Home Remedies for Springtime Coughs & Congestion

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Home Remedies for Congestion and Cough

Spring can be a tough time. It doesn’t seem like we transition easily from winter into warm weather here in Ohio. We do it in fits and starts. One day it is warm and sunny and the next it is chilly and rainy. The back and forth of the weather makes it incredibly easy to get a good, strong cold in the head or chest.

Home Remedies for Congestion and Cough

This spring it seems like everyone is running around with a similar cough. I don’t tend to worry about a cough that sounds productive, however, if it is a hard cough or there is a rattling in the chest it is important to work on a resolution. Most of what I’m hearing among my family and friends is a non-productive cough that seems to be the result of hard, dry phlegm that is stuck at the very bottom of the lungs.

This winter was long and cold. There was less illness during the cold months because people weren’t going out very much. Unfortunately, this meant they were staying inside in the heated, dry air. When we forget to compensate for this dryness we actually become dehydrated by the very air we breathe.

A cold that comes out of this situation is one where our mucus is very sticky and hard to get out. There are a number of things to do in this case. Hydration is number one. The more water you take in while sick, the thinner and more easily moved your mucus will be.

As it is spring, there are some weeding chores you may be doing while you hack and cough. So here are two recipes to make use of the plants you would be throwing away anyway:

Plantain Tea for Congestion


  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh picked plantain leaf (Plantago lanceolata or Plantago major)*
  • 1 cup boiling water


  1. Cut or tear the leaves of your plantain and place them in a cup.
  2. Pour boiling water over the leaves and cover your cup with something solid.
  3. Steep for 10-15 minutes and drink warm.

*Be sure to pick enough plantain so you can drink this three times a day until your cough stops.

Other additions

You can power-pack this tea by adding some of the other weeds you’ve pulled. Among the best would be chickweed (Stellaria media), gill-over-the-ground (Glechoma hederecea) or violet (Viola spp.).

Garlic Mustard Compress

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is a hated plant and is being rooted out of wild places all over our area even as I write this. Many have discovered its culinary applications and have brought it into their kitchens to steam or make into delicious pesto.

If you are coughing as you pull this one from your yard, you should try the following remedy. The garlic mustard compress is a deep heating application that will help to break up congestion.

Ingredients & Supplies

  • 1 good handful of garlic mustard
  • 1 large strip of old cotton or flannel cloth
  • heating pad
  • plastic grocery bag


  1. Put the garlic mustard in a blender or food processor and blend until it is a mushy mess.
  2. You will want to be somewhere where you can comfortably be on your stomach for at least half an hour. Spread the blended garlic mustard onto your cloth, then fold the other side of the cloth over the mass of plant mess. Have a family member or friend place it on your back between your shoulder blades. They will then want to cover it with the plastic grocery bag and finally add the heating pad.
  3. You might alternate the compress between chest and back, but definitely focus on the back as a priority.
  4. You can compost the garlic mustard after you are done and pick more for your next compress.

Are you dealing with a cough or congestion this spring? Are you using natural means to clear it up? Share below!


About Dawn Combs

Dawn is a wife, mother, farmer, author, ethnobotanist, professional speaker, and educator. She has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a certified herbalist, and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows Farm. Her books include Conceiving Healthy Babies and Heal Local.

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  1. Brenda says

    Fenugreek works wonders for a productive cough. After it loosens up then your nasal passages just pop open. I use it all the time!
    Tea or capsules. …

  2. Lila says

    Hi there, thanks for your informative articles. I would like to try the plantain and chickweed tea to help with my 4 year old daughter’s cough (it’s autumn down here in New Zealand) but do you think it would be ok to add honey (from a family member’s spray free garden) to make it more palatable for her?

  3. MiTmite( says

    Oops. No way to edit comments here. I left off the end quotation marks and also meant to write ” . . . and finally add the heating pad ,” without that extra “then.”

  4. MiTmite( says

    It’s not exactly clear, the part about “They will then want to cover it with the plastic grocery bag and then finally add the heating pad. I think some people might take that as meaning to put the entire compress into a plastic bag, before applying. The plastic should only go between the compress and the heating pad, correct?

    • Dawn says

      Nope, you’re right. It’s already been placed on the skin between the shoulder blades before the plastic is placed over top. Then the heating pad is added over that. The idea is to keep it all nice and warm. The plastic bag is only a suggestion, you may also use plastic wrap… I just hate to waste it!

  5. Deb says

    Allergies have left me with nasal congestion and sinus mucous. I use my netti pot twice a day with much relief. I fill the pot with warm water and add 1/4 teaspoon of 1 part sea salt and one part baking soda. Use half pot for one side, half pot for the other. Instant relief!