- Is the hallucinogen in your medicine cabinet helping your cough? Probably not
- Americans spend billions on worthless treatments. Are you one of them?
- Use this synthetic-free recipe to combat cough naturally
“Are you OK?”
“Uhhh…(hack, hack, cough, hack)…maybe…”
“You should probably do something about that cough.”
“Yeah, I know. But cough syrup makes me drowsy and never seems to work.”
“I hear ya. It doesn’t really work for me either… but I think I might be getting a cough too.”
This is a conversation between two friends I overheard at the pharmacy yesterday.
Shortly after, they each bought a bottle of over-the-counter (OTC) cough syrup.
It made me chuckle, as I have had similar conversations followed by similar actions in past cough and cold seasons.
But then I started to think about it.
Does over-the-counter cough syrup actually work?
I haven’t taken it in about 10 years. But when I did take it, I don’t recall it having great results.
In fact, I more clearly remember being groggy and waking up with a headache after taking the first (and typically only) dose of it. (Lucky me though — there are worse side effects associated with the active ingredient in OTC cough syrups. I’ll discuss these in a moment.)
After my single dose, the rest of the bottle would sit in my medicine cabinet and collect dust as it waited to expire and, ultimately be disposed of.
Unfortunately, as the conversation I heard in the pharmacy points out, it seems I’m not the only one who has been let down by the ineffectiveness of over-the-counter cough syrups.
And there is science and expert opinion to validate my and the other pharmacy patrons’experiences.
We will get to that, and I will share a natural cough syrup recipe cough in just a bit.
Let’s first dive into the ingredients and potential dangers of OTC cough syrups.
Did You take PCP? Nope, Just Cough Syrup
The active ingredient in OTC cough syrups is dextromethorphan (DXM). DXM is a synthetic ingredient indicated as a cough suppressant and expectorant. It’s also used to alleviate sinus congestion, allergies, runny nose, and itchy throat.
As you may have already heard, DXM also has a reputation for recreational use as a hallucinogen.
In fact, its hallucinogenic powers rival those of PCP and ketamine. As it’s become more popular, powder and pill forms of DMX have become available for purchase on the internet. The these forms are snorted or ingested, as they are easier and quicker to consume than liquid forms.1
Sometimes DXM abuse is severe enough to cause withdrawals, including anxiety, vomiting, insomnia, and diarrhea.1
While most of us will not likely have to face the discomfort of DXM withdrawal, it seems a bit risky to ingest a substance capable of such negative health endpoints.
Common side effects for the recommended dosage can include confusion, headache, stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness.2
These aren’t rare medication side effects, but I would rather not run the risk of having a foggy brain or stomach ache if I have other options.
Furthermore, you might be taking this risk with no added health benefits.
Dr. Norman Edelman, M.D., a senior scientific adviser at the American Lung Association, reports:
“We’ve never had good evidence that cough suppressants and expectorants help with cough, but people are desperate to get some relief. They’re so convinced that they should work that they buy them anyway.”3
Evidence exits to support Edelman’s statement. There has not been any new approved cough remedy in over 50 years.
Health care analysts Cochrane did a review of 29 trials that involved 4835 people and reported this:
“We found no good evidence for or against the effectiveness of OTC medications in acute cough.”4
While Cochrane’s finding didn’t find OTC medications to be effective or ineffective, you may not want to take a synthetic medication with the possibility of such negative side effects without good evidence it can provide some relief.
And why waste your money?
Americans spend over $4 billion on cold and cough medications every year.5
Dr. Aaron Glatt, a spokesman for an Infectious Disease Society of America reported to USA Today:
“In a nutshell, there’s nothing that work. There’s a tremendous industry out there, and some people really swear by them. But there really aren’t great studies to show any benefit.”5
So why do most of us feel we have to shell out money every cough season for something we are probably better off putting in the trash than into our bodies?
For one-third of cold sufferers, the placebo effect may be working to alleviate symptoms.5
This may be relatable for many of us.
I certainly feel better if I take my homemade cough syrup when I hear the slightest rattle in my chest.
Whether this natural concoction is working or it’s a placebo, I will never really know.
All the ingredients have healthy properties and are in no way synthetic, so even if it’s not helping my cough biologically, it’s adding to my overall health and is certainly not causing any negative side effects (or causing me to make me hallucinate).
In fact, a study has proven that honey may reduce coughing in children over the age of one year (honey is not suggested for children under one year of age). It make sense that it may have the same effect in adults.6
Also, coconut oil has anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. Ginger provides anti-inflammatory agents and the lemon will give you a shot of vitamin C.
Now I will share how to make it.
Lemon-Honey-Ginger-Coconut Cough Syrup
- 1 cup of filtered water
- 1/3 cup of local honey
- 1 tablespoon of grated fresh ginger (ground can be used as well)
- 2 tablespoons of unrefined coconut oil
- Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon.
- Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan.
- Reduce to simmer and add in the ginger.
- Let the mixture reduce by half and take of the burner.
- Add in honey and coconut oil and mix thoroughly.
- Squeeze in the lemon juice, mix, and let cool.
- Store the liquid in an airtight container (I use a mason jar) in the refrigerator.
This syrup is good for two months. Because the coconut oil will solidify in the fridge, be sure to stir thoroughly before taking.
I usually take a generous teaspoon when I’m suffering the beginning stages of a cough and as needed with a full-blown cough.
I also add a teaspoon to a cup of hot tea for a cough-fighting boost.
If you have any cough remedies you would like to share, write me! firstname.lastname@example.org
Managing editor, Living Well Daily
P.S. If you need a quick fix and don’t have time to make the syrup, you can always take a tablespoon or two of honey.