Comparative Antitussive Effects of Medicinal Plants and Their Constituents

Altern Ther Health Med. 2018 Jul;24(4):36-49.


Context: The cough is a protective reflex, with 2 types, one being more sensitive to mechanical stimulation and the other to chemical stimulation, such as sulfur dioxide, ammonia, citric acid, and capsaicin. Some evidence is available that suppressant therapy is most effective when used for the short-term reduction of coughing. Today, use of herbal drugs is increasing all over the world for various ailments, including to provide antitussive activity.

Objective: The study intended to review the antitussive effects of various extracts, some fractions, and some constituents of the studied medicinal plants.

Design: Various databases, including the Medline, Science Direct, Scopus, and Google Scholar, were searched for studies published between 1978 and 2015, using the keywords antitussive and cough and the names of various medicinal plants and their constituents.

Setting: The study took place in the districts related to Mashhad University of Medical Sciences (Mashhad, Iran).

Outcome measures: The antitussive effects of medicinal plants and their constituents were normalized to 50 mg/kg and 1 mg/mL against various cough stimulants and compared.

Results: The most potent antitussive effect was observed for Nigella sativa and Linum usitatissimum on coughs induced by sulfur dioxide. Artemisia absinthium showed a higher antitussive effect on cough induced by ammonia compared with the other studied medicinal plants. The antitussive effects of Cuminum cyminum and Glycyrrhiza glabra were more potent on cough induced by citric acid than other medicinal plants.

Conclusions: These results suggest the therapeutic potential of the studied medicinal plants as antitussive therapies. However, only a few clinical studies have examined the antitussive effects of medicinal plants, and more clinical studies are needed. The underlying mechanisms of the antitussive effects of medicinal plants should be also examined in further studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antitussive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cough / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Iran
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry*
  • Plants, Medicinal*


  • Antitussive Agents
  • Plant Extracts