You know the drill: you’re tired, your nose is running nonstop and you’re sneezing. You don’t feel quite bad enough to take a sick day, but you don’t have enough energy to get anything done. What can you do?
After all, we all know that there’s no cure for the common cold.
There’s some good news, though. Because people have been living with this virus for centuries, there are plenty of ways to manage your symptoms and get back to feeling like yourself. This is possible, partly in thanks to myriad home remedies for cold symptoms!
We have all heard the benefits of using fresh ginger tea, elderberry or vitamin c essential oil to aid in respiratory illness, but the home remedies don’t stop there. In this short guide, we’ll share our seven favorite herbs for colds. We’ll also recommend ways to integrate these herbs into your daily routine so that you head into the cold and flu season prepared for whatever comes your way. Ready to try a natural cold remedy? Read on.
#1 Balloon Flower
The purple balloon flowers that pop up in the late summer aren’t just pretty: they have a long history of being used as healing herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and are increasingly recognized for their ability to help boost our immunity.
Also called platycodon, balloon flower is used in TCM to:
- Strengthen the lung Qi (energy)
- Combat congestion and phlegm
- Improve symptoms of the common cold
What makes balloon flower such a potent potential aid? Strongly antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, the flower’s active ingredients can also help the lungs and airways maintain healthy levels of mucus. This can be especially helpful in managing symptoms like coughing, sore throat or shortness of breath.
Don’t go picking and pulverizing these blooms yourself. The active part of the plant is actually the root, and the best way to ingest it is as a supplement.
#2 Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese honeysuckle’s sweet-smelling, white and yellow flowers are a nostalgic memory for many.
Believe it or not, Japanese honeysuckle, or lonicera, is considered an invasive species in the U.S. -- that's why it’s so prevalent!
Native to Asia, honeysuckle brings benefits wherever it goes and grows.
- Japanese honeysuckle has long been used in TCM to treat influenza viruses, along with common symptoms like a stuffy nose and sore throats. It is traditionally boiled as an herbal tea.
- A 2015 study sought to understand honeysuckle’s potential effects. Scientists isolated a rare micro RNA, known as microRNA2911, and tested its potency against cells of type-A influenza viruses, including H1N1. They concluded that Japanese honeysuckle “may represent a novel type of natural product that effectively suppresses viral infection.”
Scientists were surprised to find that the active ingredient in honeysuckle survives boiling water, which is why it works when made into an herbal tea. This validates the hypothesis that honeysuckle tea might help with a cold. If you take honeysuckle in a supplement, you could potentially find greater concentrations of the active ingredients than when it’s brewed into tea.
Andographis, also called green chiretta, is a flowering herb native to India. Used in ancient Ayurveda as well as TCM, it is considered cooling and cleansing, making it beneficial for removing toxins.
This plant’s lauded reputation in ancient medical practices have made it the subject of scientific inquiry, and researchers have studied its potential to do everything from combating cold sores to supporting patients undergoing chemotherapy.
Antibacterial and antiviral, two studies from Planta Medica show the potential benefits of andrographis for those suffering from the common cold:
- A 2004 study found that andrographis can relieve the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, like runny nose, sinus congestion or sore throat.
- A 2009 study showed that extracts from andrographis can elevate white blood cell count and stimulate phagocytosis, a process that clears cellular debris. Both these activities suggest that andrographis may help boost immune system function.
Bitter to the taste, this herb is best ingested as a capsule.
Bright yellow forsythia bushes are popular in gardening and landscaping. However, this plant may have beneficial effects for human health, too.
In TCM, forsythia is said to:
- Tonify Qi in the lung, gallbladder and heart
- Treat fever
- Soothe headaches
- Help naturally detoxify the body
In 2014, researchers summarized the effect of forsythia, as well as other TCM herbs believed to aid heart health. Their findings include some of these uses:
- The fruits of the forsythia plant have the ability to cool body temperature, protect the liver and soothe nausea.
- Forsythia has strong anti-inflammatory properties, and can help the body better transport blood and nutrients to inflamed areas.
- The plant also displays antibacterial activity and antiviral activity against influenza A viruses.
With so many potential beneficial effects, this herb is a must-have for the chilly winter months—and the rest of the year!
Another plant on our list of natural cold remedies boasting bright-yellow flowers, Isatis is native to Asia and the Mediterranean.
In TCM, Isatis has been used to:
- Treat itchy skin
- Improve cold symptoms
- Soothe fevers
- Prevent diarrhea
Both its root and leaves have potential benefits.
Recent studies have focused on the alkaloids found in isatis. Alkaloids, or organic molecules containing at least one nitrogen atom, uniquely interact with our bodies: they are the backbone of morphine and quinine. How might isatis help with overall health?
- One study found 17 novel alkaloids in isatis root, including three that exhibit antiviral activity against influenza viruses.
