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How To Get Rid Of Phlegm (Mucus)

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How To Get Rid Of Phlegm (Mucus) December 29, 2017

As if the constant coughing in public isn’t embarrassing enough, imagine coughing up some gooey phlegm with it. The mere thought itself is sickening, isn’t it? Other than being a constant bother, excess phlegm may also be an indication of an underlying disease. So don’t you want to know what exactly is causing the sudden phlegm build-up? Keep reading to find out! And if you are worried about the sudden change in the color of your phlegm, we have answers for that too.

Table Of Contents

What Is Phlegm?

Phlegm is a thick and sticky fluid that is secreted in your chest. Although this secretion is the result of a natural process, in some cases, it may be the result of an underlying disease. When you are running a cold or flu and cough phlegm up, it is termed as sputum. Your body doesn’t usually produce too much phlegm unless you are sick. The best way to find whether your phlegm is an indication of any disease is to look for its color. Given below is a phlegm color chart that can help you.

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What Does The Colour Of Your Phlegm Say About Your Health?

How-To-Get-Rid-Of-Phlegm-(Mucus)

  • Green Or Yellow Phlegm

Green or yellow phlegm is usually an indication that your body is fighting a disease. Medical conditions like bronchitis, pneumonia, sinusitis, and cystic fibrosis may result in green or yellow phlegm. But you must also look for other symptoms to identify which one of these you are actually suffering from.

  • White Phlegm

The most common conditions that lead to the formation of white phlegm include viral bronchitis, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and congestive heart failure.

  • Brown Phlegm

Brown phlegm is usually rusty and most often hints at old blood. It is usually caused by bacterial pneumonia and bacterial bronchitis.

  • Red Or Pink Phlegm

The main cause of pink or red phlegm is blood. Infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, congestive heart failure, pulmonary embolism, and even lung cancer may be the underlying cause of pink or red sputum.

  • Black Phlegm

Melanoptysis is another term used for black sputum. Black sputum is usually a sign that you have inhaled high amounts of something black, say coal dust or kohl. It is commonly caused by smoking, pneumoconiosis or a fungal infection caused by a black yeast called Exophiala dermatitidis.

Excessive phlegm is usually the result of an allergy or infection. It can also be caused by certain foods like milk and other dairy products, chemotherapy, pregnancy, or even candida infections.

The symptoms that surface with the build-up of phlegm usually vary depending on its cause. However, some common signs and symptoms associated with excessive fluid build-up are mentioned below.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Phlegm

The most common signs and symptoms of an excessive phlegm build-up include the following:

  • Coughing up mucus and phlegm
  • A runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • A sinus headache
  • A sore and congested throat
  • Shortness of breath

Most cases of phlegm build-up are a result of infections like a cold or flu and can be cured easily. If you have been suffering from phlegm following a disease and wish to get rid of it soon, the following remedies are just for you.

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How To Get Rid Of Phlegm Naturally

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar
  2. Essential Oils
  3. Salt Water Gargle
  4. Ginger
  5. Garlic
  6. Turmeric And Apple Cider Vinegar
  7. Humidifier/Vaporizer
  8. Honey
  9. Onion
  10. Lemon Juice
  11. Herbal Teas
  12. Cayenne Pepper
  13. Jaggery
  14. Pineapple Juice
  15. Oil Pulling
  16. Orange Juice
  17. Soups

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Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Phlegm

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

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You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 glass of water
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and mix well.
  2. Consume this solution on a daily basis.
  3. You can also add honey to this for flavor.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this at least thrice daily.

Why This Works

Apple cider vinegar is often used as a natural decongestant. This is due to its potassium content, which is known to help with runny noses. ACV also has natural antiviral and antibacterial properties that can help in fighting infections that result in excessive phlegm production (1).

