Kelly Liston

Homemade Cough Remedy -
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During the cold and flu season we do a lot to support our immune systems.  We eat fermented foods, take cod liver oil and elderberry syrup, eat lots of green veggies and take Juice Plus.  But sometimes, a bug gets us.

During last year’s cold and flu season, I was on the hunt for a good natural 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 using a combination of oils and essential oils, 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 natural cough remedy salve on the feet at night will stop nighttime coughing, I was skeptical to say the least.

Friends, it works.  Every time for us.  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 natural cough remedy 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 night time cough remedy because it works!!

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

Natural Night Time Cough Remedy -


Homemade "Vaporub" Salve
  1. 5 tbsp.extra virgin coconut oil
  2. 1 tbsp. evening primrose oil or other carrier oil such as olive oil or sweet almond oil
  3. 2 tablespoons beeswax
  4. 8 – 10 drops tea tree essential oil
  5. 15 – 20 drops rosemary essential oil
  1. In a small pan, melt the coconut oil and evening primrose oil.
  2. Add the beeswax, chopped up (or in granules) and stir until melted.
  3. Add the essential oils and stir to combine.
  4. Pour into a 4-oz. glass jar and allow to cool.
  1. I store mine in the medicine cabinet, instead of the fridge, because I want it soft enough to spread on tiny feet.
Adapted from Modern Alternative Mama
Oh Lardy
Good luck and enjoy the benefits of a cough-free sleep.


Note:  we only recommend Young Living Essential Oils.  If you would like to learn more about why, why don’t you try out our free 14 day e-course!

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Natural Night Time Cough Remedy -


This post has been part of Natural Living Monday

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90 Comments on “Natural Night Time Cough Remedy”

  1. gudrunb

    sweet! i bet the original recipe was made with lard :) i will have to try this! where do you get your bees wax?

    1. Taramathea

      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.

      1. Oh Lardy

        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 ;)

        1. Jamie @afamilieslove

          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.

      2. Jenn

        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!

    1. Oh Lardy

      Absolutely! I haven’t had to use it, but my husband has. Give it a try, you have nothing to lose!

  2. Amber

    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?

    1. Oh Lardy

      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.

  3. Jwilridge

    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.

    1. Oh Lardy

      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!

    1. Oh Lardy

      Honestly, I am not too sure. I will do some research and post it! I have had mine for a year and it still works. However, I am sure fresher ingredients are best.

  4. Lina

    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!

  5. Melissa Womack

    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.

  6. kelly-joe

    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

  7. Kaelin

    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.
    Kaelin recently posted…Custom Alexandrite PendantMy Profile

  8. Lindsey

    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!

  9. Wendalyn

    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.

  10. Alofiyah

    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?

  11. Emily

    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!

    1. Kelly Liston

      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!
      Kelly Liston recently posted…Black Friday Sale – Save 67% All WeekendMy Profile

  12. Tamara

    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…

  13. Libbie

    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!

  14. Tabitha

    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!

  15. Tabitha

    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.

  16. Gina Boulanger

    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!

  17. Domestica

    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!!

  18. Stewart Casey

    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.

  19. Atheerah

    Hi I was wondering if I could keep in a plastic container rather than a glass jar? Cuz its all I have at the moment :/

  20. atheerah

    Hi Tamara. Thanks for the reply! I forgot to mention that I’ll “cook” the vicks in a glass jar and the pour into a plastic container. I got those big mason jars. Is that ok? Cuz the EOs will already be mixed into the coconut oil and beeswax right?

    1. Tamara Mannelly

      It will be fine. It is always best to store in glass because plastic can leach some chemicals into the product. That is a particular problem with citrus oils (which this does not have). You should be good!

  21. emily

    Thanks for the recipe. Just wondering can I use something else instead of the beeswax? not that easy to get and don’t have time for the online delivery option. I have all the other ingredients ready to go. Thanks!

    1. Tamara Mannelly

      It will work just fine without the beeswax. It will just be ‘goop-ier’ and more liquid. The beeswax just firms it up but doesn’t have any healing properties on its own! Good luck!!

