7 herbs that can help fight colds and flu

7 herbs that can help fight colds and flu

Like many systems in the body, the respiratory system does its job somewhat outside of our awareness, at least most of the time. We barely notice the 22,000 breaths taken on average each day, until it becomes more difficult to take one. The constant exposure of the respiratory system to the outside world makes it vulnerable to bacterial and viral infections, such as colds, flu and tuberculosis. Yet ever since there have been respiratory illnesses, people have used herbal remedies to combat them, with great success.

Here are seven commonly used remedies to naturally treat coughing, sniffling, and sneezing attacks that occur more often during the winter season.


Some natural remedies are best used at the first sign of illness, but astragalus works best as a preventative. Lab studies back it up: Astragalus root extracts improve white blood cell function, even increasing antibody levels in healthy people. Astragalus may also increase levels of interferons, immune-activating proteins that fight viral infections and tumors. These benefits help prevent upper respiratory tract infections, especially in those prone to colds and flu. Use astragalus in tea, capsule or tincture form.

Precaution: Pregnant or breastfeeding women should not use astragalus root. People with autoimmune diseases should consult a health care provider.


This wildflower has many health benefits, including reducing your risk of catching a cold. One of the most studied herbs, echinacea has gained a reputation for its many effects on the immune system, including increasing antibody responses to high levels of interferon to fight viruses and boosting white blood cells. to fight infection. Several chemical compounds in echinacea vary across the three species of the plant, the parts of the plant, and the extraction techniques: polysaccharides, glycoproteins, and alkylamides all have medicinal effects that boost the immune system and inhibit viruses and bacteria. Exactly how echinacea works continues to be studied. To see benefits, take adequate doses of a quality product at the first sign of illness. Ingest in tea, tincture or capsule form.

Precaution: Do not take echinacea if you have tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, connective tissue disorders, multiple sclerosis, HIV or AIDS, autoimmune diseases, or a liver disorder. In rare cases, echinacea can cause allergic reactions.


Ripe elderberries are packed with vitamin C and antioxidants. Studies have shown that elderberry syrup can help reduce the duration of cold and flu symptoms. Elderberry preparations can also reduce swelling of the mucous membranes – and thus relieve nasal and sinus congestion – and ease sneezing, itching and other allergy symptoms. To be used in syrup or tablet.

Precaution: Unripe berries or products made from other plant parts should not be eaten. All contain dangerous compounds that can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness or confusion.


Floating in hot chocolate or melting over a campfire, marshmallows are favorite confections. These treats actually have their roots in a natural remedy made from the roots and leaves of the marshmallow plant. Marshmallow contains polysaccharides, a natural mucilage that soothes mucous membranes irritated by sore throats, coughs and indigestion. It can also soothe dry, chapped skin when applied topically. To drink as herbal tea or infusion.

Precaution: None.


The grey-green leaves and stems of mullein are used to relieve symptoms of bronchitis, coughs and other sore throats by serving as both an expectorant and soothing herb for irritated respiratory tissue. Drinking mullein leaf or mullein flower tea soothes the throat and is a very old remedy for respiratory problems. Various parts are used, including leaves, flowers and roots. Despite its long history of medicinal use, mullein has not been extensively researched, but it remains a respected remedy in herbal medicine today. Ingest mullein as an infusion of leaves or flowers.

Precaution: Mullein seeds are poisonous and should not be part of a mullein extract, capsule, or tea.


Pelargoniums, commonly called geraniums, have a strong tradition of medicinal use in Africa. Pelargonium sidoides– known in modern herbal medicine simply as pelargonium – has been part of traditional Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho and Mfengu healing for centuries. Herbalists recommend the root to help reduce symptoms of respiratory infections such as coughs, colds, sore throats, pneumonia, tonsillitis, and acute sinusitis, and to prevent secondary infections such as chronic bronchitis. It is often used as an alternative to antibiotics in some of these conditions. Pelargonium sidoides is sold as an extract, lozenges and tinctures.

Precaution: Some users report mild stomach upset, skin rashes, and nervous system disorders. Avoid the plant if you are taking blood-thinning medication.


Like sage, thyme is one of many fragrant herbs that doubles as medicine. The aromatic compounds in thyme help relieve coughs, probably in two different ways. Thyme is antispasmodic and expectorant, which means that the herb not only calms coughs, but also helps clear bronchial mucus. It is also antibacterial and antiviral. Several of the chemicals in herbal thyme, including thymol and carvacrol, account for its aroma, expectorant effects, and inhibition of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Today, herbalists recommend thyme for coughs, colds, flu, bronchitis and asthma. They also give the herb for digestive disorders, as thyme has a relaxing effect on the smooth muscles of the stomach and intestines. Take thyme tea as needed for cough.

Precaution: Thyme should be avoided by those with hormone-sensitive conditions.

Important Note to Readers This material is intended to increase your knowledge of home remedies and recent developments in possible ways to take care of your health at home, and to the best of our knowledge, the information provided is accurate at the time of publication. It is not intended as a medical textbook, and neither the authors nor the publisher undertake to provide medical or other professional advice to the individual reader. You should not use this information as a substitute for advice from a licensed healthcare professional. Because everyone is different, we urge you to see a licensed medical professional to diagnose issues and oversee the use of any of these home remedies to treat individual conditions. The authors, advisors and publisher disclaim all liability for any loss, injury or damage resulting directly or indirectly from the use of this material.

Portions of this material have appeared in Nature’s Best Remedies. Available wherever books and magazines are sold.

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