Coffee, Coffee, Cough-y

Jan 15, 2023

In life, one experiences many different “Ah-Ha” moments. There is the classic, light-bulb-turning-on type of “Ah-Ha” moment in which inspiration strikes suddenly, leaving you in awe of your own cleverness. Then there’s the slow dawning-of-realization type of “Ah-Ha” moment in which you put two and two together to make four (or perhaps read song lyrics and realize you’ve been singing them wrong for years.) 

After managing to escape the flu season unscathed, I finally succumbed to a nasty little head cold. In spite of the fact I didn’t have a fever, and my C-19 test came back negative, I was still suffering. I sequestered myself at home and nursed my sore throat, headache, stuffy nose, and general malaise. It was there that I experienced an “Ah-Ha” moment that fell somewhere in between “I’m clever” and “four”.

It started with my morning cup of coffee, lovingly made on my Dalla Corte Studio, a ritual that would take more than a little cold for me to part with. Warm soothing liquid was about the only thing that sounded palatable to me anyway, so why not enjoy my coffee as usual, right?

Apparently, more right than I knew. 

One thing you should know about me is that I had a LOT of bronchitis as a child and as a result am prone to getting a deep chesty cough at the slightest ill wind, ergo I was not surprised when day two of my cold brought about a wheezy crackle in my chest. What did surprise me, however, was how my morning cup of joe helped me clear so much phlegm. 

Phlegm. Yes, I know, so gross, but anyone with chronic bronchitis knows the relief of getting it out!

I have no wish to burden the world with excess details regarding phlegm, but let’s just say that the effect my morning cup of coffee had was drastic enough to spark my curiosity and lead me to type “coffee expectorant?” into the Google search engine.

To my delight I found that not only IS coffee an expectorant, its effectiveness at treating persistent post-infection cough has been tested, and the results of those tests are published.  

According to the 2013 study, “Methylxanthines (such as theophylline and caffeine) are bronchodilator drugs which are believed to stimulate breathing and have been used to prevent apnoea. Caffeine is also hypoalgesic and has anti-inflammatory effects.”

Coffee only made up half of the remedy in the study, however, having been mixed with honey into a paste, and then mixed with hot water and drank by one third of the participants.

“By its antioxidants, honey can increase cytokine release and has antimicrobial effects.Because of its sweetness, honey reflexively stimulates saliva secretion and secretion of mucus in the airways.”

It turns out the two are not only a delicious combination, but also a winning one, beating both the systemic steroid group and the placebo group in the treatment of persistent post-infectious cough.


And so, while this new knowledge does little more for me than prompt me to put some honey into my coffee, I am still delighted to have learned it and to have shared it with you. 

If you are someone who cannot tolerate caffeine, or struggles with regulating your blood sugar, this remedy may not be for you. As with any health concern, talk to your doctor if you are experiencing problems with your health, including a prolonged post-infectious cough. This personal anecdote is not a replacement for medical advice. 

For the full medical study, go here:

Coffee, Coffee, Cough-y