Dr. Sheila Kingsbury, ND, RH (AHG)

It is a known fact, kids get coughs. Some can be very concerning but the vast majority of them are not. Coughs are generally caused by the post-nasal drip that drains down the back of the throat from congestion due to a viral cold. Infants under 6 months should be checked out by a physician, just in case, but they can have a minor cough from teething drool alone. If the cough is viral in nature it usually develops slowly over 3-5 days with other cold symptoms that includes a runny nose with gradually thickening mucus. Other symptoms that may be present are fever, ear pain, sore throat and general malaise. The cough can interrupt their sleep or interfere temporarily with their appetite or ability to feed well at the breast or bottle. Bacterial coughs are typically much more severe in their symptoms – such as high fever (above 104 F), severe sore throat or vomiting with the cough – and these should be checked out by a physician.

If the cough is minor, there are some lovely home remedies and herbal cough medicines that you can make up to help soothe the aches and pains as well as reduce cough spasms and improve the immune response so that the cough resolves faster.

My favorite cough formula is:

  • Inula helenium (Elecampane) glycerite  20ml
  • Thymus vulgaris (Thyme) tincture 5 ml
  • Sambucus nigra (Elderberry – berries) glycerite  10ml
  • Zingiber officinalis (Ginger root) glycerite  5 ml
  • Prunus serotina (Cherry Bark) glycerite 10ml
  • Verbascum thapsus (Mullein) glycerite 10ml

This makes a 2 oz cough syrup and for ages 6 months to 1 year could be given at ½ tsp three times a day; for 1-5 years could be given at 1 tsp three times a day; and for 5+ years 1 tsp 4-5 times a day. The Thyme helps open the airways because it is bronchodilating. The Cherry bark helps reduce cough spasms and make coughs more productive and the Mullein is expectorating. The Elecampane helps the immune response as well as helps to expectorate and tone the lungs. Elderberry is well known for its antiviral effects and immune support in general. Ginger root reduces minor pain and inflammation and boosts the immune system as well.

Another simple approach with items likely to be found in most kitchens is this pleasant tasting elixir.

Common Cold Elixir

  1. Add 1 cup of water to a small pan and heat almost to a boil
  2. Add in the following herbal mixture:
  • 2 tsp of dried Zingiber (Ginger) root
  • 1 Tbsp. of Sambucus spp. berries (Elderberry)
  • 2 tsp. of Thymus vulgaris (Thyme) leaves
  1. Steep for about 15 minutes.
  2. Strain out the herbs and keep the fluid in a pyrex measuring cup.
  3. Add in about ¼ cup of honey (or maple syrup), mix and store in a medicine bottle.

This is helpful for the symptoms of the common cold including minor coughs.  It is antiviral but also helps to decongest the nasal and throat passages and relieve some of the cough or general congestion so that the person can feel better.  Dosing is the same as for the above formula.

Have a look at my previous article for herbal remedies to support the immune system.


sheila072013-2Dr. Sheila Kingsbury is a Naturopathic Physician, Lactation Consultant and Registered Herbalist. Dr. Kingsbury is a 2003 graduate of Bastyr University’s naturopathic medicine program and a Licensed Primary Care Provider in Washington State. Dr. Kingsbury is currently the chair of the Botanical Medicine department as well as Associate Professor in the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University. She regularly teaches courses in Botanical Medicine, Lactation and Pediatrics at Bastyr University and in the community.  Dr. Kingsbury has had extensive training in Pediatrics, Maternity and Post-partum care and Botanical Medicine. Dr. Kingsbury worked in the public health field for 5 years prior to her medical training and has been a labor support doula for 16 years and a Lactation Consultant for 14 years. She is the current President of the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians, a former council member for the American Herbalists Guild and an Advisory Board member for the Lloyd Library and Museum.

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