How to treat whooping cough naturally

If you would have asked me a month ago about whooping cough, I wouldn’t of had much to say about it.   If fact, somehow in my mind I figured it was something that I wouldn’t have to worry about.  That all changed when all four of my kids came down with it.  Yup, all four, ages 9, 7, 4, and 1, all at the same time.  It’s interesting how real life tends to change one’s attitude, doesn’t it?

Needless to say, I hit the books (and internet) in a desperate search for help in the form of real life experience.  Maybe it’s just my personality, but I hate reading anyone’s so called “advice” unless they’ve been through the trenches themselves.  I did however, find a few sites that shared different experiences, which I found very helpful, along with a few good books I had on hand.

So here I am, one month (and many sleepless nights) later, sharing my experience in hopes that someone may benefit from my experience in the trenches.


What is Whopping cough?

Whooping cough is a bacterial infection of the respiratory system.  Since the bacteria cannot live outside the body, it is spread through close contact with oral secretions and respiratory droplets (i.e. getting snot wiped on you or someone coughing in your face would pretty much do it).  After an incubation period of about a week, it starts with symptoms similar to that of the common cold (low grade fever, runny nose, sneezing, dry cough, etc.).  Over the course of a 1-2 weeks these “mild symptoms” diminish and the person is left with a persistent cough that progresses into violent, uncontrollable coughing fits.  These coughing fits (or paroxysms) come on suddenly with five to ten forceful coughs, followed by a high-pitched “whoop” sound as the person struggles to breathe. These fits can last several minutes, often with vomiting, and a feeling or appearance of suffocation.  One characteristic that sets this apart from ordinary coughs is the long intervals of no coughing between paroxysms.  During this time the person may seem perfectly well with no other symptoms, and no coughing at all, until the next paroxysm hits.  This paroxysmal stage is of course the most distressing part of whooping cough, and usually lasts 2-8 weeks, and sometimes even longer.

How is it treated?

Because whooping cough is a bacterial infection, it is generally treated with antibiotics, usually erythromycin.  If this is given in the incubation stage of the disease, it is believed it may prevent it from developing and keep it from spreading to others.  However, because early symptoms of whooping cough can easily be mistaken for a common cold, early detection is difficult, especially in the incubation period.  Unless of course you know you’ve been exposed and seek medical treatment right away.  In most cases though, the person doesn’t know they’ve been infected until they have developed the major symptoms of the coughing paroxysms.  By this time the bacteria has done it’s damage in the body, and medication seems to have no effect of the course of illness, only in limiting the contagiousness of it.

So why give antibiotics if it doesn’t provide any real treatment?  The medical thinking behind this is mostly to keep it from spreading, especially if there could be young babies (under 3 months) or very elderly, or those with respiratory problems like asthma, whom if exposed, could be life threatening.  Also, antibiotics could treat any possible secondary infections like pneumonia.


My experience with whooping cough

It started exactly how I described above- My oldest (9 yr old) came down with a cold, which I figured was just a normal cold and treated it like I usually do with herbs, oils, etc.  It ran it’s course and she seemed to bounce back pretty good, EXCEPT that she developed a dry cough soon after.  I did some kinesiology (muscle testing) for what she needed as a remedy and the whooping cough nosode came up.  I wasn’t too surprised by this, since she did have a cough, and I figured her symptom picture was matching this remedy.  I have to admit that this was a huge error on my part.  Looking back, I should have taken a closer look at this and questioned this more in my muscle testing, as well as tested all aspects of this cough and been more diligent in treating it.  If I would have taken more time in this stage and tested up a strong, detailed regimen this infection may have been stopped in it’s tracks.

Anyway, her cough progressed over a week or so until she was having these violent coughing fits.  That’s when I finally realized what was going on and sought for diagnoses.  When we discovered it was whooping cough, I figured my other kids had already been exposed since by this time they all had the same cold-like symptoms with a cough.  So I had a choice to make.  Although I tend to lean toward a more natural approach to healing, I did give traditional medicine some good thought.  I weighed the benefits vs. harm that medication would offer, especially with possible complications.  I knew I pretty much missed my window for any real benefit from medication so I felt that we should do our best to treat it naturally.

