Feeling of tightness, and pressure or heaviness in the chest is regarded as chest congestion. It implies obstructed flow of oxygen in the lungs. Symptoms and causes of chest congestion can be associated with other health diseases and conditions. Sometimes the reasons may be common cold, viral infection, respiratory infection, excess deposition of fluids in the lungs, exposure to poisonous gasses, etc. In other cases, it can be some diseases, like asthma, lung cancer, tuberculosis, or pneumonia. If neglected, it can prove life-threatening. Chest congestion is extremely uncomfortable. Shortness of breath, throat pain, blood in cough, difficulty in swallowing, thick tongue, loud noise while breathing, etc., are the symptoms of chest congestion. If you are among those who don’t want to rush to a doctor instantly, then you can opt for home remedies to get rid of chest congestion.
If the cause of chest congestion is cold, then the lemon is one of the best natural remedies to alleviate it. Studies have found that vitamin C present in lemon reduces risk of cold and cough (1, 2). Squeeze a lemon in hot water and put some salt. Drink this juice three to four times a day. The acidic nature of lemon reduces the thickness of the mucus.
Onion has significant amount of sulphur and quercetin that help thin the mucus and ease the chest congestion. Onion is also a great expectorant (5). Chew and swallow 6-7 shallots along with sugar before going to bed at night. You can also use onion in curry to treat this problem.
Alternatively, cut an onion, fry it and place between two thin clothes. Put this wrap on chest to clear up congestion (6).
3. Hot Water
Whenever you feel thirsty; drink hot water. It will dissolve the thick phlegm and bring it out along with cough, thereby removing the congestion and providing relief. A hot water pack, when kept in the chest, can also do wonder (7, 8).
4. Chicken Soup
Gargle reduces mucus deposition. It also kills bacteria and decreases throat pain. Add some salt to hot water. Take a sip of this water, swish it around in your mouth and gargle for around 20 seconds and then spit it out in the sink (11, 12).
6. Drink Fluids
Fluids will help break up the congestion caused by mucus. Juices and soups are the best fluids to intake. When you drink more fluids, mucus won’t get accumulated, and it becomes easy to cough up the loosened mucus (13).
You need to steep some fresh ginger pieces in hot water for some time to prepare ginger tea.
- Alternatively, powdered ginger can also be taken with honey, to treat the problem.
A few studies have proved that honey is more effective than any over-the-counter medicine to cure cough. Consume a teaspoon of honey in a glass of warm water and drink it. You can also mix it with herbal tea (17).
You can also make a mixture by boiling onion , honey and salt. It proves to be a great remedy to cure congestion (18).
Note: Honey is not recommended for infants below 1 year.
9. Black Coffee
If you are facing problem in breathing due to an asthma attack, then black coffee is a good remedy. Caffeine present in coffee works as Theophylline, a drug that is used to open congested airways (19). Drink one or two cups of strong black coffee to get relief.
Note – Do not drink more than two cups of coffee, as it causes adverse effects.
10. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne Pepper is warming (20). It is effective in reducing the thickness of phlegm and helps remove it from the respiratory tracts and lungs. All you have to do is prepare a mixture of 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoon water. Take this mixture 1 teaspoon daily until you get relief from chest congestion (21).
Steam will loosen the mucus in your airways and lungs. Just boil some water in a large bowl, bend over it and cover your head with a towel. Inhale vapours coming out from the hot water. (22) You can also use steam vaporizer for inhaling steam (24).
Note: There is no scientific research to prove the effectiveness of steam inhalation in curing chest congestion.
12. Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV contains citric acid which helps you breathe better by thinning the mucus accumulated in the chest. Take a cup of warm water. Add two teaspoons of unfiltered, organic raw ACV and one teaspoon of raw honey to it. Drink this solution twice or thrice a day.
It contains a component called curcumin which possess therapeutic properties. Turmeric has been traditionally used as an anti inflammatory, anti bacterial and pain killer herb (25, 26). Add a pinch of black pepper, two teaspoons of honey, and ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder to hot milk (1 cup). Mix well and drink it.
- Alternatively, combine two tablespoons each of ACV and turmeric powder. Drink it.
14. Cloves and Fenugreek
Clove is used as an expectorant to get rid of chest congestion fast (27). Fenugreek is also a herb popularly used to treat chronic cough (28). Roast some fenugreek and cloves for 2-3 minutes. Take a thin cloth and wrap these roasted items in this cloth. Put this cloth pack on your chest and throat for a few seconds.
It is a traditional medicine for the treatment of chest congestion. Ancient Greeks and Romans discovered its use for chest congestion by making mustard plasters and pastes (29). White mustard is applied directly to the affected area to relieve chest congestion (30).
Make a paste of 1 tablespoon mustard powder, 10 tablespoon flour and water. Spread this paste between two pieces of cloth and place this on chest. Keep it as it is until skin becomes red. Take off and cover your chest with a warm cloth (31).
Note – Remove the plaster if it causes burning sensation.
- Alternatively, drink radish juice regularly.
18. Nasal Spray
Saline nasal spray is the best way to treat all types of congestion (36, 37). Put 3 teaspoons of pickling salt (no iodine) and 1 teaspoon of baking soda in 1 cup of boiled water. Now fill this mixture in squeeze bottle, neti pot, or rubber nasal bulb (38).
Note – Spit the solution, if it goes in your mouth.
