“Get Well Soon” with Medicinal Herbs for Cold & Flu

A photo of a Small Victories plantable seed card with an illustration of medicinal herbs and the text Get Well Soon. The card is surrounded by real objects related to the illustration: lemons, ginger, a green mortar and pestle, measuring spoons

Our Get Well Soon plantable seed card features seven powerful medicinal herbs that can work together or in combinations to shorten the duration of cases of colds and flu and ease symptoms: chamomile, lemon, ginger, garlic, echinacea, elderberry, and elecampane. Read on to learn about these helpful herbs, get tips for growing them yourself, and explore four recipes to make medicine in your own kitchen!

Click here to jump to the recipes.

About the Herbs

The word Chamomile with an illustration of medicinal herbs by Vincent Frano for Small Victories with the text Get Well Soon. Chamomile flowers are highlighted in pink.

You may know that dried chamomile (Matricaria recutita or Anthemis nobilis) flowers can be helpful for anxiety and insomnia as an herbal tea (also known as a tisane). But longer steeps (10 minutes or more) can also promote digestion and dispel nausea. Save the tea bags for an eye compress that will help with eye redness, inflammation, or itching. You can even rinse your eyes with cooled tea that has no added sweeteners for the same effect.

Safety: If you are allergic to aster family plants, you may want to avoid using chamomile.

In the Garden: choose from annual (Matricaria chamomilla) or perennial (Chamaemelum nobile) species depending on your preference; both have small daisy-like white flowers with big yellow centers. It needs 4-6 hours of sunlight a day. Chamomile is an unfussy plant outdoors or in a container, and makes a great companion plant for many flowers and vegetables.


The word Ginger with an illustration of medicinal herbs by Vincent Frano for Small Victories with the text Get Well Soon. Ginger root is highlighted in pink.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is not just a delicious cooking ingredient! It also suppresses nausea and is good for digestion. We use the rhizome (underground stem) of this plant dried, candied, pickled, or fresh. Drinking ginger tea or inhaling steam from hot water with ginger (fresh or dried) can ease cold symptoms. It can also help cool your body down if you have a fever since it is a diaphoretic, meaning it  increases perspiration.

Safety: Ginger has no major safety concerns, but for comfort, keep the fresh juice away from eyes, sensitive skin, and cuts.

In the Garden: Ginger needs warm temperatures (USDA zone 7 or higher) to grow outside, but you can also grow it indoors in a pot with indirect sunlight. To start growing, you need a piece of fresh ginger (often found in natural food stores and co-ops) that’s at least four inches long and has a few “fingers.”


The word Lemon with an illustration of medicinal herbs by Vincent Frano for Small Victories with the text Get Well Soon. Lemon slices are highlighted in pink.

Lemon (Citrus limon) fruits are packed with vitamin C, which benefits the immune system and acts as an antioxidant. Added to tea, lemon juice not only adds a vitamin and antioxidant boost, but can cool the body by promoting sweating, and stimulate the kidneys by acting as a mild diuretic. That’s why adding lemon to tea can help decrease the length or intensity of a cold.

Lemon’s medicinal actions are strongest when used topically; try lemon juice and warm water for an astringent and anti-microbial gargle. The topical effect is even more powerful when lemons are fermented, which can make a potent antimicrobial for external infections.

Safety: drinking or gargling large amounts of lemon juice can reduce tooth enamel, irritate the stomach by increasing acidity (avoid if you have ulcers), and stimulate the bowels causing loose stool and frequent bowel movements. To avoid these effects of overuse, stick to 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice per cup of tea or water, and keep your overall consumption to a maximum of ½ lemon per day. You can also drink tea or water without lemon between drinks that have lemon to reduce damage to tooth enamel.

In the Garden: lemon trees come in many different varieties, and if you live in an area with mild enough winters you may be able to grow them outdoors. In cooler areas like where our studio is based in Easthampton, Massachusetts, you could grow a container-friendly variety indoors and bring it outside during the summer.


