While we haven’t had any colds in Thailand for over 7 years (after daily supplementing with Vitamin D and Zinc), when we did get coughs and colds, the best Thai cough medicine we ever used was Leopard Brand’s Brown Mixture, otherwise known as Ya Gae Ai Nam Dam (ยาแก้ไอน้ำดำ), which translates to black cough medicine.
Brown mixture is sometimes referred to as a Thai herbal cough syrup, because one of its primary ingredients is Glycyrrhiza — a medical sounding name for licorice root extract. The other herbal ingredient is opium! Or rather camphorated opium tincture, which is another name for paregoric, an ingredient found in many cough and anti-diarrhea medicines in the United States up through the 1960s, until it was banned in over-the-counter medicines by overzealous drug abuse campaigners.
The fact is that the camphorated opium tincture found in Leopard Brand’s Brown Mixture has such a small amount of opium in it that it will not get you high. So, please do not try chugging a couple bottles with the hopes of getting stoned. You won’t (although you may get a few weird dreams, as well as a damaged liver). If Brown Mixture was capable of getting you high, it would have been banned long ago by Thailand’s authorities, who take a hard, criminal line against opium use. You also wouldn’t find it on the shelves of 7-11, because young people would be buying up all the bottles of it.
Brown mixture Thai cough medicine is sold in small 60 ml bottles for only about 30 baht. This amount is enough to battle a cough for a day and night. Brown mixture is usually taken at night, as it also contains a little bit of alcohol and does make you drowsy. We would rate several tablespoons of brown mixture as better than Nyquil at putting you to sleep at night when you have a cough. In addition to 7-11s, you’ll be able to find this and other Thai cough medicines at local pharmacies.
A traditional Thai herbal cure for coughs that you should also be aware of is kratom. The leaves of the kratom tree have traditionally been boiled to create a tea that we can report is quite good at alleviating coughs. Learn how to make kratom tea in our post about the history of kratom use in Thailand.