My friend Rhonda, whose first cold of the season inspired me to write about the most commonly used homeopathic remedies for those who suffer from colds and flu, writes:

“I have a request. I loved your blog post about the colds and sore throats. I think I have a better understanding, although still extremely shallow, of how the homeopathic remedies work. The Allium Cepa was amazing. Then, as my cold morphed into other symptoms, I just wasn’t ready fast enough to respond. By the time I had identified where I was, and what I should take, I had moved to the next stage. Could you write another column that talks about what to do when the cold reaches the chest? Varieties of cough, and spasm cough, and so on. If I had both columns to use as a reference, I think next time I could be ready. I’ve never been more aware of the stages and changes in a cold as I have been this time, and that is a homeopathy inspired awareness. Before, a cold was a cold, but I didn’t really pay attention to what was going on other than I felt awful.

“Thank you so much for sharing this knowledge. It is quite exciting to find there are viable options out there that are not in the pharmaceutical companies’ pockets.”

Who am I to disagree with Rhonda?  So I happily share with you the names and descriptions of the most commonly-used homeopathic remedies for coughs that accompany colds.  This list will help all those whose colds move down into their chests.

There are just a few basic cough remedies, although getting to be able to tell the difference among them just by the sound of a cough takes a lot of practice.  So try to use the cough as just one of several symptoms and consider the totality of what is happening with the patient aside from the cough and you’ll have a much higher success rate.

The Three most common remedies for those with a cough are:

DROSERA:  This is the remedy for dry, spasmodic and croupy coughs.  Use this remedy when the coughing patient sounds like a barking dog.  Listen for the ringing sound to the cough.  There is almost an echo to the cough, it is a rounded sound as well as an explosive sound.  The patient’s larynx will look red, inflamed and irritated.  Like SPONGIA, there is a constriction in the throat.  The patient commonly will complain of a tickling in the throat..  The cough may be shallow in the throat, or deeper in the chest, making it a croupy cough.  Sometimes the patient may insist that the cough is coming from the abdomen.  Patients needing this remedy often suffer form spasms of coughing that they cannot control. Spasms of coughing most often suddenly appear after midnight and may be so severe and long-lasting to cause vomiting.  Look for the patient to have to support his or her chest and/or stomach from the coughing fit.

SPONGIA TOSTA:  This is by far the easiest remedy to tell by sound alone.  Listen for a harsh cough that sound like a saw cutting through wood.   The cough is sudden, loud and frightening, for patient and caregiver alike.  While ACONITE and HEPAR SULPH will both also have croupy coughs, neither will have the jarring surprise quality of SPONGIA.  Listen carefully: the SPONGIA cough has a rasp to it.  SPONGIA patients will be awakened by the sound of their own cough, usually soon after going to bed, in the period of time before midnight.  Like the LACHESIS, the SPONGIA patient will feel a constriction and suffocation in the throat.  They are worse from talking, from cold drinks and from over-excitement.  Indeed, the SPONGIA patient may have difficulty speaking at all because of their cough.  Along with it, they will experience shooting pains in the chest or a fixed sensation of a heavy weight in their chest.

RUMEX CRISPUS:  Made from yellow dock, RUMEX heals patients whose coughs are dry and shallow.  These coughs are set off by a tickle in the throat or in the pit of the throat just above the breastbone.  The keynote symptom is that the patient will keep the covers up over his or her mouth as he or she breathes in order to warm the air before breathing it in, as cool air triggers a coughing fit. (No other remedy for those with coughs will have the sensitivity to cold air that Rumex has—this is a very helpful symptom to use in the selection of this remedy.)  Another keynote symptom of RUMEX is that the patient feels that it is taking all their strength of body and mind to keep from coughing.  So the patient will breathe as shallowly as possible and as slowly as possible.  The patient does not want to talk, because it will make them cough.  Doesn’t even want to be spoken to.  The cough is worse before midnight and when lying down.  Touching the throat will bring on a coughing fit.  NOTE:  RUMEX is commonly used to treat coughs that come on in the autumn, when days are warm and nights are cold.  RUMEX is the general remedy for all upper respiratory conditions that come on during this time of year.

The Go-To remedy for Colds that move into the Chest:

PHOSPHORUS:  PHOSPHORUS is the first remedy to think about for colds that begin in the head and throat but quickly moved down into the patient’s chest.  This is particularly important if the patient is a child.  Also if the illness involves the patient’s ears as well, with either earache or ear infection.  (Constitutionally, this is the first remedy to consider for young patients who are prone to ear infections and/or upper respiratory weakness.)  The PHOSPHORUS patient is among our most pleasant.  This is a needy patient, one who wants company, but not a demanding or angry patient.  The PHOSPHORUS will seek attention and will feel better when he or she gets it.  They love to talk and to laugh, although both may trigger a coughing fit.  The PHOSPHORUS cough starts as a simple, dry cough.  It then becomes loose and the patient may cough up a good deal of mucus.  The mucus may be blood-streaked.  (This is a clear indication of the need for this remedy.)  The patient will experience heat in his or her chest.  The patient will crave cold water and cold foods, which will soothe the throat but make the cough worse.  Look for the patient’s breathing to be shallow and rapid and for the patient to experience a sensation of tightness all across the chest.  Typically, with the onset of illness, the PHOSPHORUS patient’s ears will turn bright red and very hot.  This is a keynote sign of this remedy.  NOTE:  all the PHOSPHORUS patient’s pains will be burning in nature, this, too is a sign of the need for this remedy.

