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Natural Decongestants and Expectorants

Updated on February 24, 2010

Sliced Onions Are Natural Decongestants

Onions As Natural Decongestants

The easiest way to use natural decongestants and expectorants when needed is with food. Several foods are very effective at relieving congestion. There are several foods that are natural decongestant remedies.

Onions are natural decongestants and expectorants. Sometimes simply cutting up a raw onion is enough to start loosening phlegm and mucus. If that doesn't work, use the raw onions in any food that you enjoy. Make sure to use lots of onions. I like to eat a sandwich with a thick slice of onion. Many times this is all that is needed to relieve congestion.

But onions are a favorite food of mine. For people who don't like to eat onions, this may not be an option to help relieve congestion. For those people, I recommend keeping onion slices and honey mixed together in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Whenever congestion becomes bothersome, simply swallow a couple of spoonfuls of this natural decongestant remedy.

Peppers As Natural Decongestants

Other Foods As Natural Decongestants

There are other foods that can be used as natural decongestants and expectorants. Any spicy foods will help relieve congestion. Spicy salsa, chili, and other Mexican foods work well to relieve congestion. If you're not a fan of Mexican food, try Wasabi or any type of food with spicy heat. Spicy food that is also hot in temperature helps to relieve congestion, but not necessary.

Steam As a Natural Decongestant

Steam is a miracle worker for relieving congestion. A steam vaporizer is a natural decongestant remedy that works very well with no worrisome side effects. If a little eucalyptus oil is added to the steam, this home remedy is even more effective.

If a steam vaporizer isn't available simply take a steamy shower. If you don't feel well enough to take a shower, heat a pan or bowl of boiling water. A few drops of eucalyptus oil may also be added to the water after it has been removed from the heat. Make a tent with a towel or cloth over your head and inhale the steam. Of course, be careful not to be burned by the steam and never use this easy, natural decongestant method with children.

Neti Pots Work Well as Natural Decongestants

Saltwater As a Natural Decongestant

Another one of the most effective natural decongestants is old-fashioned salt water. Mix about 8 ounces of water with a half tablespoon of salt. There are Neti pots available to use to help inhale the salt water. Neti pots take some getting used to, but work really well as a natural decongestant method. If you don't have a Neti pot, simply cup your hand and pour a little saltwater into your palm. Breathe in the saltwater through one nostril and tilt your head back. After a few seconds, lean your head back down over a sink and let the saltwater drain back out. Repeat with the other nostril. Some of the saltwater may drain down your throat, but is not harmful. If you don't want to make your own saltwater solution, inexpensive saline nasal drops can be found in the pharmacy sections of most stores.

Effective Supplements for Natural Decongestants

There are other natural decongestants available that can usually be found in health stores. If they can't be found in your area, they are readily available online. Just be certain that you purchase well-known, reputable products when using natural decongestants.

Vitamin C is a natural decongestant. The recommended dosage of vitamin C for congestion is up to 5 grams a day. Gradually increase the vitamin C dosage, starting at 500 milligrams daily. Stop increasing the dosage when the congestion improves or when you get to the 5 grams daily limit.

Discontinue use if you experience stomach upset. Don't take chewable vitamin C, as it can be damaging to your teeth. Also avoid high doses of vitamin C if you have anemia, kidney disease, or take blood thinners.

Bromelain is another supplement that is one of the best natural decongestants. Bromelain is derived from the stem of the pineapple plant. Bromelain helps relieve congestion naturally by helping to reduce mucus in the sinus cavities. Bromelain is more effective with congestion that is caused by sinusitis and allergies than congestion associated with colds and flu. The effective bromelain dosage for a natural decongestant is about 400 mg daily.

Avoid taking bromelain if you are allergic to pineapples. Contact your physician or pharmacist if you take prescription drugs before using bromelain. Bromelain can increase the effectiveness of other medications by causing more effective absorption, so a lowered dosage may be necessary.

