Homemade Natural Spicy Cider Decongestant and Expectorant

degongestantWhen we’re sick, our body ramps things up to protect us. An increase in mucus brings an increase in antiseptic enzymes and antibodies. Our noses run to wash out some of the germs, and make it harder for others to enter. This increase in mucous, coupled with narrowed inflamed nasal passages that accompany some colds and general bugs; can make for some truly uncomfortable days and nights. If you are suffering from an illness such as a cold or sinusitis and not just allergies, chances are your chest is congested with extra mucous as well. Here to save the day (and night) is an all-natural decongestant and expectorant.

How to Make Homemade, All-Natural Spicy Cider Decongestant and Expectorant- this stuff works! Love it.

Ingredients: Cayenne pepper, honey, lemon juice, ginger, apple cider vinegar.

Decongestant: Thins out mucous, making it less likely you’ll get a really stuffed up nose/reduces mucous production.

Expectorant: It helps “expel” the mucous by loosening it up and making it easier to cough up.

Why the ingredients?: Cayenne pepper, honey, and ginger are all natural expectorants, meaning they help loosen phlegm or mucous from the lungs, making it easier to rid yourself of it and therefore relieving pressure and making you more comfortable.

Cayenne also works as a decongestant, thanks to the natural chemical capsaicin, which helps relieve swelling and inflammation that is narrowing nasal passages.

Apple cider vinegar is thought to help thin out mucous being secreted, making it easier to drain the congestion. Lemon juice is also thought to help with congestion, although the exact scientific reason isn’t known, and makes the whole thing go down a little easier.

You will need…
– ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
– ½ teaspoon of powdered ginger
– 3 tablespoons of all natural organic honey
– 1/4 cup of lemon juice
– 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar

decongestant ingredients


Pour ¼ cup of lemon juice and ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar in pot and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of raw organic honey and ¼-½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper and powdered ginger each (the latter amount makes it quite strong.) Store in a jar in a cool, dark, place indefinitely. Adults take 1-2 tablespoons daily as needed. Shake well before using, as the powder doesn’t dissolve in the most pristine way. I find it pleasant sometimes to warm the mixture before taking it.

natural homemade expectorant

One of my least favorite sensations is waking up in the middle of the night with one side of my nose completely plugged up. The sensation is usually followed by frantically flipping from side to side to try and “drain” it, only to have the other side get blocked (I won’t even get started on all the crumpled, wasted, tissues that pile up as a permanent sign of my discomfort.) We’ve all been there, and nobody likes it. When I feel the onset of a stuffy nose, or wake up like this, I go the cupboard for my trusty jar of spicy cider syrup ASAP.

Tip on Decongestants
One thing to keep in mind-the best (almost) instant and natural decongestant out there is steam. If you’re in need of instant relief, hop in a hot shower or make a cup of tea/boil some water and breathe in the steam to thin out mucous so it drains easily. Have some tissues next to you!

We Want to Hear from You! Let us know which remedies work and do not work for you, ask a question or leave a comment:


  1. Meghan says:

    In your initial list of ingredients, you include garlic, but it’s not mentioned again in the recipe. I assume it isn’t actually needed?

  2. Nicole says:

    This sounds perfect! And so funny that I was JUST talking to my mom (about 15 minutes before I saw this posting) about trying to find a natural remedy for when I visit her on Thanksgiving next week. She has cats and a wood burning stove – which trigger my allergies and congestion. SO happy I saw this – will make it this weekend in preparation for next week! Thank you!! Happy Holidays!

  3. kristen says:

    If I don’t have raw, unfiltered honey, can I just use the regular kind? 🙁

    • Trish says:

      Yes, it won’t have the healing enzymes that raw honey has but it could be used as a sweetener.
      Check your local grocery store a lot of them are starting to carry raw honey or a health food store

  4. Danielle says:

    It all sounds great except when u heat up the ACV u kill off so much of the benefical elements that it contains for the very reason u want to use it. Just wondering if perhaps it could be added last after letting it cool 1st?

    • MSmom says:

      I was hoping that someone would have replied to your thread. I am wondering the same thing. I have been making herbal teas/remedies, but not heating the ACV. It is rather potent when it isn’t heated. I think I just might try it after it’s cooled. Unless it is clearly indicated that it will have adverse side affects.

