Natural Ways to Move Mucus and Expel Phlegm

Spring is around the corner and as it begins to warm up, no one wants to deal with any lingering congestion from this winter’s variety of allergies, coughs and colds. Congestion can be more than the physical buildup of fluids that causes headaches, difficulty breathing, postnasal drip and coughs. It can also cause brain fuzziness, fatigue, depression and other systemic effects. Listed below are three very different natural approaches to help your body clear the congestion out for good.


One potent mucolytic is N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), which is a derivative of the amino acid L-cysteine. Because of NAC’s high concentration of sulfhydryl groups, it is able to break the disulfide bonds of the mucus, making is less viscous, thinner and easier to clear. NAC is also one of the three amino acids that combine to make Glutathione, a powerful essential nutrient and antioxidant with an affinity for the lungs and liver. It is involved in the synthesis and repair of DNA, enhancing and recycling vitamins, blocking free radical damage, boosting the immune system, protecting organs and as a potent detoxifier of harmful compounds, such as acetaminophen and heavy metals.

Steam inhalation

This is a great traditional folk remedy that really works. All you need is boiling water, a sheet, a large bowl, a sitting area and your choice of essential oils. Eucalyptus oil is especially beneficial to break up and expel mucus. Others essential oils like rosemary, lavender and clary sage are personal favorites that add antibacterial, tissue soothing, circulatory enhancing and calming effects. Essential oils are powerful compounds and need to be used with respect to avoid irritations. Initially, do not use more than six drops total of essential oils to assess sensitivity.

First, arrange a sitting area where when leaning over the bowl, your face will be approximately two feet away from the water’s surface. Ensure the bowl is securely placed to avoid spills and burns. Pour the boiling water into the bowl and add the few drops of essential oils. Then, sit and lean over the bowl (approximately two feet away) and drape the sheet loosely over your head to lock in the steam. Close your eyes and take deep breathes for just five to 10 minutes. If you begin to feel overheated, skin or eye irritations or uncomfortable in anyway, immediately remove the sheet, sit up straight and breathe normally away from the steam. Rinse skin or eyes if irritated. Likewise, try adding a few drops of essential oils to a hot shower for a less directed decongesting effect.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Finally, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, phlegm and dampness can manifest as brain fog, fatigue, weak heavy limbs, dizziness, poor appetite, numbness, bowel changes and even depression. Luckily, TCM also provides a plethora of options to prevent, treat and relieve these symptoms. Acupuncture and self-acupressure can provide great relief while working to harmonize the system. For sinus congestion, local points like Large Intestine20, Bladder2 and Stomach3 can be pressed. Adding points like Lung1, Ren17 and Lung5 can help clear the chest. For more the systemic phlegm, pressing Spleen9, Stomach36 and Stomach40 can all be beneficial. Additional TCM therapies such as moxa, cupping, guasha, tui na and patent herbal formulas also effectively remove stagnation and stuck phlegm.


Individuals with existing conditions must contact their PCP, prescribing doctor or naturopathic doctor before attempting any of the treatments listed above or changing your prescription, supplement and/or herbal regimen. Best results are always achieved through contacting your local naturopathic doctor or acupuncturist for specific treatments suited to your unique system and symptom picture.

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