Cough with phlegm

What Does Brown Mucus Mean?

What Does Brown Mucus Mean?

Cough are a common symptom of many ailments, most being nothing much to worry about it. But if you cough up brown colored mucus, then it may indicate something more serious going on. Mucus is the viscous material which the mucous layer in your windpipe produces. It is responsible for lubricating your throat and nose. But infection may thicken up your mucus and cause it to accumulate. Coughs start as an attempt to get rid of it as it irritates the windpipe. Clear mucus is caused by dust and smoke and does not indicate pus or infection. But if it is brown, there is likely something to worry about. Read this oneHOWTO article to find out what does brown mucus mean. (Image:

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  1. Causes of mucus changing into brown color
  2. Getting rid of brown mucus
  3. Home remedies for brown mucus
  4. Conclusion

Causes of mucus changing into brown color

Lung infection: Mucus may change its color to brown if you have a viral or bacterial lung infection. Respiratory infection develops when virus or bacteria get trapped in the nasal cavity. Different types of lung infections which may cause brown mucus include:

  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Chronic or acute bronchitis
  • Lung abscess
  • Pneumoconiosis
  • Cystic fibrosis

Acid Reflux: Bile or stomach acid flowing back upwards into the esophagus is a very common issue related to acid reflux. GERD is chronic acid reflux which irritates the esophageal lining and inflames it. This can result in the production of mucus in the esophagus. It becomes brown when regurgitated with brown foods like red wine, chocolate and coffee.

Smoking: Heavy smokers commonly throw up brown mucus when they cough. Their bronchial passages and lungs accumulate a lot of tar, nicotine and resins due to which their otherwise transparent mucus appears brown. But it should not be ignored, as heavy smokers may also have developed emphysema or chronic bronchitis due to which their mucus can come out brown.

Nasal Polyps: These are non-cancerous, painless growths that may lead to loss of smelling sense. Nasal polyps may cause nose bleeds, due to which a patient’s mucus turns red or brown in color. Dried blood in the sinus may mix up with mucus to appear brown.

Pollution in the environment: A person who lives or works in a highly polluted area can have black or dark brown mucus. Factory workers and industrial laborers are commonly found to bring up brown mucus due to their extremely dusty environment. When you clean up a dusty room, you must have noticed brown mucus coming out of your mouth when you cough.

Getting rid of brown mucus

If your mucus is thick and dark brown in color, then you need to see a doctor to get proper diagnosis and treatment. Most of the conditions that cause phlegm respond well to antibiotics and other suitable treatment procedures. Mucus producing due to a viral infection can be easily treated with natural remedies and antibiotics. Usually, proper hydration, rest and diet are enough to get rid of thick brown mucus. Here are a few ways to get rid of them effectively:

  • Over-the-counter expectorants are effective in loosening the mucus and coughing it up
  • Gargling with salt and warm water will loosen up the mucus caused due to allergies and sinusitis
  • Using humidifier in the bedroom while sleeping will loosen the mucus as well
  • Chest rubs that contain eucalyptus oil, such as Vicks VapoRub, will also loosen up the mucus, so that you can easily cough it out
  • Avoid smoking until you get rid of your brown mucus completely. Quitting smoking and tobacco will also be efficient in preventing a lung disease that may cause brown mucus
  • Use a decongestant or nasal spray to clear out mucus from your throat and lungs
  • Never swallow the mucus, as you may reintroduce it into your system and make the condition worse

Click here to know how to cure a phlegmy cough.

What Does Brown Mucus Mean? - Getting rid of brown mucus

Home remedies for brown mucus

Brown mucus is also a symptom associated with infections like cystic fibrosis, bronchitis, pneumonia, pneumoconiosis and lung abscess. There are several home remedies that can be effective in dealing with brown mucus caused due to such infections. However if you do think you may have a serious condition such as cystic fibrosis, you need to consult a physician immediately. Cystic fibrosis is most commonly diagnosed in childhood, but it can occur later in life as well. If you regurgitate brown mucus for more than n 3-4 days seek a doctor's advice.

If you think it is something less serious, here are some possible home remedies:

  • Both white and black peppercorns are helpful in breaking up and expelling the thick mucus accumulated in the lungs, throat as well as the nasal passage. Grind half teaspoon of any pepper, add one teaspoon of honey in it, and consume it directly thrice a day
  • Ginger is known to have extraordinary expectorant properties that give instant relief from throat and chest congestion. Take a ginger root, peel it and crush it. Add raw honey to it, warm it up and consume it thrice a day. Do not use ginger if you have gallstones, diabetes, heart problem or gallbladder disease
  • Lemon tea has citric acid which contains antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. When mixed with honey, it helps in loosening up brown mucus. Lemon tea also soothes runny nose and sore throat, and improves immunity to fight against microbial infections in the lungs. Add 8 drops lemon juice in one glass of warm water, mix one teaspoon of honey into it. Repeat thrice a day until you get full results
  • Gargling with a mixture of warm water and salt is a classic home remedy to loosen mucus and clear blocked nose and throat. It also relieves congestion in the throat and chest caused due to accumulation of mucus in the nasal tracks and windpipes. Warm up a glass of water, add one teaspoon of salt to it, and gargle 5 times thrice a day.
  • Bay leaf works great to draw out mucus from your throat and lungs. You may add bay leaves to your tea to ease out the symptoms of cold and cough caused by congestion. You may also make bay leaf tea by adding bay leaves in boiling water and drinking it after straining.
  • Drinking tea blended with garlic and lemon is known to reduce symptoms of bronchitis, cold and flu. Squeeze a lemon in one cup of boiling water, add two mashed garlic cloves in it, and a pinch of salt. Add half teaspoon of black pepper powder as well. Stir it well, strain out the mixture and sip it gradually.
  • Wild cherry bark is present in a number of herbal cough syrups and is effective in managing flu, sore throat, fever, sinusitis, whooping cough and bronchitis. It is effective in loosening up the brown mucus and driving it out of the throat, lungs and chest. Add 1 teaspoon wild cherry bark powder in one glass of boiling water, let it steep, stain it and drink it while warm.


Production of mucus is essential for the protection of your respiratory system. But large amounts of mucus accumulation may be a symptom of an infection or disease. Coughing up mucus that is brown in color can be a sign of a serious underlying disease. If you observe unusual changes in the color, volume and consistency of your mucus, it is better to consult a doctor and get the issue diagnosed. Dark brown mucus is most commonly a sign of an infection in the respiratory system, or a result of smoking, pollution or certain foods. Most of the time, you can get rid of it using home remedies discussed here, but if the condition does not improve, seek advice from your doctor.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to What Does Brown Mucus Mean?, we recommend you visit our Family health category.

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Felix lina
I am not sure of the cause of COPD emphysema in my case. I smoked pack a day for 12 or 13 years, but quit 40 years ago. I have been an outdoor person all my adult life. Coughing started last summer producing thick mucus, greenish tint to clear. I tried prednisone and antibiotics, but no change. X-rays are negative, heart lungs and blood and serum chemistries all are normal. I have lung calcification from childhood bout with histoplasmosis. I am 75 years old and retired.My current doctor directed me to totalcureherbsfoundation .c om which I purchase the COPD herbal remedies from them ,they are located in Johannesburg, the herbal treatment has effectively reduce all my symptoms totally, am waiting to complete the 15 weeks usage because they guaranteed me total cure.
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What Does Brown Mucus Mean?