15 Home Remedies for a Dry Cough

How to get rid of a dry cough

There are many ways to get rid of a dry cough, from over-the-counter and prescription medications to alternative medicines such as raw honey and licorice root.

A dry cough is a cough that doesn't bring up any mucus or phlegm like a wet or productive cough does. With a dry cough, you may feel a scratchy or tickling feeling on the back of the throat due to an irritation of nerves in the respiratory tract.

How you can best get rid of a dry cough often depends on its cause. This could include allergens, an infection, acid reflux, asthma, and nasal mucus.

This article provides 15 remedies for a dry cough. It explains common causes of a dry cough and how to quiet one.

home remedies for dry cough

Verywell / Laura Porter

Kitchen Remedies for a Dry Cough

Many remedies for easing the symptoms of a dry cough have been passed down from one generation to the next. Despite claims of effectiveness, there is often little more than anecdotal evidence to support their use.

Raw Honey

Raw honey is one of the oldest home remedies used to treat any type of cough. It coats the throat and may have natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease throat irritation. Its possible antimicrobial effects can also potentially temper minor bacterial or viral infections.

A 2018 review in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews concluded that honey was as effective as diphenhydramine (used in Benadryl) but not as effective as dextromethorphan (used in products like Delsym Cough) for treating a cough in children.

Honey is well tolerated and generally welcome by younger children. However, it should never be given to babies under 1 year of age due to the risk of botulism. Honey also affects blood sugar, so other options may be better if you need to be careful about managing your glucose levels.


Ginger (Zingiber officinale) has long been used to treat nausea and upset stomach, but there is evidence that it can be good for a cough, too. It is believed to suppress the cough reflex by relaxing the smooth muscles of the airways.

A 2013 review of studies from Columbia University reported that gingerol, a chemical compound in fresh ginger, is able to suppress airway hyperresponsiveness that can trigger symptoms of asthma—including cough. It can have this effect when it's taken orally (such as when drinking tea or sucking candied ginger), and also when it is inhaled in steam.

It is important to avoid consuming too much ginger, however, as it may cause stomach upset, heartburn, or diarrhea.


Garlic (Allium sativum) has mild antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Taking garlic on a regular basis is also said to lower blood pressure and boost the immune system.

Garlic is purported to relieve cough associated with the common cold, although most studies investigating the effect have been mixed.

A 2014 review in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews could find no benefit in using garlic to prevent or treat cold or cold symptoms in any of the eight reviewed studies.

With that said, garlic is generally considered safe.


Turmeric (Curcuma longa) contains a compound called curcumin that has been said to have mild antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. It has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat mild arthritis and respiratory disease. Most of these claims are not supported by research, however.

Some researchers have suggested that turmeric taken orally may ease cough and other symptoms of asthma. It hasn't been shown to help treat an acute cough.

With that said, turmeric tea can be found in many grocery stores and is generally well tolerated. Tumeric capsules are another matter, with overuse of the supplement likely to cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea.

Salt Water

Gargling with saltwater is something that healthcare providers will often recommend to ease a sore throat and cough caused by the common cold. Saltwater draws moisture away from the area of soreness to help reduce swelling and irritation.

According to a 2019 randomized controlled study in Scientific Reports, gargling with saltwater three times a day reduced the duration of cough caused by a cold by 2.4 days and vocal hoarseness by 1.7 days.


A dry throat can make your cough worse. Consider sipping fluids like water, tea with honey and lemon, and herbal teas.

Herbal teas that may help a dry cough include:

  • Ginger
  • Licorice root
  • Marjoram
  • Marshmallow root
  • Masala Chai
  • Peppermint 
  • Thyme
  • Turmeric

Over-the-Counter Dry Cough Treatments

OTC therapies can often help alleviate your cough, especially as you are getting over a cold.

Cough Drops

Often, using cough drops is enough to make you feel better, especially if you also have a sore throat. Look for lozenges that contain menthol, which has a cooling effect and acts as a mild anesthetic.

You can add a mentholated product like Vicks Vapo-Rub to your steam inhalation for additional relief.

Cough Medicine

Dextromethorphan is an OTC medication that's often used for treating a dry cough.

You can use a generic version, and commonly used brands include:

Keep in mind that many OTC cough medicines are also decongestants, and you might not need that effect if you have a dry cough.

You can call your healthcare provider's office to describe your symptoms and see what they recommend. You may also be able to get advice about OTC medications from your pharmacist.

Steam Treatments

You may be able to get rid of your dry cough by breathing in steam. Warm steam can help moisturize dry and irritated nasal passages, ease throat pain, and reduce the severity of a cough caused by mild infection or allergy.

As you breathe in the steam, drape a towel over your head to take in more moisture. Don't place your face directly over a pot of boiling water, as it may cause a severe burn.

If you don't want to DIY, you can buy a steam inhaler online or at a drugstore.

Dry Cough Keeping You Up at Night?

To get the rest and relief you need, try:

  • Drinking some fluids, such as warm tea, before you go to bed.
  • Using extra pillows to elevate your head, which can reduce acid reflux and nasal mucus dripping into the throat
  • Running a cool-mist humidifier as you sleep if the air seems dry

Herbal Remedies to Stop a Dry Cough

If your dry cough is mild and uncomplicated—that is, without fever, chest pain, or any other concerning symptoms—it may be reasonable to treat it with a home remedy.

Licorice Root

Sipping tea made from licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has long been touted for its soothing effect on the throat. Referred to as gancao in traditional Chinese medicine, licorice root has been used since 2100 B.C. and is said to alleviate pain, clear phlegm, and ease cough.

Licorice root tea can be found in many grocery and health food stores. Dried licorice root can be purchased online and used to make tea by steeping 2 tablespoons of the shaved root in 8 ounces of boiling water for five to 10 minutes.