Buy Bromelain - A Natural Decongestant

Wild Oregano Oil - One of the Most Effective Natural Decongestants

Wild oregano oil is an effective natural antifungal, antiviral, and antibiotic. Wild oregano oil contains many compounds that are natural decongestants as well. Wild oregano oil helps with congestion caused by many conditions including sinusitis, colds, and allergies. To use wild oregano oil, just take a few drops under your tongue. Wild oregano oil is somewhat hot, so you can mix it in juice or honey if you like.

Be certain to buy authentic 100% wild oregano oil to use as a natural decongestant. Sometimes similar herbs such as thyme are labeled as oregano oil. These oils don't have the beneficial properties of wild oregano oil. Trying to use the herb oregano in food will also not have an effect on congestion.

Natural Decongestants and Expectorants Comments

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    • profile image

      Sandra 4 years ago

      I think I missed the expectorants?

    • profile image

      Earl 5 years ago

      Dittos on the distilled water, tap water can cause a brain infection!!. Instead of a Netti pot I got a squeeze bottle from my allergist, the tube in it goes all the way to the bottom so you can stand erect and squeeze the wter through the sinus cavity, in one sode , out the other nostril, works well

    • profile image

      anon 5 years ago

      Hi there - good ideas! Just wanted to point out that you should never use regular tap water up your nose. Though our tap water is safe to drink, there can be harmful organisms still in the water after treatment that could make this potentially dangerous. Always use distilled or safety-sealed saline solution from the drug store for this method.

    • profile image

      Betty Garcia 6 years ago

      After making a mixture of warm water and salt I use a baby bulb ,fill with solution over sink. Will drain right out.

    • profile image

      dani 6 years ago

      thank u verz much, Im allergic to chemical medicine, and I didn't know anythink about those natural helpers! u helped me lots. god bless u and happy new year!

    • steveso profile image

      Steve 6 years ago from Brockport, NY

      Thank you for the information. I definitely will try them for my chronic sinusitis.

    • profile image

      MD 6 years ago

      Onions will help loosen congestion. You can also use an ice pack placed between the eyes to reduce inflamation. Be cautious when using any SPICY foods on a regular basis, the lining of the stomach may not tolerate excessive amounts of spicy foods. Also, when a sinus is draining, some of the drainage will get into the stomach, that bacteria may be enhanced by spicy foods and cause ulcers. Same with Orange Juice, if used as a decongestant, the choice should be LOW ACID OJ. One final thing that will help with congestion is to stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water or clear liquids. Thank you all for the valuable information and opinions. Expectorants are intended to loosen the congestion. They are helpful. A natural Expectorant is HOT mint tea followed by a cool drink of water. Remember a Decongestant followed with lots of clear fluids will work as an expectorant.

    • profile image

      Amelia 6 years ago

      My girls love onions and we tried the onion and honey mix and they really liked it !

    • profile image

      craig 6 years ago

      So much for all the decongestants, what about what i asked for, EXPECTORANTS?

    • irbis profile image

      irbis 6 years ago

      Great hub with so much information! Onions and honey or with sugar to make syrup work, but I have also read a lot about salt pipes. They use rock salts from salt mines in Poland or Bulgaria and Rumania, and doctors found out that men who work in them don't suffer any respiratory problems.

    • isjung profile image

      isjung 6 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      I've never used a neti pot, but I found out about how powerful salt water is in a very strange way. I was on the beach having a surfing lesson, and after several hours in the water, I couldn't stop my nose from running! My instructor laughed and said that it was just an effect of all the salt water going up my nose. :)

    • profile image

      trasd 7 years ago

      Will try it thanx Angela

    • pixelspotlight profile image

      pixelspotlight 7 years ago from Missouri

      It wasn't clear to me if these were in order of best to worst? or in any particular order at all? I think that could really help this hub out. Thanks!

    • profile image

      Charity 7 years ago

      Umm...I know you are suppose to and can poor water from a netti pot etc. into your nose but they say to NEVER breath it in! I don't know if the breathing in the salt water advice is safe. You are only suppose to poor it in while breathing through your mouth. As was stated on Oprah.