During this course of illness, what I found was the greatest cause, or harm, of this disease is the rapid accumulation of mucus everywhere!  I was quite surprised when I would zone my kids’ feet as I would feel inflammation and mucus not only in the lungs but everywhere- in the lymph, digestive system, and other organs.  I never felt anything like it!  When just looking at the bottom of the feet, you could see a bulge where the lung area was, and it felt like a water bed when I worked it.  I felt the same fluid type accumulation throughout the zone, especially in the digestive system.  It was interesting that as I worked their feet throughout the sickness, I could feel the accumulation of mucus “move” through the intestines as they progressed in their healing.  Because of this I knew I had to not only fight bacteria but get rid of the mucus as fast as I could!

Listed below are all the things I used through this process.  I should mention that although there are many ways you can treat this  illness naturally, there are specific results that you want to achieve- how you go about doing that is dependent on different factors like availability and knowledge of tools (herbs, oils, homeopathics, etc.), patient’s genetic disposition (including emotional aspects), etc.  The following regimen is what I felt was best for my children and their specific circumstances, HOWEVER, the basic results I wanted to achieve through this was: 1. Clear out mucus and congestion, 2. Fight bacteria and possible secondary infections, and 3. strengthen immune system and energy for quicker healing.

Here’s what I did:

Herbal tinctures:

  • Lung Congestion (LC) from Butterfly Express- this is a very “hot” tincture because it contains a good amount of horseradish and cayenne.  I used this mostly with my older kids with a dosage of about 1/2 dropper every two hours.  I gave my 4 year old a little less- more like 6-10 drops.  For my one year old I used Mullein Compound (MC) from Butterfly Express, which is a good infection fighting formula specific to the respiratory system.  I used these two tinctures pretty much the whole time, but after a couple weeks I made a tincture specific for my baby because her cough wasn’t as productive as I would have liked.  I’ll give that and other recipes below.
  • Anti-Plague (APL) from Butterfly Express (or Dr. Christophers)- 1 dropper every 2-3 hours.
  • Infection Fighter– I LOVE this tincture!!  I gave this off and on throughout the duration of sickness to fight off infections, like ear infections or pneumonia.  I would do about 1/2 dropper every couple hours when I felt like they needed it, like when their temperature would raise (which would be an indication of infection).
  • Thyme and Ginger Cough Syrup- given as needed.  (The recipe is below)
  • My homemade whooping cough tincture–  I made this mostly for my one year old who couldn’t take the hot LC tincture, and needed a little extra help getting rid of the mucus.  I don’t know if it was because she was the youngest, but as my other kids were “getting better” she was still struggling with an overload of mucus and an unproductive cough.  I’m not sure if the cough was unproductive or that because she was so little she couldn’t cough out the mucus, she just kept swallowing it.  I knew I had to help get that out, so that’s where this tincture came in handy.  (The recipe is below)
  • Anti-Spasmodic (ASP) tincture from Butterfly Express (or Dr. Christophers)- this is a formula with anti-spasmodic herbs like lobelia, skullcap, and black cohosh. The formula I used was a little to hot for my baby since it had cayenne in it.  So I would just rub it on the bottoms of her feet.  I would do this mostly at night to calm the spasms.

Essential Oils:

I used A LOT of essential oils!!  I put oils on feet, chest, back (between the shoulder blades), in baths, in showers, and diffused them in the house.  I even went to a meeting one time during all this and someone turned to me and said, you smell good, you smell like basil and oregano.  Yup, I smelled like I was dipped in a tub of oils.

