Effective herbal remedies for cold and flu symptoms and respiratory issues

As winter approaches and we begin to see the array of common respiratory infections surface it is a good time to review what the natural medicine chest has to offer to support our health.

Chest and sinus infections along with the associated congestion, particularly in children and the elderly, can be quite debilitating. Keeping warm, lots of rest and those lovely warming lemon and honey drinks can be very useful. To compliment this there are a wide range of herbs and essential oils that can help to relieve the congestion, ease the cough and assist the recuperation process.

Expectorant & decongestant Herbs

Expectorant (promoting the removal of mucus/secretions from the respiratory tract) and decongestant herbs are very important in ‘moving’ the mucus congestion that forms at times of respiratory infections. There are several groups of expectorant herbs – stimulating, relaxing, warming and soothing (demulcents) The expectorants can make thick congestion more fluid and help to ‘move’ the congestion as well as relieve coughing.

Stimulating expectorants

Stimulating expectorants – such as lobelia – act by supporting an unproductive cough – i.e. where there is significant mucus congestion and a cough which does not bring up any phlegm. This often means that the mucus congestion is sitting in the lungs and not moving even though you may have a cough. The stimulating expectorants increase the expectoration - increasing the amount of mucus congestion being coughed out. While this may seem a little unpleasant moving the mucus congestion is far preferable than having it sit in the lungs which may well contribute to further illness complications.

Relaxing expectorants

Relaxing expectorants – such as white horehound and elecampane, relax the bronchioles in the lungs. These herbs are extremely useful at times when the chest feels tight and there is breathlessness associated. Often during respiratory infection and congestion these is significant coughing and at times this can be quite debilitating particularly when the cough is dry and simply will not seem to stop. Relaxing and soothing expectorants have a great ability ease the cough and help to relax the chest. The warming and soothing expectorants herbs contain mucilage which acts to sooth inflamed airways. Herbs such as licorice (not the candy) and Irish moss are well indicated when there is a dry unproductive and irritable cough.

Essential Oils

Using essential oils along with medicinal herbs can significantly add to their therapeutic activity.

Essential oils are the concentrated aromatic components of plants. They have strong therapeutic activity and are invaluable in the realm of natural support for our health – either topically as in aromatherapy or taken internally in low measured amounts.

Relieving upper respiratory catarrh or nasal congestion using essential oils such as eucalyptus or peppermint in an inhalation is a well-tested method to provide relief.

Oils such as Eucalyptus and Rosemary contain significant amounts of a component 1,8-cineole. The action of this component is expectorant and antiseptic so particularly useful in conditions where there is any respiratory congestion.

Menthol – found in peppermint essential oil – is a well-known decongestant. Menthol along with cineole have the effect of reducing the surface tension between the air and water/mucus in the lungs. Thus allowing the mucus to ‘flow’ and relieving congestion.

Another beneficial effect of menthol and cineole is that they exhibit quite strong antibacterial and antimicrobial activity – particularly useful at times of respiratory infection.

α-pinene is a compound found in a many essential oils - Pine, Lemon, Turpentine, Juniper to name a few. α-pinene has shown to have a bronchodilatory effect and therefore would be a valuable addition to any formulation for respiratory congestion.

As we can see the natural medicine chest has much to offer to support us during times of ill health. Our understanding of plant chemistry has added to our traditional knowledge and further supports the use of our plant kingdom as a valuable part of our natural approach to health.

Medicinal herbs and oils for respiratory congestion are often best taken as hot drinks or as concentrated extracts taken several times a day. For the best results make sure you discuss your specific needs with your local health professional.

Harker Herbals. All Rights Reserved 2017.The Fine Print

Sign up for the good stuff

The best of us, just for you!

Your email address