The word Garlic with an illustration of medicinal herbs by Vincent Frano for Small Victories with the text Get Well Soon. Garlic bulbs are highlighted in pink.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is another medicinal plant that we often encounter as a tasty addition to everyday cooking. Garlic has an affinity for the lungs and blood, and it has been used for centuries to address lung and inflammatory conditions. It is high in iron and stimulates blood flow throughout the body, making it very beneficial to those who are stuck in bed. However, it should be avoided by those who take blood thinners, those who have blood clotting disorders, and anyone preparing to have surgery.

When taken daily in food (at least 2 cloves), garlic may help prevent or reduce the severity of colds. It is strongly antimicrobial, which may be part of why it can help with respiratory infections. Externally, it can be applied to infections or sores, but it’s best when combined with honey as raw garlic is strongly rubefacient and can burn the skin. Garlic infused honey (see our recipe below!) is also a great way to add garlic to food or even teas.

Safety: if you are allergic or sensitive to allium plants, avoid garlic. Large amounts can cause digestive upset, even if you are not allergic. Garlic can also impact the absorption of certain pharmaceutical drugs, so avoid medicinal amounts if you are taking blood thinners, preparing for surgery, or if you suffer from a blood clotting disorder.

In the Garden: garlic is usually grown from cloves, which are planted 2-3 weeks after the first frost in the fall. Harvest bulbs in the late summer by pulling the stem and bulbs together from the ground, then dry them for 2-3 weeks before cutting the stems short. The drying or curing process makes them last much longer than the fresh bulbs.


The word Echinacea with an illustration of medicinal herbs by Vincent Frano for Small Victories with the text Get Well Soon. Echinacea are highlighted in pink.

Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia & E. purpurea), also known as purple coneflower, is a perennial flower native to North America, though overharvesting of wild plants has made it at risk in some areas. We owe the use of this plant to Native American tribes across the continent who treat many external and internal ailments with the plant (the same is true for elderberry below!). The dried tap root and flowering tops can be used to stimulate the immune system, and some evidence suggests that using the whole plant is most effective for colds and flus. Echinacea can also be used topically in throat gargles when made into a strong, cooled tea or decoction (simmered tea).

Read more about echinacea, including specific ways to take the herb, in Vincent’s blog post Peace of Mind for Coronavirus: Herbal Support for Viral Infections.

A photo of a seed card with an illustration of an echinacea plant with pink flowers

Safety: Do not use echinacea if you have an autoimmune disorder (unless directed by your health provider) or if you are taking immunosuppresive medications. Do not use it for more than 12 weeks at a time. Echinacea may be most effective if used for three weeks or less to address acute infections.

In the Garden: echinacea has vivid pink, purple, or even red flowers depending on the species and variety. It grows happily even in areas with poor soils and harsh winters, from USDA zone 4 to 9. Planting echinacea may also make you very popular with native bees, butterflies, and other pollinators!

Our echinacea greeting card celebrates the vivid blooms of this plant.


The word Elderberry with an illustration of medicinal herbs by Vincent Frano for Small Victories with the text Get Well Soon. Elderberries are highlighted in pink.

Elderberries are the dark purple berries of the elder plant, which can be several species in the Sambucus genus, including ones that are native to North America (Sambucus canadensis) and Europe (Sambucus nigra). The raw and unripe berries are mildly toxic because of cyanogenic glycosides, so do not eat them! Drying, cooking, or fermenting the berries makes them safe to consume by rendering those compounds inactive.

Elderberries support your immune system and have antiviral activity; take them as a syrup, tincture, or tea at the start of your illness and until you feel better, generally three weeks or less. You can also combine the power of elderberries with elderflowers if you have a fever or post-nasal drip. You can learn more about elderberries in Vincent’s blog post Peace of Mind for Coronavirus: Herbal Support for Viral Infections.

Safety: as mentioned above, never consume raw or unripe berries! This includes never using raw or unripe berries for tinctures or teas, which concentrate the toxic compounds.

The berries and flowers of this plant are the only parts used as internal medicine. The bark, roots, leaves, and stems also contain high levels of cyanide-like compounds and should never be taken internally.

Elderberry is only for short-term preventative and short term acute care (if you are already sick). Because this herb boosts your immune system, it also may not be good for folks who have autoimmune or immune suppression issues already.

