Seasonal ailments? Keep them away from nature

The herbal remedies that keep colds away & Co.

There are herbal remedies that help keep away coldscoughs, sore throats and flu. Let’s see how and when to use them.

The malaise is announced with one too many sneezes, an annoying soreness in the throat, a shiver that suggests some line of fever. It can be the incoming flu, or simply another viral infection – the so-called parainfluenza viruses, against which the flu vaccine is not effective at all – or bacterial.

In most cases it is a recent illness, to be faced with a few days of rest, and possibly self-medication drugs, such as acetylsalicylic acid, paracetamol or ibuprofen if the fever is too high.

If you want, however, you can also resort to the pharmacy of Nature: to calm the most annoying symptoms and stimulate the body’s defenses there are plants that come to our aid. Here are summarized in the table the main natural remedies, which will be described in detail later.

To stimulate the immune system Echinacea


Uncaria tomentosa

Against colds Garlic


Camphor oil



Scots pine

Against sore throat and cough Erisimus



In case of infections Thyme


Strengthen the immune system

It would be the first measure to be taken, and perhaps as a preventive measure. More and more studies confirm the efficacy as an immunostimulant of Echinacea, a herbaceous plant native to North America, now present in many over-the-counter preparations.

It would serve in particular to enhance the activity of phagocytes, the cells of the immune system that attack pathogens. And for this reason, as well as as prevention, it may be useful to take it at the first symptoms of a cold.

Among the natural immunostimulants it is also worth mentioning the Acerola, precious for its content in vitamin C and the Uncaria tomentosa which has an immunostimulating activity and can act both as an antiviral and as an anti-inflammatory and painkiller, helping to prevent colds. However, it is important not to exceed the recommended doses (it can cause intestinal disorders) and avoid giving it to children or pregnant women.

Fighting phlegm and stuffy nose

One cannot fail to mention the popular garlic. Better known as an antihypertensive, it is also an effective disinfectant and therefore a good antibacterial, as well as thinning mucus by helping to clear the respiratory tract. The brave recommend eating one / two raw cloves at the first symptoms, a remedy that can be good for those who are not allergic and are not bothered by the intense scent. Be careful because it can reduce the effectiveness of antiviral drugs.

From the East comes ginger (Zingiber officinalis) an excellent remedy for those who already have fever and colds: in addition to being an effective anti-nausea, fresh or powdered ginger consumed in the form of herbal tea, perhaps enriched with sugar or honey, makes you sweat and helps to clear the nose and fluidize phlegm.

Always to sweat you can use an herbal tea based on linden and elderberry, perhaps particularly pleasant if scented with lavender.

The beauty of natural remedies is that they are often “multifunctional”: breathing the warm scents of an herbal tea before drinking it, perhaps sweetened with honey that has an emollient effect, can be a way to fully exploit the different properties of plants.

If you want a real treatment for external use, you can rub a camphor oil on the neck and chest, enriched with the aromatic compound found in different plants but is extracted mainly from the wood of Cinnamomum camphora.

In this way, the vapors that help to clear the respiratory tract are exploited. But be careful not to ingest it because it can be toxic, as well as interact with some drugs.

Or you can resort to traditional fumigation, putting in a basin hot water (not boiling) a few drops of balsamic essential oil, such as those of eucalyptus, thyme and Scots pine, and breathing the vapors covering the head with a towel.

The same oils can be diluted in a vegetable oil and used for frictions, or you can put a few drops in the handkerchief or even in the humidifier of the radiator. It is always good to avoid using them pure on the skin.

What if the problem is an annoying sore throat?

If it is a simple inflammation, emollient or protective herbs can be used such as erysimum (Erysimum officinale) formerly known as “cantor grass” for its properties.

Today it is used in preparations for the treatment of bronchitis and in the cough of smokers. It can be used in the form of infusion, to be sweetened with honey, or you can gargle with the mother tincture.

Other herbs with refreshing properties are mallow and licorice (the latter not recommended for those with high blood pressure), while the antitussive properties of another traditional remedy, marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) are to be confirmed, which can still be used as an anti-inflammatory also against gingivitis or pharyngitis, or for its protective effect on the gastric mucosa.

If an infection is suspected

In such cases it is better to resort to plants with a high antiseptic effect of thyme, considered the antibiotic of folk medicine with its mix of essences with antiviral and antimicrobial properties.

It helps to calm the cough and dissolve phlegm, but it must be handled with caution, especially if you choose the essential oil that should be used only on medical prescription because it is particularly irritating to the skin and mucous membranes.

Excellent in cooling states is also the use of propolis, a resinous substance that bees collect from plants processing it with wax, pollen and enzymes: it is an excellent natural first aid, an effective disinfectant, antibacterial and antiviral, as well as soothing inflammation.

Effective, but not lightning-fast

Remember, however, that taking care of nature also means accepting its rhythms: you cannot think “I take a tablet and leave as if I had nothing”.

To heal well and avoid complications it is better if possible to stay at rest and warm, remembering to drink plenty of liquids – water, herbal teas and juices – to thin the mucus and replenish the mineral salts lost through sweat.

Those who want can also try with the classic chicken broth traditional remedy

And to be on the safe side, you can enrich the broth, which should be rich in celery, with ginger to make it even more warming or make it spicy with a little chili.

Joycelyn Elders is the author and creator of EmpowerEssence, a health and wellness blog. Elders is a respected public health advocate and pediatrician dedicated to promoting general health and well-being.

The blog covers a wide range of topics related to health and wellness, with articles organized into several categories.

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