Herbal Allies for Cold & Flu Season


Elderberries in full ripeness along a creek in Mississippi


Is it a cold or flu?

  • similar in their manifestation and are both respiratory viruses
  • colds tend to last a shorter amount of time & express mildly with runny nose, sore throat, a wet cough
  • flus tend to last longer & have more severe symptoms (fever, sudden symptoms, body aches, chills)
  • one can also get the “stomach flu” or gastroenteritis
  • fevers can result because of a viral or bacterial infection, inflammation, a response to drugs or other reasons
  • a fever results when the body shifts its normal temp set point to a higher set point (shivering, for example)
  • fevers can be a great ally to healing, so watch the fever and guide it the best that you can
  • it is common for someone with a fever to reach 102 to 104 and, ideally, the fever will break (the body temp will rise and fall with each break)
  • however, if the temperature remains high for 2-3 days (or if temp reaches 106), medical attention is needed

Coughs and the Mucous Membrane

  • coughs are present to get rid of respiratory microbes, irritants, and secretions
  • try not to suppress a cough when it is trying to work on getting things “up and out”
  • coughs are either productive (eliminating mucous) or unproductive (dry cough, normally after infection)
  • mucous membranes line the part of the body that interacts with the outside world
  • this includes the nose, mouth, sinuses, throat, respiratory tract, digestive tract, etc
  • cover, moisten, & protect these surfaces as well as contain antibodies and enzymes to help protect the body

Helpful Tips

  • listen to your body…and respond intuitively… Seek proper help and assistance when needed…
  • 70-85% of immune cells are in the gut; support the gut with foods rich in “cultural” diversity such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir; take a high quality probiotic if you don’t regularly eat fermented foods
  • rest well and drink bone broths and teas; eat soups, easy to digest foods, and whole foods (being horizontal improves immune function!)
  • indulge in common kitchen herbal allies: garlic and onion (anti-microbial), sage (anti-microbial, affinity for the throat), cayenne (warming decongestant), lemon (throat, digestive juices), ginger (nausea, warming, anti-inflammatory), honey (anti-microbial, throat & respiratory system
  • load up on your favorite form of Vitamin C (you can also blend powdered rose hips with a little honey and water, make a paste, and take by the spoon fulls)

Key herbs for cold & flu season
(My favorite herbs are marked with *)

Anti-microbial means having anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and/or anti-viral activity (anti-viral properties market with V)

Sambucus spp ~ elderberry and elder flower (V)*
Liquidamber styraciflua ~ sweet gum tree (V)
Propolis (V)*
Allium sativum ~ garlic (V)*
Salvia officinalis ~ sage*
Thymus vulgaris ~ thyme
Usnea spp. ~ usnea lichen
Origanum vulgare ~ oregano (V)
Glycyrrhiza glabra ~ licorice (V)
Echinacea purpurea ~ echinacea
Hypericum perforatum ~ st. john’s wort (V)
Plantago major ~ plantain*
Rhus glabra (or typhina) ~ sumac*
Lonicera japonica ~ honeysuckle (V)
Juglans nigra ~ black walnut

Anti-inflammatory (reduce intensity of symptoms/pain/stuffiness)

Achillea millefolium ~ yarrow*
Althaea officinalis ~ marshmallow
Echinacea purpurea ~ echinacea
Glycyrrhiza glabra ~ licorice*
Zingiber officinale ~ ginger

Respiratory Allies (a list of expectorants that are warming, cooling, moistening, and drying depending on the plant used)

Inula helenium ~ elecampagne
Plantago major ~ plantain*
Ganoderma lucidum ~ reishi
Solidago spp. ~ goldenrod*
Populus balsamifera ~ cottonwood buds
Trifolium pratense ~ red clover*
Prunela vulgaris ~ self-heal
Asclepius tuberosa ~ pleurisy root
Rhus glabra (or typhina) ~ sumac*

Diaphoretics  (will open the vents of the body and let the body sweat out the fever, reducing the body’s temperature; best used as a hot tea)

Mentha piperita ~ peppermint*
Achillea millefolium ~ yarrow*
Eupatorium perfoliatum ~ boneset
Sambucus spp ~ elderberry flower
Verbena brasiliansis ~ vervain

Demulcants (will cool and moisten, dry and irritated tissues; my favorite use is powdered and mixed with honey)

Althaea officinalis ~ marshmallow*
Glycyrrhiza glabra ~ licorice
Symphytum officinale ~ comfrey
Malva sylvestris ~ common mallow
Ulmus rubra ~ slippery elm (or chinese elm)

Immune Stimulants & Modulators

Stimulants (stimulates immune function)
Echinacea angustifolium ~ echinacea
Allium sativum ~ garlic
Eupatorium perfoliatum ~ boneset
Spilanthes acmella ~ toothache plant*
Zanthoxylum clava-herculis ~ prickly ash

Modulators (builds up immune function over time by encouraging proper immune response)
Astragalus membranaceous ~ astragalus*
Eleutherococcus senticosus ~ eleuthero
Ganoderma lucidum, tsugae ~ reishi*
Lentinus edodes ~ shitake
Ocimum tenuiflorum ~ holy basil*
Schisandra chinensis ~ shisandra*
Withania somnifera ~ ashwagandha
Gynostemma pentaphyllum ~ jiaogulan

Lymph support (cleans up debris in the lymphatic system as you recover from infection)

Trifolium pretense ~ red clover*
Phytolacca decandra ~ poke
Galium aparine ~ cleavers
Polymnia uvedalia ~ bear’s foot
Calendula ~ calendula officinalis*




Hibiscus Horseradish Cheater Fire Cider

Adapted recipe from Herbalist, Juliet Blankespoor

“Fire cider is basically spicy herbal vinegar, sweetened with a little honey. It is taken by the spoonful. Fire cider helps to clear out the sinuses and wake up the immune and circulatory systems. It can be taken to ward off a cold or other respiratory infection. Those with poor circulation can ingest fire cider tonically. This particular recipe is especially beneficial for high blood pressure and atherosclerosis due to the bioflavonoids in the hibiscus, along with the medicinal attributes of garlic and ginger.” ~ Juliet Blankespoor

Ingredient list for Hibiscus Horseradish fire cider
Roughly 8 to 9 – 8oz bottles

64 ounces of apple cider vinegar
10 ounces honey
2 medium onions
2 large cloves of garlic
Fresh Ginger  (10″ of a man’s-thumb-width piece)
Horseradish (1.5 cups of coarsely chopped 1″ pieces)
2 oranges
8 dried cayenne peppers (or 2 teaspoons dried cayenne powder)
4 Tablespoons loose hibiscus

Finely chop the garlic, ginger, onions, and horseradish.  Place this and the apple cider vinegar into a double boiler and keep the heat on low, with the lid on! Keep the mixture below 120 degrees for three hours, stirring once in a while. Again, careful with the fumes!  Peel your oranges. Mash the oranges with a masher.

After a couple hours, taste the slurry. If it’s too mild for your fire cider pleasure, this is your chance to add more of the spicy herbs and cook for one more hour. After three hours of total cook time, turn off the heat and add the hibiscus and the juicy orange mixture. Let sit for one hour and check the color – if it’s too light in color add more hibiscus. When the cider is a beautiful red, strain the mixture. You will need to squeeze out or press the slurry, or you will loose a great deal of the medicine. Add the honey and mix well, making sure all the honey is dissolved. Place in clear glass jars, label and refrigerate. Dosage is one tablespoon as needed.

2 thoughts on “Herbal Allies for Cold & Flu Season

  1. Pingback: Winter-time Motto: An Ounce of Prevention | Madhupa Maypop

  2. Pingback: Wintertime Motto: An Ounce of Prevention | Madhupa Maypop

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