In the Garden: elder grows best in partial shade with moist soil. It is sometimes considered a shrub or small tree since it can grow 10-20 feet high! The small white flowers have a wonderful smell and can be turned into a tasty syrup or dried to make a throat-soothing tea. Our blog post Herbs For Cold Days has more information on elderflowers.


The word Elecampane with an illustration of medicinal herbs by Vincent Frano for Small Victories with the text Get Well Soon. An elecampane plant is highlighted in pink.

Elecampane (Inula helenium), also called horseheal or elfwort, grows up to six feet tall with bright yellow flowers. The thick tap roots can be dried or eaten fresh; humans have used the roots as a medicine and flavoring since ancient times. It is an expectorant, so it helps clear mucus from congested lungs, and it can soothe coughs.

When making tea, the root can be steeped or boiled to make a decoction. It has a very strongly pungent, bitter, and spicy flavor that’s like a combination of ginger, parsnip, and black radish. Because of this, the tea is best taken with a bit of honey or combined with other herbs.

Elecampane is very high in Inulin, a prebiotic that can be helpful for the gut biome. This gut activity can create discomfort for many people as their beneficial gut bacteria feed on the inulin and produce gas. Side effects can include temporary bloating, excessive gas, and loose or frequent stools (similar to the effect of eating sunchokes or inulin sweetened candies).

Safety: if you are sensitive to inulin, avoid using fresh elecampane root; the dried root has less powerful digestive effects. You can also harvest roots in spring, when they have less inulin. In the fall, elecampane roots will have the highest concentration inulin.

Like echinacea and elderberry, elecampane is only for short-term preventative and short term acute care (if you are already sick). Because this herb boosts your immune system, it also may not be good for folks who have autoimmune or immune suppression issues already.

In the Garden: Fresh elecampane root is not available in most grocery stores, but it’s simple to grow it at home. Plant seeds in the spring in partial shade; don’t expect flowers the first year. Once the plants are established they will usually self-seed from runners underground.

A photo of a bottle of cayenne pepper, measuring spoons, ginger root, garlic, and a lemon on a green plaid cloth

Recipes: Sick Day Herbal Tea, Garlic-Infused Honey, Garlic Shots, & Elecampane Candy

Here are four recipes you can try at home using the herbs featured on our Get Well Soon card. All these recipes are paleo friendly and gluten free; the sick day herbal tea and elecampane candy are also vegan friendly.

Sick Day Herbal Tea

This recipe makes enough tea for about 12 cups of tea. This recipe is given by weight, so a kitchen scale is recommended. We’ve also included the recipe in parts so you can adapt it to  the tools you do have (for instance, one part could be one cup).


  • 2 ounces (2 parts) elderberries
  • ¾ ounces (¾ parts) echinacea root (or herb and root)
  • ¾ ounces (¾ part) chamomile flowers
  • ¼ ounces (¼ part) elecampane root (can be reduced to ⅛ part if desired)
  • 3 ½ grams (⅛ part) ginger powder
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Honey or maple syrup to taste
  • ¼ oz (¼ part) licorice root (optional)
  • ¼ oz (¼ part) yarrow herb (optional)


  1. Measure out and combine all herbs in a mixing bowl. Stir or shake the herbs to combine evenly.
  2. Measure out 1-2 tablespoons of the herb mix per 8-12 ounces of tea you would like to make.
  3. Pour boiling water over the desired amount of herbs and allow to steep for 5-10 minutes.
    Optional: For a stronger tea, simmer the herbs on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Do NOT boil!
  4. Strain out the herbs and add honey and lemon to taste.
    Optional: make it a toddy! Add a splash of whiskey for a traditional cold remedy.

Garlic Infused Honey

This honey is fantastic for cooking, spreading on toast, or mixing into medicinal teas. It can be kept on the counter for several weeks or in the fridge for several months.


