February and the winter weather is still with us, temperatures fluctuate by ten degrees from one day to the next. Everything is springing to life in the garden but the ‘llergies are still making their rounds in spite of a spate of illness at the end of the year. So what to do when after along day, your throat is hot and dry, head thumping and nose beginning to run like a burn and no pharmaceuticals to hand? Time to look in the kitchen cupboard for  some natural remedies…

Kitchen Pharmacy

If you have followed this blog long enough you will now that I’m prone to procrastination – “always put off till tomorrow what you don’t need to do today.” Sometimes that takes you by surprise when the winter ‘llerrgies strike; you find that the herb you need is in the work room and you are too sick to dispense!

Cold and 'Flu Tea

Not to be caught unprepared again, I have since mix packaged my remedies ready for use so should my better half go down with nasty viral bugs, I’ll be ready!  Cold and ‘Flu tea; mix equal parts of Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Elder flowers (Sambuccus nigra) – you can buy from a good herbal supplier if you aren’t able to grow your own. Well dried elder flowers are fragrant and smell of summer; helping reduce catarrh, is diaphoretic (makes you sweat), soothes and calms swollen mucous membranes in the respiratory tract. Useful in that hot, dry, sore throat stage. Peppermint, is also anti-catarrhal, soothing the mucous membranes and is mildly diaphoretic too. It helps soothe an upset stomach also. Yarrow, helps reduce the temperature and is anti-inflammatory, it too is diaphoretic – don’t overdo Yarrow it can cause headaches, nausea and vertigo in large amounts!

Hope in a cup

Add one teaspoon of mixed dried herbs to a mug of boiled water, (use a infuser or a teapot) cover for three to five minutes, then sip slowly. You can take up to three cups per day.

If you are allergic to the daisy family then avoid Yarrow !

Spicy remedies

Always keep some fresh ginger root and cinnamon sticks handy if colds and ‘flu are doing the rounds. At least I could stumble into the kitchen and make myself a mug of warming ginger root and cinnamon infusion. I use about a half inch of fresh root, peeled and cut into slivers and a cinnamon stick per mug of boiled water, cover and allow to infuse for several minutes (you want to keep the volatile oils trapped inside). Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is good for chills and treating colds but will also help reduce nausea, headaches and menstrual pain. You can add a little honey and lemon as needed. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylandicum) is good for colds and flu, coughs, catarrh, and will also help reduce nausea and vomiting. Both are warming and useful anti-viral herbs.

Raspberry vinegar

Raspberry vinegar is the teacher’s friend – good for when you have that niggling sore throat and the kids are all coughing and sneezing. Growing up there was always a bottle on the shelf, though I never knew why, my brother used to drink it neat! Years later, trying to get mum well enough for a wedding when she had a suspected chest infection; I gave her some. After screwing up her face she said “Oh, my mother used to give me that when I was a kid!” Well that would explain the bottle then! 😀


Most of us will have garlic and onions to make syrup with – its great for hacking coughs. All you need are a couple of white onions, and three to four cloves of garlic. Chop up the garlic and onions. Starting with a thin layer of sugar, fill a jar with alternating layers of onion and garlic and sugar, finishing with a layer of sugar. Put in a warm place for a few hours until you have a clear liquid. Strain the syrup into a clean bottle, take three – six teaspoons per day (adult dose). Keep in the fridge and discard when it stops smelling of garlic; added bonus – everyone will leave you alone! 😀 Friends used to use garlic socks for small children…

  If you are on warfarin or other “blood thinners” large doses of garlic could (theoretically) affect your INR… 

Echinacea Cone flower

There’s also Echinacea tincture or tea (you can see how well mine did this year if you scroll back a few posts!). Rosehip syrup or blackcurrant cordial, Elder flower robb and of course chicken soup if you are not vegetarian or vegan! My better half is keeping the bugs at bay with a medicinal “wee nip” before bed – seems to be working…

What old remedies do you turn to when the pharmacy is shut?

Keep well!

This is written for information only and should not take the place of appointment with a GP or other health professional. If your symptoms persist or worsen do see a doctor or trained herbalist / naturopath for advice.