Best Tea for Coughs

Have you ever noticed how different a cough can feel? You may have a dry, coarse cough or one that feels wet with lots of mucus.  Thankfully there are many …

Photo of author
Written by: Siobhan Mendicino
Published on:
Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
Learn about our editorial process

Have you ever noticed how different a cough can feel? You may have a dry, coarse cough or one that feels wet with lots of mucus. 

Thankfully there are many natural herbs for coughs that can ease discomfort.

Herbal teas can be a great way to soothe cough symptoms and may encourage a faster recovery. In this article, we’ll discuss the causes of coughs and share some of the best tea for coughs. 

best teas for a cough


A cough is a reflex the body makes when there’s irritation in the throat, airways, or lungs. Coughs are often accompanied by other symptoms like sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and tightness in the chest. 

Coughs are one of the most common health issues. In the US, 30 million people go into a clinic for cough issues per year, and 40% of them are referred to a pulmonologist (someone who specializes in the respiratory system).   

Microbes, like viruses and bacteria, are one of the leading causes of coughs as they tend to collect in the upper respiratory tract.

Coughs may also be the result of inflammation which can affect both the airway and lungs. Inflammation of the respiratory membrane can cause dry, irritating coughs. 

Herbal teas have have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can help kill invading pathogens that cause coughs.

Best Teas for Coughs:

Below is a list of the best herbs to use in tea for coughs. These natural cough remedies have been known to ease cough complications in various ways.  

licorice root tea for coughs
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

1. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Although licorice root is most popularly used as a candy flavor, it has numerous health benefits. It is known to support respiratory issues, prevent cardiovascular complications, and soothe inflammation.  

In a clinical trial involving outpatients with a COVID-19-related cough, researchers discovered that Noscough®, cough syrup with licorice root and noscapine, was able to significantly relieve cough symptoms compared to Benadryl. The licorice-based syrup helped reduce the severity of the cough and eased labored breathing.  

A lab-based study observing the antimicrobial effects of licorice root found that a licorice water extract inhibits viruses from attaching and penetrating host cells. This suggests that licorice may be helpful in preventing viral infections that can lead to coughs.  

A study on the active constituents of licorice discovered that liquiritin apioside and liquiritin may prevent or ease coughing, as well as encourage mucus expulsion during a cough. 

The American Botanical Council suggests licorice root for expelling mucus from the lungs.

Licorice has a very distinct sweet flavor and smells slightly of anise and fennel. Licorice tea pairs well with mint and ginger.

Where To Buy:

Starwest Botanicals has a full lineup of organic tea options. Whether you are looking for the whole herb or a tea blend, Starwest is a great choice.

➡️ Buy Organic Licorice – Cut & Sift
➡️ Buy Organic Licorice – Powder
➡️ Buy Organic Respiratory Tea Blend (our editor’s choice)
marshmallow root tea health benefits
Marshmallow Root (Althea officinalis

2. Marshmallow Root (Althea officinalis)   

Marshmallow root is considered both a food and a therapeutic herb. It’s high in mucilage, which is a slippery cooling substance that coats and soothes irritated tissue. 

In a review of both clinical and animal trials observing marshmallow root, researchers discovered that marshmallow reduces multiple kinds of coughs and respiratory issues. It’s important to note that common ivy and ginger enhanced the anti-cough effects of marshmallow root. 

A clinical study involving patients that had a COVID-19-related cough discovered that a multi-herb decoction with marshmallow root decreased symptoms like dry cough, mucus cough, and runny nose.

In an animal study, researchers found that marshmallow root mucilage statistically decreased the number of cough efforts in cats.

A lab-based study involving Phytohustil®, a herbal syrup with marshmallow root, found that the syrup eased inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. Researchers mention that this could be helpful in reducing cough symptoms.  

The German E Commission recommends both marshmallow leaf and root for alleviating dry coughs.  

Marshmallow root has a neutral, woody, sweet flavor and aroma and works well with herbs like holy basil, cinnamon, and rose.

Where To Buy:

➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Marshmallow Root – Cut & Sift
➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Marshmallow Root – Powder
➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Throat Tea Blend (our editor’s choice)

The Botanical Institute is supported by our readers. We sometimes earn affiliate commissions when you click through the affiliate links on our website. Learn more here.

peppermint tea for cough and common cold symptoms
Peppermint (Mentha × piperita)

3. Peppermint (Mentha × piperita

The minty, refreshing flavor of peppermint is used to flavor food, candy, and oral health products like gum and toothpaste. Peppermint is the Lamiaceae or mint family and is famous for its simultaneous cooling and warming effects. 

