Growing up in the 1950’s with a stay at home mother who loved to cook, bake, & garden, taught me to use what I have at hand. She didn’t drive so she couldn’t run to the drugstore when we had a sore throat, cough or a high fever. The phrase that comes to mind from those times is, “think simple”. Simple is cheaper & usually better.
There are many homemade remedies to treat the symptoms from a cold or flu. In this post I will share the ones that I use & that I know work. Each year more over the counter cold & flu remedies are pulled off the shelf by the FDA due to ingredients that are harmful to both adults & children. Sometimes over the counter cold & flu remedies make you feel worse because of the side-effects & the cost 🙂
If you don’t grow your own herbs then you can purchase fresh herbs like sage, thyme & rosemary in the produce section of the market. Fresh works the best, but you can use dried. Simply buy them in the spice aisle. There are many sage’s. The one to use medicinally is the culinary sage. At the end of this post is a list of resources. They are my well used & loved herbal reference books & websites.
Sore throats can be bacterial or viral infections. The majority of them are due to viral infections heralding the start of a common cold. Throat inflammation is an immune response to the virus & usually accompanies a runny nose & cough. The following simple remedies will relieve the soreness & calm the inflammation in the throat.
- Gargle with warm salt water. Water should be warm to the touch but not hot.
1 cup of water & 1/4 tsp salt. Swish & spit.
- Sore Throat Gargle by the herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. This one has a bit of Zip to it. Rosemary says that she is the first to admit that it isn’t her tastiest recipe but it works for both sore throats & laryngitis.
1 cup of apple cider vinegar ~I use Bragg’s~
1 cup of strong (triple strength) sage tea ~I use 3 tablespoons of fresh sage or you can use 3 teaspoons dried sage, bring 1 cup of water to boil, add sage & steep for 15 minutes~
2-3 teaspoons of salt
Pinch of Cayenne
Combine all of the ingredients. Gargle frequently as needed throughout the day. Don’t swallow, swish & spit.
- Sage Gargle. This is an old family recipe that Dr. Low Dog recommends for a sore throat. It works quickly.
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves or 2 teaspoons of dried sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup of water
Bring the water to a boil, add sage, cover & let steep for 10 minutes. Strain, pour into a tea mug, add the salt & stir.
Gargle every 1-2 hours, or as needed. Don’t swallow, swish & spit.
Dr. Low Dog notes that this gargle can be used along with antibiotics for strep throat.
Strep throat symptoms By Mayo Clinic Staff In general, signs and symptoms of strep throat include: (Click on the link & read the entire article for when to see the doctor etc.)
- Throat pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Red and swollen tonsils, sometimes with white patches or streaks of pus
- Tiny red spots on the soft or hard palate — the area at the back of the roof of the mouth
- Swollen, tender lymph glands (nodes) in your neck
- Stomachache and sometimes vomiting, especially in younger children
***Strep throat is bacterial & different than a cold because it never has the stuffy nose & cough. Strep throat is highly contagious so it is important to be treated immediately with a course of antibiotics.
Cough. This is your bodies way of telling you that you have too much mucous, gastric acid or you have been breathing in smoke. It varies from a small irritating tickle in the back of your throat to a full blown wet cough. Coughs that accompany colds last about 3 weeks. If they last longer than that or continue to get worse you should consult your health care team.
- Honey has been used for coughs forever! Researchers have studied different types of honey & found that all of them work as well as any over the counter cough syrup. It is especially effective for children over the age of 12 months to relieve a nighttime cough. 1-2 teaspoons before bed. Works for adults too 🙂 It is a great soother for throat cancer patients with sores or thrush in the mouth & throat.
***Honey should never be given, even a tiny taste, to children under the age of 12 months. Wild honey can be contaminated with bacteria Clostridium Botulinum & may cause poisoning in infants and young children. However, this is not a danger for older children and adults.
- Thyme Cough Syrup by Dr. Low Dog. This is her go-to cough syrup because it works quickly, is safe, taste great & costs very little to make. Thyme relieves coughs & congestion.
4 tablespoons fresh Thyme or 4 teaspoons dried Thyme ~culinary, common garden thyme~
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup of water
1/4 cup honey, preferably raw & local or 1/4 cup maple syrup if using it for a child under 12 months of age.
Pour near-boiling water over thyme & steep, covered, for 15 minutes. strain. Add honey & lemon juice. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Children 12 months or older: 1-2 teaspoons every 2-3 hours as needed.
Teens & Adults: 1-2 tablespoons every 2-3 hours as needed.
Congestion. This is usually an excessive amount of mucus or secretions in your respiratory track. It causes difficulty breathing thru the nose or sometimes even the mouth. If the congestion becomes worse & you have difficulty breathing then it indicates that it has moved lower into the lungs. You should seek medical advice.
- Warm water with lemon & honey helps loosen congestion, and prevents dehydration.
