Background: Cough is one of the most common medical symptoms for which medical
advice is sought. Although cough is a protective reflex responsible for clearing the airways from
secretions and foreign bodies, it can be a troublesome symptom that causes discomfort to patients.
Due to the increasing interest in herbal remedies in both developed and developing countries, in
the current study, we aimed to overview medicinal herbs containing essential oils used as antitussive
agents according to Traditional Persian Medicine (TPM) textbooks. We summarized the relevant
scientific evidence on their possible pharmacological effects.
Methods: To collect the evidence for the treatment of cough or “seaal” (cough in ancient books)
from TPM sources, five main medicinal Persian manuscripts were studied. The antitussive herbs
were listed and their scientific names were identified and authenticated following botanical reference
books. ScienceDirect and PubMed online databases were searched for related mechanisms of
action of the reported medicinal plants.
Results: Forty-nine herbs containing essential oils have been recommended in TPM for the treatment
of cough; 21 of them had at least one known mechanism of action for cough suppression in
the scientific literature. According to this review, most of the cited medicinal plants were assessed
for either nitric oxide inhibitory or antitussive/expectorant activities.
Conclusion: In addition to advantageous effects of antitussive herbs recommended by TPM, the
present review highlighted some recent evidence-based data on these promising herbs that could
be used as an outline for future research on their medicinal use.