Mucus: What it Means, by color

Nettle (Urtica dioica)

By Cat, June 2, 2018 (image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Every spring and winter I have an abundance of mucus. Sometimes it comes out my nose and other times as post-nasal drip. It’s usually clear in color, but sometimes yellow or green. Over the years of observing my mucus and coincident health issues, I’ve learned what these colors likely mean, and based on its color, I know what to do to get better:

  • white or cloudy: indicates an allergic response – drink nettle tea;
  • yellow: indicates a respiratory viral infection like a cold or flu – get lots of rest, take a lomatium compound (from Swan Valley Herbs), and use an expectorant or a Neti pot to thin it;
  • green: indicates a bacterial infection like strep or staph – get lots of rest, take goldenseal and Oregon grape tincture; and if a fever develops, take aspirin or white willow bark powder; if fever persists, see a doctor.
  • red or rust: means a bloody nose is imminent – be prepared with clean rags or facial tissue.

Read on for two charts on the colors of mucus – what they mean, and how to treat (if needed).

Why do we have mucus?

It’s important to remember that mucus is an example of the body’s immune system in action, to contain and get rid of the problem, so it is not recommended to take OTC (over the counter) meds which could weaken your immune system by removing its weapon, mucus.

However, if the mucus is too thick, you can use a Neti-Pot/Snuffling (Nasal cleanse), or a homemade expectorant (see my Natural Remedies Menu under Recipes/Expectorants). Mercola (1) also suggests the following to help you cope when your body produces an overabundance of white, yellow or green mucus:

  • Apply essential oils: Essential oils such as eucalyptus or peppermint oil are useful to promote relaxation and improved breathing. Apply them topically to your chest, nose or feet. Always dilute these oils in a carrier oil such as coconut oil before applying them to your skin. You can also use these oils with steam inhalation or diffuse them into the air.
  • Exercise gently: You may find that walking or other gentle movement, assuming you are feeling up to it, will help you loosen and cough up excess mucus
  • Get good quality sleep: Sleep helps your body heal and restore and is an important aspect of helping your immune system fight back against illness
  • Stay hydrated: Dehydration can worsen your condition and make it harder for your body to cough up and eliminate mucus
  • Use a humidifier: Humidifiers add moisture to the air, which may ease your breathing and help loosen up mucus that has lodged at the back of your throat or settled into your chest. If you get frequent nosebleeds, particularly during winter, it may be that the air in your home is simply too dry.

See also my Treatment chart, below.

Two Charts about Color of Mucus: Explanation, and Treatment

The following chart that explains what the colors of mucus mean, is from Mercola (1), with a few notes added by me in square brackets. For a printable pdf file with larger type, see ColorOfMucus-Mercola.pdf.

I’ve also adapted the above chart to one (below) that suggests natural treatment for each color of mucus, if any, from my own experience. See also printable pdf file with larger type: ColorOfMucus-Treatment.pdf.

 Information in brackets is from my own experience.


  1. Mercola article:

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