In a review of peppermint oil, researchers suggest using the oil in aromatherapy to ease the symptoms of a cough and cold. The oil is thought to soothe spasms associated with a cough.  

In a clinical trial, peppermint and four other herbs in the form of a spray soothed upper respiratory infection symptoms like cough, difficulty breathing, sore throat, and pain when talking. Although the spray eased symptoms immediately, there were no significant effects after 3 days.  

In a comparative animal study, menthol, one of peppermint’s active constituents, was significantly effective in reducing the frequency and severity of a cough. Menthol was the most effective aromatic vapor to soothe coughs. 

Herbalist David Hoffmann recommends peppermint for soothing symptoms that accompany asthma, suggesting it is effective for asthma-related coughs. 

Peppermint has a fresh, invigorating, minty scent and flavor. As a tea, it blends well with lavender, rose, and lemon balm.

Where To Buy:

➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Peppermint Leaf – Cut & Sift
➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Peppermint Leaf – Powder
➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Respiratory Tea Blend (our editor’s choice)
horehound tea for bronchitis
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)

4. Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)

Horehound is an extremely hardy herb in the Lamiaceae or mint family. It is known for its use in horehound candies, which are meant to support upper respiratory conditions. 

In a review of horehound, researchers recommend the herb for coughs associated with a cold as it may help expel mucus from the lungs.

The European Medicines Agency suggests using horehound for “wet” coughs that accompany a cold.  

David Hoffmann, RH., recommends horehound (Marrubium vulagre) for bronchitis, especially when there’s a “non-productive cough” – when mucus is stuck in the lungs, and the cough isn’t effective in expelling it. 

The classic herbal text, King’s American Dispensatory, mentions horehound as a great expectorant (expelling mucus from the lungs) and that it significantly impacts respiratory functions. 

As a tea, horehound has a slightly bitter and herbaceous flavor. 

Where To Buy:

➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Horehound – Cut & Sift
mullein tea for throat inflammation
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

5. Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Mullein is an herb with soft leaves and a tall central stalk that hosts numerous yellow flowers. Since time immemorial, the herb has been used for respiratory conditions. 

In a review of mullein, researchers mention that mullein is most commonly used to soothe respiratory issues like coughs, colds, hoarseness, bronchitis, and asthma. 

In an animal study, researchers found that mullein imparts an antispasmodic effect. This suggests that the herb may help coughs by relaxing the muscles and reflexes of the respiratory tract.  

In a lab-based study, it was discovered that mullein has antibacterial properties against numerous bacteria strains that cause respiratory infections.  

Mullein is recommended by the European Medicines Agency for dry coughs and sore throat pain associated with a cold. 

Mullein tea has a leafy aroma and a gentle sweet flavor. 

Where To Buy:

➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Mullein Leaf – Cut & Sift
➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Mullein Leaf – Powder
➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Respiratory Tea Blend (our editor’s choice)
elecampane tea as an effective cough remedy
Elecampane (Inula helenium)

6. Elecampane (Inula helenium)

Elecampane root is a mucilage-rich herbs that helps to ease discomfort in the respiratory tract. It belongs to the Asteraceae or daisy family and has big, bright yellow flowers. 

In a clinical trial observing children with coughs, a cough syrup with elecampane extract, common mallow, and plantain significantly eased the severity of the cough and how long the children coughed. The syrup reduced both night-time and day-time coughing. 

A lab-based study found that elecampane and curlycup gumweed significantly reduced inflammation in respiratory cells. Researchers note that this herbal combination could be helpful for soothing inflammation-based respiratory issues like coughs.  

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recommends elecampane for reducing coughs, clearing out mucus in the lungs, and eradicating bacteria. 

Elecampane has a pungent bitter taste, due to this, it’s best when blended with other herbs. Consider blending it with mint, rose, lavender, or tulsi.

Where To Buy:

➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Elecampane Root – Cut & Sift
➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Elecampane Root – Powder
➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Respiratory Tea Blend (our editor’s choice)
natural remedy of slippery elm tea for soothing coughs
Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)

7. Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)

When chewed, the inner bark of the slippery elm tree (Ulmus fulva) releases mucilage. It is frequently used to soothe sore throats and coughs. 

