Suddenly, coughing up brown mucus may make you feel anxious and worried about your lungs’ health.
Normally, the body produces mucus to keep the respiratory tract moist. It helps to trap and force out the small particles of foreign matter that may harm the lungs.
Phlegm Consistency And Colors
Phlegm is a type of mucus that is formed in the chest. A noticeable amount of phlegm in varying degrees of consistency is formed when infection or disease affects the lungs, throat, respiratory tract, or nose.
The consistency of phlegm can range from mucoid (frothy) to mucopurulent (thick and sticky). It may get darker and thicker according to the type and severity of the infection.
The color comes from white blood cells.
When you are dehydrated or in the morning, it usually becomes thick and dark.
An increase in clear phlegm indicates that your body is trying to flush out some type of virus or an irritate like pollen.
It can change colors depending on the type of infection affecting your lungs. For example, often black phlegm means black lung disease (mostly found in coal miners).
The phlegm colors may change according to viral or bacterial infections, such as:
Green or yellow phlegm: Bronchitis, Cystic Fibrosis, Pneumonia, or Sinusitis.
Brown phlegm: Bronchitis, Cystic Fibrosis, Lung Abscess, Pneumonia, or Pneumoconiosis.
White phlegm or frothy phlegm: Bronchitis, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Congestive Heart Failure, or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
Black phlegm: Fungal Infection, Lung Abscess, Pneumoconiosis, or Smoking.
Clear phlegm: Allergic Rhinitis, Bronchitis, Or Pneumonia.
Red or pink phlegm: Congestive Heart Failure, Lung Abscess, Lung Cancer, Pneumonia, Pulmonary Embolism, Tuberculosis.
Why Are You Coughing Up Brown Mucus?
Mucus is a slippery liquid made by mucous membranes or mucosas.
Phlegm is a type of mucus that comes from the lungs and nearby lower respiratory airways.
This thick fluid has several beneficial functions for health. It helps trap particles such as dirt, minimizes water loss, protects the surface from damage, lubricates, and, most importantly, destroys bacteria and viruses.
Coughing up phlegm may happen when one is suffering from a common cold or flu. It is normal, and nothing is alarming about it.
However, coughing up thick brown or chocolate-colored mucus indicates that you have infections or diseases affecting your lungs. If it’s recurring problem you should schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
If anyone is in doubt, they should schedule an appointment with their healthcare provider as soon as
Usually, it is not an indication of any serious underlying health conditions. However, you should seek immediate medical attention if the issue persists for more than a day.
The conditions that cause discoloration in phlegm include:
1. Lung infections
Lung infection caused by bacteria or viruses is the main reason phlegm changes color to brown. Respiratory infections occur when a bacterium or virus is trapped in your nasal cavity.
Generally, bacteria can cause black phlegm when a secondary bacterial infection occurs in your lungs due to a weakened immune system.
Here are some of the common infections that may cause it to be discharged while coughing:
Bacterial bronchitis: Acute or chronic bronchitis can produce rusty brown sputum. Smoking or continuous exposure to chemical fumes or other irritants can aggravate the situation.
Bacterial pneumonia: Brown or rusty-colored mucus is one of the symptoms of bacterial pneumonia.
Lung abscess: People suffering from lung abscess may experience a cough that brings up brown or blood-streaked sputum with a foul smell.
Pneumoconiosis: The discharge of brown fluid while coughing is one of the symptoms of pneumoconiosis, which is caused by regularly inhaling dust from coal, silicosis, asbestos, or other dust pollutants.
Cystic fibrosis: This chronic lung disease may cause rust-colored spittle.
2. Acid reflux
Stomach acid or bile flowing back up into your esophagus is a common acid reflux issue faced by many.
GERD is a chronic form of acid reflux that can irritate the lining of your esophagus, causing it to become inflamed. This may also result in the development of mucus in the esophagus.
Throwing up rust-colored phlegm while coughing can also result from heavy smoking.
Smokers accumulate a combination of resins, tar, and nicotine in the lungs and bronchial passages, which makes the phlegm appear dark brown.
The side effects of smoking also result in chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which have brownish or rust-colored mucus as one of the symptoms.
4. Environmental pollutants
A person living or working in a highly polluted environment may change the color of their sputum to dark brown or black.
Industrial laborers and factory workers who have to work in dusty surroundings might end up coughing up dark mucus.
After cleaning an extremely dusty room, you may discharge brown bile while coughing.
5. Nasal polyps
Nasal polyps are painless, noncancerous growths that can lead to a loss of smell or infection.
The nose bleeding caused by nasal polyps may make the patient’s mucus brown or red. The dried blood in the sinuses gets mixed with the phlegm to change its color to brown.
Coughing Up Dark Mucus After Quitting Smoking
Many smokers experience coughing up black mucus after quitting smoking. Yes, this may happen for a few more weeks after quitting smoking.
Tiny hair-like projections on the surface of the airways called Cilia help clear mucus and debris from the lungs.
Smoking tobacco damages the cilia, which results in the aggregation of mucus and debris in the lungs.
Cilia gradually regain function a week after quitting smoking, but it may take a few months for Cilia to regenerate to their actual status.
So it is natural that smokers continue coughing up brown mucus after quitting smoking for a couple of weeks until the damaged cilia are fully regrown.
How To Get Rid Of Brown Phlegm?
Suppose you are coughing up blood with phlegm, experiencing chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath, or experiencing an intense coughing spell. In that case, it may be necessary to seek help from local emergency health services. If you are spitting out thick, dark brown sputum while coughing, it’s another sign to see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.
Most phlegm-causing conditions readily respond to antibiotics or other treatments.
Sputum production resulting from viral infections can easily be remedied using antibiotics or natural remedies.
Proper rest, sleep, eating, and hydration are crucial for removing thick mucus discharges.
Here are some ways to get rid of brown phlegm:
Use over-the-counter expectorants like guaifenesin (Mucinex) to loosen the phlegm and easily cough it up.
Gargling with warm salt water is useful for loosening the mucus caused by sinusitis or allergies.
Use a humidifier in your bedroom while sleeping. This helps to loosen phlegm and allows you to cough up more easily.
Use chest rubs like Vicks VapoRub, which contains eucalyptus oil, to loosen the snot and cough it up smoothly.
Quit smoking and avoid alcoholic drinks until your brown mucus is gone. To quit the habit of smoking and chewing tobacco products in any form to prevent lung diseases that produce brown or black mucus.
Use a nasal spray or decongestant to clear the lungs and throat of phlegm.
Do not swallow the phlegm; you reintroduce it into your pulmonary system. Always cough up the phlegm and spit it out. If you are in the office or public places, use a tissue to collect and clear the phlegm.
Use monoclonal antibody drugs.
Simple Remedies For Coughing Up Brown Mucus
As we have already discussed, this condition results from infections like bronchitis, cystic fibrosis, lung abscess, pneumonia, or pneumoconiosis. Smoking, acid reflux, nasal polyps, or environmental pollutants can also cause it. Always seek proper medical attention and see a doctor to determine the disease.
Natural remedies are viable for dealing with discolored mucus caused by infections. However, it is wise to call your doctor, especially if the discolored discharge continues for more than a few days.
Here are the 7 best home remedies that you may try for managing thick and dark mucus.
1. Pepper and honey
Black and white peppercorns are fruits of the pepper plant, but they are processed differently.
Peppers, both white and black, may help you break up and expel thick mucus from the lung. It works to remove its buildup in the throat and nasal passage as well.
How to use: Take half a teaspoon of pepper and grind it. Mix the ground pepper with one teaspoon of honey; blend them by warming them up. Directly consume the mixture; repeat this treatment daily to loosen the mucus.
2. Ginger and honey
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (umm.edu), ginger has been used for over 2000 years to treat various conditions.
Ginger contains excellent expectorant properties that relieve chest and throat congestion caused by mucus buildup.
Ginger tea with pepper is a traditionally used home remedy for relieving coughs, colds, flu, and sinusitis symptoms.
How to use: Take 100 grams of fresh ginger roots and mash them after peeling them. Add two teaspoons of raw honey to the mashed ginger and warm up the mixture in the oven for a minute.
Consume two teaspoons of this ginger and honey mixture three times a day to relieve the brown mucus in the windpipes.
Warning: Ginger should not be used by people with gallstones, gallbladder disease, diabetes, or heart problems.
3. Lemon tea with honey
The citric acid in lemon tea has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. When honey (preferably pure and organic forest honey) is added to citric acid, it may help to loosen the brown phlegm.