    • profile image

      Mary 7 years ago

      Needed relief. So stuffed I could barely swallow. Ate raw onion, breathed in eucalyptus steam, and took vitamin C. One side has completely cleared and pressure in face greatly reduced. Wonderful! Thank you! Now I can sleep. It is almost 3 am here.

    • profile image

      ankigarg87 7 years ago

      an excellent and well written article

    • snagerries profile image

      snagerries 7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Angela,

      That's a very educational and a very useful hub. Nasal Problems by congestion is a substantial part of our life. You describe many ways, which really works. Thanks a lot!


    • GdessLacey profile image

      GdessLacey 7 years ago from Texas

      Awesome info!!! For the onions I found a recipe that said to add sugar to a diced onion and put in the fridge until a syrup forms. I've used it for my son, when he was too young to take medicine I could buy. And his cold cleared right up. And gave it to him while he was teething to prevent him from catching a cold. I've only needed to take it once myself and it actually didn't taste that bad.

    • profile image

      DANIEL 7 years ago


    • ptosis profile image

      ptosis 7 years ago from Arizona

      Used to eat the red hot pepper that are in vinegar in the glass jars at the store. Most of them were green - I pick out the red ones - just so I can breathe!

      You can use this as much as you want is the OTC nasal wash is :

      Alkalol is an alkaline saline solution that includes a mix of menthol, camphor, eucalyptol, thymol, and oils of wintergreen, spearmint, pine, and cinnamon

    • profile image

      Heather 7 years ago

      Hi I am from Brisbane Australia & have never heard of a Netti Pot, can someone please explain how it is used, thanks cheers Heather

    • 4FoodSafety profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Fontana, WI

      Great Hub! I learned about - very well written. Great tip on the neti pot in the shower - that might be allot more comfortable.

    • Jeniferr profile image

      Jeniferr 7 years ago from United States

      There is some good advice here. Not everyone likes to get all hopped up on cold or allergy medicine. I know I don't!

    • profile image

      je 7 years ago

      On the neti pot - works great. Try using it in the shower -- easier than over a sink. I keep a cheap salt shaker and the pot in my shower. Pour in some salt, fill up with shower water, you can be gross/messy as you use it, but all washes off in the shower. DON'T leave out the salt -- will burn like heck. You don't need the packets that come with some pots, can just use plain table salt.

      For those of you who are still hesitant to use it... it's just salt water, and you are in control, so you're not going to drown.

    • profile image

      ronniejo 7 years ago

      I just read this page after almost passing out from congestion in my throat. I was unable to breathe so my neighbour who was visiting, hurriedly suggested table salt followed by water. That eased the clog and I was able to get more air. I read this page, then chopped some red onions and ate them raw with with some honey, and before long, I was coughing up the phlegm like nobody's business....and without choking. Thanks for the helpful hints.

    • Successful Living profile image

      Sherry Vacik 7 years ago from Prague, Czech Republic

      This is a very interesting hub--and I have tried several of these methods, with my allergies, and they do work very well. One of my favorites is the neti pot!

      Here, in the Czech Republic, my doctor has even told me to eat raw onions and garlic. These are very potent natural ingredients, but I've not been able to eat them raw! However, they still do work even when cooked--this is my preferred way to take onions and garlic--usually in soup.

    • profile image

      Edi Rullet 7 years ago

      Try fresh ginger (shredded), red pepper, lemon and honey in hot water, strain and drink.

    • Trusted Marketing profile image

      Trusted Marketing 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Just got over a few weeks needing this hubpage. Thanks, I'll pass it along.

    • profile image

      easy 7 years ago

      where are the natural expectorants....

    • profile image

      Maria 7 years ago

      Cayenne pepper helps

    • rdelp profile image

      rdelp 8 years ago

      I've always wanted to try a neti pot but haven't yet.