    • Nina says:

      I’m not sure there is much of a potency problem. Most recipes I’ve seen for creating vinegar tinctures require heating up the vinegar before starting the mixing, and the end result is very concentrated medicine. Maybe don’t bring it quite up to a simmer if you’re concerned, or don’t heat it up at all. I’m sure the end result will bring you the medicine you need 🙂

    • Claire Goodall says:

      You could stir it in after it cools, however I find that gently heating the ingredients allows them to infuse best. Heat in terms of pasteurization IS going to kill off all the good stuff, however, gently simmered for a short amount of time shouldn’t destroy the benefits. It is often times stirred into warm water and even hot tea and works just dandy 😉

  5. Denise says:

    Hi! Love the recipe. I have a couple of questions…how long does it keep? Should it be refrigerated? And dosages?

    • Denise says:

      Okay…went back and re-read it and found info lol is it okay to give to children over a certain age? I know it can’t be given to a child under the age of one due to the honey :0)

  6. Ruth Cobb says:

    My daughter’s pediatric asthma and allergy physician recommended a Neti Pot or Sinucleanse or a bottle from Neil Med to rinse her sinuses. She had chronic sinusitis for many years and antibiotics had not worked and caused problems. The warm water with the saline solution worked to relieve the congestion, wash out excess mucus and pollens. She didn’t like the sensation much, although it is not painful, just weird. We also used a lot of homopathic remedies, as well as some medicinal teas, to help the symptoms. I like your recipe. It seems like it has just the right ingredients to clear up congestion and I plan to try it.

    • Roma says:

      Did you daughter get rid of her sinusitis in the end or does she still suffer with it? O:-)

    • Annette says:

      There is a chewable (for the kiddos) bromoline (capsules of adults) and saline gel ( Ayre ) that everyone in my family has used for about 15 years now ( for chronic sinus infections) and since our holistic Doctor turned us on to this alone… Not one of us ever got them again.

      • Christi says:

        Can you please provide the brands of bromoline and saline gel that you use? Also, what is your vitamin regimen?

  7. Jenea says:

    I just made your homemade decongestant…IT IS WONDERFUL! I am breathing better than I have in 2 days! So tired of all the nasty chemical “cures”

  8. Rosalia says:

    Hi, I was wondering if I could use this for my 18 month old little man. He started daycare in September, and we’ve been trying to clear this awful congestion & coughs for weeks! I am looking for something that will be good and natural for him. 🙂

  9. Joanna says:

    Isnt honey after this whole mixture cools off, you don’t add honey to hot liquids

    • Claire (Everyday Roots) says:

      I think that can depend. This is my response to another comment regarding heating and honey… it was a wee bit too lengthy to retype the whole thing 😀

      “Great question! There’s quite a bit of debate surrounding this, but here’s my 2 cents-I haven’t experienced any decrease in effectiveness after honey is heated to 115 degrees F. I think that people often simply hear that “heating honey kills the live enzymes” or that “pasteurized honey is heated which removes all the beneficial stuff” and automatically assume that any sort of heating is bad. Indeed, many people think that honey heated even slightly is no longer considered “raw.” Technically, this is true, as raw honey is defined as having had nothing done to it, it’s not heated, pasteurized, filtered, nothing, and because of this good practice, all the yeast and live enzymes in raw honey are still present.

      However the yeast and live enzymes that provide a number of honeys wonderful benefits are not killed or deactivated at 115 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature I give in this article. People will use the guideline for yeast used in bread often times for honey, which should not be placed in water exceeding 110-112 degrees F, but yeast/live enzymes in honey are in a molecularly different structure, and therefore respond differently to temperature.

      Raw honey is considered the best honey because it retains all of its natural benefits. During pasteurization honey is heated to 160-170 degrees F, which does kill off the live enzymes and can change the molecular structure of honey. A temperature of 115 degrees for a short amount of time does not do the same thing chemically and it does not kill the live enzymes or yeast. In places such as the California central valley and desert region honey experiences temperatures of 115 degree Fahrenheit while still in the hive, and is still sold as “raw” because it has not technically been heated.

