Medicinal herbs from your own garden are often the first port of call for treating cold and flu symptoms. Here are our tips on the best herbs for coughs and colds.
As soon as temperatures start to drop outside, the cold and flu season begins. So you better be prepared! Plants that grow in our own gardens can be used to make home remedies to relieve mild symptoms.
As well as bringing the taste of the Mediterranean to your cooking, thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a great herbal remedy for coughs, as the thymol contained in thyme essential oil has a disinfecting and expectorant effect. Thyme tea can be consumed or gargled – a mouthwash can be made from a mixture of water and a few drops of thyme oil. For the steam inhalation method, simply add two drops of thyme oil to one litre of hot water. A cold bath with thyme is also another beneficial treatment for a cold. The oil should always be used sparingly, as it can irritate the mucous membranes in too high a concentration.
Chamomile has multiple benefits in the medicine cabinet and is very simple to use. Chamomile flowers are particularly effective as they are packed with essential oils, around 0.3 to 1.5%. These have an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and soothing effect. The chamomile is a great herbal medicine for relieving irritation caused by coughing and for loosening stubborn mucus. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) is ideal for medicinal purposes, but Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) can also be used. The most common and simplest use of chamomile against colds is in the form of chamomile tea, which is good for sore throats. Alternatively, it can be used as a mouthwash. The soothing effect relieves inflammation in the mouth and throat. Inhaling chamomile is even more effective than chamomile tea, as the ingredients go directly into the lungs and it moistens the mucous membranes. To find out more about the beneficial effects of this herb, read our article on the use of chamomile as a medicinal plant.
The flowers and fruits of elder (Sambucus) assist in the process of sweating out colds that have settled in the sinuses or bronchi. They contain essential oils, flavonoids and vitamin C, which is important for the immune system. Cold symptoms can be treated with tea or an infusion. In addition, elderberry juice strengthens the immune system, and the juice of the fruit helps relieve headaches and general aches and pains.
Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata) is a popular herbal remedy for coughs and colds, if only because the herb can be found almost everywhere. The mucilage it contains soothes irritated and dry mucous membranes. What’s more, ribwort has an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect. It can be consumed as a tea made from dried leaves, either for drinking or gargling.
The mucilage and tannins, essential oils and flavonoids contained in sage (Salvia officinalis) have an antibacterial and antiviral effect. They also protect the mucous membranes from drying out. For coughs and sore throats, sage lozenges can relieve the irritation and urge to cough. If you have a persistent cough, you can drink sage tea to soothe a sore throat or gargle it. If your sinuses become inflamed, it is also beneficial to inhale sage steam.
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Linden flowers are mainly used as a herbal tea for sore throats and coughs. Note: the recommended daily dose of 2 to 4g should not be exceeded. The mucilage contained in the flowers relieves the irritation that arises with coughing and protects the mucous membranes. The diaphoretic effect of linden flower tea helps to sweat out the infection. Linden flower is also often taken by steam inhalation. The large-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos) and the small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) are suitable for use in home remedies. The best time to collect linden flowers is in June and July, a few days after the trees begin to bloom.
Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is not only used to produce liquorice sweets but is also said to help treat the common cold. Among other things, the liquorice root contains saponins, phytosterols and flavonoids. These have an antibacterial and antiviral effect. It also stimulates the bronchial mucosa to produce thinner secretions. This makes it easier to cough up thick mucus. It is best taken as a herbal tea to treat a cold. However, you should avoid home remedies using liquorice if you suffer from bile stasis, high blood pressure, renal insufficiency or during pregnancy.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is not just a delicious herb, spice and vegetable used in cooking, it is also an effective medicinal herb. Bitter fennel is particularly effective against colds. This contains essential oils that ensure that stubborn mucus is loosened from the bronchi and removed. Fennel tea is most commonly consumed or inhaled to help relieve a sore throat. Its soothing effect is also beneficial for coughs and colds. To make fresh fennel tea, crush the fennel seeds or leaves with a pestle and mortar and then pour hot water over them. Fennel oil is also used as a tincture or for steam inhalation. However, pregnant women, babies and small children should avoid fennel when they have a cold.
Peppermint (Mentha × piperita) contains essential oils, tannins, flavonoids and other beneficial substances. In addition, the menthol it contains has an antibacterial effect. The best-known use is a peppermint herbal tea for treating a sore throat, but it can also be inhaled as peppermint steam. Caution: pure menthol should not be used on small children or infants, as it can lead to respiratory arrest.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a popular ingredient in cooking and also an effective medicinal herb. Its anti-inflammatory effect, together with its ability to boost the immune system, helps to treat cold symptoms. It also helps relieve nausea and vomiting. Ginger is often consumed as a shot or cooked in food. Ginger tea is also known for its beneficial effects. When making ginger tea, you should pour hot water over the ginger straight after cutting it open, then leave it to steep for at least 5 minutes. The ginger does not need to be peeled for this.
Tip: A spoonful of honey in a homemade tea remedies not only tastes good, but also adds an additional, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect.
Whichever medicinal herb you choose – make sure you get enough rest, sleep and wrap up warm. If the symptoms do not improve or are very severe, you should consult a doctor, because treatment with home remedies should not replace a visit to a health professional.