The Top 10 Most Amazing Herbal / Natural Remedies For Colds And Flu: A Definitive Guide
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Herbal remedies have stood the test of time, whereas many of the patent medicines currently in use have only been around for a few years - who can tell what the long term effects will be?
After much research, we have "narrowed down" our list of cold / flu remedies to 10 of the best.
The more scientific among you will be pleased to see that we have backed up our findings with numerous links to peer-reviewed scientific papers. Herbal remedies are not just folk tales, but more and more are being discovered by science to have tremendous potential!
One more tip - If possible, prepare the remedies yourself using the finest fresh, clean, carefully chosen organic ingredients! Fresh is best - and you are also in control. You can also be sure that what you are making does not contain toxic preservatives etc. - however you will of course need to be sure that you keep your preparations fresh and discard what is not used in time.
Here they are, then - in no particular order. Enjoy! (Note - the information on this page has not been evaluated by the FDA is not a substitute for professional medical advice.)
1. Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
A cold / flu remedy with a "cult following", elderberry has been highly regarded since ancient times as one of the most powerful remedies against influenza, herpes and colds - either before or during infection.
This tradition has been upheld by several very positive scientific trials - a couple of examples:
One randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial (2004) found influenza recovery times cut by an average of 4 days across 60 patients - a very impressive result.
A 2009 In vitro (lab) study also found that Elderberry flavonoids prevented infection with the dangerous H1N1 ("swine flu") strain.
Elderberry extracts are readily available online - here are links to order on Amazon:
*NOTE: Elderberry is generally considered safe but If you're collecting your own berries, you MUST know your species, because some red berried Elders are poisonous.
2. Master Tonic
The "Master Tonic" also appears to have something of a "cult following" who swear by its effectiveness against colds, fever, drug-resistant bacterial ailments and more. Proponents rave about it - calling it "a modern day plague formula....It stimulates maximum blood circulation, while putting the best detoxifying herbs into the blood.... it has helped to turn around the deadliest diseases."
This fiery recipe calls for all fresh ingredients and combines the following:
Garlic cloves, white onions, ginger root, horseradish root, cayenne or hot peppers (habanero, serrano, jalapeno etc) and raw apple cider vinegar (i.e. Bragg's).
Appropriate care should be taken preparing hot peppers - gloves should be worn and extreme care should be taken not to touch the eyes or other sensitive areas. A jar is filled 3/4 full with the solid ingredients (grated / finely chopped) then raw apple cider vinegar is poured in, filling the jar up to the top. The tonic is left for 14 days, strained, bottled and stored in dark glass bottles. Due to the vinegar content the preparation is reported to be able to be stored for a long period of time.
One thing I didn't know before researching this was that hot peppers are very high in vitamin C - green chillies provide one of the highest levels of vitamin C by weight - 242.5mg (404% DV) per 100 gram serving. (source)
Here are two (slightly varying) Master Tonic recipes with many excellent additional tips:
3. Honey Lemon Ginger Cinnamon Tea
An easy-to-prepare, soothing, fun and delicious traditional cold remedy. Use fresh, organic ingredients and raw local honey for best results:
I typically slice the lemon and ginger straight into a mug, fill with boiling water then mix in the honey and the cinnamon and let steep for a few minutes. If you wish to filter out the bits or make more than 1 cup, I would suggest preparing in a small pan. Measure the "right amount" of water by pouring fresh water in to the pan from the mugs you are going to be using - then boil the water and switch off the heat before adding the other ingredients. Pour through a tea strainer.
Belief in the healing qualities of Garlic is widespread. Most people use it in cuisine, however it is often considered to have medicinal benefits - typically being regarded as a blood cleanser, tonic and as a remedy for colds and flu.
Although often fried in food, it can also be steamed (5-7 minutes) which will preserve the nutrients better, or eaten raw if you are feeling brave! For those who do not like the smell it is possible to get capsules of garlic oil.
Despite the popularity of garlic and the tradition of use against colds, science is as yet far from convinced of its effectiveness: A UK study on 146 volunteers from 2001 found garlic effective in preventing colds, however many more recent studies are critical - returning a verdict of "insufficient evidence".
There is a growing body of research to support the traditional "multipurpose" use of Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.) for many ailments - especially the treatment of fevers and colds - but also others including migraine headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, stomach aches, toothaches, insect bites, infertility, problems with menstruation and labor during childbirth, psoriasis, allergies, asthma, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
Feverfew has been in use since ancient times, being known to early European and Greek herbalists and is widely cultivated around the world.
6. Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) + Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
(golden seal = liver / blood cleanser)
It is thought by herbalists that the combination of the two herbs together is more effective - and the popularity of the combination may be an indicator of efficacy. An article on health.com reported on one Bob Martin:
"...Bob Martin says he hasn't caught a cold in years, not since he discovered echinacea and goldenseal. For the past decade, the 60-year-old teacher from Placitas, N.M., has taken the herbal supplements in megadoses three times a day at the first sign of a sniffle. Now he only gets sick if he doesn't dose himself in time, he says. "It's been years since I've had a cold," says Martin. "I take the herbs, climb under the blanket, and I'm fine the next day. They nip it in the bud."..."
