Herbs for Cold Days

ELDERBERRY: The quintessential herb for cold and flu season, Elderberry is used to boost the immune system for acute situations. Taken daily at the onset of illness and during a cold or flu, Elderberry gives your immune system extra strength and has even been shown to kill the flu virus in lab tests. Elderberries have a tart and unique flavor similar to black currants, making them well suited to syrups and cordials. The berries must be dried or cooked before use and are recommended for short term use only, typically 2 weeks or less.

ELDERFLOWER: Though not as popular as the berries, Elderflowers are incredible medicine, especially helpful for sinus issues related to allergies and illness. As an astringent, the flowers tone mucous membranes as well as help to move out excess mucous. This medicine is great for reducing back-drip and alleviates symptoms like a runny nose and clogged sinuses. The flowers are also diaphoretic, to induce sweating, which can help break fevers. Elderflowers are best taken as a hot tea, but can also be taken in tincture form added to hot water. Dried elderflowers combine well with herbs like Yarrow, Mullein, Peppermint, Nettle, Ginger, and Calendula.

ASTRAGALUS: As an adaptogen, Astragalus helps your body to deal with physical and emotional stressors that can weaken your natural defenses and cause fatigue. The primary use is to boost the immune system and to aid in the fighting of colds and viruses. Astragalus also contains antioxidants and may benefit heart health and cholesterol levels. The root of the herb is used and can be added to a range of medicinal preparations such as tinctures, teas, syrups, and broths. The flavor is somewhat sweet and earthy, but not unpleasant. While generally safe for use over extended periods, it is often recommended to cycle adaptogens. Those with autoimmune disorders should consult a health professional prior to using this or other immune boosting herbs.

Herbs for Ailing Lungs

There are numerous herbs to help your lungs to stay healthy and get through the cold damp of Winter that seems to attract so many lung ailments.

WILD CHERRY BARK has been a popular cough remedy for centuries (hence modern day cherry cough syrups). Made into a hot tea blend or syrup, the bark acts as an expectorant and astringent, helping to expel mucous from the lungs and to dry excess moisture. The herb also opens lower respiratory airways and calms irritated coughing. It's especially helpful for coughing that prevents sleeping. Generally Wild Cherry Bark is used short-term during an illness in moderate doses. Wild Cherry Bark can by purchased cut and dried or in syrup form.

MULLEIN is a common lung remedy that is gentle enough for long-term use. The leaves are made into tea blends, tinctures, or added to smoking blends. As a smoking herb, Mullein cools and moistens lungs, being especially helpful to those quitting tobacco smoking. As a cough remedy, Mullein is best for dry and unproductive coughs, helping to both soothe the lungs and expel stuck mucous from the lungs. It's also used to improve lymph flow and to reduce swelling of lymph nodes. Mullein can be purchased in tincture formulas as well as in smoking blends or as the dried herb alone.

HOREHOUND may be one of the oldest cough remedies, with its use dating back to Ancient Rome and Egypt. A bitter herb with a somewhat minty fragrance, it is most commonly added to syrups and cough drops or pastilles, though it is also made into tea or tincture. The herb helps to expel excess mucous and to relieve coughing. It's also a helpful digestive. 

COLTSFOOT was once a very common herb for lung health. Today it is less commonly used, but it is still a valuable ally to the lungs. However, Coltsfoot is a low dose herb and should only be used short-term, as excessive use and high doses can negatively impact liver health. It is best combined in a formula with herbs like Marshmallow and Horehound. The leaves are used in tea blends and smoking blends, helping to relieve stubborn and unproductive coughs. The herb is moistening, soothing, and expectorant. We recommend 1/8 part dried Coltsfoot herb combined with Horehound and Mullein or Marshmallow Leaf. 

OSHA is a valuable herb for the lungs, but over harvesting has led to a decline in its wild populations, especially since the root is the part used. There are sustainable sources for Osha, however, and we always recommend using the herb in tincture form, which allows for the creation of more medicine with less herb than required to make teas. The root is anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial. It has a specific affinity for the lungs and helps to open airways for easier breathing and is said to help improve breathing at high altitudes (which is also the environment in which it grows, high in the Rocky Mountains).


About the author: 

Vincent Frano is an avid student of nature. He is trained as an herbalist with over 10 years of experience in European traditions with knowledge of Ayurvedic and North American herbs. He holds a BS in Sustainable Horticulture from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst where he focused on herbal medicines, native plants, invasive species, and ecosystem restoration. Vincent is the co-founder of Small Victories and is the lead illustrator for Small Victories' products.

This article is copyright 2023 Small Victories.

Information on this website has not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. All information is for educational purposes only. The U.S. FDA does not evaluate or test herbs or herbal products. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any illness or disease. Please consult with your physician for diagnosis or treatment.