Medical herbalist Nicola Parker explains the treatment for mucous

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Whether its in your nose, throat or lungs, it’s an awful symptom that can linger long after any initial infection has worn off.

At this point in the year, when most people are well on their way to starting a new healthy eating regime or starting a new detox or exercise program, I often find myself feeling dreadful and hiding indoors with a cold. The stress of Christmas takes it’s toll on my immune system and I know I’m not the only one.

Normally, when we are allowed to socialise, a significant number of my friends and family will be pushing through some of the festive season and on in to the new year while coughing and spluttering, forcing themselves to attend their usual New Year party duties instead of being tucked up in bed.

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I imagine that Christmas and New Year was much less stressful this year, since we have all had fewer social commitments, but to make up for it, we have the whole of 2020 to leave behind with the fate of 2021 becoming increasingly uncertain. While we may have missed the busy period, I for one have certainly not missed out on the worry and the stress.


There are a number of things you can do for yourself if you’ve caught a bug. While it’s important to focus on building immunity, for respiratory infections there is one symptom that it is incredibly important to address.

Mucous. The word even sounds horrible. Whether it’s in your nose, throat or lungs, it’s an awful symptom that can linger long after any initial infection has worn off. I often speak to people that insist they’ve had a chest infection for months. While this is possible, it’s much more likely that they’ve had multiple infections but after each one has been eliminated, the mucous on the lungs has persisted, leaving them run down and exhausted until the next one comes along.

Often, once the infection has cleared, the mucous lingers. This can irritate the lungs or nasal passages leading to further mucous production, thus entering you into a perpetual mucus forming cycle.

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This is where herbal medicine can be really useful. Certain herbs can have mucous thinning actions, making it easier for the body to get rid of. Many of these are used in cooking, including garlic, onions, ginger and chilli. You can put the fresh herbs in hot water to sip through the day or add them to soups, stews, chillis and any other culinary dish that takes your fancy.

If you are looking for something stronger, more of a potent medicine that packs a bit more of a medicinal punch, my medicinal herbs of choice include ivy, licorice and thyme (pictured).

In the shop beneath my clinic, there is a formula created by a herbalist much older than I, a remedy that has existed long before I entered the herbal medicine field. I’m a big believer in the old remedies. New things come and go, falling in and out of fashion, but ones that stand the test of time, those I put my trust in. The remedy is simply named IvyThyme and it is specific to shifting mucous.

The herbs in IvyThyme help to thin mucous, just like chilli or garlic would but they also act as expectorants, meaning they give the lungs a helping hand to haul the mucous off the chest. It starts to work almost immediately, clearing the lungs so that the tissues can heal. Once the tissues have healed the cycle is broken and you can start building yourself back up to full health again.

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Thyme is a wonderful lung herb that is powerfully antimicrobial, so if there is any bacteria left causing problems, it can help you fight against it, as well as helping to protect you from the next bug that comes along.

Perhaps the best thing about IvyThyme though is that it seems to help relax the airways, meaning that you only cough when bringing up mucous, putting an end to those continuous unproductive coughs that leave you sore and exhausted.

If the story of repeated infections and constant coughing sounds familiar, then next time you’re fighting off a cough, turn your attention to the mucous.

Antibiotics will kill bacteria and immune herbs like echinacea will help you fight it off yourself, but if the worst culprit is mucous, tackle it directly for a faster, more comfortable recovery.

l For more information about any of the issues covered in this column, or to book an appointment with Nicola contact her clinic on 01524 413733.

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