Herbs for Colds, Flu and Coughs

Coughs, colds and 'fluThis time of year there are plenty of bugs going round and every other person is coughing and sneezing. To help prevent infection, making sure you eat plenty of fruit and vegetables will give your immune system the nutrients and antioxidants it needs to fight things off. The immune system particularly needs zinc to function well and this is destroyed by stress, so looking after yourself and doing stress-reducing activities like exercise, meditation or anything you find relaxing will help. As viruses are often transmitted by skin contact, washing your hands regularly will also help prevent the spreading of colds and flu.

If it’s too late for prevention, there are many herbs that can be used to treat colds, ‘flu and coughs – to reduce how much you suffer from the symptoms and speed up recovery. Nature’s dispensary has herbs to help support the immune system helping to fight off infection, herbs to help reduce nasal congestion and to alleviate cold symptoms, herbs to help the body deal with fever, and to help with aches and pains. There are also many herbs to help with coughs: demulcents to soothe irritation, expectorants to help loosen and bring phlegm up, herbs that have antiseptic actions helping to get rid of the infection, and herbs to open the airways or reduce spasm helping to make you feel more comfortable.

At Brighton Apothecary we have several herbs that have been traditionally used for many years that our practitioners have as their “go to” herbs for cough and colds. Here are some of our favourites:

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum): Traditionally used by American Indians for respiratory tract infections this fantastic herb incorporates several actions. Boneset supports the immune system helping to fight off infection, is a decongestant helping to reduce nasal catarrh and is very good at lowering fever.



Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea or angustifolia): Helps to support the immune system and works to assist the lymphatic system, which works in conjunction with immune system.

Elecampane (Inula helenium): A great herb for all types of cough; working as an expectorant to bring phlegm up whilst having an antispasmodic action helping to reduce spasmodic coughing. As an antibacterial, elecampane also helps to get rid of the infection. This amazing herb was traditionally used to treat consumption (tuberculosis).

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): Helps to support the immune system with high levels of vitamin C and antioxidants, and has been shown in trials to shorten the duration of influenza.

Elderflower (Sambucus nigra): Tones the mucous membranes helping to reduce nasal catarrh and congestion. Also helps to lower fever.

Marshmallow (Altheae officinalis): The leaf is principally used to treat the lungs. Marshmallow is a soothing demulcent and is particularly useful for dry, irritating coughs.

Plantain (Plantago officinalis): A tonic for the mucous membranes, plantain helps by reducing nasal catarrh but also helps to reduce catarrh in the lungs whilst soothing the membranes lining the bronchioles (these are small tubes in the lungs). This makes plantain useful in treating any cough, from dry irritated coughs to a chesty, productive cough. It is also mildly antibacterial.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Powerfully antimicrobial, thyme can help to fight infection, be it viral or antibacterial. Antispasmodic and helping to open the airways whilst also having a significant expectorant action helping to loosen and remove phlegm.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): A warming diaphoretic (lowers fever by inducing sweating), which also helps to alleviate the aches and pains that often accompany a cold or influenza.

Our qualified herbalists are always happy to advise which herbs would be best for you.


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