Do you have a bad cold and feel so congested you have difficulty talking or even breathing? Your first instinct may be to buy an over-the-counter decongestant to combat excessive mucus or phlegm, but many store-bought products can do more harm than good. Consider using home remedies to treat your cold, allergy attack or bronchitis.
What is Phlegm?
The terms “mucus” and “phlegm” mean the same thing to most people, though the dictionary definitions are slightly different.
Mucous cells are found in the respiratory tract, intestines, and upper eyelids. Mucus protects mucous membranes by preventing dust, allergens, and bacteria from getting in your lungs.
When your respiratory airway's mucus layers have to fight off too much bacteria, they work overtime to protect your body. Overactive mucus layers cause congestion, clogging your nose, throat, and chest with excess mucus.
Phlegm, produced by the lower airways, is a mucus-type substance that clogs up your chest, throat and nose. You may cough up phlegm if you have bronchitis or pneumonia. Green or yellow mucus or phlegm may indicate an infection.
What are the Causes of Phlegm
Colds are the usual cause of phlegm and mucus, but you can feel congested for some other reasons, such as:
- Post-nasal drip
- Viral infections
- Respiratory Infections
Consult your doctor if congestion persists after you have used natural and over the counter remedies. You may have pneumonia or another serious condition, or a particularly severe infection.
Home Remedies for Phlegm
You may feel helpless when you have a bad cold or congestion due to asthma or bronchitis. Try experimenting with home remedies for how to get rid of phlegm. You may be familiar with a few of them from your childhood, while others might be a surprise. Use these suggestions for how to get rid of a cold and the stuffy nose and chest that accompany it.
Blow Your Nose
When your nose becomes stuffed with mucus, grabbing a tissue and blowing it is the quickest, most obvious solution for how to get rid of phlegm.
You need to be careful about how you expel the mucus. Blowing your nose too hard can cause too much pressure and make the infection worse, causing bacteria to move deeper into your body.
Blow your nose gently, and empty one nostril at a time. After blowing your nose, dispose of tissues and wash your hands with soap and water to avoid spreading bacteria. Use a new tissue each time your blow your nose.
Blowing your nose too often (and too hard) gives you a red, inflamed nose and may even cause it to bleed. Look for other methods to dissolve mucus before it clogs up your nose.
Any warm liquid drink will soothe you and help dissolve irritating mucus in throat. Try drinking hot tea, broth or chicken soup, or hot homemade lemonade (without sugar) to clear your respiratory system. Hot chocolate and warm milk may work for some people. Milk has long been thought to increase mucus production, but recent studies show that dairy products have no effect on nasal congestion.
Inhaling steam from a bowl of hot water or steam inhaler provides an inexpensive and efficient method for people who are looking for how to get mucus out of throat. Breathe in steam to dislodge mucus and phlegm. Once loosened, you can cough the substances out of your body.
Prepare a steam bowl by boiling water in a pot and transferring it to a heat-proof bowl. Stir in two spoons of thyme, rosemary or eucalyptus herb, or add a few drops of lavender essential oil if you want. Breathing in plain steamed water dissolves mucus, but adding herbs or essential oil hastens the process.
Drape a large towel over your head, and position the towel, so steam stays underneath it. Breathe in the vapors for five to ten minutes. You may want to buy a steam inhaler if you often suffer from congestion, bronchitis or asthma.
An inhaler consists of compartments for water and essential oils, a heating mechanism, and a soft, molded plastic face piece where you rest your nose, face, and throat to breathe in the steam.
You can also put a humidifier in your bedroom or living room to add moisture to the air and help break up phlegm. You may remember having one in your room as a kid when you had a cold, but humidifiers work just as well for adults. These moisturizing machines also help remove impurities from the air to prevent asthma attacks and respiratory infections.
Are you looking for an answer to how to get mucus out of chest without spending money on medication? A hot shower will also loosen mucus. The water doesn't need to be too hot, but it should produce steam. Drink hot tea or soup after your shower to continue expelling mucus and phlegm.
Onions may give you bad breath, but they contain many essential nutrients, including Vitamin C, B6, biotin, folic acid, and calcium.
A substance called quercetin, (also found in apples), give onions some important medical properties. A flavonoid with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory power, it prevents cells from releasing allergy-causing histamines.