  22. lelle

    Thank you for this fabulous salve. DS has had a nagging cough for weeks. We’ve tried all the tried and true, and nothing worked. His doctor gave us a nasal spray to clear up the congestion. I read the insert, and then promptly threw the spray in the garbage. I searched and searched, found your site, and decided to give it a shot. I found everything but theives oil so I substituted clove oil with some cinnamon oil. Not sure that added anything beneficial to the mix, but I read those two oil are included in theives oil. I’ve lathered the soles of his feet for two nights now and been granted an immediate improvement. A few more nights and maybe this poor kid can sleep without coughing. Thank you!!

    Can you tell me, how vital is proper theives oil to the recipe? If it works this well with my substitutes would it work better with actual theives oil?

  23. Michelle

    Just wanted to let you folks know that I tried this on my 6 year old who’s had a dry cough for about 1 week (no concern to our pediatrician). I followed the recipe diligently and applied it generously to her feet every night for four consecutive nights after bath time. Much to my dismay there was no quantifiable difference in her cough. Obviously nothing works 100% of the time and I still appreciate the recipe and am glad I tried it but wanted to let you know.

  24. yana

    I have tried this on my 4 year old twin boys who have winter asthma and their cough lasts the whole winter. This stuff is amazzzzing!!! It is the only herbal remedy that helped them…I have tried all kinds remedies, syrups…the only thing that ever helped before was an antibiotic from the doctor and using a neubilizer. After using this on their feet for about 5 days their cough weng away completely without the trip to the doc. I have been using this now for almost two years on all four of my kids as soon as they start getting symptoms of a cold. Thank you sooo much for posting this reciepie!!

  25. Joanna

    Hi! I’ve been using this on my toddler for the past 3 nights and I think it’s working! My only question is, is it normal for the salve to get really solid? So solid that it’s hard to actually spread any on the foot? We’ve been storing it in our medicine cabinet and we don’t live in a cold climate, but it is so hard now that all we can do is rub a chunk of it over the soles of her feet and hope some of it rubs off. Let me know if I’m doing something wrong….And thanks for the recipe!

    1. Kelly Liston

      Hi Joanna!

      I live in Arizona and just went to check mine for comparison. Right now it is hard. When it is like this, I get a spoon to get a chunk out and warm it in my hands to melt it. The beeswax really tends to firm it up. In the summer, mine is soft because my coconut oil is melty. But when the house dips below 76 degrees, it gets nice and firm.
      Kelly Liston recently posted…A Natural Remedy for a Urinary Tract InfectionMy Profile

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  28. Laura

    Just made it. It looks like liquid. How long does it take to turn into paste? Did I do something wrong?

  29. Jackie

    hi – I don’t have any Rosemary EO on hand – what other EO could I substitute with…lavender or peppermint? Thand you.

  30. ani

    I swear the last time I read this recipe it called for thieves oil, am I going crazy? And if Iam not and it was originally there cam you tell me why you changed it?
    Thanks for the recipe, it works great for my family and is the most requested Christmas present this year.

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  34. Liz

    Just made this for my son who is prone to croup and has just come down with a cold/cough. I was looking for a more natural remedy using EO’s. Can’t wait to try it out! Question: Can this also be used on the chest like OTC vaporub, or strictly for the feet? Thank you!

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  38. Janette

    Please share this information with this cough that does not healed over and searching the internet I found your article, I saved in my favorites!

  39. rdmommy

    Found this a couple of days ago when I was desperate to stop my 6 yo’s non-stop cough and didn’t want to continue using the OTC petroleum based vapor rub. Avg cough was every 2 minutes but as little as every minute to as much as 4 minutes during the worst hour or so. The eo’s I was using on both kids weren’t cutting it this time. Was able to get the oils I didn’t have from a friend and made the salve. Noticed a slight difference that afternoon. At bedtime that night, slathered the salve on both kids again and hoped for the best. My 6 yo has coughed a lot in the night before, so I was a little apprehensive. Had to get up a couple of times the first night, but that was also due to fevers. There was a definite improvement. Yesterday was even better and the 6 yo’s cough had become more productive. Grateful to say both kids slept through the night last night without interruption, at least for me and my husband. Will continue to use this until the cough is gone. Regarding my expectations of the salve, I wasn’t looking for something to completely eliminate the cough but to control the cough. If my darlin’s have gunk in their lungs, I want them to get it out. I just don’t want them to go through the extended coughing attacks that leave them feeling like they went through an intense ab workout. Will definitely direct others to your recipe. Thank you.

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