37 Herbal Remedies For Colds and Coughs

It’s a fact of life, everyone gets a cold sometimes.  Along with colds comes cough, chest congestion, sinus infection, headache, body aches, stomach aches, and other complaints.

You could reach for over the counter drugs, or better yet, try some of the herbal remedies listed in this post.  If you can make a tea, than you can use herbs to heal yourself or a loved one.

When I have a terrible sore throat. One of my favorite hot drinks for sore throat is Marsh Mallow Root decoction.  It not only soothes my throat, but it calms my esophagus, stomach, and urinary tract.  It takes a little longer to make, but so worth the trouble.  I also love a Sage Tea gargle.

Learn to make a decoction here.  Making a great cup of tea is super easy, and I bet you already know how.  Place your loose tea or tea bag in your favorite cup.  Pour very hot, not boiling, water over the herbs.  Cover with saucer, steep for 5-10 minutes, remove herbs, and enjoy your healing experience.

You can add lemon, honey, and/or Stevia (no sugar please) for a even better cup of tea if that’s possible.

There are other ways to enjoy your herb remedies. Children often don’t like a tea, but a syrup is easier for them to take.

Herbal Syrups

Syrup Recipe

Warmed herbal decoction or tea (see above) Raw honey or sugar (don’t use honey if child is under 2) Sterilized, dry jars and lids

  • Begin with an herbal decoction or tea that has been reduced to about 1/2 to 1/4 of the original amount
  • Strain tea well
  • Add three times as much honey (in volume) to a double boiler (or something you have fashioned yourself that acts like a double boiler). For example, if you have 1 cup of tea, combine this with 3 cups of honey
  • Heat gently, avoiding a simmer or boil
  • Stir into the tea until it is completely incorporated
  • Divide smaller portions into sterilized jars
  • At this point, you can add tincture if desired, cap jar, and shake it to infuse the added medicine
  • Store in refrigerator
Elderberry Syrup

Get our recipe for Elderberry Syrup HERE

Herbal Honey

Herbal Honey

One cup raw honey 1/4 cup dried powdered or chopped herb.  Sterilized, dry jar and lidPlace honey and herbs into sterilized, dry jar and place into a double boiler over low heat.Heat for 15 to 20 minutes, being sure not to let the honey boil or scorch.  Stir, then remove from heat and cool.  When completely cooled, seal and store.Honey can be used immediately, but for a stronger honey, leave plant material in honey for  two weeks before using.  If you used chopped herbs, you can strain the herbs out if you wish.  Place the jar of honey and herbs in a bowl of very warm water, pour through wire strainer when the honey has thinned.Can be added to other hot drinks for honey.

Steam Inhalation

Steam Inhalation

4 cups of water Herbs of choice: thyme, rosemary, sage, etc. Large towel, a large heat proof glass or ceramic bowl, add a generous handful of your herb(s)  of choice.Pour the boiling water over the herbs, place face above bowl, and quickly throw towel over head. Use caution: start high above bowl to avoid burning face.  Keeping eyes closed, inhale the steam for approximately 10 minutes or more.


There are great recipes for making elderberry and other wines.  Or you can simply steep herbs in wine for a few days, strain, and drink.


Fresh Elderberry, other berries like strawberries, make great juices.  Use a juicer to extract the healing juices from your favorite fruits and vegetables.  Juice is easy to swallow with your throat is sore and easy to digest when you’re not feeling your best.  Juice can warm or cold for a healing experience.

Jam and Jelly

Jams and jelly is an easy way to take berries and herbs.  Mint jelly is very tasty, but remember they’re made from sugar, and may not be a good idea while you’re sick.  I think a honey syrup would be better.


An ointment can be made by mixing an essential oil like Peppermint, Eucalyptus, or Lavender with an carrier oil like Olive, Coconut, or Sweet Almond oil to make an ointment to rub on stuffy chests or achy joints.  You can also infuse herbs in these carrier oils and many other oils.


A herbal tea like Sage, or a diluted tincture like Echinacea or Sage can be placed in a spray bottle and sprayed onto the throat.


Throat lozenges or drops can be made from herbs such as Horehound or Echinacea for a sore throat or a immune builder.  There’s lots of herbs you could use.

