Natural Cold Remedies: Plant-based alternatives

While natural cold remedies abound in herbalism circles, we find that very few of them are used in daily living.

This article aims to demystify herbal remedies a bit.  And encourage that process of pouring yourself a cup of tea,

to ease you and your family's discomforts during the cold winter months.

We've highlighted some videos of natural cold remedies on our Instagram account, such as this one.  Below you'll find the recipe:

ELDERBERRY COUGH SYRUP - From Rosemary Gladstar

  • 1/4 cup dried elderberries
  • 1/4 ounce freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • honey

natural cold remedies


  • Combine the elderberries with ¼ cup of water in a large soup pot and simmer until soft. Strain out the pulp, reserving the liquid. Compost the solids and return the liquid to the pot.
  • Add the ginger and cloves and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid reduces to about half its original volume.
  • Pour the juice into a measuring cup and note its volume, then return to the pot. Add the same amount of honey and stir until thoroughly combined.
  • Let cool, then bottle. Store in the refrigerator, and use within 12 weeks.

To Use: To treat or fight off a cold or flu, take 1 to 2 tablespoons several times throughout the day.

Now before you are tempted to think that every remedy I post on here will work instantaneously and for your specific type of cold... a disclaimer:

I am not a medical doctor, I am a gardener.

I am not an herbalist, but I do grow and use herbs.

I am is a mother who has used these natural cold remedies to shorten and sometimes prevent the onset of a cold.

This is the kind of unsolicited advice I'd give you if you were over for a playdate and I noticed that your little one had the sniffles.  I would pour you a cup of the following teas.

natural cold remedies


natural cold remedies

1. just getting a cold: Echinacea

Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea or Echinacea angustifolia) is an amazing immunomodulating herb. It has been scientifically proven to increase your resistance to harmful pathogens especially at the onset of a cold.

Some studies such as these have shown echinacea increases the number of white blood cells.


Most clinical trials for echinacea occur in Germany where there is a greater acceptance of medicating using herbs.  Studies also reveal that when echinacea is introduced white blood cells more frequently perform phagocytosis wherein they eat the bad bugs up. 

According to Wikipedia:

"Phagocytosis is the process by which a cell uses its plasma membrane to engulf a large particle."

Herbalists tell us that this immune response only lasts for a few days.  WebMD says its effects last for (10) ten days.  But if you find that the response of echinacea is not enough to overwhelm a cold by day 3, then you can still shorten and relieve cold symptoms by using the remedies that follow:


shade garden onion

Gather flowers, stems & leaves from echinacea

natural cold remedies

Brew some tea & steep for 5-10 minutes

natural cold remedies

Drink every 2 - 3 hours that day, whenever you a feeling sniffly

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The common cold is known to be caused by a coronavirus or a  rhinovirus.  I've learned from my herbalism classes with K.P. Khalsa that some herbs are better antibacterials and others that work better against viruses.

Elderberry's specialty is definitely viruses.

It is an antiviral and has been proven effective against the H1N1 virus.

It's also a great cough remedy.  So if you get to the point in your cold that all the drippings come down from your nose to your throat and then you develop a cough, elderberry cough syrup is a great thing to resort to.



For the syrup, I have a highlighted video on our Instagram account that you can find HERE. But the basic gist of it is as follows:


natural cold remedies

Boil a bunch of elderberry until water is greatly reduced

natural cold remedies

Add alittle bit of ginger & ground cloves

natural cold remedies

Store in the fridge for about a week

natural cold remedies

3. after the cold so you don't relapse: reishi, A MUSHROOM

This particular mushroom is a powerful immunostimulant.  Herbalists tell us that this particular mushroom produces builds up this immunity in a cumulative way.

This means that if you were to take this daily, your immunity would be far greater after several weeks of taking this tea than it would when you first start drinking it.

We drink and incorporate reishi into our meals on the daily.




Here's a recipe for a Reishi Hot Cocoa I did for our kids and the neighborhood kids on a snow day: In a 4-quart pot

  • (1) one tea bag of reishi (affiliate link btw.  If it's available at our local organic store, it is $4.99 there.  You will dangle it on the side of the pot.)
  • (1/2) half the pot amount of water
  • (1/2) half the pot amount of whole milk
  • 1/3 cup of cocoa
  • 2 truffles
  • 1/4 cup of sugar (or use an alternative sweetener).  Kids like it sweeter but sugar makes your immunity go down because it decreases the phagocytic capacity of neutrophils.  (What's phagocytosis again?  If you're anything like me, I'd forget at this point in the blog, so I've pasted it above fo us to reference.)

Stir everything and steep for (10) ten minutes or until hot.

To make them sleepy after the cocoa high this is my Sleepy Immuni-Tea recipe...

  • Rooibos tea (loose leaves)
  • Reishi tea bag
  • 1 teaspoon chai spice mix.
  • (1/4) a quarter of the pot amount of whole milk.  At this point, I do not want to run out of milk for the rest of the week!
  • (3/4) of the pot filled with water.
  • dregs of the leftover cocoa.

Stir everything and steep for (10) ten minutes or until hot.  Pour into mugs and enjoy!


sleepy immuni-tea


To make them sleepy after the cocoa high this is my Sleepy Immuni-Tea recipe...

  • Rooibos tea (loose leaves)
  • Reishi tea bag
  • 1 teaspoon chai spice mix.
  • (1/4) a quarter of the pot amount of whole milk.  At this point, I do not want to run out of milk for the rest of the week!
  • (3/4) of the pot filled with water.
  • dregs of the leftover cocoa.

Stir everything and steep for (10) ten minutes or until hot. Pour into mugs and enjoy! 


natural cold remedies

Reishi Hot Cocoa with Spices

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BONUS:  When your cold is so annoying that you are dripping like a leaky faucet, can't speak without sneezing and only want hot drinks... this natural cold remedy is also known as "steam inhalation"

This is a remedy that my mother used on me when we were living in Germany where winters are cold.  She'd have a pot of boiling water and a blanket, and under the blanket, I and the pot would go!


But you can make that Steam Inhalation pot of water even more effective by adding...

  • 1 handful of dried eucalyptus
  • dried elderberries
  • peppermint
  • or fig leaves (according to my Guatemalan friend, Sandy)

Make sure that when you inhale the steam from this hot pot, you don't burn yourself and that you are also venting the blanket whenever it does get too hot.  This is like having a facial sauna, but it is such a relief during the worst part of a cold.  After drinking this tea, take a cue from your body's response and go straight to bed.


natural cold remedies


natural cold remedies


natural cold remedies

Fig leaves



Hopefully, this article has helped you realize that your garden is just waiting to be mined for (or planted with) these amazing natural cold remedies.  When I use my herbs, I don't just think it's the plant the supports me.  But that it's God who is supporting me by making these plants available.

I have only given you a tiny sampling of the vast expanse of the medicinal herb world.  Herbs can be amazingly easy to grow.  Here are two easy one's to grow: peppermint and ginger!

If you would like to take the next step and actually "Build Your Medicinal Herb Garden," we happen to have a workshop exactly on that topic:

Medicinal Herb Garden Workshop HERE

You might also consider joining GIY so we can help you design, implement and harvest your herb garden with fewer headaches, colds, mistakes and expenses.

Below is Rosemary Gladstar's beginner herbalism book.  It's where you'll find a ton of simple and helpful remedies for ailments such as a bad throat, UTI, achy muscles and yes, the common cold.

Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links. The small commission we receive if you choose to purchase goes towards making this gardening education available for free! We do not affiliate for anything we do not personally use. Thanks so much for your support!

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