Herbal Treatment for Winter Coughs and Colds

Here comes old man winter once again. And with him come the coughs, colds and flus. Since there is no cure or vaccine against the common cold, most of us have to make do with a pick and chance it laundry list of over the counter chemicals. Research has shown that few of these “remedies” actually work and most of us just have to sweat it out. In fact, many of the over the counter chemicals we consume for this purpose have a drug like effect and I have spent more than one winter with a “medicine head”. Try dealing with this while waiting on tables and ringing up a cash register. It gets scary, I can tell you!

Facing another winter of stuffy offices overhot with blasting heating systems and holiday parties with snivelers and coughers double dipping the salsa, I thought it might be a good idea to drag out some of my old recipes for natural cough and cold remedies. Again, these are easy (always!) and don’t require a ton of ingredients that are hard to find. If you are a gardener you may well have a lot of these plants in the yard and if not you can find them in supermarkets, health food stores and nurseries. Most of the other ingredients are readily available if not already in your kitchen. So get out the pots and pans along with the sweaters and jackets! Here are some great ideas for alternative methods of dealing with the common cold.

ELDERFLOWER AND PEPPERMINT TEA

Ingredients:

1/4 cup dried Peppermint Leaves
1/4 cup dried Lemon Balm Leaves
1/4 cup dried Elderflowers
1/4 cup dried Yarrow Flowers

Method One:

Store this mixture in a baggie or dry container. Use as needed for tea by stirring into warm or boiling water. After infusion, make sure to strain the tea through a coffee filter before drinking. This mixture is know to encourage perspiration and subdue coughing. Very soothing.

Method Two:

Eliminate the Lemon Balm and replace it with 1 pinch of powdered, mixed Spices. You will also need some Lemon Juice. Infuse the flowers and leaves in 2 cups boiling Water for at least 5 minutes. Add the Spices and a tsp of the Lemon Juice. If you like you may add Honey to the tea while it is still warm. Strain and take a “wineglass” full every 2 hours as needed. This will help with a fever, too!

CAYENNE AND HOT MILK

Ingredients:

1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2 cup Milk

Method:

Heat the Milk over medium heat but do not boil. Watch carefully to be sure it does not burn. Milk burns easily. When warm, stir the Cayenne into the milk slowly, allowing it to mix well. Sip slowly while still very warm and feel it warm your whole system and bring back your color! Drink this even when you are not ailing, as it is known for staving off diseases of all kinds!

GINGER WITH HONEY

Ingredients:

1 cup Water
1-2 teaspoons of any tea blend (including any recipe included under this heading)
1/2-1 teaspoon fresh grated Ginger
Honey & Lemon Juice to taste

Method One:

Bring water to a boil, then remove from heat. Do not boil long. Add Tea blend and grated Ginger to hot water. Ginger chases away the chilled feeling and improves to flavor of any tea. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Strain the Ginger out of the tea and stir in Honey and Lemon. Drink as needed.

Method Two:

Bring water to a boil in a saucepan or teapot. Lower heat and stir in the Ginger. Allow it to steep for a few minutes. Strain the Ginger from the water and stir in Honey while still hot. Pour the tea into a mug or glass. Drink immediately. Do not store. This tea is best when hot!

COWSLIP FLOWER SYRUP

Ingredients:

1 large handful of Cowslip Flowers
1 tbsp dried Coltsfoot
1 tsp Aniseed
1-1/2 cups Honey

Method:

Warm the Honey slowly over low-medium heat in a medium saucepan. As it warms, add in Cowslip Flowers, Coltsfoot and Aniseed. Allow to come to a light boil over low heat. If there is scum on the surface of the Honey, skim it off with a spoon. Allow to boil lightly for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cover. Allow to infuse for 30 minutes as the Honey cools. When cool, strain the Honey through a small colander or tight seive, removing all of the flowers, herbs and seeds. When the Honey seems brownish and clear, you may bottle it in a glass, stoppered bottle and store in the refrigerator. Take a tablespoon at a time for coughs. You may dose up to 3 times a day to calm cough. A decongestant.

HOREHOUND INFUSION

Ingredients:

1 tbsp fresh or dried Horehound
2 cups Water

Method:

Bring water to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add in Horehound and allow to boil for 1 minute. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and cover, allowing to infuse while cooling for another 5 minutes. Strain out the Horehound and pour the tea into a cup and drink as needed. Drink one 4-6oz cup at a time up to 3 times a day while congested. This is the best decongestant nature makes! Expect to cough it up.