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2. Essential Oils

1. Peppermint Oil

1. Peppermint Oil

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You Will Need
  • 7-8 drops of peppermint oil
  • 1 bowl of steaming hot water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a few drops of peppermint oil to a bowl of steaming hot water.
  2. Bend over the bowl and cover your head with a towel or blanket.
  3. Inhale the steam deeply.
How Often You Should Do This

You can do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Peppermint oil is one of the most widely used essential oils to clear congestion. One of the main components of peppermint oil is menthol, which is a natural expectorant and has antispasmodic properties (2). The vapors from peppermint oil can go right up to your lungs and help in breaking down the phlegm build-up and relaxing your lung muscles. Peppermint oil is also antibacterial and can help fight infections that lead to excessive phlegm accumulation in your body (3).

2. Eucalyptus Oil

2. Eucalyptus Oil

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You Will Need
  • 6-8 drops of eucalyptus oil
  • A bowl of steaming hot water
What You Have To Do
  1.  Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a bowl of steaming water.
  2.  Cover your head with a towel and inhale the decongesting vapors.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 1 to 2 times daily.

Why This Works

Eucalyptus oil contains eucalyptol that makes it a potent decongestant and microbe-fighting agent. The decongesting properties of eucalyptus oil help in breaking up the phlegm, and its antimicrobial properties can combat infections (4), (5).

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3. Salt Water Gargle

3. Salt Water Gargle

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 glass of hot water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add a teaspoon of salt to a glass of medium hot water.
  2. Mix well and use this solution to gargle.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this at least thrice daily.

Why This Works

Salt water gargle is a proven remedy to combat upper respiratory infections like cold and flu, both of which can lead to phlegm build-up (6). While the hot water can provide immediate relief to your congested throat, the antibacterial properties of salt can combat the infections that have resulted in the excessive production of phlegm (7).

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4. Ginger

4. Ginger

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You Will Need
  • 1 to 2 inches of ginger
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • Honey (optional)
What You Have To Do
  1. Steep the ginger in hot water for 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Strain and let it cool a bit.
  3. Add a little honey to the slightly warm ginger tea and consume it.
How Often You Should Do This

You must drink this tea 3 to 4 times daily.

Why This Works

Ginger is rich in various polyphenols and flavonoids that are antibacterial, antiviral, and antispasmodic (8), (9), (10). These can help fight infections and prevent congestion due to excessive production of phlegm. Regular intake of ginger will also have a relaxing effect on your lung muscles and help in decongestion. In addition to this, ginger is quite popular for its use as a natural expectorant and can help relieve the symptoms of excessive phlegm or mucus build-up.

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5. Garlic

5. Garlic

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You Will Need
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Crush a few cloves of garlic and consume with warm water every morning.
  2. Alternatively, you can also chew on the garlic cloves or add them to your daily diet.
How Often You Should Do This

Do this 3 to 4 times daily.

Why This Works

Garlic contains a compound called allicin that gives it most of its medicinal properties. In addition to being used as a natural expectorant to help break down the phlegm build-up, garlic also possesses antimicrobial properties that can help fight bacterial, viral, and fungal infections that may cause your respiratory glands to produce more phlegm (11), (12).

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6. Turmeric

6. Turmeric

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You Will Need
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1 glass of warm water
What You Have To Do
  1. Add about a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of turmeric to a glass of warm water.
  2. Stir well and add a little honey for flavor.
  3. Consume this solution on a daily basis.
  4. Alternatively, you can also gargle with this solution multiple times a day.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this at least 2 to 3 times daily.

Why This Works

The presence of curcumin is what gives turmeric most of its wonderful healing properties (13). Curcumin is a natural antiseptic and exhibits antimicrobial properties against various fungi, bacteria, and viruses (14). It also decongests congested or obstructed airways by helping to loosen the phlegm accumulation in your chest and throat (15).

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7. Humidifier/Vaporizer

7. HumidifierVaporizer

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Exposing yourself to cold and dry air can worsen the phlegm build-up. Therefore, it is recommended that you use a humidifier or vaporizer in your room to keep the surrounding air moist.

