Need relief for a coughing child in the middle of the night? Sick of your own runny nose and stuffy head? You can make homemade herbal teas and herbal infusions to help ease the nasty symptoms of coughs, colds and flu. This article includes a list of cold and flu fighting herbs, their healing properties and clear instructions for how to use them.
Natural healing herbs for treating coughs, colds and flu
Many herbs lend themselves well as the main ingredients in medicinal teas to fight coughs, colds and flu. The herbs listed below are used in herbal tea recipes intended to enhance the healing process.
- Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) – an immunity-enhancer with strong anti-flu properties, take only for three weeks, then stop taking for two weeks. Do not give to children under twelve years of age or to anyone who has asthma.
- Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) – its leaves have anti-inflammatory, anti-flu and many other health-enhancing properties.
- French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) – helps calm a cough and has anti-flu, anti-bacterial and anti-allergic properties.
- Greek Oregano (Origanum vulgare hirtum) – has many anti-flu and anti-bacterial properties. Can be used to calm down allergy symptoms, such as hay fever and environmental allergies. Marjoram can be used for similar purposes.
- Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) – a sedative that helps to calm and induce sleep, and also has anti-cold and anti-flu properties.
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita) – soothes stomach problems, helps with pain and also has anti-flu and anti-bacterial properties. Do not give to children under twelve years of age.
- Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris) – has many healthful benefits, anti-flu being one of them. May be used as a tonic.
- Spearmint (Mentha spicata) -same as peppermint. Do not give to children under twelve years of age.
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) – has anti-cough and anti-flu properties. Also an anti-inflammatory that helps with pain, digestion and stomach problems.
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) – Same as Greek Oregano, but also helps the memory. However, take only for three weeks, then stop taking for two weeks.
How to make homemade herbal teas
For the herbs mentioned in the cold and flu-fighting list above, use the leaves of the plants to make homemade herbal teas. You can make a tea using the herb alone, or add herbs to a base tea such as green tea or chamomile tea.
If you wish, you can add lemon juice, honey or other sweetener to taste. However, most herbal teas taste quite pleasant as they are. A little added honey will make most teas more palatable for children, but note that honey is not recommended for children younger than two years of age.
If you are treating a cough, a cold or the flu, it’s best to drink the liquid while it is still hot. Obviously teas made for children will need to be cooled to a safe temperature before they can drink it.
You will need:
- clean boiled water, preferably springwater, fresh or rainwater
- teapot and/or tea cups or mugs, ideally china, glass, ceramic or enamel
- tea strainer (optional)
- lemon juice, honey or maple syrup (optional)
- a base tea such as green tea or chamomile tea (optional)
You can use fresh or dried herbs for your homemade herbal tea. For each cup of tea required, use a small handful of large-leaved herbs or 2-3 sprigs of small-leaved herbs. This is about a tablespoon of herbs per cup. Gently tear large-leaved herbs to help the phytochemicals to dissipate more easily into the water.
Place the herbs in your teapot or tea cup and pour boiled water over them. Place the teapot lid on or cover the teacup with a saucer to contain the volatile oils inside. Leave to steep for at least five minutes. If you use a teapot you can strain the herbs as you pour the tea into a teacup. If you’ve prepared your tea in a teacup then simply let the herbs settle to the bottom. Sweeten to taste if you wish.
Making herbal infusions is very similar to making tea. The only difference is that the leaves are left to steep for longer than herbal teas, usually a minimum of twenty minutes. Steeping the herbs for longer brings out their chemicals in a much higher concentration. Alternatively you can leave the herbs in the teapot to steep indefinitely and pour the strengthening liquid as you need it over the course of the day.
If you are pregnant, have asthma or allergies, have a thyroid problem or if you are thinking of giving herbal teas or infusions to a child, please check that you are using herbs that are safe for these conditions.