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During last year’s cold and flu season, I was on the hunt for a good cough remedy that I could make at home.  My criteria were that it be natural, safe, and better than anything I could get at the store.  I found lots of recipes for a vaporub-like salve, so many in fact, I figured it was something I should try out.

As with every homemade cough or cold remedy that I try, I am always doubtful that it will live up to their claims.  So, when I read over and over that putting this salve on the feet at night will stop nighttime coughing, I was skeptical to say the least.

Friends, it works.  Every time.  So far this Fall, both my daughter and younger son have come down with some virus that had them coughing all day and night.  With both of them, I put the salve on their feet at night, covered with socks, and they were able to sleep through the night, cough-free!

If you have coughing in your home that makes it hard to sleep, give this a shot.  I have no idea why it works, but it does.  This is my favorite natural cough remedy because it works!!

Do you have any home remedies that are favorites of yours?  Please share!


Homemade “Vaporub” Salve (recipe source)

  • 5 tbsp.extra virgin coconut oil (a natural anti-viral) (buy here)
  • 1 tbsp. evening primrose oil (could use sweet almond, olive, etc. if you want) (buy here)
  • 2 tbsp.beeswax (buy here)
  • 8 – 10 drops teatree essential oil (also a natural anti-viral) (buy here)
  • 15 – 20 drops rosemary essential oil (aids breathing) (buy here)

In a small pan, melt the coconut oil and evening primrose oil.  Add the beeswax, chopped up (or in granules) and stir until melted.  Add the essential oils and stir to combine.  Pour into a 4-oz. glass jar and allow to cool.

I store mine in the medicine cabinet, instead of the fridge, because I want it soft enough to spread on tiny feet.

Good luck and enjoy the benefits of a cough-free sleep.



This post has been part of Natural Living Monday

Want more info on natural cough remedies?  Read here:

Homemade Remedy for Sore Throat and Cough from Nature’s Nuture Blog

Natural Treatment for Whooping Cough from Holistic Squid

Honey and Lemon Cough Syrup with Coconut Oil from Coconut Mama

Homemade Cough and Cold Syrup from Primally Inspired

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94 thoughts on “Natural Cough Remedy

    • NM… there’s some discussion of it on the original post. I am curious if anyone else has had any adverse reactions to tea tree oil? It may be nothing, but I read an article that basically describes tea tree oil as being very akin to turpentine chemically. It also indicated that it can have adverse effects on hormonal balance in women. I have had a LOT of issues in this department, so I stopped using it altogether. Just curious if anyone else has any insights on this topic.

      • You are right that many cough salves include eucalyptus. This one does not. Eucalyptus seems to be beneficial when you are breathing in the vapors. Since this salve is rubbed into skin (bottom of feet), it doesn’t seem to be needed.
        Tea tree oil can be irritating to some people’s skin, especially when placed directly on the skin. In this recipe, the tea tree oil is mixed into quite a bit of coconut oil and other ingredients. It shouldn’t be irritating, but as with any topical ointment, those with sensitivities should always test it first.
        I have not heard of tea tree adversely affecting hormonal balance in women. I hope not! I use it all the time in so many ways ;)

        • actually the eucalyptus will be beneficial in this recipe, even though you are not breathing it in. You will still receive the benefits of the congestion loosening properties of that oil. the science is easy, the artery that is in the arch of your foot makes a straight shot return to your heart, and the oils literally soak into your skin and enter your blood stream(the whole do not ever use lemon oil on pregnant lady foot rubs thing, this is why, premature labor!!) anyway, it carries to oils right up to your heart and around your lungs, thereby loosening the gunk with the volatility of the eucalyptus oils. Add heavy socks and lots of blankets, and it really opens up your pores, allowing for even more absorption, make sense?:-)
          This is safe for even small kiddos too, because the skin on the soles of their feet are thicker, not delicate like their chest, non-eucalyptus is ok for the chest rub though typically.

