During the winter months more of us tend to get upper respiratory tract infections such as colds and flu. There are ways to decrease your risk of becoming ill as well as to feel better if you do get sick. Even though antibiotics are often prescribed for winter illnesses, they are rarely the answer and they do not treat viral infections. With colds and flu we are often seeking relief from congestion and pain, as well as something to sooth the throat. Let’s look at some herbs with those properties and how to use them.
Decongestant Herbs
One way to loosen and expel mucus is by inhaling vapors. When you feel congested try putting a pan of water on the stovetop at a light simmer. Add pieces of sage, thyme, rosemary or oregano to the water. Many of these common culinary herbs have healing properties. In fact, thyme has a long history of treating bronchitis and other upper respiratory tract infections (see Thyma-flu below). Inhale the steam frequently throughout the day to relieve congestion. Eucalyptus essential oil is also a strong decongestant. Put a few drops of this essential oil on the surface of the simmering water to release the vapors (see Eucalyptus essential oil below).
Congestion can also be relieved by drinking teas. Sometimes just a hot beverage is enough to help sooth, but teas of thyme or peppermint can also help loosen mucus. Make sure to inhale the steam as you are holding the cup. You can also use a balm on your chest both for pain and congestion that contains essential oils of eucalyptus, camphor, menthol, sage and peppermint (see Herbal Vapors below). Also hold this up to your nose to inhale.
Pain Relieving Herbs
For pain such as muscle aches associated with a cold try soaking in a hot bath with a muslin bag filled with herbs. Useful herbs here would include oregano, marjoram, lavender, mint or sage (see bath teas below). After soaking in the herbal bath, drink a tea from ginger and lemon. Pain can also prevent one from getting a good night sleep. A few drops of lavender essential oil sprinkled on your pillow or an herbal dream pillow tucked into your pillow case can help you relax to get more sleep (see Lavender Essential Oil and Dream Pillow below).
Throat Soothing Herbs
Herbs that sooth the throat typically have mucilage or slippery substances in them. They include slippery elm, horehound and licorice. You can often find lozenges that contain these herbs or make yourself a cup of hot tea from them. Honey also can sooth a throat and goes well with tea. During the summer try infusing honey with thyme so that you can use it during the winter in teas or on toast.
Preventing a Cold
A typical cold lasts 7 days to two weeks and adults get about 2-4 colds per year (more in children). We don’t develop immunity to the cold because there are more than 100 different viruses that cause this. You can limit your risk of catching a cold by improving your immune system. Stress weakens the immune system and can lead to illnesses. Daily exercise such as walking can help control stress. Also try teas made from herbs such as catnip, chamomile, hops, lavender and lemon balm.
Immune building herbs you can use include garlic and whole foods including fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals such as flavonoids and sterols act as antioxidants that can modulate the immune system as well as provide a host of other benefits including decreasing inflammation. Garlic not only stimulates the immune system but acts as an antibacterial and antiviral. My favorite way of using garlic is to rub a clove over toast.
Keep Cold Germs from Spreading
The single most important thing you can do to decrease your risk of getting a cold and to decrease its spread is to wash your hands. Use of antibiotic soap is not necessary and may contribute to antibiotic resistant superbugs, but it is necessary to wash correctly. This means use warm water and soap, rub your hands for 15-30 seconds, rinse and dry with a clean towel. Humming a song while washing can help with estimating the time. Try “Ring Around the Rosey”, its lyrics have to do with the plague which can be a good reminder of the importance of clean hands. The availability of clean water and soap has done more to prevent disease than antibiotics or vaccines ever have or will.

If someone in your household has a cold or flu you may want to pay special attention to cleaning surfaces in the house. For instance, light switches, doorknobs and counters should be regularly wiped to clean them of infectious agents. This can be done with soap and water or you can use disinfecting essential oils such as tea tree oil and thyme (see St. Blaise Spray below).
Sagescript Products for Winter Health
Thyma-flu: this make your own tincture is a mixture of antiviral and immune stimulating herbs. Add your own alcohol, steep for 2 weeks and keep on hand all winter to treat a variety of upper respiratory tract infections. Contains Echinacea, elderberries, thyme, peppermint and horehound. $4.25 makes 4 ounces of tincture when alcohol is added.

Eucalyptus essential oil: pure eucalyptus essential oil available in 0.5 oz size, $3.25.

Herbal Vapors: New this year! A chest balm containing menthol and essential oils of eucalyptus, camphor, sage and peppermint, $5.00 /2 oz.
Bath teas: we have a variety of bath teas available at any time. Inquire about availability. $3.95/4bags

Herb Teas: we hope to soon have a variety of herbal teas to choose from including those for a sore throat and to help you relax.

Lavender Essential Oil: pure lavender essential oil in 0.5 oz size, $5.75.

Dream Pillow: Large tea bag containing sleep promoting herbs for you to put in your pillow case. As your head rests the scent of herbs is released. $2.00/2 bags

St. Blaise Aromatherapy Spray: A room spray to spray on doorknobs, light switches and surfaces to decrease the spread of germs. Contains essential oils. $7.00/2oz.

Winter Health Care Essential package contains Thyma-flu, Herbal Vapors and St. Blaise all for $15.25.

Contact me by email for ordering information. cindy@sagescript.com
If you or someone you know is visiting Longmont, CO stop at the Francis Street Arts store, 1139 Francis Street. There you can find crafts by local artisans, including Sagescript Institute.