    • FeliceA profile image

      FeliceA 8 years ago

      Thanks for the info. Any thoughts on how to make using a Netti Pot more comfortable? I've had one for years, which I refuse to throw away, but I've not used it very often either. thanks.

    • profile image

      Lisa H-B 8 years ago

      Thanks for the great ideas. By the way, chicken broth is a natural expectorant; it thins the mucus. This helps nasal congestion as well as chest congestion.

    • bengriston profile image

      bengriston 8 years ago

      Hot peppers do wonders for you when you are congested.

    • Dorrene R profile image

      Dorrene R 8 years ago

      I love this article!

    • tonyhubb profile image

      tonyhubb 8 years ago

      Good article! Thank you!

    • ladyonthemirror profile image

      ladyonthemirror 8 years ago from Indonesia

      Thank you this article is very usefull for me

    • magdielqr profile image

      magdielqr 8 years ago

      Very informative and interesting!

    • Sexy jonty profile image

      Sexy jonty 8 years ago from India

      Very well written hub .....

      very much informative ......

      Thank you very much for your great hub, for good advice, good wishes and support. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us.

    • fortunerep profile image

      fortunerep 8 years ago from North Carolina

      Great infromation. I love onions and maybe I will try it.


    • profile image

      Nelle Hoxie 8 years ago

      My husband makes me chicken soup with lots of hot sauce, when I am stuffed up.

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 8 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      when i have colds i take vitamin c and eat a lot of spicy foods. I love to eat onions, only if it is cooked, but i dont like raw onions. hehehe

    • Sparkle Chi profile image

      Cate 8 years ago from Chandler, AZ

      Great natural suggestions! I prefer to have some raw pineapple instead of extracted bromelain. Vitamin C is important for so many other things also. My favorite is using tea tree oil. I rub a few drops over my sinuses, or throat, wherever the congestion is. I also put a drop or two under my nose. When this doesn't help enough, I make sure to clean my ears with a q-tip dipped in H2O2. The bubbling in the ears means it is fighting off an infection!

    • profile image

      tina 8 years ago

      almost forgot

      kimchee is delicious..

      a 12 oz jar is almost 3.00

      btw,.. thanks for this important page .

      I am doing my checking, because I am suffering the worst sinus infection of my life involving even my ears, lungs and throat. this is due to my un-checked allergies of dust and pollen.

      left uncheckedthese allergies can worsen and cause asthma and other serious lung disease.

      the hospital reccommended decongestants as a part of the remedy.

      but the paper states that chemical decongestants are dangerous for people with certain conditions, and bad for everyone in general. risks and benefits to be weighed carefully.

    • profile image

      tina 8 years ago

      kimchee is spiced cabbage a very famous Korean food. this is sold in jars in many supermnarkets regrigerated section near the asian foods (like tofu and bean sprouts)

    • profile image

      skater  8 years ago

      hot sauce works to

    • Kelsey Tallis profile image

      Kelsey Tallis 8 years ago from USA-Ohio

      Interesting ideas here, thank you! I'm trying to use less over-the-counter medications and am always looking for natural alternatives for certain health problems. This helps a lot!

    • mkhovu profile image

      Connie 8 years ago

      Thank you for this useful hub Angela. With the hayfever in the air, I am sure this will be more useful. Great tips.

    • profile image

      bstnh1 8 years ago

      I love onions and eat loads of them - yellow as well as sweet. I don't see where they do anything at all for my congestion.

    • sarasm profile image

      sarasm 8 years ago from USA

      Thank you. I am always looking for natural cures!

    • Chicagofrank profile image

      Chicagofrank 9 years ago from Chicago

      I have terrible allergies. I loved some of the info you have here! I'm going to give some a try!

    • profile image

      Black  9 years ago

      There ain't nothin congestion related that a little 'Tussin wouldn't take care of.

    • Haris Amin profile image

      Haris Amin 9 years ago from Mars

      Fresh mint Leaves boil them in water and use the water, another good example of natural decongestant

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 9 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Good info! Another food that will clear the congestion is horseradish.

