12 Easy Ways to Get Rid of Phlegm

Phlegm is defined as a “liquid secreted by the mucus membranes of mammals” that contains lipids, glycoproteins, and immunglobulins, among others [1].

It serves several purposes for the body including keeping tissue surfaces moist to prevent them from drying and cracking [2].

It also traps bacteria and other harmful invaders before they enter the body and cause infection [2].

The color of phlegm may also indicate different conditions.

For example, white or grayish phlegm may signal a sinus or upper respiratory tract infection, green or dark yellow may reveal bacterial or viral disease, and bloody phlegm, could be a sign of something more serious such as pneumonia, pulmonary embolism or cancer [3].

Of course, you need to consult your doctor to get accurate diagnosis of your condition.

To get relief from sticky phlegm, make use of these natural and safe natural remedies.

1. Steam

One of the easiest and simplest ways to expel phlegm is to inhale steam. It helps dissolve the sticky substance to make it easier for you to eliminate it.

When it’s no longer sticky, it is much easier to expel it through the mouth or nose.

That’s not all that it could do. Steam can also keep the respiratory tract moisturized, which is good as dry environment is a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.

Various studies have shown the efficacy of steam in expelling phlegm and at the same time, relieving the conditions associated with it such as cough [4, 5].

Volatile oils such as eucalyptus oil or cedar leaf oil can be added to water to improve the efficacy of steam [5].

However, it’s important to know that it’s dangerous to use these oils excessively, as they’ve been found to have adverse effects on animal subjects involved in one clinical trial [5].

If you like, you can use plain water to be safe.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup of hot boiling water
  • Mild lotion

Recommended Directions:

  • Pour hot boiling water in a basin.
  • Wrap your head with a towel.
  • Move your face close to the basin and inhale the steam.
  • Do this for 10 minutes three times a day.
  • Another way to loosen phlegm is to take steam shower twice a day.
  • Turn the shower to full heat.
  • Close the bathroom and stay inside for 10 minutes.
  • Apply lotion on your skin to prevent it from drying out.

2. Honey

Cough, whether caused by viruses or bacteria, can cause an increased production of phlegm in the respiratory tract.

An efficient way to relieve this is with honey. Many studies confirm the efficacy of honey for cough relief particularly for children [6, 7, 8].

Findings from these clinical investigations reveal that parents prefer honey for relieving cough in children as it effectively reduced symptoms and helped children sleep better at night [6, 7, 8].

Amazingly, honey has been found to work even better than commonly prescribed cough medications such as dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine [6].

Moreover, honey also works in alleviating symptoms of another common respiratory ailment called allergic rhinosinusitis which also cause over production of phlegm [10].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 glass of warm water

Recommended Directions:

  • Combine black pepper and one tablespoon of honey.
  • If black pepper is not available, you may use white pepper.
  • Take this mixture twice a day for one to two weeks.
  • In a glass of warm water, stir in honey and lemon juice.
  • Drink solution three times a day for one week.

3. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus oil is derived from the leaves of an evergreen tree that can originally be found in Tasmania and Australia [11].

Although it originated in these countries, it wasn’t long before news of its therapeutic purposes spread to other countries such as Spain, China, India, and Portugal, among many others [11].

Over the years, more and more people have relied on eucalyptus oil as a home remedy for various respiratory ailments including cough and common cold.

In the United States and in Germany, it is highly regarded for its expectorant actions, meaning, it can help expel phlegm due to viral or bacterial respiratory infection [11].

In fact, it is typically added to lozenges and syrups, as well as used in vapor baths and inhalation [11].

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 drops of eucalyptus oil
  • 1 basin of hot water

Recommended Directions:

  • Pour eucalyptus oil in hot water.
  • Cover your head with a towel.
  • Move closely to the basin of hot water to inhale the aroma.
  • Do this for 10 to 15 minutes three times a day.
  • You can also use a diffuser if you have one.