A review of slippery elm found that hot teas or lozenges made from the bark are perfect for soothing irritated sore throats. The researchers mention that this effect is due to slippery elm’s ability to reduce inflammation.

The American Botanical Council calls slippery elm a superior medicine for easing the discomforts of coughs and sore throats. 

Slippery elm is slightly sweet in smell and taste and blends well with marshmallow root and elderberries

Where To Buy:

➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Slippery Elm Bark – Cut & Sift
➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Slippery Elm Bark – Powder
➡️ Buy Starwest Botanicals’ Organic Throat Tea Blend (our editor’s choice)

Best Tea for Cough Recipe:

Below is one of the best herbal teas for cough recipes that will be helpful to have on hand when irritation arises. 


1 tsp. organic peppermint leaf (Mentha x piperita) 

1 tsp. organic marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis

½ tsp. organic elecampane root (Inula helenium

½ tsp. organic mullein leaf (Verbascum thapsus

½ tsp. organic chamomile florets (Matricaria recutita)

1 cup water 

Sweetener of choice, to taste—I prefer raw, local honey


  1. Blend the herbs, put in a metal tea strainer, and add 1 cup of boiling water.
  2. Cover and steep for 10 – 15 minutes 
  3. Add sweetener of choice, and enjoy!  

Cause & Prevention of a Cough:

Many factors can cause a cough. Preventative care and adjustments in lifestyle may help you avoid a cough or reduce the severity of one. 

Some common causes of a cough include:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Asthma
  • Lung disease
  • Pollution
  • Smoking
  • Allergies
  • Acid reflux 

Some lifestyle changes that may help prevent a cough include: 

  • Gentle exercise 
  • Taking a preventative herbal supplement or herbal tea during cold and flu season 
  • Avoiding smoking 
  • Wearing a mask in polluted areas 
  • Using an air filter during allergy season 


Having a cough, whether acute or chronic, can have an impact on quality of life. Drinking herbal tea for coughs may help prevent or support the discomfort that accompanies coughs. 

It’s highly recommended to speak with a healthcare professional if you’re considering including an herbal tea in your daily regimen. 

Aćimović M, Jeremić K, Salaj N, Gavarić N, Kiprovski B, Sikora V, Zeremski T. Marrubium vulgare L.: A Phytochemical and Pharmacological Overview. Molecules. 2020 Jun 24;25(12):2898. doi: 10.3390/molecules25122898. PMID: 32599693; PMCID: PMC7355696.

Ali N, Ali Shah SW, Shah I, Ahmed G, Ghias M, Khan I, Ali W. Anthelmintic and relaxant activities of Verbascum Thapsus Mullein. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Mar 30;12:29. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-12-29. PMID: 22463730; PMCID: PMC3350428.

Barati S, Feizabadi F, Khalaj H, Sheikhzadeh H, Jamaati HR, Farajidavar H, Dastan F. Evaluation of noscapine-licorice combination effects on cough relieving in COVID-19 outpatients: A randomized controlled trial. Front Pharmacol. 2023 Feb 17;14:1102940. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2023.1102940. PMID: 36873992; PMCID: PMC9981666.

Ben-Arye E, Dudai N, Eini A, Torem M, Schiff E, Rakover Y. Treatment of upper respiratory tract infections in primary care: a randomized study using aromatic herbs. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:690346. doi: 10.1155/2011/690346. Epub 2010 Nov 1. PMID: 21052500; PMCID: PMC2967840.

Blanco-Salas J, Hortigón-Vinagre MP, Morales-Jadán D, Ruiz-Téllez T. Searching for Scientific Explanations for the Uses of Spanish Folk Medicine: A Review on the Case of Mullein (Verbascum, Scrophulariaceae). Biology (Basel). 2021 Jul 2;10(7):618. doi: 10.3390/biology10070618. PMID: 34356473; PMCID: PMC8301161.

Bonaterra GA, Bronischewski K, Hunold P, Schwarzbach H, Heinrich EU, Fink C, Aziz-Kalbhenn H, Müller J, Kinscherf R. Anti-inflammatory and Anti-oxidative Effects of Phytohustil® and Root Extract of Althaea officinalis L. on Macrophages in vitro. Front Pharmacol. 2020 Mar 17;11:290. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2020.00290. PMID: 32256361; PMCID: PMC7090173.