- Other studies have demonstrated isatis leaves’ antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as their ability to boost the immune system.
Mint isn’t just good for upset stomachs and frazzled nerves. This common cooking herb also has properties that may boost the immune system and fight the common cold. No wonder it’s been a staple in traditional medicine throughout the world.
Memorial Sloan Kettering reviewed studies on peppermint, noting that it has been found to potentially:
- Relieve headaches
- Improve chest pain
- Control nausea
In addition to these uses, peppermint is known for uplifting your mood. In Ayurveda, it is considered a cooling herb, and it may also be beneficial to counteract sweating and overheating.
If your cold symptoms include fatigue, mental fog or headaches, mint could be an effective herbal ally. Both soothing and tonifying, it can help your body return to homeostasis more quickly.
#7 Japanese Catnip
Japanese catnip isn’t the stuff your kitty cat loves. In fact, it’s in an entirely different genus that’s mostly found in mainland China.
Japanese catnip includes beneficial compounds like menthol, cineole and schizonodiol. Since menthol is also the primary chemical in mint, this herb has some similar properties to its distant cousin.
Known as jing jie in TCM, Japanese catnip is considered warming rather than cooling, and is used to help:
- Reduce chills
- Lower fevers
- Improve headaches
- Treat the common cold
- Stop bleeding
Recent studies show that Japanese catnip contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, just as many other herbs on this list. This is perhaps one reason why it’s long been used as a traditional remedy for the common cold and other minor infections.
Finding Herbs for the Common Cold
Now that you know the best herbs for colds, you’re likely eager to make them a part of your lifestyle.
While mint and honeysuckle may grow in your backyard, many of the best herbs for colds may be hard to find locally, even in the health food store.
Besides, many of these herbs’ benefits are best experienced with consistent use. While a cup of mint tea might provide immediate relief for a headache or upset stomach, a daily dose of mint could help to strengthen your immunity so that you’re well-prepared the next time you encounter a harmful pathogen—especially when it’s combined with other potent botanical herbs.
How can you integrate these herbs into your daily routine? Our new Advanced Cold Control herbal multiplex.
Plant People Advanced Cold Control
Advanced Cold Control is expertly formulated to deliver a range of potentially antibacterial, antiviral and immune-boosting compounds to help you combat colds.
- Active ingredients include all seven of the powerhouse herbs we’ve discussed.
- Because our ingredients are organically grown on U.S. farms, you’ll never have to worry about chemicals or pesticides interfering with your immune system function.
- Vegan capsules are easy to integrate into your daily routine.
Take two capsules daily during cold and flu season, or use the compound year-round to help your immune system prepare for the pathogens you’ll inevitably encounter in everyday life.
How to Become a Plant Person with Plant People
Are you looking for help with your health and wellness goals? At Plant People, we’re firm believers in the power of nature to soothe our minds and support our bodies.
Our plant and fungi-based remedies combine traditional knowledge with modern science. From CBD formulas to help you focus, sleep, and relax to our new Cold Control blend, we create healthy products for your specific needs.
Because our products are triple-lab tested, vegan, and gluten-free, you’ll never have to worry about your supplement interfering with your health or your dietary choices. Sustainably sourced, they help ensure that we can all be plant people for years to come.
Me and Qi. Platycodon roots. https://www.meandqi.com/herb-database/platycodon-root
Foods. The Pharmacological Effects and Health Benefits of Platycodon grandiflorus—A Medicine Food Homology Species. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7073691/
Planta Medica. Andrographis paniculata in the Treatment of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections: A Systematic Review of Safety and Efficacy. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8608873_Andrographis_paniculata_in_the_Treatment_of_Upper_Respiratory_Tract_Infections_A_Systematic_Review_of_Safety_and_Efficacy
Planta Medica. Evaluation of Immunomodulatory Activity of an Extract of Andrographolides from Andographis paniculata. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-0029-1185398
Acupuncture Today. Forsythia. https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/forsythia.php
Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. Anti-inflammatory and Antimicrobial Effects of Heat-Clearing Chinese Herbs: A Current Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003708/
WebMD. Isatis. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-911/isatis
Journal of Natural Products. Alkaloids from the Root of Isatis indigotica. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/np3002833?casa_token=BrIKXfboXL8AAAAA%3A8dubv-WKOY8uAS7R9gj7qG-YGzu8csARI5pSC0z25_FOgME06RSF4Mw6ROYuRyYpsyzl4qwOMm61qi4&
Memorial Sloan Kettering. Isatis Leaf. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/herbs/isatis-leaf
Memorial Sloan Kettering. Peppermint.
Acupuncture Today. Schizonepeta. https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/schizonepeta.php
Food and Chemical Toxicology. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of aqueous extracts of Schizonepeta tenuifolia Briq. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0278691511006764
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