Moist air helps in loosening the mucus, making it easier to pass through your nasal passages and airways. This also helps combat infections like sore throat and cough, which may be an underlying cause of the excessive phlegm produced by your body.

You can also add a few drops of any essential oils to the humidifier for maximum benefits. However, you must remember to clean the humidifier once in a while to prevent indoor pollution (16).

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8. Honey

8. Honey

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You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • A pinch of pepper powder
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix the honey and pepper powder and consume this mixture daily.
  2. Alternatively, you can also add a tablespoon of honey to a glass of slightly warm water and consume it on a daily basis.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 2 to 3 times daily.

Why This Works

Honey is another natural remedy that can help reduce excessive phlegm build-up. Studies have proved honey to be effective in treating upper respiratory diseases like cough in children, proving its decongestant and expectorant properties that can be quite effective against phlegm and mucus accumulation (17), (18), (19).

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9. Onion

9. Onion

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You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of crushed onion
  • 1/2 tablespoon of honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Take an onion and cut it into small pieces.
  2. Crush a tablespoon of the cut onions and mix with half a tablespoon of honey.
  3. Consume this onion-honey mixture.
How Often You Should Do This

You must consume this mixture at least 2 to 3 times daily.

Why This Works

Onions are a rich source of various nutrients, but it is the presence of a compound called quercetin that makes them quite popular. Quercetin has proved to be beneficial against various diseases. However, it is its action against allergies and respiratory infections that highlights its usefulness. Quercetin is an anti-allergic agent and can help prevent the accumulation of phlegm and mucus in your respiratory tracts (20), (21). It is also known for its immunity boosting properties and can hence be used to promote your overall health as well (22).

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10. Lemon Juice

10. Lemon Juice

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You Will Need
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 glass of warm water
  • Honey
What You Have To Do
  1. Add the juice of half a lemon to a glass of warm water.
  2. Add honey to the lemon flavored water and consume daily.
  3. Alternatively, sprinkle a little salt and pepper on half a lemon and suck on it.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this at least thrice daily.

Why This Works

This is one of the most effective remedies to get rid of phlegm. Lemons are a rich source of vitamin C (23). Vitamin C is proven to be effective in treating infections like whooping cough and cold, both of which are often accompanied by the excessive production of phlegm. Other than this, lemons are also bactericidal and can help fight bacterial infections that cause your body to produce phlegm in excess (24).

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11. Herbal Teas

11. Herbal Teas

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The intake of any hot fluid helps in getting rid of excessive phlegm, and when the hot fluid is a herbal concoction, the results are exceptional. Green tea, chamomile tea, thyme, and peppermint tea provide immediate relief from the phlegm build-up in your throat and chest. While the herbs combat microbial infections that may be a major cause of phlegm accumulation, the hot water can soothe your inflamed glands, thereby reducing the unwanted mucus or phlegm secretion (25), (26), (27), (28).

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12. Cayenne Pepper

12. Cayenne Pepper

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You Will Need
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix cayenne pepper powder with water and add honey to this.
  2. Consume this solution on a daily basis.
How Often You Should Do This

You must drink this mixture at least twice daily.

Why This Works

One of the easiest ways to get rid of the unwanted phlegm is to indulge in spicy foods and hot fluids. Given its spicy flavor, cayenne pepper provides immediate relief from the congestion caused by phlegm build-up. It is also quite popular for its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which help combat infections and inflammation (29), (30).

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13. Jaggery

13. Jaggery

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You Will Need
  • A piece of jaggery
  • 1/2 onion
What You Have To Do
  1. Cut half an onion into small pieces.
  2. Mix with crushed jaggery and chew on the pieces.
How Often You Should Do This

You must do this 2 to 3 times daily.

Why This Works

Jaggery is proved to expel unwanted particles from your lungs, thereby making it easier for you to breathe. It can be used to get rid of unwanted phlegm and sputum from your respiratory tracts due to its anti-allergic activities (31).

