Natural Cold Remedies for Congestion, Coughs and Sore Throat

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Red sage and cayenne pepper make a colourful combination with their hues of purple and red.
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Have you ever wanted to grow your own remedies, but wondered how you would go about it, or what equipment you would need? Now with Homegrown Remedies, you can learn how to grow herbs in pots and use your plants to create natural remedies to treat a variety of health complaints and common ailments.

The following is excerpted from “Homegrown Remedies” by Anne McIntyre (Gaia, 2011). The excerpts are from Chapter 3: The Remedies.

Breathe-easy inhalation

For catarrh

Inhaling the aromatic steam from a hot peppermint, thyme and nasturtium tea is a really effective way to clear the airways. Peppermint is a well-known decongestant, while thyme and nasturtium are warming and stimulating, helping to fight off infection and clear catarrh.

• 3 teaspoons each fresh or 2 teaspoons dried of thyme, peppermint and nasturtium
• 1/4 litres (2 1/2 pints) boiling water
Makes 1 1/4 litres (2 1/2 pints) tea

How to make
1. Place the herbs in a teapot.
2. Pour over the boiling water and leave to stand for 15 minutes.
3. Strain through a fine mesh strainer and pour into a bowl.

How to use
Place the bowl on a firm surface, cover your head with a towel and inhale the wonderful aromas for about 10 minutes or until you feel your nose and chest clearing. Repeat 2 or 3 times a day.

Did you know?
Peppermint contains menthol oils and is a penetrating decongestant.

Line the hanging basket with moss or a similar permeable membrane to allow for drainage. Cover the lining with enough compost to reach the top of the basket. Place the peppermint in the centre, surround it with four nasturtiums alternated with the thyme. Water regularly and feed weekly.

Plants you will need
• 1 Mentha piperita [peppermint]
• 4 Tropaeolum majus [nasturtium]
• 3 Thymus vulgaris [thyme]

You could also try…
• Inhaling oils of lavender rosemary, ginger, cinnamon or chamomile, adding them to baths or massage oils for around the nose and sinuses
• Washing the sinuses by sniffing salt water
• Omitting wheat, dairy and sugar from the diet
• Drinking teas of the herbs above or of Echinacea, thyme, ginger, cinnamon, yarrow, chamomile, agrimony or meadowsweet 3-6 times daily

Soothing herbal honey

For coughs

Honey has antibacterial, expectorant and healing properties, so herbal honeys are good for coughs and chest infections and an excellent medium for antimicrobial and expectorant herbs thyme, oregano, and holy basil. All these herbs taste delicious and are good decongestants.

• 500 g (1 lb) jar organic runny honey
• 4 teaspoons each fresh or 2 teaspoons dried purple basil, thyme, and marjoram
Makes enough to fill a 500 g (1 lb) jar

How to make
1. Fill the jar with herbs. You can use a reusable teabag or tie the herbs into a piece of muslin if you like.
2. Cover them with honey and close with an airtight lid, label clearly and leave to macerate for at least 4 weeks.
3. Remove the herbs, label clearly with name and date and store in a cool, dark place, preferably in the fridge.

How to use
Take 1 teaspoon daily in a cup of hot water or ginger tea as a preventative and 3-6 times daily for acute infections.

Place a layer of moss/padding in the bottom of each metal basket and then fill with multipurpose compost. Plant the thyme in the bottom, the oregano in the next layer and basil at the top. Water regularly, but do not overwater as these Mediterranean plants prefer slightly dry soil and feed weekly.

Plants you will need
• 3 Thymus vulgaris [thyme]
• 2 Origanum majorana [marjoram]
• 5 Ocimum basilicum ‘Purpurascens’ [purple basil]

You could also try…
• Drinking a tisane using the same herbs 3-6 times daily
• Drinking other soothing, antimicrobial and expectorant including mullein, plantain, licorice, coltsfoot, elecampane, ground ivy, ginger or rose petals
• Taking supplement of vitamin C and eating garlic, elderberries and bilberries to clear phlegm and combat infection
• Using oils of rosemary, rose, thyme, ginger or cinnamon for herbal baths.

Fiery gargle

For sore throats

Red sage and cayenne pepper make a colourful combination with their hues of purple and red. Gargling with sage is a great way to ease a sore throat and stop infection. Cayenne is also an excellent antiseptic and analgesic, helping to relieve soreness and pain.

• 4 teaspoons fresh or 2 teaspoons dried sage leaves
• small slice cayenne pepper or pinch dried chilli powder
• pinch sea salt
• 200 ml (7 fl oz) boiling water
• 2 tablespoons each honey and apple cider vinegar
Makes 200 ml (7 fl oz) gargle

How to make
1. Place the sage and cayenne in a jug then pour over the boiling water.
2. Cover and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes and then add a pinch of salt, which helps fight off infection.
3. Add the cider vinegar and honey and stir well.

How to use
Gargle with half a cupful 3-6 times a day or use the mixture in a throat spray and the pain will soon ease.

Did you know?
Apple cider vinegar makes a great medium for this gargle because it is both antiviral and antibacterial.

Fill the bottom of a medium-sized round pot with drainage material and top up with a multipurpose compost. Plant the red sage in early summer in the back, and the cayenne pepper in front, once all danger of frost has passed. Water regularly and feed weekly.

Plants you will need
• 1 Salvia officinalis (red sage)
• 1 Capsicum frutescens (cayenne pepper)

You could also try…
• Applying a hot compress made from a strong infusion of equal parts of red sage leaves, calendula petals and plantain leaves frequently to the throat
• Drinking teas of antimicrobial herbs such as echinacea, turmeric, cat’s claw, pau d’arco, licorice, calendula, burdock, or red clover every 2 hours
• Taking supplements of garlic, cod liver oil, vitamin C and zinc.

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