How to Get Rid of Phlegm: 11 Natural Home Remedies

Some home remedies, like lemon juice and honey, ginger syrup with cinnamon, or peppermint tea, contain substances with expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antioxidant action. They help to eliminate secretions in the respiratory airways and strengthen the immune system. These remedies can reduce coughing with phlegm caused by a cold, flu, sinusitis or bronchitis. 

To boost their efficacy, these home remedies can be sweetened with honey, which can help to lubricate the throat and reduce irritation. Honey also helps to get rid of the microorganisms causing infections, which helps to treat any cough. Keep in mind that honey should not be used for children under the age of 2 or by people with a history of diabetes or a honey, pollen or propolis allergy. 

It is important to highlight that, although they contain health benefits, these remedies do not substitute treatment prescribed by the doctor. Pregnant women should opt for inhalations or topical essential oils for the treatment of coughing, as teas are generally not recommended for use during pregnancy.  Learn about other ways to treat a cough during pregnancy

Some home remedies for phlegm and coughing include: 

1. Lemon juice and honey

Lemon juice and honey contain expectorant action as this combination is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. It can help to decrease respiratory airway inflammation, which can relieve coughing and speed up cold and flu recovery. In addition, honey can moisten the groat and reduce tissue irritation, which contributes to cough relief. 

Ingredients

  • Juice of 1 lemon 
  • 1 tablespoon of honey 
  • 200 mL (7 oz) of water 

How to prepare

Mix all the ingredients in the blender and sweeten with honey before drinking, making sure to drink as soon as possible. Check out other home remedies for the cold and flu

2. Orange, pineapple and watercress juice 

Orange, pineapple and watercress juice are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, potassium and bromelain. These substances contain expectorant, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action, which help to fight phlegm and strengthen the immune system to speed-up cold and flu recovery. 

Ingredients

  • ½ teacup full of watercress leaves and stems
  • Juice from 1 orange 
  • 1 slice of pineapple 

How to prepare

Place all the ingredients in a blender and mix until well-combined. Drink half a cup of this juice 2 to 3 times per day or whenever you have an intense coughing flare-up. Read more about home remedies for coughs that you can try. 

3. Ginger syrup with cinnamon 

Ginger syrup with cinnamon contains a drying effect on the tissue linings, making it a great natural expectorant. It can be used to combat coughing with phlegm caused by the cold or flu. 

Ingredients

  • 1 cinnamon stick or 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1 teacup of peeled ginger root, sliced  
  • 85 g of brown sugar (demerara or coconut) 
  • 100 mL (3.5 oz) of water 

How to prepare

Boil the water with sugar, making sure to keep stirring until the sugar as completely dissolved. Turn off the stove, add the ginger and  cinnamon, and stir. Store the syrup in a clean and dry glass jar. Take 1 teaspoon of ginger syrup 3 times per day. 

This syrup should not be used by people with a history of clotting problems or by people who take anticoagulants, as it can increase your risk for bleeding and bruising. In addition, this syrup should not ne used by pregnant women who are close to delivery or with a history of miscarriages. 

4. Peppermint tea 

Peppermint tea is rich in menthol, an essential oil that can improve symptoms like coughing, phlegm, runny nose, stuffy nose and headache, all which are common with the cold and flu. 

This tea also contains antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, which help the body to fight a cold and recover quicker. Learn about other health benefits that peppermint tea can provide. 

Ingredients

  • 6 leaves of chopped mint leaves 
  • 150 mL (5 oz) of boiling water

How to prepare

Add the mint to a teacup with the boiling water and allow to soak for 5 to 10 minuets. Strain, sweeten with honey if desired, and take 3 to 4 cups per day. 

5. Thyme and honey infusion

This thyme and honey infusion is rich in anti-inflammatory and antiseptic substances, like thymol, carvacrol, cymene and linalool. These contain expectorant action, which helps with the elimination of phlegm, and they additionally help to lubricate the throat to relieve coughing, runny nose and stuffy nose. 

People with an allergy to honey, propolis or pollen should not add honey to this infusion, and should only take it with thyme. 

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of dried thyme extract or 2 branches of fresh thyme 
  • 1 liter (about 4 cups) of boiling water  
  • 1 tablespoon of honey 

How to prepare

Add the dry thyme to the boiling water and allow to soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain and drink 3 cups per day. 

Thyme infusions should not be used by people with stomach problems (like gastritis or ulcers), with liver disease, or by those who take anticoagulants, like warfarin or clopidogrel. 

