An Expert Herbalist’s Guide to Natural Cold and Flu Remedies

teaPlants and herbs are the basis of Lisa Rose’s life’s work. So it’s no surprise that the Grand Rapids forager, herbalist, and author of the soon-to-be-released book “Midwest Foraging” would turn to natural remedies to stay healthy during cold and flu season.

Nutrition, rest, and daily movement are the big three when it comes to staying healthy, she said. If you have that strong foundation, natural remedies can help bolster your immunity and help to get you through a bout with cold or flu.

Rose is quick to point out that herbs won’t help with every ailment. If you’re wondering if an illness has reached the point of calling your doctor, she said by all means make the call.

One of the worst things you can do at the first sign of illness is to ignore what your body is trying to tell you. Rose said allowing yourself to rest and take it easy while symptoms are relatively minor can help your body steer itself back to health before you have bigger problems on your hands.

Here are some of Rose’s favorite natural ways to stay well, which she recently shared at a small workshop held at Acorn Studios in Grand Rapids.

A cup of prevention. Mixing up your own aromatic herbal tea is an easy way to stay strong during the season. Rose shared two of her go-to blends.

Gypsy Tea: Made with four parts mint, four parts elderflower, and two parts yarrow. The mint can help clear a stuffy nose.

Nourishing Infusion Tea: Made with equal amounts of red clover, nettles, and oat straw. Rose sometimes adds calendula and horsetail to the brew as well. She described it as a “warm hug” you can give yourself.

For both teas, combine about one cup of the tea mix to three cups water and boil until the herbs are mushy. Strain into a cup and enjoy. Boiling the herbs extracts good-for-you minerals. Ingredients for the teas can be found at many health food stores and reputable online herbal distributors.

At the first sign of illness Rose recommends taking Echinacea to bolster the immune system. She also makes an elderberry elixir that can help ease cold symptoms.

For an upset stomach try ginger, lemon, or plum paste. To keep your digestive system humming, make sure to eat foods rich in probiotics and include fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles in your diet.

For a sore throat add slippery elm to tea or broth, particularly if you also have a dry cough.

To comfort a cold try fire cider. This folk recipe combines apple cider vinegar, onions, lemons, garlic, honey, ginger, and hot chilies. The apple cider vinegar and honey should cover the other ingredients and soak in a covered container for about two weeks. The immunity-boosting properties of the ingredients are extracted by the vinegar, and the honey and vinegar are natural preservatives, meaning the blend will keep for quite some time. Here’s a recipe you can try.

Rose will be at the Richard App Gallery in Grand Rapids for the Uptown Shop Hop on Dec. 4. She’ll be selling her homemade remedies as part of the local holiday shopping event. Stop by to chat her up about other natural strategies she uses to stay well. Like her Facebook page to learn about upcoming workshops.

Photo credit: Daniel Go



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