Persistent, dry coughing is never a welcome symptom. No one wants to be the person in an otherwise quiet room who cannot stop breaking the calm with a hacking cough.
The Two Major Types of Coughing
First, understand the difference between the two major types of coughing. Productive coughing is a natural cleansing mechanism of the body and should never be suppressed. Productive coughing is a cough in which you cough up mucous or phlegm. Your body must rid itself of the extra junk that resides in your lung and chest area.
Cough remedies that address productive coughing are actually encouraging the action – your coughing will stop once the body gets rid of the extra phlegm.
Dry coughing brings up no phlegm or mucous. Dry coughing is caused by dry air, allergies or random disturbances at the back of your throat. These are the types of coughs that should be suppressed with a demulcent. A demulcent is a treatment that soothes mucous membranes that have been irritated while removing the irritant that is causing the coughing.
The Best Treatments
The Penn State College of Medicine found that honey actually works with more effectiveness calming a cough than synthetic cough syrup. Honey is a demulcent that has a relatively high viscosity. It coats the irritated mucous membranes like virtually no other substance on the market, suppressing the cough symptom as it heals. Take one to three spoonfuls of honey a day as needed.
Licorice root is a demulcent and an expectorant, meaning that it can help the symptoms of productive coughing and dry coughing. The root loosens the airways and eases inflammation that irritates your throat at the same time. However, the main ingredient in licorice root tea, glycyrrhizin, slows the conversion of cortisol to cortisone. Avoid this remedy if you are on a steroid treatment.
Salt water uses osmosis to help quell the symptoms of both productive and dry coughing. Water will naturally flow to the cells when the salt concentration is higher outside of your mucous membrane cells. When the water leaves, it will take extra phlegm with it along with soothing any inflamed tissue.
Most cough syrups are not good for you. The two main ingredients in cough syrup, dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine, have the same effectiveness on a cough as a placebo, a 2004 study concluded. With this in mind, stick to natural remedies in order to relieve your symptoms and help your body clean itself in a productive way.