼ cup ACV to ¼ cup warm water) or as a topical ointment (rub small amount around sinuses and on throat or spray on pillow overnight). To make a cough syrup, mix 1 part ACV with 5 parts warm water. Add other ingredients as needed for additional symptoms.

Precautions: ACV is highly acidic and should always be diluted with water before drinking. If you have acid reflux, GERD, or stomach ulcers, ACV may not be your best choice. Rinse teeth after drinking as it’s believe the acids in ACV can erode tooth enamel. Talk to your doctor before using ACV to relieve coughing in a child.

Lemon Juice

If you do any kind of cooking from scratch you most likely keep fresh lemons or lemon juice in your refrigerator. Lemon is an ingredient that makes a great addition to any cough syrup because of its natural anti-bacterial and immune system boosting properties.

White Pineapple Juice

If you have white pineapple juice available, it contains bromelain, an enzyme that has been used for its anti-inflammatory properties following surgery or injury to the sinuses or nose. Adding this ingredient to your cough syrup could be beneficial if you are experiencing coughing accompanied by congestion of the nose or sinuses. Do not take with antibiotics unless approved by physician as it can increase antibiotic absorption.

Cinnamon

The natural analgesic properties in cinnamon make it the perfect addition to any cough syrup.It pairs well with honey in a cough syrup. When possible, use Ceylon cinnamon, no more than 2 ½ teaspoons daily, because it is true cinnamon and higher quality. “Regular” ground cinnamon (Cassia) contains coumarin which can damage the liver in large quantities, stick to a teaspoon or less daily.

Additional Ingredients To Use for Cough Syrups

Many people turn to their herb garden or forage wild edibles to use to customize the 2 types of cough syrups. Below are some of these herbs and wild edibles you may want to keep on hand for making cough syrups:

Marshmallow Root

• Analgesic
• Mucilaginous
• use as antitussive
• Antibacterial
• Anti-inflammatory
• Do Not use for children without physician approval

Elderberry

• Anti-inflammatory
• shortens duration of cold and flu
• Antioxidant
• Use as expectorant
• May relieve fever

Chamomile Flowers

• Antibacterial
• boosts immune system
• Anti-inflammatory
• Natural sedative
• Anti-microbial

Peppermint

• Antibacterial
• Decongestant for sinuses
• Headache relief
• Sleep aid

Ginger Root

• Anti-inflammatory
• Antioxidant
• Relieves nausea

Garlic (freshly cut or crushed)

• Boosts immune system

Echinacea

• Anti-inflammatory
• Boosts immune system

Korean Mint

• Antiviral
• Antifungal
• Nausea and vomiting relief
• May ease fever

Mullein Flowers

• Use as an expectorant
• Also high in mucilage to soothe throat
• Anti-inflammatory
• Can reduce fever
• Do not use for children without doctor approval

A Few Cough Syrup Recipes

Sore Throat Relief from Good Life Eats

This recipe is chock full of ingredients to coat a painful sore throat and boost your immune system.

• Apple Cider Vinegar
• Water
• Ground Ginger
• Honey
• Cayenne Pepper
• Lemon Juice

Mix well in a jar, store in refrigerator.

Honey Cough Syrup from Wellness Mama

This honey based cough syrup is suggested for frequent coughing that just won’t let you or a loved one get any rest. The mucilaginous properties of the honey and marshmallow root coats your raw throat to soothe.

• Filtered water (1 quart)
• Honey (1 cup)
• Dried or fresh grated Ginger Root (¼ cup)
• Marshmallow Root (¼ cup)
• Chamomile Flowers (¼ cup)
• Cinnamon (1 Tablespoon)
• Lemon Juice (¼ cup)

Add herbs and water to pan and heat to boiling and then simmer until about half liquid is reduced. Strain through cheesecloth or mesh strainer. Add lemon juice and honey while liquid is warm and stir thoroughly. This mixture can be refrigerated for up to 60 days.

Five Flavors Cough Syrup by Learning Herbs

Inspired by traditional Chinese belief that a meal isn’t complete without all five flavors (salty, bitter, sweet, sour, and pungent), this cough syrup encompasses five flavors in an herbal cough syrup.

• Water (2 cups)
• Elderberries (sour)- ½ cup dried or 1 cup fresh
• Elecampane root (pungent and bitter), aka wild sunflower or scabwort -¼ cup dried
• Plantain (salty)- ¼ cup dried or ½ cup fresh
• Honey (sweet)- ½ cup honey

Bring herbs and water to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. Strain using cheesecloth. Return remaining ½ cup liquid to clean pan. Add honey and stir thoroughly. Warm honey if needed to mix completely. Pour into bottle and refrigerate for up to 30 days.

Not recommended for children under the age of 2 years old because of honey. Ages 2 and up use 1 tsp every hour as needed. Adults 1 tablespoon up to 2x per hour as needed.

 

Were you aware of the similarities among all those types of pharmaceutical cough syrups? Do you have a favorite expectorant cough syrup you make yourself? What about a favorite antitussive type cough syrup? Share your experiences and recipes in the comments below.

Megan Stewart

About Megan Stewart

A mother of four and grandmother of six, Megan is living the lifestyle any prepper would want. Gardening, homesteading and constantly planning for emergencies big and small, she's a beacon of knowledge in the prepping community.
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10 thoughts on “How to Make 2 Types of Cough Syrup

  1. Megan,
    If you would interact with the commenter’s, more people might comment. Most of us don’t come here to be preached to; but, like a dialog. Many of us have tons of expertise and have been doing these things for a very long time, which in my case is bordering on 50 years.
    You also ask us to share our thoughts and information, so a bit of feedback from you could also be helpful.

