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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Herbal Remedies for the Common Cold

Herbal Remedies for the Common Cold

You’ve heard it before: There’s no cure for the common cold. And while that’s true, there are plenty of things that can make being sick with a cold more bearable. Drug store shelves are packed with medicines that — to varying degrees of effectiveness — relieve nasal congestion, soothe sore throats, quell coughs or make them more productive, and ease aching muscles. Some over-the-counter medications even promise to prevent the onset of a cold, or shorten its duration.

Pharmaceutical companies don’t have a monopoly on comforting cold sufferers, though. Mother Nature has been doing it for much longer with a variety of herbs and other natural remedies. Here’s a look some preparations that will purportedly help you feel better fast:

Immune Support
Echinacea, garlic, goldenseal, ginger, honey, and ginseng are all said to strengthen the immune system, providing much needed support as your body does battle with the invading cold virus minions. Any fruit containing vitamin C, especially citrus and berries, can also help to support your immune system, potentially shortening the duration of a cold, or even preventing its onset. Take any of these — or a combination of several — at the first blush of cold symptoms, and you may dodge the bullet.

Nasal Decongestants
If you do finally succumb to a cold, you’ll need something to help you breathe more easily. Nasal congestion — in the form of a stuffy, runny, itchy, sneezy nose, and swollen, painful sinuses — is the most common symptom of a cold. Eucalyptus, onions, cayenne, bromelain, and oregano are all said to be effective natural decongestants.

Cough Expectorants
What’s worse than having a stuffy, runny nose? How about inflamed, itchy lungs? Peppermint, eucalyptus, licorice root, borage, yarrow, hyssop, cardamom, and anise can help to loosen things up in your lungs so you can get rid of the gunk.

Sore Throat Relief
All of that coughing and post-nasal drip can leave your throat feeling raw. Slippery elm, yarrow, sage, honeysuckle flower, and marshmallow root are among the most traditional ways to soothe a sore throat.

For Muscle Aches
Finally, beyond the havoc that colds wreak on our respiratory systems, they can also knock us flat with exhaustion and achy muscles. Chamomile, catnip, valerian, licorice, white willow, kava root, and passiflora can all provide some relief there, and also promote relaxation. And, really, when it comes to the common cold, getting plenty of rest is the best prescription.

12 comments

1 tricia { 01.07.14 at 9:37 pm }

Most of these herbs are not in the average home pantry, an easy and effective tea is one teaspoon of dried thyme ( the same stuff you cook with) steeped in 8 – 12 oz boiling water, strain . sometimes I add lemon or lime juice my grandson likes orange juice we sweeten with honey if we have it sugar if we don’t

2 Jaime McLeod { 02.29.12 at 10:43 am }

RD – We haven’t written about this before, so I had to do some research. Herbs recommended for topical pain relief include cayenne, burdock, aloe vera, and arnica. If you want to make your own, you could start with the meat from an aloe plant, then make a paste of it with some cayenne powder or crushed arnica. They do sell commercial arnica gel, often with an aloe vera base. Many people find it can numb sunburns and other painful skin issues. I would start there.

3 Jaime McLeod { 02.29.12 at 10:33 am }

Jeff, as noted in a response to a commenter below, “There are many ways to use herbs. You could cook them into your food, make a tea from them, make a tincture, buy a supplement, eat them fresh … It really depends on the herb, its seasonal availability, and your own personal preferences.”

4 Jeff Kendrick { 02.29.12 at 10:07 am }

In what form do you use herbs, etc., as a nasal decongestant and for lung congestion? Thanks.

5 RD { 02.28.12 at 7:33 pm }

Thank you Jamie, I do use crushed oatmeal and aloe for itch but the thing is that it doesn’t itch much…it’s the pain that really bothers me. It feels like a paper cut and carpet burn all combined and I thought there might be some herb that would help diminish some of that pain. It’s on the sole of my feet.

6 Jaime McLeod { 02.28.12 at 11:07 am }

rd-morin, Check out this article on herbs for itching: http://www.farmersalmanac.com/health/2011/06/06/natural-itch-relief/

7 rd-morin { 02.27.12 at 7:28 pm }

Is there an herb that would help relieve the pain of psoriasis?

8 Jaime McLeod { 02.27.12 at 11:31 am }

David, There is no “cure” for asthma, but there are natural remedies that can help to open one’s airways. None of these should be used in place of treatment by a doctor or a rescue inhaler, but they may be able to reduce the number of attacks and make day-to-day breathing a little easier. They include: coffee, onions, chili peppers, orange juice, peppermint, ginger, and tumeric. Limiting salt and dairy and eating enough Omega 3 fatty acids (from fish, avocados, nuts, flax seeds, olive oil …) is also a good idea. Regular exercise is probably the best remedy for preventing asthma attacks.

9 david { 02.26.12 at 7:06 pm }

i would like to know if there is a cure for asthma.

10 Jaime McLeod { 02.24.12 at 2:24 pm }

Barbara,
There are many ways to use herbs. You could cook them into your food, make a tea from them, make a tincture, buy a supplement, eat them fresh … It really depends on the herb, its seasonal availability, and your own personal preferences.

11 Barbara { 02.24.12 at 11:34 am }

My question to this article is: how, in what form, do I use the different herbs and natural remedies?

12 Caffey { 02.23.12 at 9:43 pm }

I enjoy theFarmers Almanac.I alway’s buy a almanac,every year. I collect recipes to.

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