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What is an Herbal Expectorant?

By Jane Olcott
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Patients who have a perpetual cough and congestion because of allergies or infection should consider taking an herbal expectorant to relieve their symptoms. An herbal expectorant is a natural remedy that is ingested to loosen the mucus that is causing the cough. After the mucus is loosened by the herbal expectorant, it is efficiently expulsed from the body through coughing and sneezing. Herbal expectorants usually are taken as a serum, a pill or a tea and can be purchased at most health food stores and some pharmacies.

Licorice root is one of the most common herbal expectorants. Licorice root comes in capsule, tablet and liquid extract form. Licorice root's expectorant effect is especially useful in treating irritating coughs, asthma and chest infections.

Ginger also can be used as an herbal expectorant. Ginger becomes more effective if it is ingested as a tea, which can be purchased at most grocery stores or can be made at home by soaking a peeled, fresh ginger root in a cup or glass of hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. The root should be removed from the water before the tea is consumed. A teaspoon of honey can be added to the ginger tea in order to improve the taste, and the honey helps to soothe the throat as the mucus is expectorated during coughing.

Mullein leaf also is a popular herbal expectorant. Like ginger, mullein leaf is more effective when taken as a tea. Mullein tea is made from the flowers and leaf of the mullein plant. The tea is a beneficial remedy for bronchitis, sore throat, tonsillitis, dry coughs and hoarseness. Mullein tea, also known as mullein leaf tea, is sold in individual tea bags and can be purchased at most pharmacies and health food stores.

If any adverse effects are felt while an herbal expectorant is being taken, a medical professional should be contacted immediately. It also is a good idea for a healthcare professional to be consulted before any herbal treatment is started. A medical professional will be able determine any underlying conditions that could lead to side effects and can prescribe the best course of treatment.

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Discussion Comments
By discographer — On Mar 09, 2011

There is a plant called "câprier" or "caper bush" in English that is produced in my home, Morocco. We pickle the flower buds of the plant, eat them and sell them to other countries in the region. I've seen them used in France in French cuisine also.

The locals in Morocco say that the caper bush is a medicinal herb and that the root works as an expectorant and diuretic. They use the root bark as a tonic for various illness. I don't know how widely it is available outside of North Africa and Mediterranean region. But it could be another option to these other expectorants you have listed.

By SteamLouis — On Mar 08, 2011

This is great information! I've been taking Robitussin DM which makes me extremely drowsy. It's hard to find over the counter cough medication that does not cause drowsiness. I usually wait until I get home to take it so that I'm not drowsy during the day. Because of that, I am coughing all day at work. I'm going to try some of these herbal therapies. Ginger tea sounds especially good.

By ysmina — On Mar 07, 2011

Mullein tea works wonders for cough and mucus, it tastes great too. I put a little bit in boiled water, strain the tea and put sugar. I definitely have it when I have a cold but I drink it regularly too.

I saw mentioned in a forum that black pepper is good for getting rid of phlegm. Does anyone know anything about it? How are we supposed to use black pepper for that purpose?

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