Cold season is in full swing. Try as we might, all that hand washing only goes so far at school and work. Healthy eating and smart prevention will make a big difference with cold season. But viruses will always be lurking and waiting.
Instead of suffering through nights of coughing and congestion, put those herbs in the cupboard to work for you. They’re great dried, distilled as essential oils, and many can be easily grown indoors. They provide a fresh supply of medicinal benefits throughout winter. However you stock your kitchen, try putting a few of these to the test. You’re sure to find that your cupboards offer relief that will put that medicine cabinet to shame.
Heavy congestion can lead to phlegm accumulating in the throat and lungs. All this mucus can lead to problems if it sticks around too long. So a productive cough is actually an important part in getting over colds. Expectorants help to loosen mucus which makes our coughs more effective, and in shorter periods of time. Herbs like thyme, garlic, juniper berry, licorice root and mullein can all be used to make a tea that will help the body bring up phlegm while offering additional cold-fighting benefits.
Cold and flu are the result of a viral infection rather than a bacterial infection. So antibiotics won’t do a bit of good against their common symptoms. The only way to get over a virus is to give your body the tools it needs to tend to damage control while you wait it out.
While antibiotics can’t help, antivirals can interfere with viral activity and boost immunity to help put a halt to invasion. Both licorice root and black elderberry possess amazing properties that can be received by making teas and homemade “syrups.”
Congestion within the chest and nasal passages can be a thing of the past with some basic herbal decongestants. Peppermint may be a nuisance when it comes to taking over the yard. But it’s worth the frustrations come cold season. In its essential oil form, this herb makes a powerful chest rub that can keep nasal passages clear all night long. Peppermint also offers lightning-fast sinus relief as steam inhalation or tea. For kids or adults interested in the above, make a sachet with freshly chopped leaves that can be put under their pillow to help clear stuffy noses as they sleep.
Anyone who has ever eaten spicy food knows the runny nose and flush of heat that comes with eating spicy peppers like cayenne. These side-effects can get uncomfortable, but this spice comes with big benefits. It’s a natural antibacterial that provokes sweating and circulation and offers immediate relief of sinus congestion thanks to the compound capsaicin. One teaspoon in a cup of hot water will have your nose clear in no time, but those wary of spice can dilute this as needed.
Cayenne also can be taken in capsule form to receive these benefits, but congestion relief will take more time. Whatever form you choose, make sure you eat something beforehand to avoid the pains this spice puts upon empty stomachs.
When it comes to raw and scratchy throats, herbal demulcents are your best friend. A demulcent is a plant rich in the slippery compound mucilage. This protective mucilaginous coating forms a soothing layer over the throat that can ease the pains and occurrence of coughing. Herbs like marshmallow root and plantain  are high in mucilage and worthy of keeping on hand all winter, as are fellow herbal expectorants mullein and licorice root. Make your own herbal cough syrup  or pair an herb with the soothing powers of raw honey to make a tea that will ease raw throats while combating chills with its warming heat.
Sickness is a sure sign that our immune system is in need of help. Vitamins A, C, D E and B6 build and support the immune system, so now is the time for fruits, vegetables and good supplements. If you have access to a local co-op or an online food supplier, then look into the vitamin-rich superfoods of South America like dragon fruit, soursop, and the rightly famous acai berry. Foods like these will give you an array of important vitamins in the form of clean energy, and without putting any unnecessary stress on your healing body.
What are your favorite herbs for the cold season? Share your tips in the section below: