Wild Medicine for the Cold Season

Lemon Balm

Cold and flu season is in full swing and it seems like everybody I know is sick right now, all across the country, from Maryland to Oregon. In case it’s affecting you or someone you know, too, I thought I’d share my favorite remedy. This has worked for me and for more friends and neighbors than I can count. I usually see significant results within 24 hours and full or near-full recovery within two to three days.

My Kickass Antiviral Tea is dried wild leaves of:
* Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis
* Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis
* Mullein, Verbascum thapsus

Tinctures I include:
* Oregon grape root, Mahonia spp. <– for general ickiness
* Elderberry, Sambucus nigra <– specifically for flu

Optional additions:
* Yarrow (tea leaves or tincture), Achillea millefolium <– for colds
* Pine (needles for tea), Pinus spp. <– for colds
* Wild cherry (bark tincture), Prunus virginiana <– for sore throat
* Lemon juice (fresh squeezed from an organic fruit)
* Honey, ideally local and organic

I generally drink some version of the above tea 3 to 4 times a day and include 2 droppersful of the tincture per cup.

If you have a favorite herbal remedy for cold and flu, post it below — I’m interested!

Please share this post.

Then explore many more wild plants on the Search Plants! page.

20 thoughts on “Wild Medicine for the Cold Season

    • to make the candy i make a strong decoction of pounded coltsfoot leaves and licorice root then reduce the resulting liquid as much as possible by boiling before adding sugar and boiling to the hardball stage. pour onto an oiled surface and allow to set.

  1. Pingback: California Poppy & Lemon Balm: Wild Herbal Sedatives « First Ways

  2. hello there. i haven’t commented in a very long time, but i made something delightful recently and thought i’d share.

    we’ve kept ourselves well all winter with taking elderberry syrup as a tonic. since it’s been such a big hit for my family, i decided to make a different kind of syrup…


    1 part california wild rosehips (mine were freshly collected)
    2 parts water
    orange zest (i used 1/2 tsp per 1 cup water)

    raw honey (3/4 c honey to 1 cup decoction) — ADD ONLY AFTER MIXTURE HAS SIMMERED AND COOLED

    i gently simmered the rosehips for an hour, and then let cool. i strained the decoction while it was still warm (but not hot, to keep the honey raw) and then added the honey. it’s kept in a jar in the fridge. we take 1 T per adult per day and 1 tsp per kid…with tonics we take a break from them once a week, and then resume.

    i’m sure you and your readers know that rosehips are super high in vitamin c, plus raw honey is ace. it’s so yummy, it’s hard not to drink it down all at once! enjoy, and as always, thank you for such a rad blog.

  3. For early-stage cold, I like to use the traditional Chinese recipe of scallions and ginger:

    white part of 1-2 scallions, chopped
    2-3 slices of ginger

    Boil ginger in 1 to 1-1/2 cups water for 5-10 minutes.
    Add scallions during the last minute, or so, of cooking.
    May add a pinch of brown sugar.

    Drink and enjoy.

  4. And I can attest to the antiviral tea. I was really hit by a BIG NASTY COLD BUG and started drinking the tea a few times a day and honestly within 2 days, I was MUCH better. The cold was not gone entirely, but it got better. OTher folks I know with the same cold were totally devastated by it and it took a week or more for them to feel human again.

  5. Great post as I have been sick more than usual recently. I’ve been using spruce and fir needle tea with echinacea and dandelion tinctures. Great to know about other options, I’ll have to try adding my yarrow tincture!

  6. okay. okay.
    everyone knows this already, but here it is again.
    the cure for the common cold (and everything) is LOVE;
    learning to LOVE in all thoughts words feelings and deeds.
    okay. so what do we do if and when we get sick?
    0) find a temporary ‘cure’. e.g. wonderful plant ‘remedies’:
    “Plants are Power. Seeds are Wealth. Both are Sacred. Both are Mysteries.”–pvq
    “Let your food be your medicine, and your medicine be your food.”–Hippocrates
    1) recognize-discover what got us sick in the first place.
    2) do not do it again.
    3) do things which do not get us sick.
    4) right-diet; right-livelihood, right-behavior
    (one can search within or the inter-net for whatever this may mean).
    “Fail to prepare: Prepare to fail.”–Benjamin Franklin
    “Dig the well before you are thirsty.”–Chinese proverb
    apologies and many blessings all around 2012 !!!
    peace paz

  7. Matcha, powdered Japanese green tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony. Its health benefits extend well beyond a sickness remedy, as you benefit from both soluble and insoluble nutrients in the tea leaves since you essentially consume them in a suspension rather than in an infusion (ie almost all other teas where you only consume soluble nutrients). A chawan of matcha is one of the more pleasant ways to start my day.

    • Adam,

      Interesting point re: soluble and insoluble nutrients. It makes me think of some traditional Chinese medicine formulas that were originally designed to be consumed as powders. These days, it is common to decoct (i.e. cook via water extraction) rather than pulverize such formulas, which still provides the desired therapeutic results.

      • In the case of matcha, the biggest difference is you consume chlorophyl – really good for your skin and hair to my knowledge. It’s also not soluble, so though it is present in every tea from oolong to white, you can’t ingest it by infusing tea in water.

  8. Hay, I hardly ever get sick but I tried to smoke some herbs not long ago and it ripped my throat to pieces so I made cough lollies, I just used a hard candy recipe and I added a very strong Nettle, Chamomile, Rosemary and Tasmanian Sassafras ( Atherosperma moschatum) bark tea, Honey, heaps of grated Ginger, and a few drops of Eucalyptus & Tea tree oil, it’s nice as you finish the candy you get to chew the spicy ginger bits… I’m sure this or similar would be good if sick too.

Leave a Reply