These 15 healing herbs for flu, colds and coughs can help prevent or manage your symptoms. Treat your winter woes with these wonderful natural remedies.
For most people, each winter comes with its own set of challenges. Among them, fighting colds and flu, and staying as healthy as possible, are a top priority. Herbal remedies can become powerful allies in your efforts and offer relief from the symptoms of these seasonal afflictions. Here are some great healing herbs that can boost your immune system and help you deal with coughs, fevers, nasal congestion, and many more.
Healing herbs for flu, colds and coughs
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Catnip isn’t just for cats; humans can also benefit from this cooling herb. It can promote rest, improve digestion and relieve the symptoms of colds and flu. Moreover, its diaphoretic properties make it ideal for treating fevers as it lowers body temperature and promotes sweating. Catnip is also antispasmodic and antitussive, which means that can deal with excessive coughing.
Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia)
Echinacea is a fantastic immune booster. While it does not attack viruses and bacteria directly, it increases the ability of your white cells to engulf and kill microbes. It also helps the blood and lymphatic systems to deal with pathogens and toxins more effectively. You should take echinacea as soon as you feel you are coming down with a cold or the flu; otherwise, it won’t help you. Remember that this herb is for temporary use only, not to take on a regular basis.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis)
There are two distinct plants that produce these amazing dark purple berries: the European tree and the American shrub. The bark, leaves, fruits, and roots of the Elder have served for a long time in traditional medicine. Modern research seems to confirm elderberry’s flu-fighting powers. While it does not attack the influenza virus directly, it can boost the immune system by increasing the production of important immune compounds, called cytokines. Try some elderberry syrup to recover from your cold or flu more quickly.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
This unique, refreshing plant owes its pleasant aroma and healing value to eucalyptol, its main active constituent. Herbalists recommend eucalyptus for sore throats, nasal and chest congestion, colds, flu, bronchitis, as well as asthma. This herb can loosen phlegm stuck in the chest and make it easier to cough up. Eucalyptus vapors are also used to prevent bacterial bronchitis, which is a possible complication of colds and flu.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic is one of the oldest traditional medicine in existence with powerful healing properties. The “stinking rose” can inhibit or even kill a wide variety of microorganisms. Garlic owes much of its antibiotic and antibacterial power to a special chemical compound called alliin. Herbalists recommend it for a variety of issues, including colds, cough, flu, fevers, and bronchitis. The best way to take garlic is eating it directly, but if you don’t like the smell and taste, there are supplements available as well.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
This fresh, aromatic herb has been used for both cooking and healing. Its hot potency makes it a great remedy for various respiratory issues. Ginger can soothe a sore throat, but also relieve congestion, removing mucus and clearing the nasal pathways. It’s also an expectorant, so it can promote perspiration and help with a fever. You can find ginger in many forms: fresh or dried root, powdered, extracts, teas, tablets, and capsules.
Horehound (Marrubium vulgare)
This ancient and popular cough remedy’s active compound, marrubiin, can loosen phlegm accumulated in your lower airways. It’s no wonder that horehound is an ingredient of many cough syrups and lozenges. Horehound is bitter, so you’ll probably want to blend it with other herbs or use sugar or honey to improve its taste.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm is a favorite herb among beekeepers (and bees). It can calm the stomach, soothe the nerves, and also works as a natural sedative. As a diaphoretic, it induces sweating and can break a fever. Drink some lemon balm tea when you see the first signs of a cold, fever, or flu. If you want to relieve nasal congestion, you can breathe in a lemon balm herbal steam.
Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis)
The roots of the marshmallow plant have some very soothing and healing properties. They can ease an upset stomach and help with several respiratory problems such as sore throats, coughs, colds, flu, and bronchitis. Marshmallow’s soothing effect is also beneficial when treating a throat raw from coughing. It is a great immune booster as it improves the white blood cell’s ability to consume harmful pathogens and cell debris (phagocytosis).
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Another great cough remedy is mullein, which contains a special type of soluble fiber called mucilage. When mucilage absorbs water, it turns into a slippery gel, which is soothing on the throat and skin. You can brew the dried leaves of the herb into tea, although it is bitter. The best thing to do is to blend it with other herbs and add lemon and honey for improved taste and a stronger healing effect.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint owes its therapeutic properties to menthol, its main volatile oil. Menthol vapors can effectively relieve nasal, sinus, and chest congestion. It is also an effective cough suppressant, so it can offer relief from those annoying bouts of a cough that seems to be without an end. What’s more, peppermint helps you recover from headaches that often accompany colds and a natural germicidal with the ability to fight off infections.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary has antiviral, carminative, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory actions that make it a great option for treating colds. Also a nutritious plant, it contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, as well as vitamins A and C. For a tired and aching body, try a rosemary bath. If you have a cold or the flu, make some rosemary and ginger tea to reap the benefits of both these amazing herbs.
Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra)
The inner bark of the slippery elm, when brewed into tea, has a delicate taste and mild aroma reminiscent of maple. It is a fantastic demulcent with beneficial soothing properties. Like mullein, slippery elm is rich in mucilage, a kind of soluble fiber that becomes spongy and gelatinous when in contact with water. This substance helps soothe the throat as well as the digestive tract.
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
The so-called “Stinging Spinster” is a healthy plant that contains a wide range of nutrients such as protein, vitamins, minerals, and flavonoids. It works as a decongestant, offering relief from respiratory troubles, such as colds and seasonal allergies, by opening up the nasal passages. Nettle also reduces mucus production and is useful for sinus headaches, helping you recover from your cold more quickly.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
This old remedy for treating coughs is a wonderful herb that soothes a sore throat and helps with various problems such as bronchitis, whooping cough, and colds. As a disinfectant, it battles bacteria and fungi that cause disease. It is also a rich source of antioxidants, including vitamins A and D, and various essential minerals. What’s more, the flavonoids found in thyme inhibit smooth muscle spasms and open tight airways.
These herbs can effectively help you stay healthy and cold-free during winter. However, like all medicine, herbal remedies must be used with caution. Make sure you know the safety guidelines for every herb you wish to use and check if there are any interactions with any medications you may be taking. Before using a commercial herbal product, read the instructions carefully and follow all the recommendations.
Byers, Dorie. Growing Herbs for Cold & Flu Relief. Storey Publishing, 1999.
Castleman, Michael. The New Healing Herbs: The Essential Guide to More Than 125 of Nature’s Most Potent Herbal Remedies. Rodale, 2010.