Carnevali I, La Paglia R, Pauletto L, Raso F, Testa M, Mannucci C, Sorbara EE, Calapai G. Efficacy and safety of the syrup "KalobaTUSS®" as a treatment for cough in children: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. BMC Pediatr. 2021 Jan 11;21(1):29. doi: 10.1186/s12887-020-02490-2. PMID: 33430841; PMCID: PMC7798282.

European Medicines Agency. (2018). n Verbascum thapsus L., V. densiflorum Bertol. (V. thapsiforme Schrad) and V. phlomoides L., flos. Retrieved from:

Feng Yeh C, Wang KC, Chiang LC, Shieh DE, Yen MH, San Chang J. Water extract of licorice had anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jul 9;148(2):466-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.04.040. Epub 2013 Apr 30. PMID: 23643542; PMCID: PMC7126896.

Gierlikowska, B., Gierlikowski, W., Bekier, K., Skalicka-Woźniak, K., Czerwińska, M. E., & Kiss, A. K. (2020). Inula helenium and Grindelia squarrosa as a source of compounds with anti-inflammatory activity in human neutrophils and cultured human respiratory epithelium. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 249, 112311.

Horváth G, Ács K. Essential oils in the treatment of respiratory tract diseases highlighting their role in bacterial infections and their anti-inflammatory action: a review. Flavour Fragr J. 2015 Sep;30(5):331-341. doi: 10.1002/ffj.3252. Epub 2015 May 26. PMID: 32313366; PMCID: PMC7163989.

Karimi M, Zarei A, Soleymani S, Jamalimoghadamsiahkali S, Asadi A, Shati M, Jafari M, Rezadoost H, Kordafshar G, Naghizadeh A, Mardi R, Namiranian P, Khamechi SP, Ansari N, Adel Mehraban MS, Aliakbarzadeh H, Khanavi M, Esmaealzadeh N, Moravveji A, Salahi M, Khoi M, Razzaghi R, Banafshe HR, Alizadeh M, Akhbari M, Atharizadeh M, Izadikhah A, Elsagh M, Hossein Zade Ghahnavieh M, Eghbalian F, Vanai A, Izadi H, Moravej SAA, Jazayeri SF, Bayat H, Emadi Koochak H, Zargaran A. Efficacy of Persian medicine herbal formulations (capsules and decoction) compared to standard care in patients with COVID-19, a multicenter open-labeled, randomized, controlled clinical trial. Phytother Res. 2021 Nov;35(11):6295-6309. doi: 10.1002/ptr.7277. Epub 2021 Oct 4. PMID: 34606123; PMCID: PMC8661819.

Kenny CR, Stojakowska A, Furey A, Lucey B. From Monographs to Chromatograms: The Antimicrobial Potential of Inula helenium L. (Elecampane) Naturalised in Ireland. Molecules. 2022 Feb 18;27(4):1406. doi: 10.3390/molecules27041406. PMID: 35209195; PMCID: PMC8874828.

Kuang, Y., Li, B., Fan, J., Qiao, X., & Ye, M. (2018). Antitussive and expectorant activities of licorice and its major compounds. Bioorganic & medicinal chemistry, 26(1), 278–284.

Laude, E. A., Morice, A. H., & Grattan, T. J. (1994). The antitussive effects of menthol, camphor and cineole in conscious guinea-pigs. Pulmonary pharmacology, 7(3), 179–184.

Mahboubi M. (2020). Marsh Mallow (Althaea officinalis L.) and Its Potency in the Treatment of Cough. Echter Eibisch (Althaea officinalis L.) und seine Wirksamkeit in der Behandlung von Husten. Complementary medicine research, 27(3), 174–183.

Nosál'ova, G., Strapková, A., Kardosová, A., Capek, P., Zathurecký, L., & Bukovská, E. (1992). Antitussive Wirkung des Extraktes und der Polysaccharide aus Eibisch (Althaea officinalis L., var. robusta) [Antitussive action of extracts and polysaccharides of marsh mallow (Althea officinalis L., var. robusta)]. Die Pharmazie, 47(3), 224–226.

Sharma S, Hashmi MF, Alhajjaj MS. Cough. [Updated 2023 May 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

Turker, A. U., & Camper, N. D. (2002). Biological activity of common mullein, a medicinal plant. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 82(2-3), 117–125.

Photo of author

About Siobhan Mendicino

Siobhan is a herbal researcher and writer. She has a bachelor of science in communications as well as having completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in herbal studies.