MARSHMALLOW AND LICORICE INFUSION

Ingredients:

1 tsp powdered Marshmallow Root
1 tsp dried Horehound
1 crushed Licorice Stick
2 cups Water

Method:

Boil water in a saucepan over medium heat. Add Marshmallow and Horehound. Allow to boil for 1 minute and reduce heat. Stir and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add Licorice Stick. Cover and infuse for 15 minutes. Strain everything out through a cheesecloth or coffee filter. Get all of the powdered root. When the tea is clear, you may heat it up in microwave before serving in a mug or cup. Average dose: 4 oz. Drink up to 3 times a day.

MUSTARD SEED POULTICE

Ingredients:

4 oz freshly ground Mustard Seeds
Warm water as needed

Method:

Thoroughly pound the Seeds to a paste, adding in small amounts of water to make it into a thick paste. Be careful not to add more than a tsp of water at a time. It should be thicker than thinner. Once the paste is thick but smooth enough to be spooned up, apply it to a dampened piece of gauze. Cover with another dry piece of gauze and place the gauze, DAMP SIDE DOWN, on the chest. Leave on for ONE MINUTE ONLY. This will loosen phlegm in the lungs. Take care not to inflame the skin. If the skin is reddened, rub with oil after use. Use this only ONCE per day for no more than 3 days during the course of chest congestion and coughing.

PEPPERMINT TEA

Ingredients:

1/4 cup dried Peppermint Leaves
1/4 cup dried Lemon Balm
1/4 cup dried Applemint Leaves
Honey
1 cup of Water

Method:

Mix the herbs and bag them or store them in a favorite container. Use as regular tea. Boil water and infuse herbs for 10-15 minutes. Strain. Add Honey to hot tea and drink immediately.

ECHINACEA TEA

Ingredients:

2 1/4 teaspoons Echinacea Leaf
2 1/4 teaspoons Elderflowers
2 1/4 teaspoons Yarrow Leaves and Flowers
1 1/4 teaspoons Peppermint
3 cups of Water

Method:

Use either fresh or dried herbs. Place all but the Peppermint Leaves into the water and simmer over medium heat, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and add the fresh Peppermint. Steep, covered, for 10 more minutes. Do not reheat. Strain herbs and discard. Drink up to 3 cups a day as needed. You may store liquid tea in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but no longer. Store the fresh or dried Herbs in the refrigerator, as well, for keeping.

HERBAL STEAM BATH

Ingredients:

4 cups of Water
3 tablespoons of Eucalyptus Leaves
2 tablespoons of Thyme Leaves
1 tablespoon of Rosemary Leaves
1 tablespoon of Peppermint Leaves

Method:

In a large saucepan (not a teakettle), bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the herbs. Allow to steep, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes. Remove pot from burner. Carefully pour the water into a glass bowl or heat resistant bowl and place it in a sturdy place. Put a towel over your head and hold your face at least 12 inches away from rising steam. Inhale and allow steam to enter pores. Breathe deeply.

You may add this same mixture to a hot bath and enjoy it that way. You may substitute 5-10 drops of essential oils for each of the herbs for the bath. Do not use essential oils if you are steaming your face. Only use the oils in the bath if you are using it that way. The water in the bath should be hot.

HYSSOP AND LICORICE COUGH SYRUP

Ingredients:

A large handful of bruised Hyssop
1 lb Honey
1 tsp powdered Licorice or 1crushed Licorice Stick
1 tsp crushed Aniseed
1/2 tsp powdered Ginger or 1 crushed Ginger Root

Method:

Put the honey in a large saucepan and bring it slowly to a boil. As it boils, lift off any scum with a spoon. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer very slowly over low heat for 30 minutes or until the Honey has pronounced Hyssop flavor. Strain through a seive until all the herbs are removed and the Honey is clear. Pour into pots, bottles, jars or cans. Cover or stop tightly and store. Take a spoonful at a time when coughing or have sore throat. You can add this honey to other hot tisanes or to elderberry or other cough syrups.

ROSEMARY COUGH SYRUP

Ingredients:

1 lb Honey
1 large handful of fresh Rosemary leaves
1 tsp dried Lemon Balm
1 tsp Aniseed

Method:

Put the honey in a large saucepan and bring it slowly to a boil. As it boils, lift off any scum with a spoon. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and simmer very slowly over low heat for 30 minutes or until the Honey has pronounced Rosemary flavor. Strain through a seive until all the herbs and seeds are removed and the Honey is clear. Pour into pots, bottles, jars or cans that can be sealed with a stopper or a rubber ring against moisture. Take a spoonful at a time when coughing or have sore throat. You can add this honey to other hot tisanes or to elderberry or other cough syrups.

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