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 Cold/Flu  Holistic-online.com

Herbal Remedies for Cold

Taken at the first sign of symptoms, echinacea can reduce a cold's intensity and duration, often even preventing it from becoming a full-fledged infection.

Goldenseal helps clear mucus from the throat. It also contains the natural antibiotic berberine, which can help prevent bacterial infections that often follow colds.

One of the Best Cold Remedy

For a good "cold tea," combine equal parts of elder (Sambucus nigra), peppermint (Mentha piperita), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and steep 1 to 2 tsp of the mixture in 1 cup hot water. Take it hot just before going to bed. This will induce a sweat, and if the cold is caught early enough, may stop it altogether. Even if it is too late for this it will still be very useful. This tea can help the body handle fever and reduce achiness, congestion, and inflammation. They may be taken with a pinch of mixed spice and a little honey to soothe a painful throat. 

Other herbs that may be added to the infusion include:

  • Cayenne (Capsicum minimum): a favorite North American Indian remedy: use 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) of the powder to really stimulate the circulation.
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum): use a cinnamon stick, and break it into the mixture of herbs, for a gentle, warming and sweat-inducing effect.
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinalis): grate a small piece of fresh root ginger into the mixture for extra heat.
Caution: Peppermint tea may interfere with the beneficial action of homoeopathic remedies.

Herbal Fever Remedy

1 ounce dried Elder Flowers
1 ounce dried Peppermint Leaves
pint distilled water

Mix the herbs. Place in a quart saucepan. Pour 1/2 pints of distilled boiling water over it. Cover and allow to steep in a hot place for 10 to 15 minutes (do not boil). When ready, strain into another saucepan. Sweeten with honey if desired.

This remedy drops high temperature associated with flu quite effectively. In some cases, the temperature has been reduced from 104 to 99 degrees within two hours!! According to Dr. Dr. Edward E. Shook, well known herbalist, "there is no remedy for colds and fevers of any description equal to this simple life-saving formula." More Information.

Ginger Tea
Best Remedy from the Orient

In both ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine, ginger is considered the best home remedy for colds. Drink a cup of ginger tea several times (at least 3 times) a day.  Ginger contains a dozen antiviral compounds. And it tastes good. To make a tea, add 1 heaping teaspoon of grated fresh gingerroot to 1 cup of boiled water. Allow to steep for 10 minutes. If you use dried ginger powder use 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon of powdered ginger per cup.

Children's Herbal Antibiotic Formula

2 cups water
teaspoon echinacea root
teaspoon licorice root and 
teaspoon barberry bark (or Oregon grape root)

Place water and herbs in a saucepan. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and steep for about 20 minutes. Strain out herbs. For a 50-pound child, give 1 cup of tea or half a dropperful (30 drops) of tincture daily. To improve the flavor, the tea can be mixed with an equal amount of juice. In fact, homemade apple and grape juice, unlike bottled juices, contain strong antiviral agents that fight colds and flu. 

Other Herbal Remedies

Use inhalations of chamomile, eucalyptus or thyme to help loosen mucus and heals the throat, nasal passages and bronchial tubes. Horsetail inhalations reduce swelling of mucous membranes. Onion or nasturtium inhalations disinfect. Ginkgo biloba leaf inhalations kill bacteria and heal the cells of the damaged mucous membranes almost immediately. 

Inhale steam for fifteen minutes three times daily in acute stage; when the condition is improving.

Inhale steam in the evening before retiring for a week or so to help heat the bronchial passages.

Boneset and sage help to break up congestion and bring down a fever. Take a cup of sage and boneset tea up to three times daily for three to five days.

At the onset of a cold, add 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon and ginger to 1 cup of scalded milk. Add 1 tablespoon of honey and drink while hot. This remedy is very soothing and stimulating. 

Hyssop Tea may prevent Colds and Infections.

Traditional Peppermint Cure for Fever helps to break a fever by causing the recipient to perspire.

Comfrey - Elderberry Cold and Fever Remedy also reduces fever associated with cold by inducing perspiration.

Royal Herbal Tea For Severe Colds is useful to treat severe cold symptoms.

Delicious Cold Remedy: This delicious cold remedy will get rid of symptoms of cold pretty fast. It will also clean your system.

Take a cup of chamomile tea twice daily, as needed to help yourself rest and relax.

Mullein flower tea has a pleasant taste and is good to soothe inflamed conditions of the mucous membrane lining the throat. Also relieves coughing. Put a small handful of the mullein flowers in 1 pint of boiling water. Allow to steep 15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey.