The blends I used were from Butterfly Express:

  • Mariah, Stephanie, Aspire, Breezy– these are great for respiratory issues and lung infections.
  • Deliverance– Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and all that good stuff
  • Life Force, Vitality– Increases body’s strength and energy to fight off infection.
  • Endo Relief– Strengthens and supports endocrine function
  • Reflections, Revitalize– Helps the body cleanse lymph system, liver and kidneys.
  • Warm Down, Paine– I used this mostly on the lung and diaphragm area on the feet to help heal and clam the muscles after coughing fits.

The singles I used were:

  • Oregano– Antiviral, antibacterial, great for respiratory infections
  • Fenugreek, Tumeric, Ginger– these hot oils help to eliminate mucus from the lungs and bronchials.
  • Lavender– calming, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, helps to clear waste from the lymph system.
  • Eucalyptus– helps open respiratory pathways.



  • Whooping Cough Nosode (also known as pertussis nosode)
  • Pneumococcus Nosode-
  • Felix Mas
  • Drosera
  • Pulsatilla
  • Rescue Remedy- good for emotional crisis


Other things that helped:

  • Redmond Clay Bath– this really helped to clean out the lymph system by pulling out junk from the bath.  When the coughing was at it’s worst I made sure to do a bath at least once every day, I did notice an improvement when we did this.
  • Garlic poultice on feet- This actually really helped a lot.  Chop or mince about 4 cloves of fresh garlic and mix well with a good amount (at least a Tbsp) of petroleum jelly.  Apply a thick layer of Olive oil to the bottoms of the feet so the garlic mixture won’t burn the skin.  Apply the garlic mixture so it covers the bottom of both feet.  Wrap each foot with plastic wrap (saran wrap) and cover with socks.  If you don’t wrap it with saran wrap the garlic gets all crusty and yucky and leaks out everywhere and onto everything (not saying that happened or anything).
  • Vicks VapoRub or Petroleum jelly– At night I would use the Vicks rub since it would stay on (and last) longer than my essential oils.  You could use petroleum jelly as a “carrier” for your essential oils as an alternative to the Vicks.
  • Ear Oil and BBL (both from Butterfly Express)- A couple of my kids developed ear infections, which is a common secondary infection of whooping cough.  I used the Ear Oil from Butterfly Express, but I have used other brands that work well like the Herbs for Kids Willow/Garlic Ear Oil, or you can make your own.  The BBL is an antispasmodic herbal tincture.  It really helps with the pain.  After 2 days of putting this in both ears, the infection was gone.
  • Suction bulb- This was so useful for my baby!  I would use this to suction out snot, or mucus from her throat.
  • Hot steam showers- this was really helpful for my baby during coughing fits, which were the worst at night.  I would turn on the shower as hot as I could stand and plug the tub.  After an inch or so of water accumulated in the tub I would add some drops of essential oils (Breezy or Aspire).  I would stand in the tub, holding my baby, with the shower water pointed away from us so we didn’t get scalded.  I just wanted the steam, I didn’t want to get all wet.  The steam really helped to loosen up the mucus and open the airways.  I did try using a warm humidifier to get the same effect as the shower, but it didn’t seem to work much.  The hot steam shower helped a lot more than the humidifier did.
  • Footzoning (or course!)
  • I made an Infused Oil with Mullein and Lobelia to use as a carrier oil for my essential oils.  The Mullein and Lobelia also help with lung congestion and coughing spasms.
  • Make sure you’re taking care of yourself- getting good nutrition and sleep.  The nights were by far the worst.  It seemed like each kid was a week behind so waking up every hour for three weeks really took a toll on me.
  • Watch diet closely!  Eliminate all sugar, white flour and flour products, and dairy products as these are all mucus forming.  Also eliminate eggs, heavy protein (meat) or greasy foods.  Add lots of warm fresh juices, herbal teas, fruits and veggies, whole foods, etc.

