Updated: Nov 19, 2022
With the development of a vaccine, Science has offered us a way to help prevent death by influenza. It can help you avoid illness or prevent severe illness in many cases. But we still don’t have a cure for a cold and when illness comes to call, we can feel miserable.
What I take for cold and flu
Many herbal remedies can offer symptom relief and have traditional uses as remedies for cold and flu. Here is an example of what I use when a URI comes to call.
1. Echinacea (Echinacea Angustifolia)
When I get sick, my hand reaches for Echinacea first and fore most. This herb has a long history of European scientific research backing its use to help with bacterial and viral invasions of all sorts. Echinacea seems to increase T cells and macrophages in our bloodstream to help eliminate invading bacteria that make us feel bad.
Echinacea is safe enough to give to children as well as elders yet strong enough to ease the load on your immune system. Most often taken as a tincture, Echinacea root stimulates the immune system to help our bodies heal.
Echinacea is best used for the duration of an illness as its role as a preventative is not clear.
2. Garlic Honey (Allium Sativum and honey)
This simple remedy has a long history in Asian and European pharmacopeias. When illness struck a household, mothers across the globe reached for Garlic to ease the families suffering. Garlic has a nick name of Russian Penicillin because of its reputation as a healer of wounds and preventer of infections.
Honey is also a traditional soother of inflamed and raw tissue in the throat and anti infective. Items preserved in honey have lasted many years with little degradation of quality.
Garlic honey can be eaten freely during illness to help soothe the throat, kill bacteria and boost immune functioning.
3. Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra)
Elderberry is another traditional anti-viral herb that has gained a reputation for assisting healing with colds and flu and has gotten the backing of scientific studies. Elderberry seems to target viruses that cause upper respiratory illness like rhinovirus, flu viruses and helps stop viruses from entering host cells. Chemicals called anthocyanidins seem to help protect cells from damage by the viruses and help block the viral cycle.
Elderberry is often taken as a syrup, making it a tasty way to get this remedy into the whole family. Another popular way to take elderberry is in gummy candy form. These remedies are sweetened with honey or sugar. For those people who would like to avoid a large sugar load, elderberry tincture is a lower carb option that packs the same medicinal punch.
I take a dose of elderberry tincture daily during flu season to help support my immune functioning and if I do come down with the sickness, I move to a dose 3-5 times a day for about a week.
4. Onion Honey (allium cepa)
To help calm the cough that often accompanies colds and flu I turn to onion honey. This is a time-honored natural cough remedy. Onions contain Sulphur compounds just like garlic that boost the immune system and in the case of onion have mild antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties.
Honey again is soothing to the throat and upper respiratory tract and anti-infective. Onion honey can be taken by the spoonful as needed to help quiet a cough and soothe the chest.
5. Mullein leaf Chai (Verbascum Thapsus and Astragalus Membranaceus)
I like to stay very hydrated when I get sick. I make this Mullein leaf chai to aid my lungs in expelling excessive mucous and helping open the bronchial passages. This chai also has the addition of astragalus root to support immune function.
This chai is delicious and soothing to drink and I do not find that the milk causes excessive mucous production. If you are avoiding animal dairy you could substitute a plant milk in this recipe.
6. Fenugreek seed (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Fenugreek seed tea is another lung supporting herb I like to use when I am sick with a cold or the flu. Fenugreek seed is often used as a galactagogue, increasing milk supply and providing a moistening effect in the body and it seems to give that moistening effect to the lungs as well.
To make fenugreek seed tea, I take 2 tablespoons of fenugreek seeds to a pint of boiling water and steep about 15 minutes. I drink this pint of tea throughout the day. This remedy will also make your sweat smell sweet like maple syrup after a couple of days.
Putting it all together
These are the herbal remedies I use to help me weather a cold or flu. There are many herbs out there that can offer comfort when you are under the weather. This group of plants helps me feel better as my body tries to fight off the invasion of viruses and bacteria. I enjoy taking them and feel like they help me recover quickly.
What plants do you turn to when you feel a cold come to call?
The information presented is provided for informational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute for medical advice or diagnosis provided by your physician or other medical professional. If you have, or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your physician or health care provider.