Take a soothing herbal bath with chamomile, calendula, rosemary, and/ or lavender if you are restless and irritable, . Keep the water comfortably warm and treat yourself to a long, lazy soak.

Put 1/2 pound of dried mustard in 2 quarts of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Add this liquid to foot bath to treat colds and respiratory problems.

Basil tea, made from the fresh or dried herb, may be used to encourage a slight sweat in the early stages of a cold, thus reducing feverishness. A pinch of ground cloves may also be added for flavor and encourage reduction of fever.

Elderberry may help to reduce both the severity and the duration of colds. Choose an extract standardized to contain 5 percent total flavonoids and take 500 milligrams three times daily.

Garlic (Allium sativum) appears to shorten a cold's duration and severity. Any form seems to work: capsules or tablets, oil rubbed on the skin, or whole garlic roasted or cooked in other foods. If you elect capsules, take three of them, three times daily, until the cold is over.

Important Herbs for Cold


Echinacea is believed to reduce the symptoms of Cold and Flu and helps in the recovery.

There are three main species of echinacea: Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustifolia, and Echinacea pallida. E. purpurea is the most widely used. It isn't clear if any one type is better than the others.

In Germany, echinacea is the main remedy for minor respiratory infections.

Echinacea is considered to be an immune stimulant. It appears to activate the body's infection-fighting capacity. 

There are some evidence that, when taken at the onset of a cold or flu, echinacea can help you get better faster and reduce your symptoms while you are sick. For example, echinacea significantly reduced symptoms such as headache, lethargy, cough, and aching limbs1,4 when administered to people with flu-like illnesses; echinacea administration to people immediately after they have started showing signs of getting a cold,3 resulted in them showing improvement in cold symptoms much sooner than in the placebo group (4 days instead of 8 days). In another clinical trial, echinacea was found to reduce the length of colds by about 30%,5 (the length of illness was reduced from 13 days to about 9.5 days, when echinacea was administered instead of placebo. 

Interestingly, the dosage used is important for effectiveness. In a double-blind study involving 180 people with flu-like illnesses, participants were given either placebo or 450 mg or 900 mg of E. purpurea daily.2 By about the third day, those participants receiving the higher dose of echinacea (900 mg) showed noticeable relief in the severity of symptoms. There was no real benefit in the placebo or low-dose echinacea group.

Investigators also tried to determine whether echinacea can prevent colds from occurring. The answer seems to be in the negative. In most studies reported so far, the regular use of echinacea failed to significantly reduce the incidence of colds.69 In fact, in one study, echinacea was found to actually increase your risk slightly.10  

The constituents found in echinacea was found to increase antibody production, raise white blood cell counts, and stimulate the activity of key white blood cells.1117

Recommended Dosage

Powdered extract - 300 mg 3 times daily. 

Alcohol tincture (1:5) - 3 to 4 ml 3 times daily.

Echinacea juice - 2 to 3 ml 3 times daily.

Whole dried root - 1 to 2 g 3 times daily. 

Many herbalists feel that liquid forms of echinacea are more effective than tablets or capsules because they believe that part of echinacea's benefit is due to direct contact with the tonsils and other lymphatic tissues at the back of the throat.18

Take echinacea at the first sign of a cold and continue for 7 to 14 days. Long-term use may not be helpful.


Andrographis is a shrub found throughout India and other Asian countries. It is sometimes called "Indian echinacea" because it is believed to provide much the same benefits as echinacea.

In fact, andrographis was found to both reduce the symptoms and shorten the duration of colds in clinical trials.

Those who were given andrographis19 reported that their colds were less intense than usual, reported less sick leave, they got well sooner.

Andrographis also reduced the cold symptoms such as fatigue, sore throat, sore muscles, runny nose, headache, and lymph node swelling.20

As in the case of echinacea, the dosage used is important for its effectiveness. In a double-blind study involving 152 adults compared the effectiveness of andrographis (at either 3 g per day or 6 g per day) versus acetaminophen for sore throat and fever.21 The higher dose of andrographis (6 g) decreased symptoms of fever and throat pain, as did acetaminophen, while the lower dose of andrographis (3 g) did not. There were no significant side effects in either group.

Recommended Dosage

Take 400 mg 3 times daily with lots of liquids at mealtimes. 

Andrographis is typically standardized to its andrographolide content, usually 4 to 6% in many commercial products.


No significant adverse effects have been reported in human studies of andrographis. .22

However, it is not recommended for young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease. There are some concerns from animal studies that andrographis may impair fertility.


In Eastern Europe, ginseng is widely believed to improve overall immunity to illness. It appears that regular use of ginseng may prevent colds.