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14. Pineapples

14. Pineapples

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You Will Need
  • 1/4 pineapple
  • 1 cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Blend one-fourth of a pineapple with a cup of water.
  2. Consume this juice daily.
  3. Alternatively, you can also chew on pineapple pieces.
How Often You Should Do This

Drink this juice at least once daily.

Why This Works

Pineapples are packed with vitamins A and C. As we already know, vitamin C can relieve symptoms of cold and cough, which, in turn, helps clear congestion caused by the excessive production of phlegm. Additionally, pineapples are also a rich source of an enzyme called bromelain that possesses anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce inflammation that causes your glands to produce unwanted mucus (32), (33).

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15. Oil Pulling

15. Oil Pulling

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You Will Need

1 tablespoon of coconut oil or sesame oil

What You Have To Do

Take a tablespoon of coconut or sesame oil and swish it in your mouth for 10-15 minutes.

How Often You Should Do This

Do this every morning on an empty stomach.

Why This Works

Oil pulling is a popular practice that is known to improve oral health (34). Swishing the oil in your mouth brings up all the toxins, microbes, and excess phlegm, and this gives you relief from several ailments over time.

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16. Orange Juice

16. Orange Juice

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You Will Need
  • 1 or 2 oranges
  • 1 cup of water
What You Have To Do
  1. Blend the orange(s) with a cup of water.
  2. Drink the juice.
How Often You Should Do This

Drink orange juice at least once daily.

Why This Works

Orange juice is packed with vitamin C, a sure shot way to fight infections that cause cold and cough and prevent the accumulation of phlegm in your body (35), (36).

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17. Soups

17. Soups

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Consuming hot soups multiple times a day is another effective way to thin the mucus and phlegm build-up. Chicken soup and soups containing herbs like ginger and garlic are particularly effective in decongesting the accumulated phlegm (37).

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These remedies are a sure shot solution to get rid of phlegm build-up. However, it won’t harm you if you take additional precautions to make sure that you do not have to face this problem anytime soon. You must follow the preventive tips given below to assist in your recovery from phlegm and congestion.

Preventive Tips

  • Avoid intake of dairy products, meat, and fried foods, all of which are known to increase mucus production.
  • Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
  • Have hot fluids and consume spicy foods to help loosen your mucus.
  • Inhale steam from hot water multiple times a day.
  • Blow your nose often to expel phlegm from your body.
  • Limit your exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke, paint or chemicals that can cause an allergic reaction and increase the phlegm in your body.

These remedies and tips will work wonders in aiding your recovery. Nevertheless, if your experience extreme discomfort or bleeding, accompanied by the build-up of phlegm, consult your physician immediately to avoid health complications.

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Do let us know which remedies worked for you by commenting below.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

What happens when I swallow the phlegm?

Swallowing your mucus will do you no harm. The acids in your stomach will digest your mucus (like other proteins) and also neutralize the cellular debris and bacteria in your stomach (if any). It is quite unlikely that the mucus can survive the acids in your stomach.

What is the difference between phlegm and mucus?

Mucus is a thick and sticky fluid that is secreted by the mucous membranes of your nose. When the mucus is secreted from your respiratory tract, it is referred to as phlegm.

How to get rid of mucus build-up in the throat?

You can easily get rid of the mucus build-up in your throat with the regular intake of hot fluids and spicy foods. You can also gargle with salt water and inhale steam.

Can dairy products cause excess mucus?

Although dairy products do not cause excess mucus, they might worsen the congestion by making your phlegm thicker and more irritating to your throat.

When to see a doctor?

If your symptoms last for more than 10 days and are followed by green or yellow colored phlegm, you might need to consult your doctor as these are the symptoms of a bacterial infection. Also, if you have blood in your nasal discharge or sputum, it is best to see your doctor immediately.

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