6. Onion and garlic syrup 

This home remedy for phlegm is made with onion and garlic, which contains expectorant and antiseptic properties. It helps to loosen  phlegm, strengthen the immune system and reduce lung inflammation to prevent more phlegm production. 

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, grated 
  • 1 smashed clove of garlic  
  • Honey 

How to prepare

Place the onion and garlic in a glass container and add enough honey to cover the onion and garlic. Mix all the ingredients and store in the refrigerator for one day. Children over 2 can take 2.5 mL of syrup, or about half a teaspoon, 3 times per day. Adults can take 5 mL or 1 teaspoon, up to 3 times per day. Discard any unused syrup after 1 week in the fridge. 

Because it contains honey, this onion and garlic syrup should not be used in children under the age of 2, nor by pregnant women with gestational diabetes. People with a history of diabetes should also avoid taking this syrup, as the honey can cause glyemic spikes. 

7. Eucalyptus vapor inhalation 

A great way to treat coughing and phlegm is to inhale vapor infused with eucalyptus. It contains expectorant and anti-septic properties, which help to quickly relieve nasal congestion. 

Some people may be sensitive to eucalyptus essential oil, however, and therefore they may actually experience a worsening in symptoms. If you notice your symptoms worsening with this inhalation, discontinue use immediately. 

Ingredients

  • 5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil 
  • 1 liter (about 4 cups) of boiling water

How to prepare

Place the boiling water in a bowel and add the drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Then cover your head and the bowl with a towel and inhale the vapor. Try leaning your head toward the bowel and inhaling as deeply as possible for 10 minutes. You can repeat this 2 to 3 times per day. The towel helps to make the vapor last for longer. 

If you do not have this essential oil at home, you can use fresh eucalyptus leaves and soak them in the boiling water. The natural oils contained in the leaves will be released in the water vapor.

8. Licorice tea  

Licorice tea, prepared with the medicinal plant Glycyrrhiza glabra is rich in substances like glycyrrhizin, glabridin, apigenin and  e liquiritin. It contains potent expectorant action as well as antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help to fight phlegm and other respiratory problems, like a cold or bronchitis. 

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon of licorice root  
  • 1 teacup of boiling water 
  • Honey to sweeten to taste 

How to prepare

Add the licorice to the cup of boiling water, cover, and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey if desired. Drink this tea up to twice per day. 

Licorice root should not be consumed by pregnant or breastfeeding women or by people with a history of cardiac problems, renal disease or low potassium. 

9. Guaco and mallow tea

Guaco and mallow tea have a soothing effect on the bronchi, which reduced the production of phlegm as well as any shortness of breath. In addition, the properties found in guaco can make phlegm thinner, which helps to eliminate it from the throat and lungs. 

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon of dried mallow flowers or leaves
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh guaco leaves  
  • 1 cup of boiling water  

How to prepare

Place the mallow and guaco in the cup of boiling water. Cover for about 10 minutes, then strain and drink. The recommended dose for adults is 1 cup up to 3 times per day .

This tea should only be taken in those over the age of 2. Younger children will benefit from water vapor inhalations. 

10. Butcher's-broom tea

Butcher's-broom tea, prepared with the medicinal plant Scoparia dulcis, is rich in fatty acids, diterpenes, and flavonoids with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, ezpectorant and antiseptic properties. These help to relieve coughs from colds, asthma and bronchitis. 

Ingredients

  • 10 g of butcher's-broom
  • 500 mL (2 cups) of water  

How to prepare

Place the butcher's-broom and the water in a pot and boil for 10 minutes. Then allow to cool, strain, and drink 3 to 4 cups per day. 

Butcher's-broom should be used by pregnant women as it is associated with increased risk for miscarriage. This plant should also not be used during breastfeeding. 

11. Echinacea tea

Echinacea tea is rich in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and immuno-stimulating substances, like flavonoids, chicory aids, and rosmarinic. These help to strengthen the immune system and reduce the duration of colds, the flu or sinusitis, which help to relieve phlegmy coughs.

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon of echinacea root or leaves 
  • 1 cup of boiling water 

How to prepare

Place 1 teaspoon of echinacea root or leaves into the cup of boiling water. Allow to soak for 15 minutes, strain, then drink twice a day. 

Echinacea tea should be used by children, pregnent women, or breastfeeding women. It should also be avoided in people with a history of asthma, tuberculosis, or autoimmune idseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or psoriasis. 

To complement these home remedies, you should drink plenty of water to help thin out very thick phlegm. 

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Updated by Tua Saude editing team, on August of 2022.

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