I wrote a while back about making your own herbal cough drops to combat sore throats. And cough drops are a good start, but there are several herbal remedies you can make yourself that will help get you and your family through cold and flu season. Here are a few simple recipes to try.

Herbal Cold and Flu Remedies

Lemon Throat Spray

Lemon is a traditional sore throat soother, and this handy spray can be put into a spray bottle of any size (look for travel-size spray bottles to take some with you when you're on the go) and stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. Combine:

- 15 drops lemon essential oil

- 5 drops peppermint essential oil

- ¼ cup water

- ¼ cup lemon juice

Sore Throat Gargle with Sage (or Hyssop)

Sage is another traditionally calming herb. We see it often in recipes for mouthwashes because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Here, it infuses a throat gargle. Hyssop leaves have many of the same properties, and would work in this recipe as well.

Boil one cup of distilled water and pour over one tablespoon of fresh sage or hyssop leaves (or one teaspoon of dried leaves). Allow the herbs to steep for 20 minutes. Strain the tea, and add 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Store in the refrigerator for two to three days, gargling whenever you need some relief from your sore throat.

Cold and Flu Herb Tea

If you're miserable with the cold or flu, and you're running a fever, this would be a good tea to try. Two or three cups of this tea will help you reduce your fever, relieve sore throats and congestion, and just generally make you feel comforted. If you don't grow them yourself, many of these ingredients can be found at health food stores.

- ½ teaspoon yarrow flowers (Achillea millefolium)

- ½ teaspoon elder flowers (Sambucus canadensis)

- ½ teaspoon peppermint leaves

- ½ teaspoon Echinacea root

- ½ teaspoon Echisandra berries

- 3 cups boiling water

Ginger Tea

Ginger is another traditional cold and flu remedy, containing at least a dozen antiviral compounds. You can use fresh or powdered ginger for this recipe.

To make the tea: add 1 heaping teaspoon of grated fresh ginger (or 1/2 teaspoon powdered) to 1 cup of boiling water. Allow to steep for ten minutes, then drink.

Herbal Steam Inhalations

When you're very congested, it is a relief just to breathe in the steam from a hot bath or shower, or put your face over a bowl of steaming hot water. It helps relieve congestion and sinus pressure. It is even more effective when you add herbs to the water. The easiest way to do this is to run some very hot water into your bathroom sink, and add some chamomile, eucalyptus, or thyme to a tea ball or tied up in cheesecloth. Lean over the sink with a towel over your head (to keep the steam in your little "steam tent") and inhale deeply for several minutes.

Echinacea Tincture

Echinacea is commonly sold in pill form to help you avoid cold and flu, as well as to recover more quickly when you do catch one of these illnesses. But an even more natural way to take this helpful herb is to make an herbal tincture with it. To make a tincture, simply fill a quart canning jar about 2/3 of the way with fresh Echinacea blossoms, then pour 80-proof alcohol (or apple cider vinegar -- it won't be as strong as the vodka solution will be, but it will still work) to fill the jar. Let it sit in a cool dark place for two weeks.

To use your Echinacea tincture, strain the mixture and store in a clean jar in the refrigerator. Add a teaspoon of the tincture three times per day to fruit juice, herbal tea, or water.

Essential Oil Vapor Rub

When I was a kid, I was sick all the time. I remember my mom applying Vicks Vapo-Rub to my neck and chest to help relieve congestion. Here is a natural version of that rub. Combine:

- 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil

- 10 drops peppermint essential oil

- 3 drops thyme essential oil

- 1/8 cup olive oil

Once the oils are combined, rub them over your throat and chest, then cover up to help increase the warming effect of the herbs. This is very effective when done right at bedtime, as it helps relieve congestion and allow you fall asleep easier.

I hope all of these herbal remedies help you get through cold and flu season a little easier. This list will also help give you an idea of which ingredients you'll want to have on hand for the next cold that comes your way.

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