Expectorant Cough Remedies

According to Medterms.com, an expectorant is a medicine that causes any trapped mucus to drain from the lungs, bronchi and trachea. It works by breaking up the mucus buildup and causing it to thin so that it might be excreted through coughing or the nasal passages. Expectorants are used in cold and cough medications to help eliminate the accumulation of mucus and phlegm. There are a number of expectorant types, usages and recommendations.


Mucus accumulation is caused by your lungs secreting fluids to maintain moisture levels. Phlegm is an accumulation of mucus and is a sticky and thick buildup in the lungs that causes a reflexive reaction that leads to coughing and sneezing. This is the body’s attempt to eliminate the excessive buildup of fluid in the lungs, bronchi and trachea.

Types of Medicines

When you purchase over-the-counter cough medicines, you have a choice between expectorant and antitussive medications. Expectorants are meant to treat a moist cough that is causing exorbitant amounts of mucus buildup by loosening phlegm and making expulsion more efficient, whereas antitussives are used to stop a dry cough by inhibiting the coughing reflex through repression of the nervous system. Many cold medicines contain both expectorant and antitussive ingredients.

Active Ingredient

Most expectorants contain the medication guaifenesin, which acts to loosen phlegm buildup that might be caused by colds or allergies by thinning the mucus.This contributes to clearing of the air passages by making the mucus less sticky so it can be expelled more easily.The drug guaifenesin is an extract of tree bark from the guaiac tree. It has been in use since the 1500s and is approved by the Federal Food and Drug Administration.

Home Remedies

According to Home Remedies Guide, there are a variety of expectorant remedies that can be produced in your own kitchen to aid in the reduction of phlegm and mucus buildup. For instance, licorice root, ginger and honey have been shown to have some effect on helping to break up and discharge mucus. These home remedies are made into a paste and ingested to thin mucus and allow for elimination.

Herbal Remedies

Herbs can act as expectorants by either stimulating the reflexive action needed to expel mucus or relax and loosen congestion of the respiratory system. Herbs that cause a reflexive vomiting reaction, such as bloodroot, licorice root and ipecac, can be used for severe mucus buildup to promote elimination through vomiting. Herbal expectorants that are used to loosen phlegm and relax the bronchial passages are ginger, mullein and pleurisy root. Other herbal expectorants include garlic, thyme, eucalyptus and pine. These work to loosen phlegm and can be ingested or used topically.These herbs also have antiseptic properties. There is no scientific evidence that proves the effectiveness of either homemade or herbal remedies.

According to Medterms.com