Flu season hits hard and fast. The runny noses, wracking coughs, and painful sore throats are enough to knock even the strongest people off their feet. Between work and family obligations, many of us simply cannot afford to get sick. Fortunately, there are dozens of natural remedies you can turn to when you need to feel better fast.
Tea is one of the best home remedies when you feel under the weather. A piping hot cup of tea can helps soothe throat pain while giving you the fluids your body needs to fight the infection. Not only is tea effective, it's also delicious! Looking to get your hands on the best tea for a cough? Check out our collection of the best tea for a cough right here.
Licorice root tea is made from the root of the licorice plant. It's not the same as those sweet red candies though, think more in terms of black licorice. The flavor is slightly bitter and salty with sweet undertones. Licorice root is a staple of Chinese herbal medicine and one of the best teas you can drink to tackle a cough.
Studies show that licorice tea boasts antiviral and antimicrobial properties. It works on a cellular level to prevent the replication of harmful pathogens and in certain conditions can even cause apoptosis—or cell death—in viral cells. Researchers attribute these health benefits to two triterpenes known as GL and GA. (1).
Steep a one-inch piece of fresh licorice root in eight ounces of boiling water for five to 10 minutes. If the flavor is too strong for your liking, add a dash of raw honey or lemon juice to balance out the flavor.
You can also perform a warm tea gargle using licorice root tea. Add a teaspoon of salt to further soothe a scratchy throat. Allow the tea concentrate to cool slightly. Swish the warm water in the back of the throat for 30 seconds to one minute. Spit and rinse when finished.
Like licorice root, ginger has long been used in Chinese and Indian medicine as a natural remedy for a host of ailments. Ginger is an excellent nausea aid, but it can also help alleviate cough thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. The spicy nature of ginger tea helps to open up airways by decreasing inflammation in the chest and throat.
The main compounds in ginger tea responsible for health benefits are gingerol and shoagol. Ginger also contains high amounts of antioxidants—second only to pomegranates and some berries. These antioxidants and bioactive compounds may fight invading pathogens, preventing their replication (2).
Bring 10 ounces of water to a rapid boil in a pan on the stove. Add a one-inch piece of fresh ginger or one teaspoon of dried ginger. Turn heat to medium and simmer for five minutes. Add a dash of apple cider vinegar or honey to increase the immune-boosting properties of this tea.
Thyme tea is one of the best teas for congestion and chest cough. Thyme essential oil can be diffused to open up airways or you can inhale the aromatic scent of a freshly brewed cup of thyme tea.
One German study found that thyme tea is effective in treating acute bronchitis with a productive cough. The double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial examined 361 patients with bronchitis. The results showed a 68.7 percent decrease in coughing fits in the group that was given thyme tea compared to just 47 percent in the placebo group. The reduction in cough was also achieved two days faster for patients who consumed thyme than compared to the placebo (3). Drinking thyme tea can help lessen cough faster and get you back on your feet in no time.
Bring one cup of water to a rapid boil on the stove or using a temperature controlled tea kettle. Add three sprigs of thyme and steep for five to 10 minutes. Add a touch of cinnamon if you want a slightly sweeter flavor. Strain the tea mixture into a teacup using a fine mesh strainer.
Chamomile tea is king when it comes to soothing pain. When you're suffering from the common cold, a cough is often accompanied by a sore throat. The effort of coughing can increase throat inflammation and irritation, resulting in constant pain. Drinking chamomile tea can help decrease the inflammation and lubricate the throat, thus reducing pain symptoms (4).
Chamomile tea can be made using the fresh or dried flowers of either the Roman chamomile or German chamomile plants. Use one teaspoon of dried flowers or two teaspoons of fresh flowers for every eight ounces of water. Let the blossoms steep in boiling water for five to ten minutes depending on preferred flavor and strength. Remember that flavor becomes stronger the longer tea is steeped. Chamomile tea pairs well with a slice of lemon or a dash of honey.
Honey tea is simply an herbal mixture of raw honey and warm water. This tea is a natural cough suppressant and offers calming properties that help to minimize throat pain caused by coughing.
Studies show that raw honey may help reduce the production of mucus, which can cause cough. These studies demonstrate that honey helps to shorten the duration and severity of cough (5). Another study found that drinking honey tea before bed can help improve sleep quality when suffering from a cough. The study was conducted on 105 children and compared the honey to dextromethorphan—a common cough medicine. The results showed the honey to be just as effective as the medication (6).
Heat water using a tea kettle or a pan on the stove. Add one teaspoon of honey for every eight ounces of water.
You can also add honey to any of these cough suppressant teas.
Hibiscus tea is a delightful herbal tea with tart and sweet flavor similar to cranberries. It's made from the vibrantly colored flower petals of the hibiscus plant. Hibiscus tea is effective in treating cough and cold symptoms thanks to its high concentration of vitamin C. According to the USDA, hibiscus contains 46.3 mg of vitamin C for every eight-ounce serving (7).
Brew two tablespoons of fresh hibiscus flowers or one teaspoon of dried hibiscus flowers for every eight ounces of boiling water. Sweeten with a slice of lemon or dash of honey.
Echinacea is one of the most common natural remedies for respiratory tract infections. It's also a common ingredient in cough drops, drugstore cough syrup, and other cough remedies. A meta-analysis of 13 trials found that echinacea helped to shorten the duration and severity of cough. There was a minor reduction in the recurrence of cough and the common cold, but other studies contradict these results (8). Research shows that echinacea work son both dry and wet cough by opening up airways through a decrease in inflammation.
Echinacea tea can be brewed using one teaspoon of dried flowers or two teaspoons of fresh flowers. Bring water to a boil, add the blossoms, and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain the flower petals and enjoy your cup of tea!
Green tea is largely praised as the healthiest tea on the market. In reality, black tea, oolong tea, white tea, and pu-erh tea share many of the same health benefits—there simply isn't as much research on those teas yet. These teas are known as true teas and come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. The difference between these teas arises during the production process where some teas are allowed to oxidize and for differing amounts of time. You don't have to stick to green tea, sip whichever true tea you find most pleasing.
True teas are packed with antioxidants and contain varying amounts of caffeine to give you extra energy when you're feeling under the weather. Black tea has the most caffeine while white tea has the least. These teas also contain EGCG, a powerful antioxidant that may help decrease inflammation and reduce coughing fits (9).
White and green tea are delicate teas that should be brewed at lower temperatures. Aim for 150 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit for white tea and 160 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit for green tea. Oolong tea, black tea, and pu-erh tea can be brewed with water between 200 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
Slippery elm tea is made from the inner bark of particular elm species. Native Americans used this tea to treat coughs hundreds of years ago. Slippery elm contains high amounts of mucilage, an ingredient that produces a gel-like substance when mixed with water. This warm tea helps soothe cough by coating the throat and increasing lubrication (10). According to the Mayo Clinic, it can also help treat throat infections that may cause cough (11).
Slippery elm tea is typically brewed using powder. Add one teaspoon of slippery elm powder to hot or boiling water. Steep for three minutes before consuming.
Marshmallow root tea offers similar health benefits as slippery elm tea because it also contains high amounts of mucilage. This tea is a great choice if you need something to help coat your throat to treat a dry cough. This tea can also help decrease pain and treat acid reflux caused by the common cold or digestive issues (12).
Use one teaspoon of powdered marshmallow root for every eight ounces of hot water. Steep for three to five minutes.
Peppermint is another common ingredient in throat lozenges and cough medications. The invigorating aroma of peppermint helps to open up airways and treat respiratory infections. It can also help decrease inflammation and reduce cough (13). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also approves peppermint for use as an essential oil (14). Diffuse the scent in your home or do a steam bath with peppermint tea to help open airways.
Brew a handful of fresh peppermint leaves in hot water and steep for five minutes. You can also do a steam bath by boiling peppermint tea on the stove for five minutes. Remove from heat and drape a towel around your head and shoulders. Lean over the pot and inhale the peppermint fragrance deeply for five to ten minutes. The steam and peppermint aroma will help loosen chest congestion and reduce coughing fits.
If you have a severe cough or difficulty breathing, it's a good idea to consult a healthcare professional. Herbal remedies may help to soothe some of your symptoms, but you may need over-the-counter medicines to fight tough infections.
For a minor cough and the common cold, drinking tea can give your body the extra boost it needs to fight off the infection fast. Remember that drinking lots of fluids is one of the best things you can do to boost your body's natural disease-fighting powers. Pair your tea drinking with natural cough remedies including lots of rest and relaxation so your body can focus on healing. You can take a hot shower to help open up your airways and follow up with a cup of tea to soothe inflammation further.