A cough is like the angel of death for a singer. After days of hacking, the voice box is left in shambles, even after the cold goes away. My man Patrick sings professionally, and a few times each year, he starts coughing like his lungs will explode. “When I was a kid, I coughed as if I was trying to bring up everything in my lungs all at once,” he admitted to me one evening. “That’s a hard habit to break,” he added.
“Really? I like my lungs, want to keep ’em,” I joked. “And I want to keep yours also. I couldn’t live without hearing you sing ‘Bésame Mucho.’”
“Then find me a cough remedy, baby,” Patrick pleaded.
The next day, I put out a social-media call for help, and my people came through with loads of suggestions. The first few offered hot drinks.
“Hot toddy with ginger, honey, and whiskey,” stated Kathleen. “Sometimes lemon instead of ginger. My mom would give it to me when I was older than ten years old and had bronchitis.”
Cherie’s hot toddy used tea. “Strong black tea, brandy, lemon, and honey.”
“Honey and whiskey are superb,” said Nick, “served up just hot enough not to hurt.”
“A teapot full of lemon and honey with boiling water,” suggested Meg. “Drink the whole teapot; it works every time for me. It even worked for strep with my daughter.”
Three friends suggested Delsym. “Delsym is the best,” Marla stated. Sophie agreed and added, “and use a humidifier.” (Delsym Cough 12-hour relief costs $9.44 for three ounces at Target.)
“Halls Mentholyptus honey cough drops work best for me,” suggested Patrick’s cousin Rick ($1.19 for a 40-count at Target).
“I use the Nature’s Way Sambucol,” explained Bernice. “Elderberry is an immune booster and helps fight off viruses. If I give it at the first sign of sniffles, I can usually keep a cold at bay. If they’re already sick, it can help knock out a cold in three days with intensive use: one teaspoon four times a day. I sometimes buy the tablets but have found that the elderberry syrup is more effective.” (Sambucol Black Elderberry Original Formula costs $14.99 for four ounces at Sprouts.)
“Lots of people come in looking for Singer’s Saving Grace,” offered the saleslady at Sprouts. “It’s very popular [$11.99 for a one-ounce pump spray].”
“B&T Cough & Bronchial Syrup,” said Adrienne. “It’s as good as the codeine but no drugs in it, though the adult nighttime version does have alcohol in it. Children’s versions are excellent, too [$13.49 for eight ounces at Sprouts].”
“I learned the vitamin C trick from a news-anchor friend,” offered Adam. “Suck on a nonchewable vitamin C tablet. It’s an industry secret for when you absolutely must have a clear throat, but it’s only symptom relief, not a cure. Also, constantly sucking on them will burn the enamel right off your teeth, so use sparingly.”
“SinuCleanse isn’t a cough suppressant, per se,” explained John, “but indirectly as a preventative...in my experience it’s more effective.” SinuCleanse is a saline solution rinse for the nasal passageways (SinuCleanse Neti Pot All Natural Nasal Wash System costs $9.98 on Amazon).
“Unfortunately, I have too much experience with this because my youngest has severe asthma issues,” explained Christine. “Vaporizers are good; the cool mist with pure distilled water can help if airways are swollen and irritated.”
“When my kids have a cold, I sprinkle a washcloth with five drops of essential oils and leave it next to my children in their beds,” explained Mary. “I use lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil. The tea tree oil is antiviral and the lavender and eucalyptus oils are antibacterial.”
Bethanne makes her own cough syrup. “I use a few sources to make this medicine — Practical Herbalism and The Green Pharmacy Herbal Handbook. And I also use the Bulk Herb Store website [bulkherbstore.com] for inspiration. In the syrup I use dried elderberries, wild cherry bark, red clover, Siberian ginseng, and clover honey. I also use cherry-flavored brandy to help it last longer and taste better. My kids like it, and I do think it helps. Herbal remedies take time to work, in my opinion, but I know exactly what I’m putting into my body — my family’s bodies — and for me this is important with all the chemicals and additives out there.”