It is time to begin to focus upon building up an arsenal of remedies to get us through the cold and flu season. Not surprisingly, these are not traditional over the counter meds but rather a variety of herbal remedies that you can concoct yourself from inexpensive ingredients not the least of which are herbs that may be growing in your yard or in the surrounding locale.
For preppers, the importance of learning to use herbal remedies is that if the time ever came when traditional medicines were not available, sickness would spread and we would be left on our own to treat even the most common viral and bacterial infections.
What are these herbs and how do you use them?
In today’s article I call upon the expertise of Sally Thomas who has compiled a list of her favorite herbal remedies along with how to make them as well as special applications for children. In this exclusive article for Backdoor Survival. Sally will list 7 herbal remedies – all of which will stop a cold or flu in its tracks before it takes hold.
Stop A Cold (or Flu) in its Tracks Before It Takes Hold
Want to know how to annihilate your cold or flu before it sends you into a deep pit for a week or more? You will be happy to know that there are several herbal remedies that can totally wipe out your viral or bacterial infection before it grabs hold of you. The key here is – BEFORE IT GRABS HOLD OF YOU!
But even if you aren’t able to stop the sickness in time, using these remedies can help shorten your cold or flu and make the symptoms more bearable (which is good too).
First of all, you need to begin listening to your body’s signals in order to catch your cold or flu virus BEFORE it gets a running start. For this, you need to be very aware of your symptoms and what they mean.
Symptoms That Sickness is Coming On:
• Are you extra tired, especially for no known reason?
• Is your throat scratchy or sore?
• Do you feel extra phlegm when you swallow?
• Are you sneezing or coughing?
Many of us don’t take these early symptoms seriously enough, but this is the key to fighting off a bug before it has you out of commission for a week or more.
Secondly, you need to give your body extra assistance in fighting the symptoms. You see, the symptoms you’re experiencing indicate that your body is beginning to fight off the germs that have invaded. If you work with your body’s own immune system by supplementing with certain herbal remedies, you can potentially ward off the sickness altogether.
Along with lots of fluids like water, herbal teas, and fresh juices as well as plenty of rest and daily sunshine, these remedies will either prevent a full-blown cold or flu attack or they will greatly shorten and reduce the misery. Either way, you need to learn how to prepare them and keep the ingredients on hand now so that they become familiar to you during.
7 Herbal Remedies You Should Have In Your Arsenal
The first and most powerful herb I can wholeheartedly recommend is oregano.
Oregano is a powerful antibiotic and antibacterial – perfect for fighting tough viruses and bacteria. I have taken 5 drops of oregano oil at first sign of symptoms and woken up completely well in the morning.
This herb is only recommended for adults and children who can comfortably take capsules, as oregano is a very spicy, strong-tasting herb. My 6-year-old son is able to take it without problem, as he is able to take a few drops in capsule form without trouble. If your child is about 5 or older and able to swallow capsules without a problem, this herb will be a very beneficial herb in your arsenal.
Taking 2-5 drops in a capsule (depending on the severity of the symptoms) can knock out a cold or flu virus overnight. Make sure to take with food, as it can irritate an empty stomach.
HOW TO USE: Add 2-5 drops to an empty capsule. Take with food. You can also grow and cook with fresh oregano. It won’t likely pack the same powerful punch when symptoms start, but it will surely keep you more consistently healthy. When first taking, add only 1-2 drops until you know how your body reacts to the oil.
HOW TO STORE: Purchase therapeutic quality oregano oil, which should stay fresh for years. Store in a cool, dark place for best results.
PRECAUTIONS: Oregano is a “hot” oil and should be handled with caution. Can burn skin at full strength. Use with a carrier oil if using externally. Not to be used during pregnancy or for very young children who cannot take capsules. Check with your health care provider if you have adverse reactions that concern you.
Note: It has just recently come to my attention that oregano essential oil and oil of oregano are different. The essential oil is much more concentrated (and is the form I have been using). If you are using the oil of oregano, please be aware that it is not as potent when using as I have advised above, but may be more suitable for external applications. Check your label if unsure to see if any other ingredients are added (such as another oil).
Gaye’s Note: For more information on Oregano Oil, read 25 Ways to Use Oregano Essential Oil for Health and Wellness.