There are actually three different herbs commonly called ginseng: Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), and Siberian "ginseng" (Eleutherococcus senticosus).

A double-blind placebo-controlled study looked at the potential immune-stimulating effects of Panax ginseng when taken by mouth.23 This trial involved 227 individuals at three medical offices in Milan, Italy. Half were given ginseng at a dose of 100 mg daily, and the other half took placebo. Four weeks into the study, all participants received influenza vaccine.

The results showed a significant decline in the frequency of colds and flus in the treated group compared to the placebo group (15 versus 42 cases). Also, antibody measurements in response to the vaccination rose higher in the treated group than in the placebo group.

So finally we may have a herb that will prevent us from getting the cold afterall!

Recommended Dosage

Panax ginseng: 1 to 2 g of raw herb, or 200 mg daily of an extract standardized to contain 4 to 7% ginsenosides. 

Eleutherococcus: 2 to 3 g whole herb or 300 to 400 mg of extract daily.

A 2- to 3-week period of using ginseng is recommended, followed by a 1- to 2-week "rest" period. 

Russian herbal tradition suggests that ginseng should not be used by those under 40 years old.


The various forms of ginseng appear to be nontoxic, both in the short and long term, in animal studies. Ginseng also does not seem to be carcinogenic.24-26

Side effects are rare. Occasionally women report menstrual abnormalities and/or breast tenderness when they take ginseng along with overstimulation and insomnia. Highly excessive dosages of ginseng can raise blood pressure, increase heart rate, and possibly cause other significant effects. Ginseng allergy can also occur.

Some herbalists believe that ginseng can interfere with drug metabolism, specifically drugs processed by an enzyme called "CYP 3A4." Ask your physician or pharmacist whether you are taking any medications of this type. Other reports showed ginseng interacting with MAO inhibitor drugs and digitalis. It is possible that some of these interactions are because of contamination in ginseng and may not have anything to do with the herb itself.

Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established. Chinese herbalists recommend that ginseng should not be used during pregnancy or lactation.


Ginger contains nearly a dozen antiviral compounds. Scientists have isolated several chemicals (sesquiterpenes) in ginger that have specific effects against the most common family of cold viruses, the rhinoviruses. Some of these chemicals are remarkably potent in their anti-rhinovirus effects.

Other constituents in ginger, gingerols and shogaols, help relieve cold symptoms because they reduce pain and fever, suppress coughing and have a mild sedative effect that encourages rest.


Onion is a close to garlic biologically and contains many similar antiviral chemicals. 

Steep raw onion slices overnight in honey. Take the resulting mixture at intervals like a cough syrup. You can also use more onions in cooking whenever you have a cold.


Commission E in Germany recommended aniseed as an expectorant for getting rid of phlegm. In large doses, it also has some antiviral benefits.

Make a tea by steeping one to two teaspoons of crushed aniseed in a cup or two of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Then strain it. Anise is often chewed by Asian Indians after their meals. It is also one of the ingredients used in "Indian Chai."

Suggested dose: one cup of tea, morning and/or night. This should help you cough up whatever's loose and also help you fight the cold.


Goldenseal increases the blood supply to the spleen, an organ that's the staging area for the fighting cells of your immune system. It is antiseptic and immune stimulating.

The major healing component in goldenseal, berberine, activates special white blood cells (macrophages) that are responsible for destroying bacteria, fungi, viruses and tumor cells. Several related chemicals in the herb appear to help the berberine do its job.

Take 10 to 15 drops of goldenseal in an alcohol-free form, known as glycerite tincture, two to three times a day for seven to 10 days. 


Licorice contains antiviral compounds that induce the release of interferons, the body's own antiviral constituents.

Marsh mallow and other mallows

Marsh mallow has been used for thousands of years as a soothing herb for cold-related cough and sore throat and other respiratory conditions. Marsh mallow roots contain a spongy material called mucilage that soothes inflamed mucous membranes.

Most members of the mallow family, including okra and roselle, contain soothing mucilage. One way to take advantage of this is by adding a lot of okra to your chicken soup.

Seneca snakeroot

Seneca snakeroot is used as an expectorant for reducing upper respiratory phlegm in Germany. To make a tea, use about one teaspoon per cup of boiling water. (This herb is also recommended for treatment of bronchitis and emphysema.)

Slippery elm

Slippery elm bark contains large quantities of a mucilage that acts as an effective throat soother and cough suppressant.


Use two to three teaspoons of dry watercress to make a tea for treating cold-related runny nose and cough. Or try an ounce of fresh watercress--it makes a great addition to a salad.

Other Herbs

Various herbs are said to work like ginseng and enhance immunity over the long term, including ashwagandha, astragalus, garlic, suma, reishi, and maitake.