Powdered Herb Pastilles


Easy to make pastilles are powdered herbs and honey.  Mix your powdered herb or herbs and add honey a little at a time until the herbs are moist and forms a ball.  Roll into small balls and lay on wax paper to dry a few hours.  Store in container.  If they are still damp, you can roll them more herb powder or cinnamon powder is great too.

Pill or Capsule

Any herb can be made into a pill or capsule.  To make a pill, mix powdered herb with honey until damp, roll in small balls, and enjoy one a few days a day.  Remember, no honey for children under two.  To make a capsule, pack powdered herbs into a vegetable gel cap.


Any herb can be ground and mixed with honey, or simply mixed with warm water and drank.  You can also sprinkle over food or mix in a smoothie.


Fill the clean glass jar about ½ full with dried herbs (be sure not to pack the herbs down).Pour boiling water over the herbs just to get them wet (this will draw out beneficial properties of the herbs.Fill the remaining part of the jar with alcohol or apple cider vinegar and stir with a clean spoon.Place the lid on the jar and store the jar in a cool and dry place.  Shake the jar daily for at least three weeks but up to six months.Strain the liquid through a clean cheesecloth.  Label your jar, so you know what is in it.  Store the tincture in a clean glass jar in a cool location. If you use apple cider vinegar, store the tincture in the fridge and use within six months.Angelica Root – is warming and stimulating to the lungs, helping to ease chest congestion.  It is also an excellent herb for digestive problems that often comes with colds.  It settles a nervous stomach and calms tension.  Make a decoction using one teaspoon dried herb and drink warm.  Add honey, ginger, cinnamon, and/or lemon to improve taste.  Avoid if pregnant.

Pick Your Favorite Herb

Astragalus Root –  builds the immune system, and is often blended with other immune system enhancing herbs.  Make a decoction using one teaspoon dried herb, and drink warm throughout the cold and flu season.  You can drink up to 3 cups a day to improve immune system.  Avoid if on blood thinner.

Catnip – is a gentle but potent sleep-inducer that calms without affecting you the next day. At the first sign of a cold, drink a warm cup of catnip tea, and bundle yourself off to bed. Catnip soothes the nervous system and can safely help get a restless child off to sleep, in fact catnip, along with chamomile, is one of the most often recommended herbs for use in children’s complaints.  Catnip is a gentle but potent sleep-inducer that calms without affecting you the next day. One teaspoon to one cup warm water for adults, ¼ teaspoon for children.

Chamomile – it has natural soothing and anti-inflammatory properties, so it helps soothes coughs. It’s also helpful to add chamomile to your syrup because its natural calming capabilities, to help you sleep better while getting over your cough.

Cinnamon – makes a great tasting tea alone or added to almost any herbal tea blend for its spicy, warm properties. The addition of honey brings out the organic sweetness of the cinnamon and complements the antibiotic healing for colds, sore throats, and other viral infections.  Chips or sticks works best and use in any tea or decoction.  Stir your drink with a cinnamon stick.

Colt’s Foot – great for winter coughs and colds.  Make a tea using one teaspoon, add honey and/or lemon for a most effective drink.  You can add marshmallow for sore throat, and anise for cough and congestion.

Dandelion Leaves and Roots

Dandelion Root and Leaves – have a cup of tea or decoction when suffering from a cold or the flu.  It may bring strength, nourishment and vitality when you most need it.  It’s rich in vitamins A, B, C, D, as well as iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, copper and calcium among other minerals. It also contains bitter glycosides, tannins, triterpenes, inulin, sterols and carotenoids.


Echinacea – start using at the first sign of a cold for one to two weeks.  It shortens your cold and builds your immune system.  Make a tea, decoction, or tincture.  Echinacea should not be given to children under 12, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and people taking immunosuppressants or with progressive systemic diseases like tuberculosis or multiple sclerosis or autoimmune conditions should consult a doctor before use.

Elderberries or Blackberries – are an excellent general immune system booster. Elderberry has been shown to be a safe, efficient and cost-effective treatment for cold, flu, and sinus symptoms for thousands of years.  If taken at first sign of a cold, it can shorten the duration 4 to 7 days.  Can be used as a tea, wine, juice, jam, syrup, ointment, spray, lozenges, pill or capsules, or powder.

Elecampane root –  a natural expectorant, perfect for wet phlegmy coughs that produce thick yellow or green mucus. Also, great for bronchial and sinus infections that are producing colored phlegm.

Eucalyptus – provides healing benefits due to it being naturally anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and a natural decongestant. It’s especially helpful for respiratory infections. Make a natural steam inhalation to help clear out the sinuses and respiratory tract using the essential oil.  Drinking eucalyptus tea has been found beneficial for sore throats, colds and flu. When the warm tea, applied as a compress, is effective in treating aching muscles and stiff joints. Never ingest the essential oil.

Garlic – has been used for centuries for all sorts of cold and flu symptoms as a natural antibiotic. Not only will garlic help boost your immunities, it is a drying herb and an expectorant, making it great for wet coughs that are producing a lot of phlegm.  It best to buy fresh garlic, or better yet, grow your own. Ginger Root –  a warming herb that has been shown to reduce inflammation, increase circulation, boost your immunities, even help to relieve coughs and sore throats, and makes your stomach feel better too. Add dried ginger to all cold syrups, take capsules, and use fresh ginger in cooking.

Goldenseal – a good choice for the later stages of a cold or flu, if a secondary bacterial or fungal infection of mucus membranes sets in, such as a sinus infection.  It has numerous uses that are attributed to its antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. It soothes irritated mucus membranes aiding the eyes, ears, nose and throat. Taken at the first signs of respiratory problems, colds or flu, Goldenseal can help to prevent further symptoms from developing. It has also been used to reduce fevers, and relieve congestion and excess mucous.

Horehound – a cough and cold remedy as well as a bitter tonic, stimulates digestion, easing bloating and gas, a potent pain reliever, a nervous system stimulant, and an expectorant.  Use as tea, syrup, and drops.  Remember those brown drops?

Hyssop –  a wonderful addition to any cough syrup. It’s natural abilities to cool and moisten, makes it great for dry unproductive coughs. It’s also a great herb to help relieve pain from sore throats.

Juniper Berries – help clear congestion so are often included in cold remedies to relieve congestion and improve breathing.    Try cooking with them instead of a tea.  Not for use during pregnancy or where there is kidney disease. If your urine smells like violets, you have been using the herb too long. Continued overdose can cause kidney irritation and blood in the urine. Use juniper berry essential oils in external applications only.


Lavender – contains compounds that are antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-fungal, which means it kills and inhibits germs and viruses. You can use the flower buds in your bath or make a small bag to tuck inside your pillow to help you sleep and kill germs.  You can use the essential oil in your bath too, or in a diffuser.  Diffuse it into the air to clean and purify the air and stop those airborne germs. Lavender also helps to uplift the mood and boost the immune system.

Lemon Balm –  is anti-viral, so the tea is great to drink if you’re feeling under the weather. The hot tea brings on a sweat that is good for relieving colds, flus and fevers and an anti-viral agent has been found that combats mumps, cold sores and other viruses.

Licorice Root – a mucilaginous herb that helps to soothe inflammation, it is great for all sorts of coughs. Its mucilaginous properties make it great for dry irritated membranes, while it’s also a natural expectorant, making it great for helping rid a wet productive cough of all the phlegm.  Use in syrups to help sweeten the flavor due to some of the bitter tasting herbs that many syrups contain.

Linden – leaves, stems, and flowers are used for colds, stuffy nose, sore throat, breathing problems (bronchitis), headaches, fever, and to make it easier to bring up phlegm by coughing (as an expectorant).  See your Dr. if you have heart problems before using Linden.

Marsh Mallow Root – its mucilaginous and anti-inflammatory properties make marshmallow root great for dry inflamed throats. It is wonderful to soothe sore throats and dry irritating coughs, including bronchitis.  Can be mixed with other herbs to make cold remedies.

Meadowsweet –  While not as potent as willow, the salicylates in Meadowsweet give it a mild anti-inflammatory effect and ability to reduce fevers during a cold or flu. Has the same sensitivities as aspirin.

Mullein Leaf –  known to be both antispasmodic and a great expectorant, making it a great remedy for deep wet coughs and spastic coughs. Mullein leaf is very effective at fighting an infection and reducing pain as well.

Myrrh – used as a gargle, the essential oil in warm water is good for coughs, sores, and the common cold. It fights the viral infections that can cause them, as well as relieves congestion and reduces the deposition of phlegm in the lungs and respiratory tracts.  The gum may be burned as an incense to clean and purify the air.  Myrrh is mentioned in the Bible several times.

Onion –great for all sorts of cold and flu symptoms, used for centuries to help clear a room of germs when people are ill, and an old remedy for coughs, colds, ear infections and more. With natural antibacterial and expectorant properties, as well as its anti-inflammatory properties, onion is a great addition to any cough syrup.  Chop an onion, place in jar, pour honey to cover, leave overnight and enjoy a tablespoon of onion honey several times a day.  Never give honey to children under two.  You can buy onions or best yet, grown your own.

Peppermint – the smell alone refreshes the spirit.  The first herb of choice for treatment of colds and flu because it acts to relieve multiple symptoms at once: congestion, headaches, muscle aches, nausea and fever. You can drink a hot cup of peppermint tea, diffuse the essential oil in the sick room to ease the breath and kill germs, and use the essential oil a carrier oil in chest and throat massages. Peppermint also makes a good additive for a foot bath and tub.

Pine – essential oil is used for cough and cold  in a diffuser, or in ointment.  Combine with eucalyptus and peppermint oils for acute cold and nasal inflammation.  Place fresh pine needles in a sick room to refresh and purify the air.

Red Clover Blossoms – used for centuries to help cleanse the body and boost the immune system, red clover has long been used to treat bronchitis and other upper respiratory infections. A warming expectorant, red clover is known to help relieve chest congestion and makes an easy cough syrup that works well.

Rosemary – Breathing in aromatic fresh or dried rosemary with steam gives great relief to nasal and chest congestion. Plus, it smells amazing. Eating rosemary is a great way to get relief too, so use it in your cooking.  Also, use the essential oil in a diffuser to purify the air in the sick room.

Sage – the tradition of using sage as a seasoning goes back many years.  An excellent digestive herb, valuable remedy for colds, fevers, sore throat and mouth gargle.  Make a tea to drink, but mostly as a gargle several times a day while sick.  Adding a tablespoon apple cider vinegar and honey to your gargle makes it even better.

Slippery Elm Bark – a great mucilaginous herb, slippery elm is great for all sorts of coughs, helping to soothe inflamed membranes.  When brewed and consumed as a tea, it coats inflamed and irritated mucus membranes in the throat to offer immediate relief of symptoms. May also be taken in the form of a lozenge.

Thyme leaf – a powerful disinfectant and antiseptic, so it also helps to fight off colds and infections. Throughout the centuries, herbalists have employed thyme preparations to relieve chest and respiratory disorders, coughs, colds, and bronchitis. The herb is antibacterial, antifungal and spasmolytic, so it fights agents that cause bronchitis and helps to quell a spasmodic cough.  Use in syrups, teas, and drops.

Vervain – a warm infusion of either root, leaves or flowers is helpful for colds fevers, throat and chest congestion with headache. Vervain acts as an expectorant to treat chronic bronchitis.

White Willow Bark

White Willow Bark – has been used to combat fevers and pain for thousands of years. Willow bark may be the oldest herb known to treat pain and inflammation.  Use an infusion of the bark instead of modern pain relievers.

Wild Cherry Bark – makes wonderful syrup will sooth a sore throat and calm coughs. Tastes great too, you won’t have to fight the family to get them to take it.  Use 2 ounces of dried herb (you can add anise, cinnamon, fennel, ginger, and/or valerian for a better syrup) to 1 quart of pure water. Simmer herbs over low heat until you reduce the liquid by half.  Strain and mix liquid with 1 cup of honey to 2 cups herbal infusion while still warm.  You can also, make a decoction by using one teaspoon and adding honey for taste.  Overuse of cherry bark can be toxic. Do not use for more than 2 weeks at a time.

Yarrow – a good herb to have on hand to treat winter colds and flu; a hot cup of yarrow tea makes you sweat and helps the body expel toxins while reducing fever.

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