Medical herbalist columnist Nicola Parker offers tips on how to sooth that pesky tickly cough.
Some of the most annoying things about catching a cold can be the symptoms we are left with afterwards.
Sometimes it’s chesty mucus or a stuffy nose but one of the most irritating can be a dry tickly cough.
Most people turn to a cough syrup or a spoonful of honey for a tickly cough. These thick, viscous liquids put a temporary coating on the throat, covering the irritated tissues and providing instant relief.
Unfortunately, we quickly swallow the protective coating, meaning that we need to keep taking doses of the syrups.
While this might be ok for someone sat at home on the sofa by a box of tissues, it’s no good for those of us that need to get out and about. If the worst of the cold is over and it’s just a lingering, tickly cough that you’re left with, it’s hardly convenient to carry a sticky bottle of cough syrup around in your pocket or purse as you go about your daily activities.
One alternative to cough syrups is to use a cough spray.
Herbal cough sprays might be based on honey or syrup, designed to work similarly to a cough syrup. In my experience, their effectiveness is limited, as it is often the thickness of these liquids that make them effective. It’s impossible to spray honey from a nozzle, but honey and syrup are rarely my go-to herbs for tickly coughs.
Instead, my favoured herbs for tickly coughs are marshmallow and mullein.
These herbs are known as antitussives (herbal speak for anti-cough) and they are traditionally used for their effectiveness in repairing and soothing, damaged and irritated tissues. I keep a Dry Cough spray on my shelves for just this purpose and recommend it far more than I ever recommend a syrup. The spray works by applying a protective layer to the irritated tissue, that eases the constant urge to cough. Coughing can actually irritate the tissues further, so working with antitussives like marshmallow herb and mullein, can actually help quicken the body’s natural healing processes.
I first tried the Dry Cough Spray a few years back after a sore throat had left me with a nagging, persistent cough.
I wasn’t ill enough to take time off work or to cancel my social plans, but the dry cough I had been left with was annoying, constant and frankly quite embarrassing. I had plans to meet some friends for a meal over the weekend and when it became clear that my cough was stubborn enough to tag along, I started to dread my dinner out.
I didn’t want to look ill or for people to avoid sitting beside me in case I shared my germs with them as I spent the whole evening coughing.
I decided to try Dry Cough Spray, unsure how well a spray would compare to a large spoonful of syrup.
I’d never used it before and I’d found other sprays to be ineffective, doing little more than leaving an
unpleasant taste in my mouth. I was desperate, though and, short of cancelling my plans, the Dry Cough Spray was all I had.
The effect of the marshmallow and mullein were immediate.
Initially worried about drawing attention to myself, I used the cough spray at the first sign of a tickle and my need to cough ceased immediately.
A single spray didn’t last all night, of course, but marshmallow and mullein are incredibly safe herbs, so I could use it as often as I needed to.
Nobody really noticed my cough. A couple of people noticed the spray, but I explained it away, saying I just had a bit of a tickle. I managed to finish my meal and my social evening in relative peace.
Stopping constant coughing can help to heal tissues faster, so I always like to keep my marshmallow and mullein herbs on hand, in case somebody at work or around the house catches something.
I get so irritated by symptoms that linger long after an infection has cleared, so now the Dry cough Spray always takes space in my medicine cupboard or, when needed, in my handbag.