What loosens phlegm?

Updated April 17, 2017

Your body constantly produces phlegm, also referred to as mucus. Your lungs, gastrointestinal tract, mouth, sinuses, nose and throat all have mucus-producing membranes lining them. The mucus that is produced helps keep dust and bacteria from entering your body. When you have a cold, mucus membranes overproduce phlegm, resulting in congestion and a runny nose. Loosening phlegm can offer relief.


If you have a wet cough that constantly requires you to clear your throat, an over-the-counter expectorant can offer relief. An expectorant helps thin out phlegm and makes it easier to cough up the sticky goo. Your airways are cleared and your chest congestion reduced so breathing becomes easier. Guaifenesin is the active ingredient to look for on the label of commercial medications. Drink plenty of liquids when taking expectorants to prevent dehydration.


The foods you eat can either worsen or help loose phlegm. According to WebMD, casein, a protein molecule found in milk products, stimulates mucus production. Other mucus-stimulating foods to avoid include caffeine, soy milk, salt, sugar and black tea. Consuming spicy foods is a natural remedy that many people use to loosen phlegm. When you eat foods such as hot wings, cayenne pepper and chilli peppers, your nose gets watery. This is because spicy foods loosen mucus in your throat and nose. Drink water to help assist the mucus leave your body.

Nasal Irrigation

Many people find that over-the-counter nasal washes can effectively loosen phlegm. Because nasal irrigation can encourage growth of bacteria in the nasal cavities, it should only be done with a doctor's approval. Nasal washes require you to squirt a solution into one nasal passage and drain it from the other, in the hope of relief. Gently blowing your nose after irrigation helps eliminate phlegm. Make your own nasal wash by mixing 1 teaspoon of table salt and 1 teaspoon of baking soda with 2 cups of warm water. The water should be no warmer than body temperature. Use a bulb syringe to squeeze the liquid into one nasal passage and allow it to drain from your other. Blow your nose afterward. Use this method up to three times per day.


Use a commercial vaporisers or steam inhaler together with eucalyptus oil to combat phlegm. The vapours from the eucalyptus oil help combat congestion and sinus problems. They loosen mucus so it can drain from your chest and throat. Taking a vapour bath also reduces mucus build-up. Eucalyptus-based bath products can be purchased from bath-and-body stores or from the drugstore. Steam in itself has a mucus-loosening affect. Take a warm shower, and allow the steam to enter your oral and nasal passages to help loosen phlegm.

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