  • 1 small to medium head of garlic
  • Raw honey (about ½ cup if using a 4 oz jar)
  • A clean 4 oz glass jar with lid, or other container with a tight sealing lid


  1. Peel the garlic. You can gently crush the cloves to aid in peeling.
  2. Place the peeled cloves in your jar or container.
  3. Pour enough raw honey over the cloves to cover them fully. No cloves should be exposed to the air. For a 4 oz container you will need about ½ cup of honey.
  4. Seal the jar/container and leave in a cool, dark place for at least one week before using. Two  to three weeks is preferable for a stronger flavor.

This honey and the garlic cloves themselves can be used for a variety of purposes, including Garlic Shots!

Garlic Shots

A medicinal dose of garlic that can be taken daily as a preventative and for overall health.


  • 2 tsp of garlic infused honey
  • Splash of lemon juice
  • Optional: dash of cayenne pepper for kick!


  1. Add the garlic honey, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper (if using) to a small mug or teacup.
  2. Pour no more than 2 oz of hot water over your ingredients.
  3. Stir to dissolve the honey.
  4. Drink up! Be careful that the mixture has cooled before throwing it back.

Elecampane Candy

This recipe is for those who want to delve a little deeper into plant medicines. You’ll need access to fresh elecampane root and a bit of spare time. This recipe will make one batch of candied root that will last for several months stored in a cool, dry place.


  • 1 medium elecampane root, washed and scraped (scrape the skin off with a spoon as you would with Ginger). Weigh the root.
  • Maple syrup: one ounce (by weight) for each ounce of root
  • 2 to 8 tablespoons of water

You will also need: a silicon baking sheet (preferred) or wax paper.


  1. Scrub the root with a vegetable brush to remove dirt.
  2. Scrape the skin off of the root using the side of a spoon. It’s not necessary to scrape every bit off as if peeling, but you want to reduce the amount of overall skin on the root.
  3. Slice the root into dime sized pieces about ¼ inch thick
  4. Add the maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of water, and sliced root to a medium saucepan
  5. Bring the mixture to a boil, adding more water as needed. The water helps to soften the roots and prevents the maple syrup from caramelizing too quickly.
  6. Keep the syrup at a low boil, ensuring that it does not burn by stirring regularly. After about ten minutes, it will thicken and the roots will start to clump together.
  7. Once the roots clump together, remove them from the heat and immediately transfer them to a non-stick surface like a silicon baking sheet (wax paper works, but not as well). Spread them out with a spatula and allow them to cool completely.
    Note: If you have extra syrup, pour it off into a heat safe glass container to use as an infused sugar.*
  8. Once the candied roots have cooled, they should appear sugar encrusted. Transfer them to a tight sealing container and store them in the fridge or a cool, dry pantry.

These candied roots can be eaten before meals as a digestive or taken as a cough remedy. It’s recommended to eat no more than 3 to 4 per day during an illness and no more than 2 per day as a digestive.

*If you saved extra syrup, this infused sugar can be added to teas as desired (about 2 teaspoons per cup), limiting use as with the candies.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Peace of Mind for Coronavirus: Herbal Support for Viral Infections, Herbs for Cold Days, Invasive Plant Medicine, The Story Behind the Designs


  • Bremness, Lesley. Herbs. Dorling Kindersley, 2002.
  • Craker, Lyle E., and Kara M. Dinda. Breaking Ground: A Resource Guide for Specialty Crop Growers. HSMP Press, 1997.
  • Dinda, Kara. Growers Guide to Medicinal Plants. Lowell, HSMP Press, 2004.
  • Grieve, Margaret. A Modern Herbal. Echo Point Books and Media, 2015. Botanical.com | A Modern Herbal, https://botanical.com/.
  • Mars, Brigitte. The Natural First Aid Handbook: Household Remedies, Herbal Treatments, and Basic Emergency Preparedness Everyone Should Know. Storey Publishing, LLC, 2017.

About the authors:

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.

Bee Leake is a painter, cartoonist, and zine-maker who draws inspiration from the powerful, fragile natural systems all around us. They studied English, studio art, and arts management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Their many interests include mail art, gardening, penpalling, and mushrooms. At the Small Victories, Bee is Director of Marketing & Community and has contributed calligraphy to some of our designs.

This article is copyright 2023 Small Victories.
All images are under copyright and may not be used without written permission from 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.