19. Saffron and Milk
Saffron contains crocin and safranal which possess antioxidants and anti inflammatory properties (39).
Milk and Saffron bring heat to the chest that helps clear the mucus. Take a little amount of saffron; add it to a cup of milk. Heat it up. Mix lemon juice (a few drops) and honey in it. Stir well and drink when it is warm.
For the treatment of chest congestion fennel is an excellent remedy (40).
- Add some curry powder to fennel; it will also help clear the chest congestion.
- Fennel tea is a very good option. Add ½ teaspoon of the herb in one cup of boiling water and let it steep for 15 minutes. Afterwards, strain it. Sip it warm.
- Using humidifier with sweet fennel essential oil helps thin mucus and get rid of chest congestion (41).
If congestion is caused because of cold, then garlic is a best remedy to get relief. A study published in Advances in Therapy in the year 2001, evidenced through a double-blind, placebo-controlled experiment that the garlic supplements can avert cold symptoms (42). Garlic fights off respiratory infections due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Moreover, it has selenium, calcium, iron and copper that keeps you fit and healthy (43).
Maintain humid environment to get relief from chest congestion (44). You can install humidifier in your room and offices or you can take hot shower. Consume hot beverages like soup to loosen mucus.
Herbal Remedies for Chest Congestion
23. Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus has many medicinal properties. The leaves and oil of this herb are important ingredient of many medicines. Eucalyptus oil should always be used in diluted form. Apply it on chest and nose to relieve congestion (45). It possess expectorant properties which helps loosen cough (46, 47).
All you need to do is heat water in a pot and add four to five drops of eucalyptus oil into it. Then cover your head with a bathing towel and lean over the pot. Inhale the vapours arising from the pot. Repeat this treatment twice daily to get the faster results.
Boil 4 ounces of water, add one teaspoon of dried licorice root to it. Turn off the burner and let licorice root steep in the saucepan for 5 minutes. Strain it and drink.
- Don’t drink licorice tea for more than a week.
- If you have health problems, don’t drink licorice tea.
25. Parsley Leave
It is a natural herb that breaks up the mucus associated with cold and chest congestion (50). Flavonoids found in parsley possess anti-inflammatory properties and are rich in antioxidants, that helps fights congestion (51).
26. Bay Leaves
Bay leaves are very beneficial for various health problems, including chest congestion.
Take a cup of boiling water and add some fresh bay leaves to it. Let it steep for some time. Drink it warm.
- Bay leaves can also be used as a hot compress. Put some bay leaves in water, boil it. Strain the solution and now dip a clean cloth in this water and place it on the chest to get relief from the congestion.
- Alternatively, you can also crush and smell Californian bay leaves to open nasal passages (52).
Thyme is popularly used for the treatment of respiratory illness. Two preliminary studies and The German Commission E has approved use of this herb as a remedy to cure acute cough (53). Drink Thyme tea to avert phlegm and get relief from chest congestion (54).
- Or else, add olive with thyme oil in the ratio of 1:1. Rub it gently on the chest to relieve pain.
Note: This oil is considered toxic so should not be taken by mouth. If you have hormone related condition, consult doctor before taking thyme.
28. Bitter Gourd Root
Bitter Gourd Root also known as Bitter melon is used cure inflammation and treat cough (55). Make a paste of bitter gourd root. Add some honey and basil leaves to it. It will help improve resistance, if taken continuously for a month.
Peppermint leaves are the outstanding aid for treating chest congestion. Tea prepared from these herbal leaves have significant amount of antioxidants (56).
Peppermint oil gives warmth feeling when applied to the skin so it cures the pain beneath the skin. Apply this herbal oil directly on chest for relief from congestion. You can also inhale this oil for treating cough and cold symptoms (57). Menthol obtained from peppermint is also used for getting rid of chest congestion (58, 59).
Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysed the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of rosemary essential oil (60, 61). Add 5 to 10 drops of rosemary oil to bathtub containing warm water. This oil has antiseptic properties. Bathe with this water.
31. Lemon Eucalyptus
Lemon Eucalyptus is a tree. The essential oil derived from this tree is an important ingredient of the chest rubs used to alleviate chest congestion (62).
32. White Pine
Pinus strobus, commonly known as White Pine is native to Eastern North America. It is used in the treatment of chest congestion as it is an excellent expectorant (63).
Chamomile has been traditionally used for treatment of various health problems like asthma, inflammations, nausea, colic, etc (64). Boil chamomile leaves in water and inhale its steam. It will clear up nasal passages and relieve congestion (65). The anti inflammatory properties of this herb reduces respiratory tract inflammation (66).
- Get sufficient sleep to keep your body strong (67).
- Drink a lot of water and fresh juices (68, 69).
- Keep your room and surroundings clean.
- Eat spicy food when you have congestion. Foods like ginger, chili, garlic, and black pepper act as decongestants and aid in loosening of phlegm.
- Leave your nose and head uncovered while sleeping.
- While sleeping, your head should be higher than your heart’s level (70).
- Practice yoga to enhance the capacity of lungs and breathe comfortably.
- Don’t use respiratory irritants (71).
- Avoid use of excessive artificial heating and cooling devices.
- Do not exercise if suffering from serious chest congestion.
- Avoid eating oily, junk, fried, salted, and sugary foods as they produce more mucus in the chest lining.
- Don’t smoke (72).
- Avoid breathing chemicals (73).