A close second in my cold and flu arsenal is garlic. Garlic is a wonderful antiviral/antibacterial herb that I happen to love in my cooking. My first tip is to use fresh garlic as much as possible in your cooking, especially during the winter months. If you like to make soups or sauces, and garlic is a pleasing flavor to you, all the better!If you feel extra tired or your throat feels scratchy or sore, you can chew on a garlic bulb and wash it down with your favorite beverage (I usually just simply use water). Garlic is very spicy and hot, but even if you don’t particularly like the flavor it’s worth it to know that it’s “medicine” as well.
An extra by-product when consuming a lot of garlic is that it will make you smell like pizza to strangers that you pass (especially, I suppose, if you’re also taking oregano).
I make a special syrup mixture each year that was passed on to me from an elderly friend of mine. She called it “garlic potion,” so I do as well. I concoct this remedy mainly for my children as well as for my husband and me. It’s especially good for coughs that get into the lungs, as it helps break up the cough to make it more productive. It’s also great for prevention when you experience the first signs of sickness coming on and is a good companion to either elderberry or oregano.
It is very potent and strong, so beware. However, my children don’t seem to taste the strong garlic flavor – all they seem to notice is the honey (strange!) Make sure that your children are at least one year of age before giving them this remedy, as honey is said to be unsafe for those under one year.
Here’s the simple recipe for the garlic potion syrup. All ingredients offer antiviral/antibacterial properties to help your immune system.
GARLIC POTION SYRUP
What You Need:
• Fresh garlic bulbs
• Raw apple cider vinegar with the “mother” (I use Bragg’s brand)
• Raw local honey
• Two clean quart jars
• small tea strainer
• knife for peeling garlic cloves
First, peel the individual garlic cloves and place them in the empty jar. You are removing all the skin on each clove, therefore allowing the garlic properties to be released into the vinegar solution.
Next, you will add the vinegar. Add just enough to cover the garlic. I highly recommend raw, unfiltered, organic vinegar and consider Bragg’s to be the best. Let the garlic and vinegar mixture sit in a cool, dark place for 5 days, shaking gently each day.
After 5 days, the garlic will have some bluish tint to it, which is normal. You will now filter the garlic cloves with a tea strainer (make note of the level where the vinegar liquid came to). This will leave you with liquid in the jar that is a little less than half of the quantity you started with. You can discard the garlic cloves or use them in vegetable broth, compost them, or feed them to your chickens (mine loved them). If used in vegetable broth, be aware that it does leave a fairly strong vinegar flavor in the finished broth.
Next, you will add raw, unfiltered, local honey to the liquid. Add to the level where the vinegar reached. Shake briskly for 5-10 minutes, or until fully combined. Let sit on a counter top overnight or 12 hours and then refrigerate. Will keep indefinitely, but it’s best to use up within one year. At the first sign of a cold or infection, take 1-2 tablespoons throughout the day, depending on how forcefully you feel the virus coming on. The more vigorously you dose yourself early on, the more likely you will overcome the illness before you are affected in a significant way.
HOW TO USE: As above.
HOW TO STORE: Can be stored for a year or more in the refrigerator. I simply make enough for one season, and it’s usually gone by the end of the winter months. I’m not sure if it can be canned or frozen, as I haven’t tried these methods.
Elderberry is especially effective for preventing flu viruses. Before I moved to my current location, I purchased the ready-made syrup, but since I have moved to an area with abundant elderberries growing in the wild, I am able to pick as much as I need (and no one seems to know that these wonderful berries are so valuable!).
I live in Zone 5, and elderberries are very prolific here. Check to see if you have them in your area. They tend to be ready in late summer and early fall. You can keep an eye on them from spring through summer so you know where to pick when they’re ready. They grow on tall bushes along roadsides or along water areas. The flowers bloom in spring and are an off-white in large clusters that somewhat droop.
For the syrup and frozen blocks, first place the berries, stems and all, in the freezer for an hour or two. I had read that this would make the berries easier to remove from the stems, and indeed it worked well. I had my young sons help me pluck the berries, which they were happy to do.
After plucking them off, I then washed them thoroughly in a colander. Then I just covered with water in a saucepan and brought the water to a boil on medium heat. I cooked them, simmering lightly, until they were soft and the liquid turned very dark purple (almost black). I then strained the berries from the liquid and set the liquid aside to cool. For the amount not used right away, you can either pressure can or refrigerate for up to two weeks. The liquid can also be frozen in ice cube trays for single servings.
