Feeling under the weather? Try these 7 healing herbs for the cold and flu season including lavender, echinacea, and valerian.
It’s almost unavoidable: the annual Cold & Flu season. Short of hiding out at home, you’ll be exposed to viruses each time someone sneezes on the bus, coughs in the grocery store, or a loved one gives you a kiss on the lips. People don’t even need to be around for you to catch a bug either since germs can lie in wait for you on door handles, coins, and railings.
Both the common Cold and the Flu are caused by viruses so cannot be treated with antibiotics, which actually targets bacterial infections. Antibiotics have no effect on viruses whatsoever. The medications that are most often prescribed to those affected are over-the-counter pain killers, such as paracetamol, sedatives, and medications that help soothe the throat and clear congestion. None of these are cures though, and they are taken to ease uncomfortable symptoms rather than fight infection.
On the other hand, simple herbal medicines have been shown in studies to help speed up healing time and some evidence implies that they can even stop us from catching the virus in the first place. Below is a list of seven herbs that are known for their healing properties along with how to use them for self-medication. Many of them are also cited in this piece that scrutinizes health claims and cites actual research studies. It’s a good read for if you have any further questions about scientific studies and facts.
Elderberry has not yet been proven to stop you from getting a cold but research has shown that it’s anti-viral properties help fight the flu and can reduce the recovery time of both colds and flu by half. Though it’s not recommended to eat the raw or raw-dried berries due to mild toxicity, when cooked, Elderberries are perfectly safe and are delicious as well as health boosting.
The oils of this well known flower not only smell beautiful but help relieve headaches and calm the mind. Together with other calming herbs, such as Lemon Balm, and Valerian, it helps promote rest and peaceful sleep. To get the most of this flower, use Lavender essential oils to scent linens and pillows and try using it in a handmade sanitizer. It’s naturally anti-septic and anti-bacterial and on the skin will help stop pathogens from entering the system.
Lavender Scented Tissues – Instead of purchasing tissues scented with perfumes, layer tissues in a sealed container with fresh lavender flowers. Leave them for at least two weeks for maximum absorption of essential oils. These tissues will give a boost of calming aromatherapy each time they’re used to blow your nose.
Though research on this herb has had mixed results, some studies have shown that the extracts of Purple Coneflower root boost the body’s immune system and help it to fight bacterial and viral infections. It would work in this way by stopping viruses from taking over cells and acting as an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agent. For colds and the flu, Echinacea is taken internally either in the form of a tincture, a decoction (boiled tea), or capsules.
DIY Echinacea tincture from Wicked Spatula
Echinacea & Ginger tea from Healthy Campaign
One thing the body really needs when you’re ill is sleep. The body uses the restful period while you’re slumbering to focus its attention on healing. To help with this, you could take Valerian root instead of taking chemical-formulated sedatives. This herb is effective, safe, non-addictive, and reduces tension and promotes restful sleep. Best of all, it doesn’t give you that sleeping pill hangover in the morning.
How to grow and dry Valerian for tea from Lovely Greens
Valerian & Hops tincture from Frugally Sustainable
Record of Horehound’s use for coughs and chest problems go back to ancient Greece with the physician Dioscorides recommending a decoction (boiled tea) of the roots for tuberculosis, asthma, and coughs. This green herb from the mint family grows about 1.5 feet tall and its leaves are used in teas and syrups to help soothe the throat and to help the body to expel phlegm.
Horehound & Marshmallow Cough Lozenges from Mother Earth News
Sage & Horehound cough syrup from Little City Farm
The extract from the leaves of this aromatic tree are anti-septic and used to relieve coughs, sore throats, and congested lungs. The leaves are where the medicine is and either they themselves or their essential oils are used for anointing the chest, in teas, and in herbal steams. The effect is warming, and the oils help to clear the chest, and to relieve infection and pain.
DIY All-Natural Vapor Rub from Mommypotamus
Herbal steam from the Untrained Housewife
Simple Eucalyptus tea from Georgia Pellegrini
Though not exactly a herb, raw honey is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and also tastes great! It’s sticky consistency also soothes inflamed throats, supresses coughing, and helps make taking other more bitter herbs a lot easier. You can also mix it with other immune boosting ingredients such as lemon juice and the elderberry syrup introduced above for delicious and health boosting drinks.
Honey, Cayenne, & Lemon Tea – mix 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1 Tbsp raw Honey, and a pinch of Cayenne pepper in a cup of hot water. This is a delicious and warming drink that’s great everyday to help boost immunity and when you’re ill, to fight infection. The lemon juice is rich in vitamin C, the honey fights microbes, and the raw Cayenne relieves fever and cools the body by stimulating sweat glands.
For more information on these herbs and dozens more that help with boosting health and immunity I recommend this book by Andrew Chevallier. The Natural Health Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine is an easy to read reference with information on and recipes for 550 different plants and flowers.
Another great way to educate yourself on using herbs is to take the highly recommended online courses from the Herbal Academy