Herbs useful in treating coughs, including whooping cough

  • Basil– contains strong antibacterial and anti-spasmodic properties
  • Coltsfoot– soothing to the mucous membranes, chest and lung expectorant, has an anti-inflammatory effect on lungs.  Excellent as a tea.
  • Elcampane– Very effect for general catarrh conditions and assists expectoration.
  • Elderflower– An expectorant, anti-catarrahal and anti-inflammatory.  Contains constituents that act as sedatives and relieves pain. Excellent remedy for babies, children, adults, and elderly.
  • Garlic– Natural antibiotic.
  • Ginger– Removes congestion, helps to clear sore throats, enhances the effectiveness of other herbs.
  • Horehound– Excellent in children’s coughs, croups, and colds.  Loosens tough phlegm from the chest.  (Be aware that large doses act as a laxative)
  • Hyssop– Useful for mucus congestion in the intestines.
  • Lobelia– A very powerful relaxant and anti-spasmodic which helps with bronchial spasms.
  • Marjoram– Useful for spasmodic coughs.
  • Marshmallow– Aids the expectorant of difficult phlegm, removes mucus from the lungs, soothes and heals bronchial tubes.
  • Mullein– Has a calming effect which helps control coughs and spasms while still loosening and removing mucus from the lungs.  Also a good pain killer and helps induce sleep.
  • Red Clover– Excellent blood cleanser, contains mild sedative properties, antispasmodic, increases vitality and strengthens weak systems
  • Slippery Elm– Removes mucus better than any other herb.
  • Thyme– Powerful antiseptic, clears congestion and calms cough spasms
  • Tumeric– Useful for dry coughs
  • Wild Cherry– Expectorant, loosens hardened mucus.
  • White Pine– Excellent source of Vitamin C.  Good for sore throats, helps to expel phlegm and reduce inflammation.


Homemade Cough Tincture 

2 parts Mullein
1 part Elecampane
1 part Slippery Elm
1 part Ginger
1 part Thyme
1 part Lobelia
1 part Yarrow

I used 1/4 ounce of herb as 1 part.  So if you need 2 parts herb, that would equal 1/2 ounce, and so forth.  I divided the herbs into two pint sized canning jars, added my menstruum (I used glycerin), sealed the lids and put them in my crockpot for a couple days.  For more detailed info on how to make tinctures go here.

This tincture is more specific to cutting and removing mucus and phlegm, and assisting expectoration from the lungs.  I made this formula specifically for my one year old who really had a hard time getting out the mucus.  Even though she would have frequent (terrible) coughing fits, they weren’t very productive and she just kept swallowing any mucus that tried to come out.  I originally made this without the slippery elm, but added it later to make it more effect, and it was!  After giving her this tincture, whenever she would cough, mucus and phlegm would come out by the handfuls.  I kept a washcloth just below her chin to catch it all and wipe it away.  I was amazed at how well it worked.  You could also add one part Red Clover to fight off any bacteria or infections.

Thyme, Ginger, and Marshmallow Syrup

2 ounces marshmallow root
2 ounces garden thyme
2 ounces of fresh, sliced ginger
1 quart of distilled water

Slowly boil the marshmallow and thyme in distilled water until reduced to 1 pint.  Strain, press, return liquor to saucepan and add 2 lbs brown sugar (I substituted about a cup of honey). Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Skim as the scum arises. Add two ounces of minced ginger, allow steeping until cool. Strain, bottle (remember to label) and keep in the refrigerator.  We went through this so quickly that I just left it on the counter (in an amber bottle) for a couple weeks and it was fine.

* You could also add 1/2 ounce lobelia herb to the above formula and a little more water but ending with the same amount when boiled down (1pint).  Lobelia helps with with coughing spasms.

Dosage is pretty much as often as you need: Young children: 1 teaspoon.  Older children: 2-3 teaspoonfuls (according to age).  Adults: 1 Tbsp


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4 Responses to How to treat whooping cough naturally

  1. Nollene Jensen says:

    Do you sell your cough remedy?

  2. Celeste says:

    Thank you. This is an answer to prayer. I have been dealing with croup with all 3 of my kids at the same time. Age 5, 3 and 9 months. I have been looking for things to get the mucus out

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