HOW TO USE: Use as hot tea with honey added, or add honey to make a syrup and take by the spoonful in about 1:1 ratio.
HOW TO STORE: I store some of my berries whole in the freezer, but I also make up some of the syrup and can it in small jars. If you freeze the berries, you can simply remove the amount desired and cook up a batch of the syrup when needed.
PRECAUTIONS: Don’t consume the seeds, as they’re said to be toxic. Some also say the stems are toxic. It’s easy to avoid both with the above methods. Make sure to pick only the dark purple, almost-black berries, as the red variety is said to be toxic.
4. Rose Hips
I like to gather my own rose hips in the fall of the year when the temperatures begin to drop and the rose hips are bright red on the bushes. Make sure to collect rose hips that haven’t been sprayed. Rose hips are full of vitamin C that helps prevent colds and flu and also helps your body fight off the germs once they produce a full-blown sickness.
I make frozen rose hip juice blocks to add to hot tea. This is especially good for children, as the frozen block cools down their tea nicely so they can drink it more quickly. Along with the nutritional benefits, rose hip tea has a very delicious, light flavor and can be mixed with other herbal teas easily if desired. My two boys (currently ages 4 and 6) truly enjoy their frequent rose hip tea in the wintertime. Provide remedies early on for your kids, and even let them help you make them, and they will utilize them readily without complaint.
No one else seems to know how rich rose hips are in nutrients, or perhaps they simply don’t want to bother to do the work involved with picking and processing their own rose hips for the vitamin C benefits. I thoroughly enjoy the whole process. But if you don’t, or if you don’t have access to wild rose hips in your area (or hips that have not been sprayed with pesticides), you can instead purchase dried rose hips for processing.
Make sure that you pick rose hips only from areas that you’re certain have not been sprayed with chemical pesticides or herbicides. I pick mine in fairly remote, wild areas from wild rose bushes.
Make sure to pick the hips when they are red but not shriveled. This would be in late summer, early fall when temperatures are cooling somewhat but no hard freeze has occurred. I picked mine in late August in the Northwest US.
Making Rose Hip “Juice”
The next thing you want to do after harvesting is to remove the blossom ends and stems of all the rose hips. The blossom end is the leafy-looking end where the bloom once was. Be aware that your fingers may get a little stained during this process, so you may want to wear gloves. After rinsing, I put them in a medium-sized saucepan and add enough water to just cover.
Bring the pan to a simmer over medium heat, pressing the hips gently with a spoon. Once the hips soften and begin to break apart and the liquid is a nice rich amber color, you can begin to scoop out the liquid. Be aware that you may see some worms among the rose hips You will also see seeds from the insides of the hips. They are both white, but the worm is long and thin and the seed more rounded. No need to worry with either. You can scoop them out as you see them, but you will also be filtering the liquid through a strainer before use.
As you begin to scoop out the liquid, place a tea strainer over a quart-size jar and pour the liquid through to catch any particles. As you remove the liquid, squeeze the measuring cup or spoon down into the rose hip mixture in the pan. Then add more water and continue to simmer, stir, and gently press the mixture. Once you have a jar full, let it cool to room temperature before proceeding to freeze into blocks. Then, I like to pour a small amount at a time into a measuring cup or other container with a spout for easier pouring into the ice cube trays.
Once the blocks are frozen, remove them and place in a freezer bag or other freezer-proof container.
When ready for use, simply drop a block in a mug and pour boiling water over it. This makes the tea a perfect temperature for a child to drink fairly quickly. I like to add raw, local honey to sweeten. The flavor is mild, so it blends readily with other flavored teas as well.
HOW TO USE: Rose hips can be used as above, or you can dehydrate them after removing the blossom end and washing. The dried rose hips can be made into tea by pouring boiling water over them or you can make the juice above from the dried hips.
HOW TO STORE: Rose hip blocks would be stored in the freezer, or you can dry the rose hips and store them in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place. You could likely can the rose hip juice the same way you would can other juices, but I haven’t tried it myself.
Echinacea, also called “purple coneflower” due to its color and the cone-like center of the flowers, is a worthy herb to have around to help fight off colds and allergies.
It is advised to not use Echinacea for more than two weeks at a time. Gather in the wild when you can, or grown your own, but don’t take it all so it can re-seed for the next year. My favorite use of Echinacea is for tea. Simply crush the flower heads and add to a tea strainer to make hot tea. Blends well with mint varieties.
HOW TO USE: As a tea.
