What does your cold feel like? Do you feel hot and dry, stuffed up and separated from everything and everyone by thick mucus clogging your nose and limiting your sight and hearing? Or is your nose running copiously while you feel chilled and shivery? Treat yourself accordingly by taking care in choosing whether you want more or less warming, cooling, moistening, and/or drying.
For example, if you are cold and have chest congestion with a wet, productive cough, you might want to use an infusion of ginger root because it's warming and drying. If your cough is harsh and dry, and it feels like mucus is stuck deep in your lungs, you might use an infusion of cooling, moistening sweet blue violet leaves, or bronchial-easing mullein leaves and flowers; or if that cold and congestion is accompanied by fever and you feel hot and parched, perhaps a tincture of saponin-rich, juicy-stemmed, cooling chickweed would be just the thing. Matching the "energetics" of your symptoms (hot, cold, wet, dry) to the herbs can help you choose the herb or herbs that will be most healing to you.
All of the above herbs have anti-inflammatory and immune-building properties specific to the respiratory system, as does anti-infective, expectorant elecampane root tincture (Inula helenium) or lung-healing, cough-soothing plantain leaves (Plantago species) used as tea or tincture, or even a familiar spice herb like basil (Ocimum species). Basil is antiviral and can be helpful for any type of cold when taken as a simple tea. Antibacterial thyme (Thymus vulgaris) can be brewed as a tea and also used for a steam. It is one of the best warming herbs for healing a chilly cold with a bad cough.
You have options, so if you have one herb available and not another, don't worry; just use the best herb(s) available to you. Last but not least, which taste is most appealing to you at the moment? I've found that to be a surprisingly reliable way to choose the most effective herbs for the person who needs them.
Common Cold Tea
- 1/2 cup dried comfrey or alfalfa leaves (Since there is ongoing debate about whether comfrey is safe to take internally, I offer alfalfa as an acceptable substitute in this recipe)
- 1/4-1/2 cup dried rose hips or elderberries
- 1/4 cup dried elder or yarrow flowers
Put the herbs into a saucepan with one quart of water. Bring everything to a boil and then allow it to steep or simmer for 30 minutes or longer.
Rest and drink the hot tea throughout the day, with or without honey.
This recipe can also be made as a slow infusion by putting the herbs into a quart jar (doubling the quantities if making a half-gallon). Let everything steep overnight, as usual, and then strain, squeeze the herbs into the infusion, compost them, and gently reheat the infusion, storing it in a thermos to drink it hot all day. The remaining amount should be refrigerated.
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