Nobody likes having a cough. A bad cough can leave your chest and throat in pain, with the buildup of mucus making it difficult to breathe. Furthermore, coughing fits can also drain the body and mind of energy. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the person with the cough isn’t the only one who suffers, as everyone around the cougher has to hear it too. To solve the problem, many people drink cough syrup which can make them feel drowsy and lethargic. Luckily, there are some natural remedies for cough available, one of which is the herb called thyme. Keep reading to learn why so many people are choosing thyme for cough relief.
What is Thyme?
Thyme is a perennial herb from the mint family that people often use for cooking. Many people who have it in their spice cabinet, though, might be unaware of the herb’s numerous health benefits. Thyme has even been used by the Egyptians and Greeks for everything from embalming to incense.
There are actually hundreds of subspecies of thyme, but they all typically grow between 15 and 30cm tall. Thyme likes to grow in warm, sunny climates, such as in countries around the Mediterranean.
The herb has long been recognized for things such as its pleasant fragrance and its effectiveness as an antioxidant and anti-fungal agent. And yes, also for its role as a natural remedy for cough relief.
The Side Effects of Over-The-Counter Cough Medicine
When it comes to over-the-counter cough medicine, there are different kinds of formulas that people might take. One common kind, known as an antitussive, works to dry up a cough.
On the other hand, the type that thins the mucus and gets the user to cough it up more easily is called an expectorant. Meanwhile, there are still other types of cough medication such as antihistamines and decongestants.
When most people visit the drug store in hopes of finding something to ease or cure their cough, they typically buy cough syrup, often sold under brand names like Robitussin or Nyquil. Unfortunately, regardless of which type of cough syrup you buy, you might end up encountering some unpleasant side effects.
One common cough syrup ingredient, known as guaifenesin, works as an expectorant. Though most people are able to tolerate it, some side effects might include dizziness, stomach pain and nausea. (1)
Another common ingredient in cough syrup is dextromethorphan, which effects the brain by suppressing the reaction that gets people to cough. Drinking cough syrup with dextromethorphan (DXM) does not cause much harm in small doses, though users might still experience some dizziness or nausea.
DXM abuse, unfortunately, is now becoming a problem among young people. You may have heard that some people resort to drinking lots of cough syrup to get high, and it’s specifically DXM that does the trick. Though DXM may be easily obtainable at the drug store, it’s definitely not a safe way to have fun. Some of the more serious side effects of taking too much DXM include hallucinations, blurry vision and even blackouts. (2)
Furthermore, the chemical acetaminophen which is found in many cough medications can harm the liver in the same way that commercial anti-inflammatories or pain relievers can. (1)
Even if you don’t end up experiencing some of the negative side effects mentioned above, at the very least, most cough syrup makes people feel sluggish and drowsy. This means that simply trying to cure your cough can prevent you from getting through a normal day at work, and drinking cough syrup can also make you unfit to drive!
That’s why you should consider an herb like thyme as a safe and natural alternative remedy for calming your cough.
Thyme for Cough Relief
One of the reasons why thyme is so helpful at combating coughs is thanks to a component known as thymol. Thymol acts as a natural expectorant, which means that it helps break down mucus in the same way that typical over-the-counter medications do. (3)
In fact, thymol is often used in store-bought products, from cough syrups to mouthwashes. But why settle for these products that also have a bunch of other added chemicals, when you can consume it naturally and straight from the source?
Furthermore, when consuming thyme in its whole form, you not only get the expectorant effects of thymol but you also get to benefit from the herb’s many other beneficial properties, such as immune, digestive and nervous system support.
But if you have a cough, how exactly should you be taking thyme? There are actually a number of options when it comes to using thyme to help suppress your cough.
The Best Ways to Use Thyme for Cough Relief
Thyme Infusion for Cough Relief
According to Lesley Bremness, author of the book ‘The Essential Herbs Handbook,’ one of the best ways to use thyme for a cough is to make your own thyme infusion. But what exactly is an infusion?
