What is a Cough?
Although it may not seem like it, a cough is a protective action by the body in healthy individuals. A cough is an involuntary reflex (something which we cannot help) that is initiated by two classes of nerves with endings in the lungs.
Coughing is an action the body takes to get rid of substances irritating the air passages, and a cough is usually started to clear a buildup of phlegm (mucus) in the trachea. When a person coughs, air may move through this passage at up to 300 MPH.
What Causes a Cough?
If an individual is a non-smoker and has a normal chest X-ray, the most likely causes of a persistent cough are asthma, heartburn, or post-nasal drip. Other causes of chronic cough include chronic bronchitis and side effects from certain conventional medications such as ACE inhibitors. A cough can also be a symptom of an upper respiratory infection or bronchitis, pneumonia, or tuberculosis. Natural cough remedies may help alleviate the discomfort associated with bouts of illness-induced coughing.
Individuals who smoke often have what is referred to as a smoker's cough, a loud, hacking cough that often results in the expiration of phlegm. It is always advised that individuals stop smoking in a natural way, both to alleviate smoker’s cough and live a healthier life. Coughs in children are common, and usually accompany many of the normal childhood illnesses such as flu and bronchitis.
Coughing can also be triggered by food going down the wrong pipe, and when this occurs the epiglottis has not done its job properly in keeping food out of the trachea.
Help for a Cough
A cough that continues for several days or increases in severity warrants a visit to a physician or health care practitioner to rule out other diseases. If a cough lasts for more than three weeks, multiple causes are likely, and only when all the causes are treated will the patient be symptom-free.
A frequent or chronic cough usually indicates the presence of a disease. Coughs can be conventionally treated with cough medicines, often through cough suppressants (antitussives) that suppress the body's urge to cough. This can be less than ideal, as your body is built to naturally expel mucus and irritants by way of a cough.
Productive coughs (coughs that produce phlegm) are treated with expectorants that loosen mucus from the respiratory tract. Centrally-acting cough suppressants reduce the urge to cough by inhibiting the response of the sensory endings by depolarization of the vagus nerve.
However, it is always better to promote the body’s ability to expel mucus and phlegm and keep the mucus membranes moist, as dried out mucus membranes can be left susceptible to further infection.
There are many natural cough remedies available that address various forms of coughs.
Alternative and Complementary Approaches
Natural cough remedies utilizing herbal and homeopathic ingredients can be used to address coughing in a gentle yet effective manner, loosening any phlegm in the lungs, and opening airways without drying out membranes. A combination of certain herbs such as Hyssopus officinalis and Althea officinalis are known for their ability to promote respiratory health and soothe the chest, exerting a soothing effect on mucus membranes.
Natural remedies can be a safe alternative to prescription medications, and a natural approach will address underlying causes and not just the symptoms.