      While you will still hear that any heating is bad, I personally think that there is still an appropriate time and place, and a proper way to go about it. In this case, the heat-infusion method allows you to get the best of both worlds-the benefits of whatever good stuff you’re infusing the honey with, plus all of the benefits of the honey itself. Also, if you ever find your raw honey fermenting, heating it to 115 degrees Fahrenheit will stop the process of fermentation by allowing the dextrose to return to the solution, and in my opinion, it is better to warm it to an appropriate temperature and keep the good properties than to lose the honey altogether to the fermentation.

      In short I am not a beekeeper (although I have studied some) and there are always going to be different opinions on this subject, but I have found that heating honey to a certain level does not get rid of the benefits and can sometimes be a good thing if done properly. I hope this answered your question!”

  10. Patti says:

    Sounds great! Do you have a version of this for diabetics?

    • Lan says:

      Stevia is the best sweetener to use for diabetics. It is a completely natural non-synthetic plant, unprocessed except for the basic grinding it up process, etc. I use it all the time and its amazing. You can research it on the internet. It can be substituted for any sugars. It naturally has next to zero calories, no negative affect on glycemic index and is actually good for you. There are cookbooks about how to substitute it in the right amounts available on the web. Good luck!

  11. Jean kanaby says:

    I made this without heating on a stove as that was another recipe I saw last year and it worked great.

  12. melissa says:

    Can a child over one year old take this remedy? If so, at what quantity? Thanks!

  13. Tina says:

    Would shelf life be reduced if using ginger root? If so, what would be your best guesstimate? On to elderberry syrup next!

  14. Martine says:

    I made something similar but without the AC and without any heat. It used ginger juice. I’ll try this recipe by I’ll add ginger juice instead. I’m hoping it will be as effective if not more

  15. Dilsah D.D. says:

    Girls for the one asking for young jids the honey can’t be given to children under 2 years old !


    I found Homemade Natural Spicy Cider Decongestant and Expectorant article very resourceful; however, the information did not inform the reader whether to” take the remedy orally or through the nasal?” I assume, it’s orally!

  17. María says:

    Is this safe during pregnancy? I’m 21 weeks pregnant

  18. Jeni says:

    Just made it and it worked great!!! It immediately loosened up whatever was hanging around in my throat and cleared me right up better than any OTC med could have done. Thank you!!!

  19. Mitchell says:

    I just made a batch of this , and I do not mind it at all, though I do not see the need to heat it, I think if you were making it just stirring it together, that may be problematic, however I will say that my emersion or stick blender did fantastic job of mixing it up.

  20. Jess says:

    I’m on day 17 of the worst cold ever, and have just tried this as nothing seems to be working!! After 10 mins I could breathe easier (not perfect but a whole lot better!) Thanks for this!!

  21. Julia says:

    Thanks! It was quite tasty and very helpful.

  22. Amaya says:

    Loved it! my 7 yr old has been coughing non-stop for days. Tried this and his first reaction was to vomit ’cause he didn’t like the flavor.
    Tried again, this time he was able to keep it down. It is helping. I hope we will have a better night

  23. Shelley says:

    Took this stuff once last night and then again before I went to bed. When I woke up this morning it was like someone had turned on a fountain. I have had more productive coughing in the last two hours than the last three days combined using OTC expectorants.

    Surprisingly, the flavor isn’t bad. I think the lemon juice/honey takes care of that, but the cayenne! Wow. You certainly feel that!


  24. Devin says:

    Dear Claire,
    Thanks tremendously for this deliciously potent decongestant/expectorant. I discovered your wonderful website (with its crystalline cornucopia of natural cures) when seeking to sooth a sore throat. I enjoyed experimenting with sage and honeysuckle, in addition to the time-tested garlic/ginger/acv/hp/baking soda blends. Your lovely nature and detailed knowledge permeate your posts, and I hope your seeds of advice continue to flourish!
    1001 best wishes,

    • Claire Goodall says:

      Thank you so much for your wonderful, wonderful, words Devin! I am so happy you enjoy the site 🙂

  25. Cat says:

    Hello Claire, So do you only eat from this or can you also place a tiny amount in your nose to speed up the mucus loosening process? By the way I love your website I was always interested in healthy natural remedies and have been using some others on my own but it is so nice to discover new stuff. Thank you!!