    1. Ohio Prepper,

      I certainly have not intended to come off as preaching to anyone. I’m simply sharing information that I’m aware of or that I research in hopes that others can find something helpful for them. I do always try to read all the comments on my articles, even if I don’t always respond or comment. I very much appreciate your comments and insights, it’s obvious you’ve been living this lifestyle a long time and have amassed a lot of knowledge and experience. There is so so much to learn when it comes to survival and prepping. We can all help one another in my opinion. Please keep sharing.

      1. Meg,

        I certainly have not intended to come off as preaching to anyone. I’m simply sharing information that I’m aware of or that I research in hopes that others can find something helpful for them.

        I didn’t mean to say or imply that you are preaching; but, even this short comment lets us all know that there is some dialog going on.

        I do always try to read all the comments on my articles, even if I don’t always respond or comment.

        Just a small comment here and there lets us all know that you are paying attention to us as we do to you. No disrespect intended; but, I have always learned more with dialog, and that is perhaps why the ”What I Did To Prep This Week” column is so popular with sometimes hundreds of comments.

  2. All in all this is a pretty good article; but, there are some inexpensive ways to fill your medicine cabinet and FAK without spending a ton of cash.
    My primary care physician told us to look at Dollar Tree for a Guaifenesin based medication. DT ‘s ”Mucus Relief” fits the bill and contains only Guaifenesin at a much reduced price from brand name prodicts like Mucinex. You cover this medication rather well.

    1. Whooping Cough which can start with what seems like cold symptoms and then progress to serious coughing that lingers several weeks. Whooping cough is highly contagious and requires a vaccination to be protected against it. It can be fatal, especially in young children.

    It would be good to mention that the vaccination is not for Whooping Cough; but, for ”Pertussis”
    It is generally given as a combination called DPT and vaccinates against three infectious diseases in humans: Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus. Unfortunately the scientifically illiterate luddites of the anti vaccine movements are still around and we only have to look to the measles outbreaks in New York and Washington state to see how public health officials are now scrambling to contain a disease that was eliminated in the U.S. nearly two decades ago. Washington state declared a public emergency in the wake of an outbreak in Clark County that has infected at least 53 people, mostly children. All of these natural cures are good to know; but, modern medicine and modern sanitation have brought the entire world from the brink of plague, epidemic, and pandemic many times in the last 90 or so years, since Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928.

    Vicks VapoRub, specifically designed to quell coughing when applied to the throat, chest, or even the bottom of your feet.

    I didn’t know about the feet; but, have been using or had this remedy used on me for more than 60 years, since it is very effective.
    As for Water / Steam, my biggest relief is to spend a long time in the shower inhaling that warm steam and allowing the hot water to loosen muscles. We also have pans of water on the heaters and a humidifier that is especially needed during the winter, since the air dries out more quickly with the lower dew point.

    One of the best ways to treat viral coughs is to drink more fluids, especially water and increase humidity in the airways using a dehumidifier or moist steam.

    I keep a Yeti cup full of ice water and sip it almost continuously to stay hydrated, since with the low winter humidify, you can get dehydrated just by breathing.
    I also assume you meant humidifier and not dehumidifier.
    Honey
    We still have several gallons of local honey on hand, some from a neighbor and some still left over from my ventures as an apiarist. Some of that older honey has crystallized; but, that’s an easy fix. We use it for all kinds of sweetening and confections, or just as an ingredient with toast (with PB) or a topping for ice cream.
    Your discussion about the medicinal benefits of honey are spot on; but, when you state

    Not recommended for children under the age of 2 years old because of honey..

    The most current recommendation is children less than 1 year old; but, once again, the reason would be nice. Honey can contain spores of the bacteria Clostridium Botulinum and we need to follow the same rules as we do for canning. The spores can be killed only by heat above 240° for 10 minutes or they can have their growth inhibited by a high acid environment with a pH of 4.6 or lower. Adult GI tracts usually have a pH of 1.5 to 3.5; but, the immature GI tract of children under 12 months old is typically in the 5-7 range and will allow the Clostridium Botulinum to grow and excrete its neurotoxin directly into the childs GI tract.

    Cayenne Pepper
    We also mix this with A&D ointment for topical use on sprains and strains.

  3. My go to is local honey, fresh lemon, cinnamon stick,grated ginger, a little bit of garlic and a little bit of ACV. We use it for colds and allergies both. And I don’t measure, LOL. You could surely add some turmeric or other antiinflammatory herb as well.

    OP, most definitely add using Vicks on the bottom of your feet. The skin is very thin, and the healing properties are readily absorbed there, but due caution should be exercised if one has poor circulation. I don’t use Vicks, but an herbal preparation that is similar. I also do the same with essential oils. It is very effective with children,, who might not ‘want’ the Vicks or whatever put on their chest/back/nose.

    1. Grammyprepper,

      OP, most definitely add using Vicks on the bottom of your feet. The skin is very thin, and the healing properties are readily absorbed there, but due caution should be exercised if one has poor circulation.

      I’ll have to think about that; but, both as a kid and as an adult, I love the stuff on my chest, since that wonderful aroma wafts right up to the nose and at least in my case, keeps the sinuses cleared out.

  4. you didn’t mention cherry syrup, typically made from the inner bark of cherry trees (works the same way cherry caugh drops work, small amounts of natural cyanide, and in very small amounts is safe). i occasionaly have a non profit group on the rez ask for branches and tops of cherry trees so they can make that syrup the old way

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