Recent scientific research into Goldenseal has found antibaterial effects: A 2012 study found Goldenseal effective against the MRSA "superbug". Another study noted that the roots and aerial parts of the plant worked synergistically to enhance antibacterial activity.
Note - Goldenseal should not be used long term. (source)
I have also included a different Echinacea recipe below (#8) together with some of the Echinacea scientific reports.
7. Ginseng (P. quinquefolium)
Ginseng root is more commonly considered as a tonic and energy booster, however North American ginseng (P. quinquefolium) is showing considerable potential as an anti-cold herb. A 2005 human trial found that ginseng, taken daily, had a both a preventative effect on colds and a reduction in symptoms -with symptoms being reported on 34.5% less days in total than in the placebo group.
8. Oregano + Reishi + Echinacea tinctures
My own personal fav cold / flu remedy: A combination of reishi, oregano leaf and echinacea tinctures in a small glass of warm water.
I usually put about 20-30 drops of each tincture, which is around half a dropper full, in around 4oz of warm (not too hot) water - 4 times per day. Tastes bitter but is worth it (warm water improves taste significantly & also is said to increase efficacy). After 2 or 3 doses (a few hours apart) I sometimes find that the symptoms have gone away so thoroughly that I forget to take it the next day and they come creeping back!! (until I take the mixture again).
My "Secret Weapon":
Echinacea, Reishi and Oregano tinctures
I find I have to take it for a few days until the "storm has passed" and then I'm all good. In the last couple of years I have found that this knocks out cold type things about 75% of the time. I have introduced it to other friends who now "swear by it". And the person who introduced it to me...? I have known her to have just one cold in nearly 4 years - despite her having a daughter in school and having a very irregular sleep pattern. She studied herbalism under a "master herbalist" and attributes her immune strength to herbs - including both Oregano leaf and other "deep immune tonics".
One thing I have noticed is that my "secret weapon" seems to work best when taken immediately at the first sign of symptoms. Just a few days ago I felt that "Uh oh, I am going down with something" feeling and immediately took oregano, echinacea and reishi. Within a few hours I was completely back to normal. On other occasions where I was not able to access the herbs right away, they were not as effective once the symptoms had "taken hold".
Oregano Leaf (Origanum vulgare) has become a very popular herbal remedy of late as people are rediscovering its potential as an antiviral / antibacterial. There are also reports of people taking it for stomach bugs with great success - and this claim is validated by the latest scientific research, which has found Oregano (and Lemongrass) to be highly effective against Salmonella in lab tests. Some have suggested oregano essential oil, appropriately diluted with a carrier oil, rubbed on the soles of the feet, though I have not tried this.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) is a species of mushroom, revered in the Orient since very ancient times, which has been found to have
all manner of antiviral and other positive effects by several scientific studies; including action against HIV, herpes, influenza, diabetes and breast cancer cells! Click
here to look at Reishi on Amazon. (there are many products, I just chose one with all 5-star reviews):
Reishi Mushroom Liquid Extract 1 fl oz (29.6 ml) Liquid
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) has long been considered to be effective against the common cold. The latest large-sale scientific trials in the UK (2012) have validated Echinacea's effectiveness in not only reducing the occurrence of colds, but in reducing their recurrence. Not only that, but adverse "side effects" were less with Echinacea than with the placebo. Recent research (2012) has also found Echinacea effective against human colon cancer cells!
Herbal tinctures like this are available in the USA through Amazon (affiliate link) or at a store like Whole Foods.
9. Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil has been well known for its antiseptic qualities for some time. It is even reported to be diffused in hospitals in Australia - which is interesting as the most recent research has found it active in vitro against some serious pathogens - notably "hospital-aquired staph" MRSA, E coli and other nasties.
Common ways to use eucalyptus include using an oil diffuser, or in steam - notably by putting a few drops on the floor of the shower (be careful not to make it slippery if the floor is smooth!), or putting a few drops in a bowl of very hot water and breathing the steam. If you have a cold, steam can help with congestion, helping clear the nose.
Some are making their own vapor disks for placing on the floor of the shower and it is thought that regular inhalation of the vapor may have a preventative effect.
Others rub the essential oil (diluted appropriately with a carrier oil) into the chest or soles of the feet, or use a home-made version of "Vicks".
I researched on Amazon and found a low cost ($6.99) organic Eucalyptus oil which had a high ratio of "5 star reviews" - Organic Eucalyptus Essential Oil. 10 ml. 100% Pure, Undiluted, Therapeutic Grade.
10. Last but not least....
... we have of course the mighty Vitamin C, highly regarded as an immune booster and assistant to the body in healing and fighting sickness of many kinds. Vitamin C is commonly known to be found in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and cherries - however did you know that it is also found in high quantities in Thyme, Parsley, Broccoli, chili peppers, rosemary and.... pine needles?
Yes, pine needles contain 4 to 5 times as much vitamin C by weight as fresh squeezed orange juice! Not that you would eat that many - but here's a recipe for pine needle tea.
The only caution typically advised with vitamin C is not to take too high a dose - as 2,000mg can cause stomach upset. My personal view is that fresh, organic fruit is the way forward.
Article researched and created by Alex Newman, © herbs-info.com 2013