DIY Herbal Remedies For Flu Season


Beat the sniffles with these homemade cold-busters that address all your symptoms. (Photo: Getty Images)

by Abbie Mood, for Rodale’s Organic Life

Now that cold and flu season is here, many of us are looking for alternative remedies to fight off the germs and turning to teas, oils, and other herbal remedies. Evidence of medicinal plant use has been found at archaeological sites that date back 60,000 years, and written records describing medicinal plants have been found in Egypt and India, dating 1500 B.C., and 700 B.C., respectively.

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These simple DIY home remedies won’t require foraging through the forest (unless you want to be really adventurous), but they will require a trip to your local herb shop. If you can’t find an herbalist near you, there are some sources for bulk herbs online, such as Mountain Rose Herbs or Starwest Botanicals. There are many herbal remedies that are designed to ease the symptoms of a cold or flu, so we have chosen a few general remedies and also listed some remedies for specific symptoms.


Because it is so thick and sticky, honey does a great job of coating your throat, helping with both a cough and soreness. Honey is also antibacterial. Make this tasty and easy honey cough syrup with ingredients you might already have in your kitchen! Over medium heat, mix 1 cup honey, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 2 teaspoons of either sage, wild cherry, or horehound until they simmer. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Strain and save in the refrigerator. Take one tablespoon as needed. If you don’t have time to DIY, try Chestal Honey cough syrup.

Infused Apple Juice
This bracing concoction will remind you of a tasty apple cider, with some added healing ingredients. This recipe is adapted from Hanna Kroeger’s Ageless Remedies from Mother’s Kitchen: In apple juice, boil cloves, cinnamon, sage, and bay leaves. Cloves act as an expectorant to help loosen up that phlegm, cinnamon is known to be a natural antibacterial, sage is anti-inflammatory, and bay leaves help with respiratory problems. If you don’t have time to DIY, try an herbal tea formulated for colds, such as one by Yogi Tea.

Related: 7 Easy-To-Make Apple Recipes

Marshmallow Root
Marshmallow Root soothes irritated throats and can reduce dry coughing. Make your own marshmallow root cough drops with this recipe: Combine 1 tablespoon powdered marshmallow root, 1 tablespoon powdered slippery elm root, and 1 ½ teaspoons of honey until you get a paste. Scoop onto a plate or cookie sheet and refrigerate for a few hours until they harden. If you don’t have time to DIY, try this marshmallow tincture from Herb Pharm.


Black Tea
Caffeine has been shown to help with headaches, and black tea has more caffeine than any other type of tea. Put ½ to 2 tablespoons of loose leaf tea in a steeper and steep in hot water for 1-2 minutes. If you don’t have time to make your tea this way, grab any black teabag and go.


Chamomile is soothing and can relieve nausea and stomach cramping. This soothing herbal tea blend will calm your stomach and your mind. Simply blend these dried ingredients together: ½ cup dried chamomile, ½ cup dried hops, ½ cup dried lemon balm, ½ cup dried catnip, and ½ cup dried spearmint. Store in a jar, and then when you need it, put one heaping teaspoon in a tea ball and steep for 5 minutes in one cup of boiling water. If you don’t have time to DIY, you can find chamomile tea in any grocery or health food store.

Ginger is good for easing nausea quickly, and you can make a ginger tea simply by boiling peeled ginger root in water on the stove. You can find ginger in most grocery stores, but if you can’t find anything or don’t have time to make your own ginger tea, try ginger candy.


Eucalyptus oil is known for being an anti-inflammatory and a decongestant, and the best way to get this into your sinuses is through steam. Boil a pot of water and then take off the stove. Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil, and breathe in the steam. You may want to let the water cool down a bit so that you don’t burn your face. It can also be helpful to put a towel over your head and the pot.

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Licorice Root
Soothing for sore throats, licorice root is traditionally used in Chinese medicine, made into a tea. If you can find licorice root slivers at yourhealth food store or herb shop, try this licorice tea to soothe a scratchy throat. Bring 1 cup of licorice slivers, 1 finger length of crushed ginger, and 3 cups of water to boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, and then strain.

If you don’t have time to DIY, try a licorice tea.


Not only delicious in pies and jams, the elderberry is quite the powerhouse when it comes to illnesses. Elderberries are filled with bioflavonoids and flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants, and are antiviral and antibacterial. You can take an elderberry remedy every few hours, but it is important to note that you should not eat elderberries raw as they can be poisonous! There are many ways to consume elderberries (though not raw!), but this tincture, adapted from Healing Herbs by Tina Sams, will cut to the chase and knock those germs right out! Fill a pint jar one-third of the way with dried elderberries, and then fill the rest of the way with 100-proof vodka or other alcohol. Put a lid on the jar, and let it sit for four to six weeks, shaking daily. After that, you can strain the tincture or leave it as it. One dropper is a serving. If you don’t have time to DIY, try Sambucol, made with elderberry.

Garlic is not only great for preventing illnesses, but is also known to kill viruses and bacteria and reduce inflammation. The key ingredient in garlic is allicin, gives the plant its antibiotic properties. You can eat garlic raw, or make this garlic honey to put in your tea at the first sign of illness.

Sams recommends peeling and separating four or five bulbs of garlic into cloves, then smashing them with the wide side of a knife to release the allicin. Put the smashed cloves in a pint jar and fill with honey. Refrigerate for at least a month before using. If you don’t have time to DIY, try a garlic supplement.

This article originally published on Rodale’s Organic Life.

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