Quercitin guards against asthma, hay fever, and bronchitis, conditions which often lead to phlegm and congestion. Onion can strengthen the immune system and help you heal faster.
Eat sliced onions with or without honey poured over them, or make a tonic of onion and sugar to thin phlegm so you can cough it out easier. Wash and chop a small onion and mix the pieces with two tablespoons of sugar. Let it sit in a small cup or bowl for 30 minutes until it liquefies. Take the tonic every two to three hours as needed.
Unclog a mucus-filled nose by using a warm compress on the nose to open the nasal passages from the outside.
Soak a towel in warm water, and squeeze the excess liquid out of it. Fold it and place it over your forehead and nose. The warm water helps thin any mucus or phlegm so you can blow your nose easier or cough up the excess.
Over a dozen essential oils offer a primer on how to get rid of phlegm. Each one offers different properties for breaking up mucus and phlegm and stopping your cold in its tracks. You can add a drop of your favorite essential oil to a bowl of steaming water and inhale it, or put a drop or two in your diffuser.
The following essential oils provide an answer for how to get phlegm out of your throat:
- Tea Tree Oil
- Eucalyptus Oil
- Thyme Oil
- Clove Oil
Dilute essential oil with jojoba, avocado, coconut, or sweet almond and apply directly to throat area or chest when you have a cold to reduce congestion. Essential oils can be quite potent, so always use one drop, along with a carrier oil, when using directly on your skin.
Gargle Salt Water
Gargle with salt water to clear chest congestion. One of the best home remedies for phlegm, saline water removes mucus from your respiratory system quickly and without using lots of messy preparations.
Boil a glass of water, and stir in one or two tablespoons of salt and a pinch of turmeric. Swish a mouthful of warm water in your mouth and gargle for one or two minutes. Repeat this four or five times a day to relieve congestion.
You can use salt water as one of the natural remedies for congestion in other ways. They include:
- Fill a plastic neti pot with a pint of distilled or sterile lukewarm water and a teaspoon of salt. (Never use tap water, as this can cause fatal infections.) Tilt your head over your bathroom sink at a 45-degree angle, and gently pour the saline water into one nostril. Wait until the water flows through the nasal cavity, and then repeat wit the other nostril.
You can also buy a saline spray at the drugstore, which operates the same way but doesn't require any preparation on your part.
Use an Extra Pillow
Sleep with your head elevated on an extra pillow to relieve nasal congestion. When you raise your head, you prevent your lungs from getting congested. Sleeping with an extra pillow also curbs tinnitus, one of the problems caused by a congested head and nose.
Put the second pillow between the mattress and box spring for more gradual elevation if sleeping with a second pillow under your head makes you feel too uncomfortable.
Elderberry juice has bioflavonoids called anthocyanins that act as an expectorant to clear mucus and help you cough up phlegm so you can breath easy again.
Take two tablespoons dried licorice root and add it to six cups boiled water. Let the water simmer for 40 minutes. Drink a small cup to help get rid of phlegm and mucus. Whether you have congestion due to a cold, asthma or bronchitis, the saponin glycosides in licorice root can help restore clear air passageways.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) works for many health problems, and it can also solve the dilemma of how to get rid of mucus in lungs fast. Rich in potassium, it helps to relieve runny noses, and the citric nature of the juice breaks up phlegm and mucus.
Add a tablespoon of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink three times a day. You can also add ACV to the boiling water you use for steam inhalation.
Using acupressure by applying manual pressure to certain points on the body provoke the body’s energy, which may promote healing.
To reduce congestion, practice acupressure, one of the lesser known natural remedies for mucus.
Put your fingertips just under your collarbone. Rub the area firmly. Press the left side of your chest with your right hand, use your left hand to push the right side. Press either sides or just one side. Hold the pressure point and breathe slowly and deeply for two minutes. Do this three times daily.
Stretch your back, chest, and neck with yoga asanas (poses) to get rid of a stuffy nose or congestion. The Bow pose opens up your breathing and helps alleviate mucus and phlegm in air passageways. The Camel pose also helps open up your respiratory system to help you breathe better.