  26. Cristina says:

    Hi, I loved the recipe! But, unfortunately, I’m allergic to honey. Can you give me another option to replace it? Can I use coconut sugar?

  27. K says:

    Hey, thanks for sharing this natural remedy recipe! Just a thought for those who are concerned about heating the ingredients, how about using a bain marie technique (like for melting chocolate) instead of direct heat from the stove top?

  28. Lea says:

    Just wondering can you make this without using ginger? I’m allergic to ginger.

  29. adriana says:

    Does the syrup need to be watery? I made using measuring cups but It looks watery compared to what you have in the jar.

  30. delta says:

    I already make my cayenne tea with cayenne powder, lemon juice and honey. Never thought to add ginger juice, or Apple Cider Vinegar! Heading to the store!!!

  31. Rob Cass says:

    Well I just tried it because I am congested and it worked for about 5 minutes then my congestion came back. I had 2 more spoonfuls and again it came back in about 5 minutes. I’m taking 2 table spoons at a time but I guess I’ll have to drink the whole recipe to have any type of lasting affect. BTW I’m not allergic to any food products that I know of ( I’m also a Chef) and this one side of your nose being plugged up is still there. Good try but it didn’t work for me maybe it will work on someone else.

    • Claire Goodall says:

      I am sorry it didn’t work for you! I have personally had great success with this recipe. Sometimes for those really stubborn stuffy noses, breathing in the steam from hot water with some eucalyptus or peppermint oil added to it can really do the trick 🙂

  32. Susan says:

    Thank you Claire, I just made this in the middle of the night during a coughing attack. I’m ready to be done with all this “waking up choking” stuff after a cold.

  33. Stephanie says:

    Sitting here sipping my ACV tea with honey when I came across this recipe. I added a couple dashes of cayenne & ginger and this is working great! I actually like the taste too. On day 10 of this awful cold. Thank you!

  34. Tina says:

    I am eager to try this! I have asthma and am in the midst of a chest cold and really need some relief without the groggy effects of OTC’s. I have most of my trouble at night, wheezing and coughing a lot. Thank you for the recipe and info!!

  35. Donna says:

    Just wandering I know children can have this but what is the dosage and can you take this while breastfeeding and if so how much??

  36. IO says:

    Another suggestion I would recommend is to wait for the mixture to cool, then add a few Tbsp of Whiskey!

  37. Jas says:

    Usable on a 1 year old or a 3 year old?

  38. Clark says:

    Thanks Claire. I’m getting over a bad case of flu and I am left with a cough that is deep and painful. I just made a batch and took my first dose. We’ll see if it works for me as an expectorant. But I thank you in any case.

    Your recipe says to bring to a simmer. You will find a range of temperatures given by different sources for a simmer, but they generally seem to agree that it is somewhere between 180 and 200 degrees fahrenheit. All agree that it means just below a boil. Hence the understandable confusion in some of the comments.

    Your explanation in the comment from a year ago talks about 115 degrees F which was very helpful. It only takes seconds on the lowest possible flame to reach such a temperature, but it was enough to thin the honey and allow a good mixture.

  39. Elaine says:

    You recommend 1-2 tablespoons daily. Are there any issues with taking it more frequently?

  40. Amy L says:

    Thanks for the recipe, I think it is great. I have been taking a Tbsp twice daily hoping to ward off any flu bugs I may encounter…but I’ve also been having some acid reflux. It did not start at the beginning of taking it daily, so it’s probably all the holiday food lol but I wondered if I should skip the evening dose? Thanks for a great website 🙂

  41. Victoria says:

    How would I go about making ginger root into a powder? I would prefer not to buy the powder, if anyone could suggest how to make my own…? Thank you in advance 😀

  42. Ryan C says:

    I was skeptical about this working but willing to try so I threw a batch together as I had all the ingredients anyway. It smelled good but I was not expecting that, the first tablespoon was like a punch in the face, took me completely off guard. That being said, it didn’t taste bad. The second spoonful went down better as I knew what to expect. The blasted stuff actually worked. Thank you for posting this. It has saved me money and a trip to the drug store.

  43. Jeanine V says:

    I can’t thank you enough for your organic decongestant recipe. I’ve had sinus congestion for decades. It starts during the night when you’re asleep, the heat is on and the windows are closed.