4. Lemon Oil

In Ontario, Canada, researchers looked closely at lemon oil’s role as an expectorant inhalant [12].

What they did was administer lemon oil in the form of steam to urethanized rabbits.

Simply put, the rabbits were made to inhale to assist in the expelling of phlegm that’s stuck in their respiratory tract [12].

The experiment resulted in the increase of phlegm output and at the same time, reduced the amount of the respiratory tract fluid [12].

Researchers explain that lemon oil’s expectorant properties focused on stimulating the secretory cells in the respiratory airway, which led to a boost in the volume and concentration of mucus [12].

They believe that these effects are due to the presence of active compounds such as pinene and limonene [12].

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 glass of hot water
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 drop of lemon oil

Recommended Directions:

  • Add lemon juice to hot water and mix.
  • Pour lemon oil and mix in honey.
  • Stir well to blend the solution.
  • Drink the solution three times a day for up to one week.
  • It’s better to use warm water instead of cold.

5. Water

If you think steam is the simplest remedy for phlegm, wait until you hear about this one.

Water is even simpler, as you don’t have to boil it or turn it into steam to inhale it, you just have to simply drink plenty of water during the day.

Water helps keep the phlegm diluted so that it’s much easier to expel.

Frequent intake of water thins the mucus so it doesn’t stick to the respiratory tract.

Researchers state the water is indeed the “most effective means of liquifying the bronchial secretions in asthmatic children” [13].

Even those who don’t suffer from asthma, but are affected by other respiratory ailments like allergies, cough or cold, can also take advantage of this home remedy that’s a cinch to put together.

If you don’t like the bland taste of water, try adding slices of fruits, which won’t only improve the flavor but also boost the nutritional content of your beverage.

What You’ll Need:

  • 8 to 10 glasses of water
  • Slices of fruits and vegetables such as lemon, cucumber, and watermelon

Recommended Directions:

  • Drink eight to 10 glasses of water.
  • To make it more palatable, infuse it with flavor by adding slices of cucumber, lemon or watermelon into a pitcher of water.
  • Let it cool in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before drinking.
  • Fluids help soothe irritated throat and loosen secretions.

6. Garlic

Historical records document the use of garlic since the ancient times.

In fact, some reports show that it has been used during the time when Greek temples and Egyptian pyramids were being constructed [14].

It was even prescribed by Hippocrates to relieve a wide variety of conditions [14].

Today, garlic remains as a potent solution for many ailments including intestinal problems, tuberculosis, parasitic infections, and diarrhea, among others [15, 16].

If you’re having a hard time getting rid of phlegm in your throat, garlic can also help.

African herbalists have long used this plant to treat respiratory infections including asthma [16].

As a proven antimicrobial agent, garlic can put an end to viral and bacterial infections, which are the common causes of excess phlegm [17, 18].

What You’ll Need:

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar

Recommended Directions:

  • Peel garlic and crush.
  • Chop into fine pieces.
  • Add chopped garlic to sugar.
  • Blend if you’d like the consistency to be similar to paste.
  • Otherwise, consume it after setting aside from 30 minutes.
  • Take this twice a day.

7. Nutmeg Oil

Nutmeg oil is another practical remedy for excessive phlegm.

Although it’s not as a popular as eucalyptus or steam inhalation, some people also rely on this oil to get rid of that sticky substance in the respiratory tract.

In a study conducted in 1970, it was found that animal subjects that were made to inhale nutmeg oil had an increased output of respiratory tract fluid [19].

This expectorant action is believed to be due to the active compound in nutmeg, which is camphene [19].

Of course, as with other essential oils, nutmeg oil cannot be used undiluted, as doing so can cause irritation and other adverse effects.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 glass of warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 2 drops of nutmeg oil

Recommended Directions:

  • In a glass of warm water, add nutmeg oil and honey.
  • Stir well.
  • Drink the solution.
  • Sip it slowly to make sure that the antibacterial agents can be absorbed fully.
  • Do this two to three times a day.