Several herbs, including osha, yarrow, kudzu, and ginger, are said to help avert colds when taken at the first sign of infection. Other herbs sometimes recommended to reduce cold symptoms include mullein, marshmallow, and peppermint.

See Also:

Chinese Medicine for Cold

Herbal Medicine for Flu

More Information:

Herbal Medicine Infocenter in Holisticonline.com for more information on herbal medicine and properties of individual herbs including the safety.

Natural Antibiotic Herbs for Immunity


1. Dorn M. Milderung grippaler Effekte durch ein pflanzliches Immunstimulans. Natur und Ganzheitsmedizin 2: 314–319, 1989. As cited in Schulz V, et al. Rational phytotherapy. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998: 277.

2. Braunig B, et al. Echinacea purpurea root for strengthening the immune response in flu-like infections. Z Phytother 13: 7–13, 1992.

3. Hoheisel O, et al. Echinagard treatment shortens the course of the common cold: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur J Clin Res 9: 261–268, 1997.

4. Brinkeborn R, Shah D, Geissbuhler S, et al. Echinaforce in the treatment of acute colds. Schweiz Zschr Gunsheits Medizin 10: 26–29, 1998.

5. Dorn M, et al. Placebo-controlled double-blind study of Echinacea pallidae radix in upper respiratory tract infections. Complement Ther Med 3: 40–42, 1997.

6. Hoheisel O, et al. Echinagard treatment shortens the course of the common cold: a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur J Clin Res 9: 261–268, 1997.

7. Melchart MD, et al. Immunomodulation with echinacea—A sytematic review of controlled clinical trials. Phytomedicine 1: 245–254, 1994.

8. Melchart, MD, et al. Echinacea root extracts for the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections: a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial. Arch Fam Med 7: 541–545, 1998.

9. Schoenberger D. The influence of immune-stimulating effects of pressed juice from Echinacea purpurea on the course and severity of colds. Forum Immunol 8: 2–12, 1992.

10. Carlo Calabrese, N.D., Bastyr University. Unpublished communication.

11. Bauer R, et al. Echinacea species as potential immunostimulatory drugs. Econ Med Plant Res 5: 253–321, 1991.

12. Wagner V, et al. Immunostimulating polysaccharides (heteroglycans) of higher plants. Arzneimittelforschung 35: 1069–1075, 1985.

13. Stimpel M, et al. Macrophage activation and induction of macrophage cytotoxicity by purified polysaccharide fractions from the plant Echinacea purpurea. Infect Immun 46: 845–849, 1984.

14. Luettig B, et al. Macrophage activation by the polysaccharide arabinogalactan isolated from plant cell cultures of Echinacea purpurea. J Natl Cancer Inst 81: 669–675, 1989.

15. Mose J. Effect of echinacin on phagocytosis and natural killer cells. Med Welt 34: 1463–1467, 1983.

16. Vomel V. Influence of a non-specific immune stimulant on phagocytosis of erythrocytes and ink by the reticuloendothelial system of isolated perfused rat livers of different ages. Arzneimittelforschung 34: 691–695, 1984.

17. Hobbs C. The echinacea handbook. Portland, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1989.

18. Schulz V, et al. Rational phytotherapy. New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998: 278.

19. Melchior J, et al. Controlled clinical study of standardized Andrographis paniculata extract in common cold: a pilot trial. Phytomedicine 34: 314–318, 1996–1997.

20. Hancke J, et al. A double-blind study with a new monodrug Kan Jang: decrease of symptoms and improvements in the recovery from common colds. Phytother Res 9: 559–562, 1995.

21. Thamlikitkul V, et al. Efficacy of Andrographis paniculata (Nees) for pharyngotonsillitis in adults. J Med Assoc Thai 74(10): 437–442, 1991.

22. Hancke J, et al. A double-blind study with a new monodrug Kan Jang: decrease of symptoms and improvements in the recovery from common colds. Phytother Res 9: 559–562, 1995.

23. Scaglione F, et al. Efficacy and safety of the standardised ginseng extract G115 for potentiating vaccination against the influenza syndrome and protection against the common cold. Drugs Exp Clin Res 22(2): 65–72, 1996.

24. Ploss E. Panax ginseng. C. A. Meyer. Scientific report. Cologne: Kooperation Phytopharmaka, 1998.

25. Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Ginseng monograph. St. Louis, Missouri: Facts and Comparisons Division, J.B. Lipincott Company, March, 1990.

26. Tyler V. Herbs of choice. New York: Pharmaceutical Production Press, 1994.

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