A Simple Remedy For Cough and Chest Congestion

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Have you ever wondered what people did before there were pharmacies on every corner and a pill to pop for every annoyance?

When doctors were scarce and reserved for actual medical emergencies, wise women nurtured their families with food and herbal remedies.  They were known as kitchen witches and they had as many remedies as the pharmacy on the corner today.  Really the only thing they were missing was the long list of side effects that goes with so many of those pills.

Now I’m not telling you to avoid doctors.  Absolutely see a doctor for emergencies or illnesses beyond your capabilities.

I’m just saying that they don’t have to be your first defense. 

Your first defense should come at home, usually from the kitchen.  Today I’m going to teach you how to make a poultice for coughs and chest congestion.

It’s super easy and only takes a few tools and ingredients.  You’ll need:

  • A knife
  • A good sized onion
  • Several garlic cloves
  • A pinch or two of ginger
  • A bit of water
  • Something to stir with
  • And a small pan

Start by warming up your pan with some water in the bottom.  This way you can just add things as you go.

Slice your onion fairly thin.

Roughly chop your garlic.

Add in a pinch or two of ginger. I used dried but fresh would definitely be optimal.

Now saute it all together for about five minutes.

Scoop it allout into a kitchen towel.

Bundle it up so nothing escapes.

And then apply to your chest for 20-30 minutes. Feel free to add another cloth underneath or let it cool if it’s too hot.

Caution: Coughing may actually intensify with the poultice as it draws the infection out of the chest. Remove the poultice if it gets too intense.

And Now For The Kitchen Witchery

Wise women, witches, as they came to be known, didn’t just cast love spells and turn people into newts. They knew that plants had healing properties as well as magickal.


“Onions were historically used as a preventative medicine during epidemics of cholera and the plague. They were apparently eaten by Roman emperor Nero as a cure for colds, and its reputation has made onions a popular component in the diets of many countries.”

— Jo Lewin (Source)

Medicinal Properties of Onion

  • antioxidant
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antibacterial
  • antiviral
  • antifungal

Magickal Properties of Onion

  • Prosperity
  • Stability
  • Endurance
  • Banishing negative influence
  • Ending bad habits
  • Removing illness

Onions have been used in spells for ages. They are usually associated with protection, exorcism, and healing.  I remember my earliest use of onion when my son was so sick that we weren’t sure if he needed a doctor or a priest.  He had a fever that just would not break no matter what we did.  That night I sliced up an onion and stuffed it in his socks.  I watched over him like a hawk, not really believing that this would work.  Sure enough, the fever disappeared overnight. 

Traditionally onions are not stuffed in socks.  They are actually used in poultices, which are basically just fresh or heated, moist plant matter that is applied to the skin or in a cloth.  An onion chest poultice is a great home remedy that increases circulation to the lungs, reduces congestion, and helps fight infection.


“Garlic’s usage predates written history; Sanskrit records document the use of garlic remedies approximately 5000 years ago. Legend suggests that Egyptian pharaohs prized garlic very highly, and slaves building the pyramids were given a daily ration to keep them fit and strong. Throughout history, garlic has been regarded as a well-trusted remedy, especially during epidemics such as cholera and tuberculosis and in World War I, where it was used as an antiseptic applied to wounds to cleanse and heal and to treat dysentery caused by the poor sanitary conditions in the trenches.”

— Jo Lewin (Source)

Medicinal Properties of Garlic

  • antibacterial
  • antiviral
  • antifungal

A garlic poultice is a great, no thought remedy.  As in you don’t really need to know the specifics of your illness to benefit from it.  Garlic is naturally antibiotic and antiviral so chances are if you have any type of oogie-germ going on, garlic can help.

It’s also my go to remedy (as a fresh poultice) for stings.

Garlic can, however, be irritating and actually burn the skin.  Check skin regularly and remove the poultice at the first sign of irritation.  I’ve noticed that when garlic is part of a larger poultice and wrapped in cloth that this is less of an issue but since everyone has different sensitivities, just keep an eye on things.

Magickal Properties of Garlic

  • Protection
  • Banishment
  • Healing
  • Expels negative energies
  • Strength
  • Breaking hexes or jinxes
  • Purification


“Native to South-east Asia, India and China, ginger has been an integral component of the region’s diet and valued for its aromatic, culinary and medicinal properties for thousands of years.”

— Jo Lewin (Source)

Medicinal Properties of Ginger

  • stimulates circulation
  • encourages perspiration
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antibacterial
  • antiviral

Magickal Properties of Ginger

  • Love
  • Passion
  • Protection
  • Abundance
  • Healing
  • Luck
  • Success
  • Prosperity

Often referred to as a wrap rather than a poultice, a ginger wrap can help in removing mucous from lungs and reduces cough effectively.  It works in several different ways. 

Ginger acts as a natural decongestant when you breath it in.  I learned that the hard way refilling my spices pots one day…and I wasn’t even stuffy!  It didn’t matter; my nose could have won a marathon that day.

It is also anti-inflammatory so it is going to soothe anything that is inflamed by all of your coughing.  Think of how bad your throat and lungs burn after the strain of coughing all day.  This is why ginger is so often used to treat bronchitis.

Maybe the biggest effect is that ginger is a warming agent. Our inner defenses travel through our blood so increased circulation is going to get more good guys there faster. It also increases perspiration which is one of the ways our bodies gets the bad guys out. Adding ginger to your poultice is definitely a win win.

Like garlic, ginger can be irritating to the skin. Use common sense with application and take the same precautions as with garlic.

In addition to, or in place of, the ginger, you can certainly add other herbs with pertinent medicinal properties. Bay, Sage, Thyme, and Rosemary would all be wonderful here. My youngest daughter will also occasionally request the addition of Eucalyptus because it makes her nose so happy.

Find more Herbal Remedies in the Kitchen Witchery section, or Dig Deeper into individual herbs to grow your own herbal knowledge. Buy dried herbs for the recipe at the Apothecary.

Disclaimer: Please note that I am a not medical professional and everything written here is a product of my own research. Don’t take any advice given here over that of a trained doctor. If you ingest any herbs, always make sure that you’re 100% sure that they’re safe. If you’re pregnant or giving to a child, always consult a doctor before ingesting herbs and plant you aren’t familiar with. Magickal instruction and spells are for personal entertainment purposes only. The desired result/outcome cannot be guaranteed as a result of using any magickal item, and should not be used as a replacement for medical/professional assistance.

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