Add Some Spices to your Diet
Most spices, including cayenne pepper and turmeric, contain capsaicin (a chemical which causes a burning feeling in your mouth when you eat it). Eating spicy foods irritates mucous membranes in the nose and cause your nose to run. You may have experienced this feeling when you've overeaten spicy foods.
Add spices to meals or sprinkle some in your morning juice or smoothie If you want a good trick for how to get mucus out of throat.
Honey does more than sweeten your tea. This sweet substance contains antioxidants and flavonoids to keep you healthy, and its antiseptic qualities will strengthen your immune system so it can fight off infections.
Honey’s anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties reduce mucus and phlegm, but it also soothes mucosal linings to prevent further irritation.
Add a teaspoon of powdered ginger to honey and swallow it to break up mucus, or add the mixture to hot tea. Alternatively, you can add a pinch of black pepper to a tablespoon of honey, and take the mixture twice a day. The honey soothes mucous membranes, and the pepper reduces throat infections.
When you were a child, chances are your Mom, or Grandma answered the question “How to get rid of chest congestion” by using Vapor Rub.
Vapor rub relieves a stuffed nose and build-up of mucus in the throat or chest when you inhale the vapors from it. Vapor rub contains eucalyptus oil, camphor and other ingredients traditionally inhaled for their decongestant effects.
When you add vapor rub to hot water and use it as a steam inhaler, the moisture in the steam will help thin mucus and let the airways clear more efficiently. Inhaling steam combined with vapor rub can also treat coughs that accompany colds and congestion.
The citric acid in lemon juice can break up mucus in lungs and your chest.Add two teaspoons of lime or lemon juice and a tablespoon of honey to a glass of warm water, and drink it three times a day.
You can also sprinkle salt and pepper on a slice of lemon and suck the juice out of it. Do this twice a day (if you can stand the taste), and it will help you expel mucus and phlegm.
Ginger, one of the best solutions for how to get rid of phlegm, offers a healing remedy for chest congestion and throat mucus.
Take a small piece of fresh ginger and place it in hot water. Add two or three black peppers and strain the mixture into a glass. Stir in a tablespoon of honey.
Drink this combination two or three times a day, and you may find it is the best way to get rid of phlegm.
You can also chew on raw ginger, or drink a glass of hot ginger water with a pinch of ground cloves and cinnamon. Use one teaspoon of ginger in a glass of hot water, add cloves and cinnamon and let it soak for an hour. Filter the mixture and then drink it.
Spices, such as turmeric provide one of the best solutions for how to get rid of phlegm in lungs, as discussed in the spices section. Turmeric has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat skin problems, wounds, and digestive issues.
Turmeric supplies the flavor and yellow color in curry and other Indian food. Eat food with turmeric flavoring to guard against mucus and phlegm.
Studies have shown turmeric can be used to reduce congestion. Consider the following ways to use turmeric for eliminating congestion from colds or other respiratory ailments:
- Make golden milk by adding one teaspoon of turmeric to whole or vegan milk. Drink in the morning and before bed.
- Add turmeric powder to boiling water and inhale the vapors.
- Drink hot water combined with turmeric to get rid of a runny nose.
How to get rid of mucus buildup in the throat? Use more cayenne pepper in your meals. The active ingredient in cayenne pepper, capsaicin, provides the heat that breaks up phlegm and mucus. The capsaicin in cayenne pepper also boosts your metabolism, giving you more energy and making it easier to lose weight.
Cayenne pepper will help flush mucus from your system and provide relief from cold, the flu or bronchitis. Its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties help fight diabetes, arthritis and other diseases.
Mix one-fourth teaspoon of cayenne pepper with one-fourth teaspoon grated ginger, a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Add two tablespoons of water and stir. Drink this cayenne pepper concoction two or three times a day to reduce phlegm.
You can add cayenne pepper to everyday dishes like tacos, burritos, chili, soup, fish, meatloaf and even mashed potatoes.
How to Prevent Excess Mucus
Stay healthy and keep your respiratory system free of mucus by practicing the following common sense habits:
- Drink herbal tea
- Cut down on coffee and alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat oranges and other citrus fruits
- Avoid fatty, oily or salty foods
- Do yoga and breathing exercises (pranayama)
- Sleep seven to nine hours a night
- Don’t use cough suppressants