Other Remedies for patients with coughs:

ACONITUM NAPELLUS:  Think of this remedy for coughs that accompany the onset of the cold.  That do not develop over time, but burst suddenly forth, after the patient has been exposed to cold, dry wind.  For coughs that suddenly come on, usually accompanied by a sudden, high fever, after a child has been out playing in the cold weather.  These are coughs that are common in autumn and winter.  Sudden coughs in excited, flushed patients who do not want to rest, but want to run about.  Excited patients who may be fearful or exhilarated.  ACONITE is also an important remedy for children who have sudden croupy coughs.  The ACONITE cough is typically hoarse, loud and dry.  The patient will complain of a sensation of tingling in the chest that comes on after fits of coughing.  For the sudden cough that is accompanied by fever in an excited patient, always think of ACONITE.

LACHESIS:  If the patient coughs in his or her sleep without waking or coughs when awake without being aware of it, strongly consider a dose of LACHESIS.  This is the remedy for simple dry coughs that come on in suffocative fits.  If the patient feels as if he cannot breathe when coughing and rushes to the window and it relieved by breathing in cold, fresh air, the remedy of choice is LACHESIS.  The LACHESIS patient is very sensitive to touch, particularly in the area of the throat.  If the patient refuses to allow you to examine his throat or to touch him on his throat, or if he responds to having this throat touched by feeling suffocated, the remedy of choice is LACHESIS.  The patient may complain of the sensation of a plug in his or her throat.  They may also complain of a tickling in their throat that is the cause of their cough.

HEPAR SULPHURICUM:  The need for this remedy is a sign that the illness is becoming more serious and that perhaps an infection is present.  The patient will complain of the sensation of a plug, or, more commonly, a stick caught in their throat.  The patient’s throat feel raw and ragged.  This the remedy when the patient’s cough is very loose, and he or she is coughing up a great deal of mucus.  The mucus is yellow and thick.  It may be bloody at times.  The HEPAR patient coughs when he is cold, when any part of his body is uncovered.  This is a patient who wants to be warm, wants to rest.  Look for the HEPAR patient to typically have to sit up in order to breathe and to bend his head back while sitting.  This is the only way he feels he can get enough air.  Listen and you will hear the the HEPAR cough has an unusual croaking sound to it.

IPECAC:  This is a remedy to consider for a cough that is moving toward bronchitis.   The illness that responds to IPECAC comes on swiftly, moving from a simple head cold down into the chest in just a day or two.  The cough is damp and very deep.  Listen for a rattling sound in the chest when the patient coughs.  There will be a great deal of mucus in the chest.  The IPECAC patient will commonly experience choking and a sense of suffocation when they cough.  The patient may have a hard time breathing.  The patient’s fits of coughing are commonly accompanied by nausea, which is keynote to this remedy, and can be accompanied by vomiting as well. When the coughing fits end in vomiting, this is the remedy of choice.  The IPECAC patient is worse in a warm room.  Concomitant symptoms include a stuffy nose and nose bleeds.  The IPECAC patient is needy, but often doesn’t  know just what he or she needs.  The IPECAC patient flails in his or her illness and wants attention, wants to be cared for.

ANTIMONIUM TARTARICUM:  Historically, this remedy is known as the “drowning man’s remedy,” for reasons that will become clear.  This is the remedy to keep in mind for a really deep cough, one that is moving or has moved into bronchitis.  Listen for rattling in the chest and a chest full of mucus.  The patient seems to be drowning from within, and has difficulty breathing. The symptoms come on very slowly, and the cold, which may have been mild enough in the beginning, has moved deeper and become a more serious situation.  The patient will cough and cough and will be unable to bring up any mucus.  The cough sounds wet, and will become more and more painful for the patient as he or she becomes weaker and weaker.  The patient may ultimately be too weak to expectorate the mucus.  In general, the patient is short of breath but lacks the strength to sit up in order to breathe more easily.  Note that with symptoms this serious, a trip to the doctor or the emergency room may be called for.

With this short list of remedies, you have more or less the full picture remedies for patients with coughs that accompany colds and flu.  As the season progresses, I will add to this group of lists, with a list specific to fevers and another for flu.  For a more detailed account of these remedies and many others and their home use, take a look at my book Practical Homeopathy.