Though licorice root tea is generally considered safe, prolonged use may cause severe increases in blood pressure and lead to menstrual irregularity, fatigue, headaches, water retention, and erectile dysfunction.


Marjoram (Origanum majorana) is a type of oregano that has long been used in traditional medicine to relieve a wide range of health conditions. It has been said to contain anti-inflammatory, plant-based compounds (phytochemicals) that may help ease cough associated with asthma, bronchitis, colds, and pertussis (whooping cough).

To make marjoram tea, steep 3 to 4 teaspoons of dried marjoram in 8 ounces of hot water and sip three times daily.

Marjoram is generally considered safe, but it may slow blood clotting and increase the risk of bruising and nosebleeds in people who are taking anticoagulant (blood-thinning) drugs.

Marshmallow Root

Marshmallow root, as per its name, is the root of the marshmallow plant (Althea officinalis), a type of flowering hollyhock.

Marshmallow root has been used since ancient times to relieve sore throats, often as a sweetened, meringue-like confection. Its slightly gooey consistency can coat sore and irritated throats, while flavonoids in the root are said to relieve inflammation.

A 2018 study in Complementary Medicine Research reported that syrups and lozenges made with marshmallow root extract helped relieve mild dry cough, usually within 10 minutes.

Marshmallow root tea can be purchased online and in some specialty health food stores. It is generally considered safe, although little research has been conducted to assess its long-term safety.

The plant may interfere with blood clotting and affect blood sugar.


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) has been used medicinally since the Black Plague in Europe. It contains a compound called thymol that is believed to have antispasmodic effects that can help relax the smooth muscles of the throat.

When consumed as a tea, thyme is likely safe for occasional use. You can make a thyme tea by infusing 3 to 4 teaspoons of the dried herb in 8 ounces of boiling water. Sweeten with honey for an added cough-relieving benefit.

Thyme essential oil, typically used in aromatherapy, should not be taken internally as it can cause a potentially serious drop in blood pressure.

Holy Basil

Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), also called tulsi, is a green leafy plant native to India. It has been used for thousands of years for a variety of purposes, including the treatment of a dry cough.

There's little scientific research into the efficacy of holy basil, but it's safe to use for most people.

You can drink it as tea or add holy basil extract to steam.


Aromatherapy is the practice of breathing in essential oils, or plant extracts, for a health benefit. Options include applying them directly to the body, using an aroma stick, or using an essential oil diffuser to diffuse them into the air.

Essential oils that may help calm a dry cough include: 

  • Eucalyptus
  • Holy Basil 
  • Peppermint
  • Thyme

Because essential oils are strong and can affect people differently, it's important to use them safely. A healthcare provider can help you decide on options that might be best for you.

What Causes a Dry Cough?

There are a variety of things that can irritate the throat and cause a persistent dry cough, from the air inside your home to medical conditions.

Indoor Air Quality

Colder air tends to be drier, and dry air can trigger a dry cough. You may also develop a dry cough from certain irritants in the air, such as dust, dander, pollen, and smoke.

There are several things you can do at home to help keep your surroundings from triggering or exacerbating your cough:

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier: If your coughing tends to develop in dry weather, a humidifier can help add moisture to the air to stop your dry cough. Use one when you can, especially at night.
  • Run an air purifier: This can help clear allergens and irritants from the air, including dust, dander, and pollen. This can be helpful if you have asthma.
  • Do not smoke: Exposure to smoke from cigarettes, vaping, and marijuana increases throat irritation.

Medical Causes

A dry cough can be caused by any number of things, including allergies, environmental irritants, infections, and even certain drugs (like ACE inhibitors).

A chronic cough may be an early sign of a health condition, such as sleep apnea or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Other medical issues that may cause a dry cough include: 

  • Allergies: Seasonal hay fever and indoor allergies can cause a dry cough. A daily oral antihistamine can prevent allergies when pollen and mold counts begin to climb.
  • Asthma: Asthma, especially cough-variant asthma, can trigger a dry cough. Adherence to your asthma medications (including long-acting bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroids) can reduce the incidence of attacks.
  • Acid reflux: Acid reflux can bring on a dry cough. An acid blocker can help, as can avoiding high-fat foods, acidic foods, chocolate, caffeine, and spicy foods, all of which can worsen your symptoms.
  • Medication side effects: A dry cough is a side effect of some medications. ACE inhibitors, Zocor (simvastatin), Coreg (carvedilol), Actonel (risedronate), and fluticasone nasal sprays can all cause coughing. In some cases, reducing the dosage or changing medications may be all that's needed to overcome this common side effect. Just check with your healthcare provider first.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

Never ignore a persistent dry cough, no matter how mild it might be. It could be a sign that you have an underlying infection, such as pneumonia.

Your healthcare provider will diagnose the problem and may need to prescribe treatment based on the cause of your cough.

Be sure to see your healthcare provider if you experience any of the following:

  • A cough that lasts longer than 10 to 14 days
  • A cough that worsens
  • A productive cough with phlegm and mucus
  • Coughing up pinkish sputum or blood
  • Coughing with chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Coughing that keeps you up at night
  • Coughing that causes vocal hoarseness

Asthma Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

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There are many ways to get rid of a dry cough, which is a cough that doesn't bring up any mucus or phlegm. You can treat it using kitchen remedies such as raw honey or garlic, trying an over-the-counter medication, or using herbal remedies like licorice root or marjoram.

The remedy you choose should depend on the cause of your dry cough. Factors that can contribute to dry cough include allergens, acid reflux, asthma, and an infection. If your cough lasts longer than 10 to 14 days, you may want to contact a healthcare provider.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Pat Bass, MD
Dr. Bass is a board-certified internist, pediatrician, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians.