Here’s something interesting to get us started: did you know that phlegm and mucus are not the same? It’s true.
When we suffer from a nasty cold, it’s the mucus that gives us that dreaded sinus congestion. Phlegm settles in the respiratory system and makes its presence known when we cough or wheeze.
While undoubtedly gross, both substances serve essential (relatively similar) purposes, especially when it comes to safeguarding our health. Mucus is responsible for cleansing and moisturizing the nasal passages, humidifying the air we breathe, and filtering out particles such as dust and dirt. Both slimy concoctions are critical for protecting our respiratory organs, such as our lungs. They also contain antibodies and serve us as natural anti-bacterials – both essential for fighting infections.
Although the only time we really think about mucus is when we’re sick, our body produces about one-and-a-half liters of the stuff every day. Some illnesses boost the production of mucus and alter its consistency, which makes it all but impossible to ignore. (The miserable, stuffed-up feeling that colds provide is the physical manifestation of such alterations.)
Illnesses are not the only thing that cause mucus and phlegm output. A variety of factors that might increase your body’s production of mucus and phlegm include:
- a cold or flu
- certain foods and beverages; dairy products, caffeine, soy, and spicy foods are the most common.
- a post-nasal drip
- seasonal allergies
- throat disorders
Although a nuisance, having excess mucus and phlegm is rarely a serious medical problem. While there is no shortage of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, you can also naturally cut down the mucus and phlegm your body is producing.
Here are 5 simple ways to remove mucus and phlegm naturally:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar
For the unaware, apple cider vinegar (for brevity, ACV), is one of the most powerful, natural antibacterial agents. A couple of tablespoons throughout the day can help prevent excess phlegm production and promote a healthy pH balance. As ACV tends to be potent, mixing the product with water may help it be more palatable.
2. Air Humidifiers
Dry air can produce a whole bunch of nasty sinus and throat symptoms. As outside temperatures drop, we tend to use our heating systems a bit more – and this comes at a cost (literally and figuratively). Heaters dry out the air, which can produce symptoms such as dry eyes, dry skin, a sore throat, and even asthma!
Air humidifiers counteract the effects of dry air, which allows us to be a bit more comfortable. We’re also less prone to illness. Oh, if you don’t happen to own an air humidifier – don’t worry – take a nice, hot shower or soak in a tub.
3. Ginger Tea
Ginger is an incredibly versatile ingredient. It’s a natural antioxidant, anti-bacterial, and – for the purposes of this article – excellent decongestant. Ginger helps to soothe your chest and throat by drying out the water-laden mucus and phlegm.
Here’s a quick four-step ginger tea recipe:
- Start with a 2-cup measuring beaker, and put in some grated ginger.
- Fill to the 1 ½-cup line with boiling water.
- Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- After ten minutes, strain the water into a large mug. (You may want to add a bit of honey, sugar, or similar substance for sweetness.)
4. Honey and Lemon
Both honey and lemon are great for fighting mucus and phlegm overload. Lemon is packed with vitamin C, which also boosts the immune system. Secondly, vitamin C can serve as an excellent preventative measure to congestion.
Honey is a favorite of cold sufferers because it adds flavors to just about every beverage, and you don’t have to worry about any negative effects of refined sugar. Honey also contains potent antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, both of which are excellent when battling congestion.
Turmeric is an amazing spice. The bioactive ingredient of turmeric – curcumin – provides over 150 potentially therapeutic properties including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and cancer-fighting elements.
Perhaps curcumin’s most potent effect is as an anti-bacterial. Relatedly, mucus and phlegm are heavily concentrated with bacteria (and viruses), which makes the addition of curcumin a great choice. Curcumin is most commonly sold as an additive in turmeric, but can also be purchased individually as a supplement.
While it’s nice to know that the phlegm and mucus in our bodies are working for our benefit, we can all appreciate knowing we have the option to reduce the number of times we have to pull out that handkerchief or tissue to stifle a sniffle. Stay happy and healthy!