HOW TO STORE: Store dry flower heads in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.
PRECAUTIONS: Don’t use for more than 2 weeks at a time. If pregnant or nursing, consult with your health care provider.
Mullein grows in the wild with gusto where I live in zone 5. It’s quite an unsightly “weed” some might say, but it’s a very beneficial herb, especially for lung issues and earaches.
Pick the leaves when the plant is flowering in late summer and early autumn. Pick green healthy-looking leaves and flower heads. Dry the leaves and flower heads and pack in an air-tight container (I use a quart jar).
When using for tea, make sure to filter through a coffee filter, as there are “hairs” on the leaves that can get into the tea and just ruin the mouth feel of the tea. Add honey to taste. Mullein can also be made into an infused oil that is very powerful for earaches (especially prevalent in young children).
HOW TO USE: Use as tea or infuse in oil for earaches You can purchase the dried leaves or you can purchase mullein essential oil to use if you don’t have access to wild mullein in your area.
HOW TO STORE: Store the dried leaves and flower heads in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place.
Any kind of hot foods are great for preventing and getting rid of sickness. Cayenne is no exception, and it’s easily stored in its powder form for use when needed.
Along with adding it to foods and soups for spiciness and flavor, you can also add it directly to chicken broth along with some chopped up fresh garlic as a soothing remedy for congestion and overall yuckiness. The broth is nourishing when you don’t feel like eating much, and the spiciness of the cayenne and garlic will zap those germs and aid your body in getting well.
HOW TO USE: Add to foods and/or broths, adding as much as you can tolerate.
HOW TO STORE: Store powder in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place.
Other Home Remedies
In addition to these 7 herbal remedies, I have a few additional tried and true home remedies to share with you.
Vinegar Tea (for sore throat)
1-2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (with the “mother” – I use Bragg’s) added to a cup of hot water. Drink as hot as you can take it without burning your tongue. Will help soothe and heal a sore throat as well as aid in germ-fighting (vinegar has antibiotic properties as well).
Lemon & Honey (for sore throat)
Use fresh-squeezed lemon juice if possible and raw local honey. Add the juice of one lemon along with a tablespoon of honey to warm water, stirring until dissolved. You can also use this without water as a syrup by the spoonful. My mom gave this to me as a child, and I thought it was very tasty.
Prune Juice (for constipation)
Prune juice is a fairly common constipation remedy for occasional irregularity. Strong doses of vitamin C can also provide the same effect.
You don’t want to be all clogged up when you’re sick or your body is fighting off a cold, as the germs are more likely to build up in your body and you’ll have a harder time fighting it off. Get yourself cleaned out regularly, and this will go a long way toward staying well and fighting off sickness once it takes hold.
Zinc lozenges (while not exactly an herbal remedy) are also good to have around for soothing a sore throat and shortening a cold. Zinc is very beneficial for strengthening your immune system.
Gaye’s Note: You might also be interested in the following articles:
With each of the above herbal & natural remedies, make sure to use caution until you know how your body will react. Discontinue use if any troublesome symptoms occur and seek medical attention.
Let me know down below in the comments you are using any of these remedies currently or have others to share. And be aware that this is definitely NOT an exhaustive list.
About Sally Thomas
I first connected with Sally over a year ago after she reached out to tell me about her book, Frugal Cooking With Beans: Over 40 Deliciously Simple Bean Recipes Using Dry & Canned Beans. I was impressed enough to keep in touch and extended an offer to have her share he vast knowledge with my readers here on the blog.
Sally is a “Do It Yourselfer” loves to get creative in the kitchen and utilize herbal remedies as much as possible to help keep her family healthy. She has been an avid prepper since 2008 with a particular devotion to foraging, food storage, and herbal remedies. She shares her knowledge and experience on her blog at ThePantryPrepper.com where you can sign up for her free e-course “Jump-Start Your Food Storage in 30 Days.”
The Final Word
During a grid-down emergency or disruptive event, getting sick from a viral or bacterial infection can be serious and even deadly. None of us wants that, so learning how to prevent and remedy these seemingly innocent “bugs” now, and stocking up on the ingredients to stop them seems prudent.
I don’t know about you, but I now reach for herbal remedies or essential oils before I consider taking pharmaceuticals. I firmly believe that making natural remedies a habit now will go a long way toward keeping you and your family healthy and safe when an emergency does strike.
To me, it just makes good sense.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!