An herb infusion is when you brew an herb as you would a tea. Basically, this means steeping a certain amount of herb leaves in one cup of boiled water for around 10 minutes.
To make your own thyme infusion, first prepare either 1 teaspoon of dried thyme or 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme sprigs. Then steep the thyme in the hot water. (4)
It’s up to you whether or not you want to strain or leave the herbs in there before consuming the infusion. It’s always best to drink an infusion hot but you could also drink it cold should you have any left over.
For best results at curing your cough, drink one cup of thyme infusion up to three times daily until you see improvement.
Homemade Thyme and Honey Cough Syrup
To make this effective, sweet-tasting thyme cough remedy, you only need a couple ingredients: some thyme, raw honey and water. (Learn more about the multitude of ways raw honey can benefit your health right here).
According to Lindsey Johnson of the web site Cafe Johnsonia, you first want to place a bunch of either dried or fresh thyme (roughly 3 tablespoons) into a pot or saucepan of water that’s already boiling. Then, let the thyme steep in the water until it becomes cool. (5)
Next, remove the thyme and add around one cup of raw honey into the water. Mix them together and then pour your concoction into a jar. As long as you keep it refrigerated, it should be able to last for up to a couple of months.
Next time you feel a cough coming on, just take one or two teaspoons of the homemade cough syrup and you should be on the road to recovery!
In total, preparation time should only take around 15 minutes, making this one of the easiest home remedies for cough relief.
Thyme Tea for Cough Relief
Blogger Chrissy Taylor recommends a thyme tea recipe that’s similar to the infusion and cough syrup concoctions above, but with some additional ingredients. In addition to the thyme (around ½ a teaspoon) and some honey, this special thyme tea also calls for 2 teaspoons of lemon rind and 1 teaspoon of sage. (6)
First, you want to let the lemon rind, sage and thyme steep in hot water for around 15 minutes. After straining the tea, add in some raw honey and also some additional lemon juice if you see fit.
The lemon provides some highly beneficial vitamin C which works great for an immune system boost. It might also even strengthen the effectiveness of the herbs.
You can drink a few cups of your thyme tea a day, or however you see fit.
Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme is also very effective as an essential oil. Its antibacterial and antifungal properties help relieve not just coughs but congestion and colds in general. One way to use thyme essential oil for a stuffy nose or cough is to put a few drops in the bathtub before getting in the bath.
According to the web site “The Little Herbal,” it’s best to dilute thyme essential oil with a little bit of olive oil to prevent any skin irritations. For example, around three drops of thyme oil mixed with 1 tablespoon of olive oil can be great in the bathtub for either you or your child. You can also try dropping several drops of thyme essential oil into a hot shower. (7)
How to make thyme essential oil:
According to Dr. Mercola, you should start out by crushing dried thyme using a mortar and pestle. This helps release some of the herb’s natural oils. You then want to place everything into a saucepan and mix it with a carrier oil such as olive oil. (8)
Heat up the mixture over a medium flame for several minutes until you start seeing bubbles. After turning off the heat and allowing everything to cool, you can then store your new thyme essential oil in a glass container to use whenever you want.
Don’t feel like going through the trouble of making your own? There are plenty of thyme essential oils you can buy online or at your local store.
Potential Side Effects of Thyme
Thyme is not associated with any serious side effects, but some people might have mild allergic reactions to thyme and other herbs of the Lamiaceae family.
In such cases, common side effects would include things like nausea, diarrhea or inflamed skin. Be sure to consult a physician if you have any questions or concerns regarding how you might react to thyme.
Thyme is truly a special herb, as evidenced by the fact that it’s been used by a variety of cultures for centuries. As the seasons begin to change and more people are starting to come down with coughs and colds, consider giving thyme a try before rushing to the drug store. Experimenting with thyme is also a great introduction to the world of home-made infusions, teas and essential oils.
(4) Bremness, Lesley. “The Essential Herbs Handbook.” p130.