- My recipe for colds & upper respiratory congestion. I don’t know where the original recipe came from but I have tweaked it over the years enough to call it mine 🙂 It works well.
1 cup of water
1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar~I use Bragg’s~
Juice of 1 fresh lime
Honey to taste
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne powder ~ don’t use less, even if you don’t like cayenne~
Bring the water to a boil & then add the rest of the ingredients. Let sit overnight before using. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. I prefer to use it warm. Take 1-2 tablespoons as needed. For children over the age of 4, 1 teaspoon as needed. It is quite spicy!
- Fire Cider. There are many versions of fire cider. I use Rosemary Gladstar’s. This is an immune enhancer, can be used for digestive problems, sinus infection & congestion!
3-4 Tablespoons fresh horse radish root grated
1 medium onion chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic coursley chopped
3-4 tablespoons freshly grated gingerroot
Honey to taste
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
unfiltered apple cider vinegar~I use Bragg’s~
Combine the onion, garlic, ginger & horseradish in a wide mouthed glass quart jar. Add enough warmed vinegar to cover them. Place it in a warm spot & let it sit for 3-4 weeks. Strain, & add the honey & cayenne. It should taste lively, hot, pungent & sweet.
Take 1-2 teaspoons at the first sign of a cold & repeat every 3-4 hours until symptoms subside.
Cold Remedies. Fire Cider ~above~ & Honey-Onion Syrup are to fight off a cold. You can use either of them at the first sign of a cold or if you are already suffering from one.
- Honey-Onion Syrup for Colds. Rosemary Gladstar shared this old fashioned recipe for sore throats & colds.
2-4 large onions sliced into thin half-moons & place in a deep pan. Just barely cover the onion slices with honey.
Warm on the stove over a very low heat until the onions are soft & somewhat mushy & the honey tastes strongly of onion.
You can add chopped garlic if you want for an even stronger syrup: stronger medicinally & tasting!
At the first sign of a cold take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon every hour or two until you feel better. If you already have a cold then take 1 teaspoon 3-4 times a day to speed your recovery.
- Chicken Soup: Studies of homemade chicken soup to cure or limit a cold have shown that it acts as an anti-inflammatory. It also speeds up the movement of mucus through the nose. This can relieve congestion & prevent dehydration. Homemade is the best but if you buy an organic canned soup then check the list of ingredients. Here are two websites with both vegetarian & non-vegetarian immune boosting soups.
Super Soups: Vegetarian Times “Nearly every culture turns to soup to heal, nourish, and soothe. Whether you’re battling a bad cold or the stomach flu, the food that can always comfort and nourish is soup. “Soups are warm and easy to take,” says Andrew Weil, MD, director of the University of Arizona’s Integrative Medicine Program. “They’re an excellent way to get nutrients, and they provide good associations for people.” Research confirms the health-giving properties of these home remedies and their active ingredients. Try these healing soup recipes from all over the world to ward off illness or just warm up a chilly weeknight supper.”
8 Sustainable, Feel-Better Soups for Flu Season “When you’re under the weather, nothing helps like a bowl of wholesome, homemade soup.”
Fever. If you have a fever of 103 or higher & it lasts more than 3 days you should consult your health team. A fever means a healthy immune system. It is telling your body to raise the heat to defend itself. You don’t need to treat the fever. You need to treat whatever is causing the fever. Support the body during the time you have the fever by doing the following.
- Hydrate. It is easy to become dehydrated when you have a fever. Water, juice, & healthy broths. Avoid alcohol, coffee and caffeinated drinks. Chamomile & or Lemon Balm tea are calming & hydrating.
- Rest. Sleep does wonders when you are ill.
- Nourishment. Healthy broths & soups ~see chicken soup above~
- Cool down. Wear light clothes. Taking a tepid, not cold, bath can help as long as you wrap up in a towel after the bath to avoid being too chilled.
If you have any questions or you have a family remedy you would like to share, email me! I would love to collect some old family herbal remedies.
A follow-up note for breast cancer patients suffering from hot flashes &/or night sweats….our fellow NUT, Terrie, shared this article in Cure with me. Acupuncture Could Cool Hot Flashes in Breast Cancer Survivors Thank you Terrie!
- Healthy at Home: Get Well and Stay Well Without Prescriptions by Tieraona Low Dog, M.D.
- Medicinal Herbs: A Beginners Guide by Rosemary Gladstar
- Learning Herbs: A wonderful place to start if you are interested in herbal medicines.
- Rosemary Gladstar: Sage Mountain: For the more serious herbalists among you.
*** If your sore throat or cough is severe, persists for more than 2 days, is accompanied or followed by fever (103 or higher & lasts more than 3 days), headache, rash, swelling, nausea, or vomiting, call your health care team. This may be more than a cold or a mild case of the flu.