It happens every year like clockwork – one of your coworkers comes in feeling a bit under the weather and suddenly half the office is sharing a box of tissues. Unfortunately, the average adult will catch two colds a year. And because a cold and flu are viral, you’ll find little relief in antibiotics – presumably leaving you vulnerable to the aches, chills and congestion that comes along with a bad cold or flu.
While there may not be a cure for the common cold (yet!), there are plenty of natural remedies you can take to reduce your likelihood of becoming sick. For thousands of years, people have reaped the benefits of herbal supplements, and now – you can too!
Flowers and Plants
Though first used to treat sores and open wounds, elderberry is now most commonly used to treat respiratory illnesses. The chemicals in elderflowers and its berries may eliminate congestion by reducing the swelling in your sinuses and mucus membranes. And though it is originally native to Europe and Asia, elderberries have recently become incredibly popular in the United States. If you’re looking to reap the benefits of this super tree, you can buy it in a liquid, syrup, or capsule form.
Because of its bitter taste, Andrographis has been rightfully deemed, “King of Bitters.” This vibrant green plant blooms annually and sprouts beautiful white and purple flowers. For thousands of years, Andrographis has been revered in Asia and India for it’s many healing powers, but it has just recently become popular in America. Andrographis has been known to reduce the symptoms of a cold – most commonly earaches, headaches, coughs, fevers, and fatigues. In one study – small, regular doses of Andrographis were shown to be as effective as over the counter Acetaminophen (Tylenol) in treating tonsil and pharynx inflammation.
Ginger comes from the root of the Zingiber officinale – a plant that sticks up roughly a foot from the ground and grows green leaves and white or yellow flowers. With powerful anti inflammatory agents, ginger has long been used to treat cold and flu symptoms by opening up the sinuses. As an added bonus, ginger has been used in China for over 2,000 years to help aid digestion and treat nausea. You can make your own ginger infused herbal tea right at home by simmering cinnamon sticks and freshly sliced ginger in hot water for 30 minutes.
Native Americans were the first group of people to use Echinacea to treat snake bites, cuts and fend off disease. Now, nearly 400 years later, we can really see all the advantages of this “cure-all” herb. Echinacea has been found to shorten the duration of the common cold and flu, and reduce symptoms, like sore throats, coughs, and fevers. Many herbalists recommend taking Echinacea daily in order to boost your immune system.
Though scientifically known as Eupatorium Perfoliatum, this plant got its common name after it was found to be the only thing that could break deadly fevers during the 18th century. The fevers became so intense that they were known as “bone fevers.” In addition to its ability to stop fevers, boneset is also a great antiviral whose strong bitter taste helps dry out mucus. Because of the dozens of nutrients found in this herb, like calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C and zinc, boneset is safe to take everyday as a natural multivitamin.
Mint’s main active ingredient is menthol, which thins mucus and loosens phlegm. The best part about mint? You can reap its benefits just by being near it. The next time you feel congested, place a few mint leaves under your nose and breathe in heavily. To further open up your sinuses or soothe a sore throat, make yourself a cup of hot peppermint tea with real, fresh picked mint leaves.
Looking to start your own herb garden? We’ve got all the tools you’ll need to grow fresh mint and rosemary right in your home.
And remember – while these natural remedies can help prevent and relieve cold and flu symptoms, the best defense against the flu is an annual flu shot.