Winter Colds and Christmas Tummies

‘Tis the season to be under-the-weather.  Even here in sunny Florida, we succumb to winter colds (brought to us from our northern neighbors, or so we claim). This is also the time of year our tummies can churn with stress and anxiety or just plain eating too much of all the wrong foods.

Here are some of my favorite herbal remedies for sore throats and coughs and for heartburn and general gastric upset. I’m not being too specific here. These are just the herbal alternatives to the over-the-counter remedies you may have in your home medicine cabinet. If symptoms persist, seek more detailed professional advice, herbal or otherwise.

Herbal Cold and Cough Aids

Elderberry syrup: You can make your own when elder trees are fruiting (black/blue berries only; never use the red ones). Make the syrup like you would a cordial. Or you can buy commercial elderberry syrup products (e.g., Sambucol). Elderberry is also anti-viral and can reduce fevers.

Elderberry Cordial for Coughs

1 cup fresh (or dried and rehydrated) elderberries
2 cups (or enough to cover berries) vodka or brandy
Lemon or orange peel (avoid the white part, it makes the cordial bitter), cinnamon stick broken up, and a few cloves
1 cup sugar (for second step)
1/2 cup water (for second step)

1.  Let mixture sit for 6-8 weeks. Check to be sure berries are covered.  If not, top off with vodka or brandy.

2.  Strain through cheesecloth, squeezing out all the juice, and compost mark (berry residue). Make sugar water by dissolving 2 parts sugar in one part hot water. Add to strained elderberry infusion and let sit for 6 weeks. Bottle and store in a cool, dark place.

Alternate (Faster) Method

Soak 1 cup of dried or fresh elderberries in 2 cups of vodka or brandy with 1/2 cup sugar and orange or lemon peel and cinnamon and cloves. Infuse for 4 weeks. Strain through cheesecloth, squeezing out all the juice. Bottle and store in a cool, dark place.

A product found in Asian markets called Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa (a demulcent sore throat syrup) that is a thick and delicious syrup of slippery elm, honey, and a handful of other herbs including loquat leaf, balloon flower root, licorice root, ginger, and five flavor seed.

Osha Root Complex, especially taken at night before bed. This product is made by Herbs Etc., comes in a glass bottle, and suppresses a cough better than anything else I have tried.

Herbal Remedies for Holiday Gastric Distress

  • Meadowsweet tincture (Filipendula [aka Spirea] ulmaria) : 20-30 drops (nearly a dropperful) in an ounce or two of warm water. Swish around in your mouth and swallow.
  • Fennel seed: chewed, infused (1 T per 8 oz  boiled water; steeped 10-15 minutes); or as a tincture, same as previous. You can also take meadowsweet and fennel together.
  • One tablespoon of  slippery elm powder dissolved in water. This is best taken about an hour or 30 minutes before you start eating the offending foods. Or on an empty stomach when the acid starts churning from stress or anxiety. Slippery elm powder does not dissolve in water, and you do not strain it as you do other herbal teas or infusions. Add the powder to about a 1/2 cup of boiled water. Stir vigorously and add remaining water. You will need to stir from time to time as you drink it our you will end up with a final swallow of slippery sludge.The commercial  tablets are useless except for temporarily soothing a dry throat; for gastric purposes, you have to take too many of them and they are mostly sugar. You can make your own tablets with a bit of flour and honey plus the herb.  Stir together and roll into balls. Depending on your climate, you may need to store these in the refrigerator.

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!


2 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for the elderberry cough syrup. My kids always get these bad, hacking coughs that cough syrup does nothing for. In fact, I don’t give it to them and haven’t for years. This may be something that would at least give them a bit of relief.

    Too late for this year, but I’ll use it next year. Thanks!

    Posted on January 13th, 2010 at 2:19 pm

  2. Depending on where you live, look for berries to form in the late summer or early fall. That is if you want to make it from scratch!

    Posted on January 13th, 2010 at 2:44 pm

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