    I use a Vicks one gallon warm air steamer by my bed filled with distilled water on a high setting every night. I set it on a cookie sheet on my side of the bed. Close your bedroom door to keep the humidity in the room. You can buy one at WalMart for between $30 and $40. Using distilled water will keep it clean and the steamer will last forever. Or buy one of the $20 ones at drug stores that are recommended for babies. Not sure how long they will last using tap water, but it’s better than nothing.

    Turn the heat in your home down to the 60’s or as low as you can stand it.

    Now my THIRD ingredient is your stupendous decongestant recipe. I made it exactly as outlined using just 1/4 teaspoon of each of the spices. E-a-s-y to make. Just heat the liquids to just when they start to bowl, then sprinkle in the spices and stir until they are dissolved, then add the honey and stir until it is all combined. The finished product is a liquid similar in consistency to cough syrup. It might look thicker in the photo, but it’s not. I POUR one tablespoon from the jar every morning. It works all day for me. I think the longer you take it, the better it works. Keep at it. Use organic ingredients. THIS IS GOOD STUFF. I’ve made several jars of it for friends too. And am sending a bottle to my mom in Nebraska who will groan and complain and tell me I don’t know “nuthin”, but at least I tried.

    For immediate relief from a sinus headache, wet a wash cloth and gently wring it out, put it in the microwave on high for about 20 seconds and lay that across your forehead. Reheat as needed. That will get the party started. Or boil water on the stove and breath in the steam.

    AND USE CLAIRE’S RECIPE. I’m on to seeing what else I can find on Claire’s website that could work for me. I NEVER write reviews for anything but this one REQUIRED a review.

  44. kathleen says:

    It looked like you made a small jar full and I only have a few table spoons full? Is a quarter cup lemon juice and Apple cider vinegar correct?

  45. David says:

    This recipe looks great but i have the understanding of not to boil
    The honey ? Am i wrong ?

  46. Petra says:

    This recipe sounds great so I will have to make it when Winter starts here in Australia. I recently had a cold whilst on holidays and when I flew back home (4.5 hour flight) the pain in my ears was so bad that I was crying from the pain. My doctor suggested to eat some spicy foods a day or so before the flight if I am recovering from a cold before a flight because she said that this will cause the pain in the ears as I always thought that i just had sensitive ears on flights but the doctor said that I need to loosen any mucus that might be trapped in my ears. I think I will try this recipe in future before flights so that i don’t get any pain again.

  47. Shannon says:

    A few months ago I had a cold starting – I had caught this cold from a friend who struggled with it for over a week. Taking this twice a day plus drinking echinacea tea had my cold licked in two days. I just started feeling another cold coming on, so I’ve made another batch. Fingers crossed for a similar result this time! Thanks for sharing this alternative to all those icky store-bought options. 🙂

  48. Aisha says:

    Hi Claire, i just had my first shot of Spicy Cider. So far it feels good and tasted pretty ok too, especially considering i added some fresh garlic! Hoping for a peaceful night. Thanks for sharing.

  49. heather says:

    I am using this right now. I did not have enough honey so I added Stevie to it. Also I didn’t have ginger powder so as the Apple cider vinegar and lemon juicer were simmering, I used ginger tea to infuse it. Just wondering though how long it should take before my cold or allergies go away using this stuff. Have a fever on and off. One day I feel great and then the next I’m completely laid out.

  50. M. Hill says:

    I just felt I should relate my experience with this homemade decongestant . I made exactly by the recipe and tasted it with less than 1/8 teaspoon while still warm. It may just be my body system because so many others like it. when I tasted it I thought, that’s not to bad, but when I swallowed it, I could not breathe. I coughed so hard that I threw up and my stomach pained so bad. I finally drank some ginger ale to stop coughing. Then drank some milk. This might be ok to put in water and breath steam but I will never taste it again. Please don’t think I am dissing your recipe, I just want someone to be careful when tasting.

    • Claire Goodall says:

      I am sorry to hear about your experience! It certainly has a kick to it but I have never had (or known someone who has had) a reaction like that. Have you had all of the ingredients before/could it be a reaction to one of them? You can always try diluting it if it’s too strong! Hope you feel better 🙂

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