Winter coughs and colds – we all get them, and they can be part of the winter misery – the sore throat, the sniffly nose, and the tickly cough. Recently, many of the so-called active ingredients of over-the-counter cough medicines have been proven to be ineffective but there are many natural ways to treat your cough. There are probably several useful herbal remedies already in your kitchen or store cupboard.
(Do remember that while most coughs are the result of a short-term illness or irritation, a persistent cough can indicate an ongoing health problem, and if you have a cough for more than two weeks, you should see your doctor.)
Peppermint and Eucalyptus Steam
6 drops peppermint oil
6 drops eucalyptus oil
A steam can be a good way of clearing a stuffy nose. Put a heatproof bowl on a heatproof mat and pour in the boiling water. Add the essential oil. Lean over the bowl and put a towel over your head and inhale the steam. Steam treatments help sooth mucus membranes and moisturise the respiratory tract. The menthol in peppermint oil soothes the throat and acts as a decongestant. Eucalyptus helps expel phlegm, decongest the airways and boosts the immune system.
Caution: Avoid the use of peppermint oil if you are pregnant.
Peel and crush two whole heads of garlic. Crush. Mix into a pot of honey. Take 1 tsp for coughs, colds and sore throats as needed. Honey has been used for centuries as a remedy for sore throats, coughs and colds. It has been found to relieve coughs more effectively than many over-the-counter medicines. Both honey and garlic have antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Thyme and Lemon Tea
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
½ pint boiling water
2 tsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
Pour the boiling water over the crushed thyme leaves and steep for 10 minutes. Strain and stir in the honey and lemon. In Germany, thyme is an officially approved treatment for coughs, bronchitis and upper respiratory infections. It contains compounds that help relax the tracheal and ileal muscles and reduce inflammation.
Caution: Thyme is considered safe when consumed in normal food amounts, or when taken as a medicine for a short period of time. However, you should avoid medicinal amounts if you are pregnant or breast feeding, on blood thinning medication, before surgery or if you have a condition made worse by exposure to oestrogen.
Ginger and Lemon Tea
2-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and grated
1 pint water
Juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp. honey (optional)
Put the ginger and water in a pan. Simmer for 20 minutes. Strain the liquid into a jug and add the honey and lemon. Drink a cup up to three times daily. Ginger has antihistamine and decongestant capabilities that help ease colds and flu.
4 oz. fresh ginger root
2 pints water
Rind of 1 lemon
Place everything in a pan and bring to the boil, and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and to every pint of liquid add 1 lb sugar and the juice of 1 lemon. Put in a clean pan and boil 10 minutes. Cool and bottle. For coughs and colds, take 1 tablespoon in hot water.
Honey and Lemon Cough Syrup
¼ pint runny honey
2 fl. oz. glycerine
Juice the lemons and strain it through muslin to get a clear liquid. Add the honey and glycerine and mix together well. Bottle and refrigerate.
And if all else fails…
Herby Honeyed Rum
15 fl. oz. dark rum
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp. fresh sage leaves
1 tbsp. fresh mint leaves
½ lb honey
Chop the herbs and cover them with the rum in a clean glass jar. Cover tightly and leave 10 days. Strain, add the honey, and leave in a clean jar for another week or two before bottling. This is good for coughs and sore throats too!
© Anna Franklin, The Hearth Witch’s Compendium, Llewellyn, 2019