White, green, brown phlegm: causes and remedies

White, green, brown phlegm: causes and remedies

Phlegm has different shapes and textures. It can be of various colors deriving from different causes of origin: bacterial, viral infection, external agents, smoking etc … let’s get to know the colors of phlegm and natural remedies to help its expectoration

White, green, brown phlegm: causes and remedies

Phlegm is usually associated with the transformation of mucus into a thicker, stickier substance in the respiratory tract .
What is mucus and what is it for?


  • What is phlegm
  • Causes of phlegm
  • Phlegm color and texture
  • White phlegm
  • Yellow phlegm
  • Green phlegm
  • Brown phlegm
  • How to dissolve phlegm with natural remedies


What is phlegm

Phlegm, or rather mucus , is a natural response of the body that occurs through the mucous glands of the body tissues that produce this glue-like and sticky substance. The respiratory system has the function of stopping foreign agents and volatile particles not suitable for the body so it uses this mucus to capture and expel them from the body.
Furthermore, the respiratory system has the task of maintaining the humidity of the membranes and mucous membranes along the entire respiratory tract because it is important to avoid dehydration and dryness to ensure their optimal functioning. When mucus is in liquid secretion, it therefore has the function of hydrating and protecting the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract.


The body produces 20 to 100ml of mucus per day to carry out these functions. However, perhaps not all of us know that there are different secretions from our body mistakenly called mucus or phlegm but that instead have very different origins, forms and elimination solutions. 


There are 2 types of secretions : liquid ones and thick ones.

  • Liquid secretions usually originate when the body reacts to seasonal illnesses such as colds and flu and when there is an allergy to an element in the environment such as pollen and other allergens.
  • Thick secretions are produced in response to stress of more mechanical origin as the effect of being in a too dry, non-dehumidified environment or in the presence of a respiratory tract infection.

Food allergies can also lead to thick discharge as a result of gastric reflux from the stomach .


Causes of phlegm

Phlegm is caused by various diseases, such as colds, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma, cystic fibrosis. The inflammatory processes increase the production of sputum , and a catarrhal secretion of up to 400 or 500 ml per day can be reached, of greater density and more viscous.

This process becomes an obstacle to more fluid breathing, and the cough becomes a tool to expel excess phlegm.

Read also How to dissolve phlegm >>


Phlegm color and texture

A sputum exam can provide important information about the nature of the inflammation.

The observation of its consistency , color and smell also allows us to understand the degree of infection that has affected the airways.

The phlegm can be limited to the bronchi and throat, while in the most severe conditions, catarrhal forms occur in the ears , with a fat cough and yellow sputum.


White phlegm

When the phlegm is white in color we have a normal mucus , a very fluid nasal secretion that has no particular stickiness and is absent from odor.

This type of clear phlegm is the most harmless of all and the easiest to expectorate , simple mucus that can be traced to irritation without pathogen involvement.

Often there are people who complain of always feeling mucus in the throat with difficulty swallowing, as if there was a knot: this is due to the presence of whitish phlegm, which can be counteracted with rinses based on tea tree oil or extract hydroalcoholic myrrh , with antibacterial and disinfectant properties.

Yellow phlegm

On the other hand, when the phlegm takes on a yellow color, we are usually in the presence of a thick mucus that derives from the presence of a bacterial infection in the body. In response to the infection of bacterial origin, the mucus takes a yellowish color, with the presence of purulent material, consisting of leukocytes in addition to the presence of iron which leads to a yellow or greenish color change.

The immune system in fact among its white blood cells also includes granulocytes that fight bacteria and are rich in ferrous enzymes. During a bacterial infection on the battlefield we will then find these enzymes, the parts of the destroyed bacteria and other white blood cells that fell in the fight. All this leads to the yellow coloring of the mucus.


Green phlegm 

The green phlegm begins to originate when the previous situation is prolonged over time and becomes chronic. In case of non-infectious infections and inflammations we have the massive presence of iron-rich granulocytes.

The longer the time in which the mucus remains in contact in the place of infection, the more easily the color will turn from yellowish to green with the presence of pus and an unpleasant odor of the secretion . This type of phlegm is typical of abscesses .


Brown phlegm 

When the mucus takes the formation of thick and brownish phlegm we are in the presence of blood cells within the secretion . Sometimes it is simply the rupture of small blood vessels in the nose that release some red blood cells into the mucus.

It is different if the color is dark brown, almost black or gray. In this case the phlegm is typical of the production of the respiratory tract of smokers or of those who inhale large quantities of dust, from pneumococcal pneumonia, or pulmonary edema.

How to dissolve phlegm with natural remedies 

The first solution to be implemented in the presence of phlegm is always to help the fluidification and elimination of secretions from the body.

So the first element to dissolve the phlegm is the heat to be provided through aerial inhalations of water vapor with the so-called fumenti enriched by the addition of essential oils of mountain pine , eucalyptus and thyme to disinfect and help expectoration.

Wraps on the upper back or chest are also indicated to always give heat in order to dissolve the phlegm and make it come out more easily. Excellent poultices with flax seeds or coarse salt and herbs but also clay can have excellent results depending on the case.

Herbs with expectorant properties include licorice root or polygala which can be taken as a hot infusion. They possess anti- inflammatory properties and are able to thin the phlegm facilitating its expectoration.
Green light also to herbal teas such as thyme, oregano, lavender, mint but also a good ginger tea with natural anti-inflammatory properties. These are all remedies that can also be applied in case of the presence of phlegm in children.

Special attention must also be given to the environmental conditions in which we live because it will be necessary to have rooms with the right humidity and a stable temperature. In fact, the wind, the strong sun or the bitter cold lead to congestion or irritation with problems in the respiratory tract that often produce, as we have seen, an increase in phlegm. Avoid air conditioning and use humidifiers for the air.

There is also an aerial diffuser for propolis that helps to keep the environments healthy and therefore prevent the formation of phlegm, functional for offices, homes and schools.

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