      • My husband has a reaction every time he tries to use tree tree oil. He has even tried a homemade nasal spray that uses only 1 drop of tea tree in a 2 cup distilled water solution and he reacts with that as well. So personally for his use I would sub eucalyptus.
        Thanks for the recipe. I have tried the Vicks and it works so am looking forward to trying a homemade version!

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  17. How essential is the beeswax? I need to make some of this today but I’m having a hard time finding a local source. Does it work without it? Also, this is probably a silly question, but can it be used during the day or is it best used while sleeping?

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    • Always ask your child’s physician before trying a home remedy to make sure there aren’t any contraindications. Since you have the ingredients, it will be easy to find out. That being said, I have used this on my baby.

  19. Is there anything you would recommend in place of coconut oil…..not for me, I have a friend with a bad cold and I recommended this to her. She then reminded me that she is allergic to coconut…as in she cant eat it…..shes never tryed the oil on her skin but is scared to.

    • I am unsure of a specific oil to recommend. Perhaps Vitamin E would be a good option? She may have to add more beeswax to get it to set up. One great thing about coconut oil is that it is a natural anti-viral. She wouldn’t necessarily be missing out on that since there are a lot of essential oils that have anti-viral characteristics. Good luck! If she finds something that works, please let us know!

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  21. Thanks for sharing it! I tried it last night for my seven, five and two and a half year-old, they slept through the night without coughing. My question is should I do it couple more times, or only if necessary… Also I have a one month old boy, is it safe to use on his feet, too? He just started coughing yesterday, but I don’t want it to get worse and was thinking if I can stop it at the beginning… as I see that you mentioned, you used it on your infant, but I wanted to know if one month is too young? Please advise. Thank you!

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  26. I have very effectively used a mix of lavender and eucalyptus essential oils mixed with jojoba oil as a carrier on the soles of the feet for several cold and flu seasons. Another tip for finicky children is to go in and rub it on the soles of the feet after they are deeply asleep. My young son would flat out refuse it on his feet and wipe it off, so I had to improvise.

  27. Hello, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to create this rub for our families. i just bought the rosemary oil today.. i just finished making the vaporub… i had to use jojoba oil :( it’s all i had.. couldn’t find my primrose. anyways waiting for it to cool down, i’m very excited! thank you again x

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  31. I want to thank you for posting this. My daughter is prone to coughs, and usually we resort to Robitussin’s Long Lasting cough stuff to help her get through the night. This year I’ve been exploring all kinds of home made remedies- from diy bug spray to lavender balm, I’ve been converted to modern day herbalism. But this one I resisted. On the feet? Really?

    Last night, four hours after taking her robitussin, she still hadn’t stopped coughing. It was midnight. I couldn’t bring myself to peer into a brightly lit screen to boot up Pinterest to remember your exact recipe, but I did remember tea tree oil was one ingredient. So I rubbed some into her feet, covered with fuzzy socks, and hoped. Twenty minutes later she was sound asleep, nary a cough.

    This morning, I got up coughing. I made the salve. Just breathing the vapors as I made it stopped my coughing. And my daughter asked for more “foot stuff, because that really worked, Mommy!”

    Thank you.
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  35. I’ve never commented on a blog and I’ve never used essential oils until two days ago! My kids have been so sick and I noticed the store medicine was wearing off much sooner that it should have been. After searching for childrens cough medicine I came across this post and thought “I’m willing to try it. It just might work.” So, after a little bit of sticker shock at the store, I bought and mixed the ingredients. The first night it didn’t seem to be as effective as I thought it would be. But my daughter woke up the next morning, fever free. The second night was a miracle. My son, who is only one, slept like nothing was wrong with him. I had to reapply to my daughter half way through the night, but she was back to sleep in minutes, with no more coughing. The salve smells wonderful. I’ve been really looking for something more natural to give my kids and I’m glad I found this! I just might be a convert to essential oil healing!

  36. You put it on your feet because the feet have the largest pores and the oils go straight into the bloodstream within minutes and can reach every organ of the body through the feet (reflexology.) if you study aromatherapy and essential oils this will all become more clear. We put everything on the feet including peppermint essential oil for a fever. You’re putting the sox on so you don’t get all that other stuff on your bedding. The essential oils would immediately soak into the skin by themselves. But alone they could irritate the skin, so essentially you’re diluting with the other ingredients.

  37. Wondering if I could use shea butter in place of the beeswax to help the mixture set? Or does the beeswax have some other purpose?

  38. Hi there! Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m so glad that this remedy has worked for so many of you and so well! I tried it last night and this morning, and am sad to say it didn’t work at all for us! How much do you put on their feet at a time and how often? Would you wake a child up during the night to put more on if it didn’t help the first time? Thanks in advance for any thoughts on this. I really want it to work! :) have a great day!

    • Honestly, I just grab a glob of it and slather it on their feet and put the socks on. I usually hear them coughing for a while, but they are able to go to sleep and stay asleep all night. I have gotten up in the night and reapplied, too. I also put the leftovers on my fingers onto their chest for some extra help. :) Good luck and I hope you try it again!
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  42. Are rosemary and tea tree EOs safe for babies under a year? I’m not sure, so don’t want to make this if it isn’t safe for the little ones…

  43. I didn’t have time to go to a craft store and buy beeswax, so I just mixed all of the other ingredients and it works great! I poured it into a jar and it set basically like coconut oil does, and then when I rub it on the kids’ feet it melts in to their feet. Sometimes I have to reapply halfway through the night but it’s so much better than resorting to conventional cough syrup (which you usually have to give every 4 hours anyway). Thanks so much for this recipe!

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  47. I have to say, my daughter (18 months) has terrible allergies and has been teething terribly for the past week. Since she has so much congestion and saliva at once, she has been coughing nonstop for the past two nights. I found this blog post between 3 and 4 am today and resolved that I had to try it. Got home and made the salve, put a good coating on her feet and mine, and 20 minutes later she is sound asleep. She coughed a couple times but finally settled. I also took a plain vapor pad and dropped some tea tree oil and rosemary for extra assurance and placed it in the vapopad section of her humidifier (seems to be helping). Hopefully this lasts through the night. I will have to look into other remedies pertaining to essential oils since my kids get colds and ear infections on a regular basis during the winter season. Thank you so much for sharing!

  48. As a side note, we had tried everything from vaporub, vapopads, allergy medicine, and cough syrup that was recommended by her pediatrician and nothing worked. But this does.

  49. I use a similar recipe based on theives oil. It’s great for night time coughs and congestion.

    I also make a concoction made up of just coconut oil, raw honey, and lemon juice and keep it in the fridge. We use instead of cough syrup and i add it to my morning tea if i feel the nasties coming on. Somehow I’ve avoided the cold and flu bug this year and i work in a school!

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  52. I’m all about the hippy dippy natural remedies but none of my tried-and-true were helping when my son came down with a brutal cough. The cough was so violent that he started vomiting and in desperation, I began searching for something, anything! I first came across acupressure massage techniques for cough and started that ASAP. He finally caught a break and was able to fall asleep (3 hours post bedtime!). During my frantic searches, I also found this and vowed to make the salve the next day so I would be prepared for the following night. I hit up Whole Foods that next morning, found beeswax and the essential oils, and went home to brew the concoction. That night, when the coughing fit started up again, I massaged the salve into his feet and covered with comfy socks. He was able to fall asleep shortly thereafter!! The next night, it was even quicker! Thank you for sharing this awesome remedy!!

  53. Thank you for the recipe! I found this yesterday while my 2 year old son was constantly coughing, to the point he was nearly sick. My wife managed to get everything bar the beeswax and primrose so we used lavender instead. We put it on his feet 15 mins before his bed time and it worked perfectly! I’ve given his feet another coating this morning before nursery so hopefully he’ll have a cough free day. Thanks again, much appreciated.

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