How to use: Take a glass of warm water and add 8 drops of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon, of raw honey, to it. Stir the tea and drink it gradually. Repeat the intake of lemon tea three times a day for the best results.
4. Salt water
Gargling with warm salt water is a traditional home remedy for loosening mucus and clearing the throat and nose. The moist can help loosen phlegm. This remedy also relieves chest congestion and sore throat problems caused by mucus buildup in the windpipes and nasal passages.
How to use: Take a glass of warm water and add 1 teaspoon of sea salt. Gargle for 3–5 minutes and repeat the treatment thrice a day. Do not drink the saltwater while gargling.
5. Bay leaf tea
Bay leaf is a fantastic natural remedy that works great for drawing out the phlegm buildup in the lungs and throat.
Consuming bay leaves in tea can help ease the symptoms of coughs and colds as they help clear congestion caused by sputum.
How to use: Add five fresh bay leaves to a cup of boiling water. Let it boil for 3 minutes, allowing the medicinal extracts from the leaves to ooze into the water.
Strain out the leaves and consume the bay leaf tea when it has sufficiently cooled down. Drink bay leaf tea three times daily to expel the dark phlegm buildup in the lungs.
6. Lemon and garlic tea
The anti-inflammatory properties of lemon and garlic are excellent expectorants to loosen mucus and expel it while coughing.
Drinking lemon-and-garlic blended tea reduces the symptoms of colds, flu, and bronchitis.
Directions for Use:
Take a cup of boiling water and squeeze the juice from a fresh lemon into it; then add two cloves of smashed garlic and one pinch of salt. You may also want to add half a teaspoon of ground black pepper for better results.
After stirring the mixture well, strain the warm tea into a cup and drink it gradually.
Repeat the treatment three times daily to get rid of the yellowish-brown sputum.
7. Wild cherry bark
Wild cherry bark is a natural substance sold in supplement form. This is an extract obtained from the bark of the Prunus serotina tree (a plant native to eastern North America), commonly used in several herbal medicines.
It is best known for its efficacy in treating colds and suppressing coughs. It is also a commonly used ingredient in herbal cough syrups.
Wild cherry bark extracts may also help manage bronchitis, flu, fever, sore throat, whooping cough, and sinusitis.
It is a powerful herbal expectorant that helps loosen the thick, dark mucus to drive it out of the chest, lungs, and throat.
How to use: Take a glass of boiling water and add 1 teaspoon of wild cherry bark powder. Let the medicinal essence of the bark steep in the water for 3 minutes. Strain the tea into a cup and drink it warm. Drinking 3 cups of wild cherry bark daily is better until the sputum is entirely removed.
Alternatively, you can also consume the wild cherry bark supplement, which is available in herbal medicine stores.
More Ways To Stop Colored Mucus
We have just discussed the 7 most effective self-remedies you can try as mucus expectorants.
Here are a few more natural relief solutions worth trying:
Chickpea powder: Consume fried chickpea powder diluted in honey.
Lemon and onion juice mixture: Dilute lemon and onion juice in a glass of warm water and drink.
Chicken soup: Drinking warm chicken soup helps loosen the mucus.
Grape juice: Drink a mixture of 3 teaspoons of grape juice and 1 tablespoon of honey.
Shallots: The sulfur in shallots clears the infections affecting the lungs and loosens the mucus. Eat 6–8 shallots with honey.
Cayenne pepper and ginger: Mix 1 teaspoon of grated ginger and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder into a glass of warm water. Add to this mixture one tablespoon of honey, and drink this concoction.
Spikenard root: Prepare tea with spikenard root and drink it three times a day.
Anise seed: Mix two teaspoons of crushed anise seeds and 1 tablespoon of honey in a glass of warm water; stir it well, and drink it after straining.
Turmeric: Add a teaspoon of finely ground black pepper and turmeric powder to a cup of warm milk; drink this mixture two times a day.
The Final Thought
Phlegm production is necessary for the protection of the respiratory system. However, a huge amount of sputum builds up in the respiratory system and is caused by disease or infection.
Coughing up brown, red, pink, black, or dark green sputum is a sign of an underlying disease.
You should see a doctor to diagnose the issue if you notice an unusual change in color, consistency, or volume of mucus discharge while coughing.
If your sputum is clear, yellow, or green, you may be safe to wait a few days to see the doctor.
Recommended reading list: