Archives for posts with tag: Common cold

An olde fashioned favourite tea that is used for sudden chills, chills from a feverish state or fevers is equal amounts of mint, elder flower and yarrow. If you happen to have a copy of Matthew Wood’s Earthwise Herbal, you will read that “mint tea was used during the terrific grippe epidemics of 1838 and 1836.”*

I would really love to know when this combination was discovered.  I would like to give you some kind of a quaint story about a particular person who looked quite hobbity, lived in a hollowed out tree and happened to come up with this recipe. Alas, I don’t have such a story.  All I know is that it is an olde recipe traditionally used for colds, flus, the early stages of a cold, fevers and chills.

Let’s look at why each of these ingredients might be helpful.  Try to keep in mind that this is not the only way these plants are used, it is not even the most popular way they are used.  I am simply outlining why this formula might be of use.  If you prefer not to use herbs for healing or if you have trouble finding these herbs, you can always try food as your first medicine.  I made a list of common foods useful for colds and flus a couple weeks ago.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is considered to be at first warming, then cooling.  It is also stimulating and drying.

Mentha piperita 0.1 R


Try a cup for yourself and pay attention to how you feel. It has a long history of use.  Even Dioscorides** put a spray of mint in his cloak to raise his depressed spirits. Peppermint is useful as a diffusive circulatory stimulant, antispasmodic, carminative, nervine, anti-emetic (in normal doses) and a weak anodyne. It is antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. Peppermint helps to relax peripheral blood vessels, calms muscle spasms and dries dampness.

Elder flower (Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis) According to the King’s Dispensary, elder flowers are diaphoretic and gently stimulating when used as a warm infusion.

Sambucus nigra - vlierbloesem

Elder flowers

In a cold infusion, elder flowers are diuretic, alterative, and cooling.  Both hot and cold infusions will help the body to release toxins.  In 1653, Culpeper claimed that elder flowers are beneficial for edema (the word he uses is dropsy) and will aid in cleansing the blood, clearing the skin and will aid the liver and spleen functions.***  Elder flowers are also antiviral, anticatarrhal and antispasmodic.

Common Yarrow, Milfoil


Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is in the Aster family.  And as such, it is considered to be chemically complex.  This chemical complexity makes yarrow a normalizer, particularly in the circulatory system or when dealing with blood.  In the context of colds and flus, fevers and chills, yarrow helps as a diuretic and a diaphoretic, encouraging the removal of waste from the body and movement of the blood to the surface of the body.  It will gently relax the body while aiding liver function.  When you drink yarrow tea hot, it will increase the body temperature and make you sweat, thus acting as a diaphoretic.  It is also anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, bitter digestive tonic, antiseptic, antifungal, hypotensive, carminative and peripheral vasodilator.

How to prepare this classic combination? Boil a cup or two of water.  Add 1 teaspoon of the combination of equal parts peppermint, elder flower and yarrow.  Let this steep for 15 minutes in a covered vessel, strain the tea and then drink. And, perhaps put on a sweater or cover up with a blanket, take a nap or read a book.  Relax!

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

*Wood, Matthew. (2008) Earthwise Herbal; A Complete Guide  to Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 345.

**Bartram, Thomas. (1995) Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. New York: Marlowe and Company, 331.

*** Culpeper, Nicolas. (1995) Culpeper’s Complete Herbal. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions Limited.


Nothing prepares one more than preparedness!

I have to admit it, there have been a couple times in my life when I have been sick and felt like sniffly pile, dripping with self pity.  I love my independence, but feeling sick can change my perception and suddenly make me feel very vulnerable and alone, even if I am not!  Nothing feels worse than being achy, tingly and without a drop of energy to do anything about it.  Luckily, age has some advantages, like thinking ahead.  Below I have compiled a list of items that I should have on hand throughout the winter.  Nothing here is new.  It is all old news and isn’t that great?  Some methods stand the test of time!  This kit is great but my small list of must-haves is not the only list of must-haves out there.  You might have a completely different list.  Please send me yours! I love researching traditional remedies because I am always finding a vast variety of solutions for any one problem.

Have a great weekend everyone!  I will be taking a couple hours to round up my cold and flu kitchen essentials!

Here are some of my kitchen essentials for dealing with colds and flus.

  • William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Soup (1865)

    Soup, soup, soup! I have homemade chicken stock in the freezer and even a tetra pack chicken stock in the pantry to make simple soups  AND I have ingredients for red lentil soup AND I have miso in my fridge ready to mix with hot water.  When I am feeling sick, the last thing I want is some tinny canned soup.  I am not likely to go shopping whilst I am in such a state. Planning ahead alleviates stress and improves my chances of being able to enjoy a simple soup on a day when my body needs a break from digesting heavier foods.  Giving my digestive system a break lets my body focus on other things, like getting better.  There are so many recipes for soup.  Here is a great one!

  • Salt.  I mix together water and salt and gargle this salty solution whenever I have a sore throat.  Why salt?  Follow this simple exercise and find out why.  On a day when you are feeling fine, go to Schwartz’s on St. Laurent and have a smoked meat sandwich.  Then walk into Segal’s just up the street and head to the back of the store.  In big wooden crates, you will find stacks of unwrapped, desiccated, salted fish.  Salt can “cure” fish, giving it a longer shelf life, partly because it inhibits bacterial growth.  If I gargle with salt water when my throat is inflamed and dealing with an infection, the salt water draws the moisture from my throat and purifies the mucous membranes.  Incidentally, “smoke” is also used to cure meat because it draws the exterior surface of the brisket together.  (Eeeew, I know, this is gross!)  In herbal medicine, plants are also occasionally cured with smoke.  But, this is another topic for a another day!
  • European Honey Bee Touching Down

    ready for landing

    Raw Honey from a reputable farmer.  Honey is fairly controversial due to common farming practices which have stressed the bee populations. If I am going to use it, I make sure it is from a good source.   And although it is up to 60% sweeter than white sugar, it is beneficial in small quantities.  Honey moistens dry throats and dry coughs.  It also inhibits bacterial growth and it is said to neutralize toxins and relieve pain.  In very small quantities, it is an appropriate sweetener for herbal teas and other foods during times of illness.  (Honey is never given to babies under the age of 2 because babies do not have mature immune systems that can tolerate a possible exposure to Clostridium botulism.)

  • Thyme is very nice with honey.  Common garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a wee herb with tiny leaves and it is quite the powerhouse due to it’s antibacterial, antiviral, anti parasitic, antispasmodic, anti-tussive, expectorating and carminative properties!   I steep 1/2 teaspoon of dried leaves for 15 minutes in a large cup of freshly boiled water.  I drink one or more cups throughout the day to deal with respiratory infections, sore throats and spasmodic coughs.  I can even take the contents of that large cup of steeping tea as a steam instead.  I place the tea and thyme leaves in a bowl and place it on a table.  Then I put a towel over my head, place my head over the bowl and steam those nasal passages.  I breathe deeply and let my respiratory system greet the goodness of thyme!
  • A not so common idea… A few years ago, my aromatherapy teacher informed us that an efficient, wide spectrum and powerful antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral combo is thyme (Thymus vulgaris), oregano (Origanum vulgare), cloves (Syzygium aromaticium) and cinnamon (Cinnamum verum).  A tea made with these common herbs and spices will also be beneficial.  I add a touch of honey to keep this combo palatable.
Brown Flax Seeds.

Flaxseeds make a nice soothing tea

  • Another easily acquired yet less utilized cold and flu remedy is flaxseeds (Linum usitatissiumum).  Check out this link to The Herbwife’s Kitchen.  Go to her section on respiratory system and you will find directions for making flax tea.  After reading this post, I started using the lowly flaxseed for respiratory complaints and I have discovered it is an amazing remedy.
  • Organic Lemons (Citrus limon).  Yes, I splurge on the $1 organic lemon and bake it in shallow dish in the oven til it pops.  I pour a little honey on top and eat as much of the lemon as I would like.  When one partakes in this yellow bioflavonoid bomb it works as a powerful and soothing dose of antioxidants.  I eat the juicy pulp and as much of the peel and the white pith as I can handle because it is all good.
  • Organic Garlic (Allium sativum).  Many people find garlic so effective that they call it an herbal antibiotic.  Whenever I feel a cold coming on, I include garlic in my foods.  I don’t have a problem digesting raw garlic, so I will use this.  It is antiseptic, antiviral, anti-fungal and an expectorant.  This is why it helps prevent colds and flus.  It is also used for acute bronchitis, asthma, allergies, sinusitis and coughs.
  • Organic Onions (Allium cepa).  Onions also have a long history of use as a cold and flu preventative because they are antiseptic, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory.  Herbalist’s like to pour honey over slices of onions and let this sit overnight.  They then strain the honey and take this as an expectorating and antispasmodic cough syrup.
  • Organic Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a good ol’ diaphoretic, which means it will help one perspire.  Zingiber is also an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antiseptic, hepatoprotective and expectorant.  I like to simmer a few fresh root slices in a litre of water for a 1/2 hour.  Sometimes I add some cayenne and cinnamon to this decoction.  After that, I add the juice of half a lemon and a little honey.  This is such a pleasant tea, you could serve it any time.
  • Tea (Camellia sinensis) is the world’s most popular beverage (after water) and it contains significant amounts of antioxidant polyphenols.  I have been impressed by green tea’s effectiveness in colds, flus, coughs and fatigue.
  • Organic. Notice a theme here?  Well, when food is your first medicine, you want the best, so go for home grown or organic.  (Not to disappoint you… but… I am human and sometimes I go for the easiest or cheapest and buy the non-organic stuff.  It seems to work alright, but many people report that organic foods are better, especially in times of illness.  I know I feel far better when I use organic foods.)

In the weeks ahead, I will share with you some of my herbal essentials like: an olde favourite that combines elder flower, peppermint and yarrow; sambucus decoction; and yes, echinacea!

And bath essentials to sweat it out: epsom salts, mustard powder, ginger, rosemary leaves and essential oils!

As well, supplements such as: Vitamin D

By: Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

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