8. Thorny Olive

Thorny olive belongs to the Elaeagnaceae plant family. Its leaves have been used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat bronchitis and asthma [20].

In this study performed by Chinese researchers, thorny olive was evaluated for its anti-asthma and expectorant actions [20].

According to the findings, this herb reduced severity and frequency of cough, as well as helped expelled phlegm [20].

Used the right way, this plant can certainly help alleviate the problem of phlegm triggered by respiratory infections.

What You’ll Need:

  • A handful of thorny olive leaves
  • 1 glass of water

Recommended Directions:

  • Boil water in a pot.
  • Add the leaves.
  • Simmer for 30 minutes over low heat.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Strain the leaves.
  • Drink one glass of the concoction.
  • Repeat remedy three times a week.

9. Clove Oil

The dried flower buds of clove have been used as folk remedy for various ailments for many centuries [21].

Among the many diseases that it can treat are headache, gum problems, scabies, wounds, and tooth infections. It is also known for its expectorant actions [21].

Expectorants such as clove oil make it easier to “cough up phlegm” [22].

It helps clear the respiratory passages and treat various respiratory infections including colds, cough, asthma, bronchitis, and sinus conditions [22].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 drop of clove oil
  • 1 glass of warm water
  • 1 teaspoon of honey

Recommended Directions:

  • Add clove oil to water.
  • Stir well.
  • If you’d like to improve the taste, you may add honey.
  • Drink the mixture slowly.
  • Follow this procedure twice a day for up to one week.

10. Peppermint

Peppermint is a popular remedy for bad breath. It’s not only effective, it’s also widely available in the form of breath fresh mints and candies.

Did you know that it can also work wonders in getting rid of phlegm in people suffering from respiratory ailments?

In Brazilian traditional medicine, it is used as an antispasmodic and expectorant. In addition to its phlegm expelling actions, it also reduces chest congestion [23].

Scientists from Brazil confirm its relaxation effects on the respiratory tract [23].

Just make sure that when you use peppermint oil, you dilute it first in water or carrier oil, as it is too strong when used in its pure form.

What You’ll Need:

  • 10 drops of peppermint oil
  • Warm bath water

Recommended Directions:

  • Turn shower to full heat and let steam fill the bathroom.
  • Add peppermint oil to warm bath water.
  • Soak in the bath for half an hour.
  • Inhale deeply to take in the steam and peppermint aroma.
  • Do this once or twice a day.

11. Ginger

A spice highly valued for its pharmacological properties, ginger is the choice remedy for nausea, vomiting, arthritis, and many other health issues [24].

Various studies mention ginger as a potent expectorant, which is why it is commonly used to relieve a number of respiratory ailments [25, 26, 27].

Apart from clearing the respiratory tract, it also kills the source of infection.

After all, it is a proven antibacterial and antiviral, as reported in a study conducted in Germany and Switzerland [28].

Moreover, it also works as an anti-inflammatory, reducing swelling in the respiratory tract [29].

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of honey

Recommended Directions:

  • Boil water in a pot.
  • Remove from the stove.
  • Add ginger.
  • Stir in honey.
  • Mix well.
  • Slowly drink the ginger while still hot.
  • Drink this tea three times a day for up to two weeks.

12. Chicken Soup

As it turns out, the age-old remedy of feeding chicken soup to someone with a cold isn’t unfounded.

An article in Live Strong reports of a study featured in the Chest Medical Journal, which states that chicken soup’s chemical properties do have the ability to relieve cold symptoms.

Researchers explain that chicken soup works by keeping the mucus secretions thin.

At the same time, it slows down the activities of the white blood cells that trigger the body’s inflammatory response.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 bowl of chicken soup

Recommended Directions:

  • Heat chicken soup in a pot.
  • Eat the soup throughout the day until you feel better.

Phlegm isn’t usually a cause for concern.

But because it can bring discomfort, it’s important to get relief from this problem as soon as you can.