    • profile image

      penslv 9 years ago

      I never knew that about onions. Great news for me. I love onions.

    • tourmaline2777 profile image

      tourmaline2777 9 years ago from Chicago

      Great information!! And wasabi is definitely tops on my list for opening up those sinuses.

    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 9 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      Good info, Angela.  I put red onions on my breakfast sandwiches - sauteed in olive oil, sweet cream butter and lemon juice.  It works great!

    • profile image

      Rogalstm 9 years ago

      As a child, onion "juice" (the liquid obtained from marinating sliced onions) was the only thing we ever got to help with colds and flu. My grandmother had used it with her children, and my mother continued the tradition out of necessity (we could never afford over the counter remedies). It appears that grandmother was "right on the money"!

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 9 years ago from Lebanon

      i have to agree onions are one of my favorites and garic sauce works its way into every meal (:P)

    • psioni profile image

      psioni 9 years ago from Toronto

      Great work on this Hub. By the way, peppers are not only a good decongestant, they can also raise your metabolism and thereby help you lose weight and excess fat.

    • Karen N profile image

      Karen N 9 years ago from United States

      Good tips, I'll have to give some of them a try.

    • stevemark122000 profile image

      stevemark122000 9 years ago from Southern California

      Lots of great information here, thanks.

    • Tania101 profile image

      Tania101 9 years ago from Canada

      Great info Angela.

      I also found out while having my sushi that wasabi is great for opening your passages.

    • Karen and Lesley profile image

      Karen and Lesley 9 years ago from United Kingdom

      It's a Fab Hub Angela. I love all the hot food, especially Mexican, who are also very large onion users. Another thing I use that I wouldn't be without is Eucalyptus oil as it is high in cineole 1-8, a natural decongestant. There are some lovely versions of this oil. My favourite is radiata.

    • profile image

      Amy_Roberts 9 years ago

      Great to have some natural tips! Really interesting hub!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      My mom keeps saying to try the yeti pot. I think I am officially in the market now! Thanks!

    • johnr54 profile image

      Joanie Ruppel 9 years ago from Texas

      I like this kind of info, as I've always had trouble with over the counter remedies, like drowsiness. Alternatives are always welcome.

    • MM Del Rosario profile image

      MM Del Rosario 9 years ago from NSW, Australia

      i remember last winter, i got really have a bad cough, i tried lemon, it helped but i haven't tried onions.......

    • Acorn Valley profile image

      Acorn Valley 9 years ago from WV

      Thanks for the tips. As more and more medications are being questioned because of safety, I'm looking for more natural remedies, especially for my children. I'll bookmark this for the round of stuffy noses.

    • starrwriter profile image

      starrwriter 9 years ago from Cottage Grove, Wisconsin

      Good information. I have trouble sleeping because of congestion, so I am sure this will help me. Thank you!

    • cgull8m profile image

      cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

      Great tips Angela, I will try this next time. Cheers.

    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 9 years ago from San Francisco

      Excellent advice & information Angela - thank you!

    • John Chancellor profile image

      John Chancellor 9 years ago from Tennessee

      Very informative and helpful. I never knew about the onions either. Thaanks.

    • Wbisbill profile image

      Wbisbill 9 years ago from Tennessee USA

      Very informative. Thanks for clearing the air!

    • solarshingles profile image

      solarshingles 9 years ago from london

      Very educational and very useful hub, Angela. Nasal problems by congestion is a substantial part of our life. You describe many ways, which work. Thanks!

    • msms profile image

      msms 9 years ago

      You deftly moved in your Hubpage from cheap free remedy to the costlier ones. Good style of writing and well laid out information for a common problem. Nose is front of our face anyway.


    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      I never knew about onions but have certainly used steam and salt water many times. I live in a river valley where the entire population suffers from what my Dr. calls "Delaware Valley post nasal drip":-) I better put onions on the shopping list.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 9 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      You have some great ideas there. I use salt for gargling but never thought of using this way. Thanks for sharing these, have bookmarked this.