Easy Herbal Remedies for Cold Season

organic elderberries

organic elderberries

It’s that time: cold season.

My son Waylon’s been stuffed up all week with a head cold and a cough.  Yesterday Edge caught the same thing, and the two of them cozied up together on the couch for a daytime movie.  

There was a time I believed I’d never allow multiple days of movies when the sun was shining outside, but something about a 4-year-old’s droopy eyes, stuffy nose, open mouth and booger-wiped cheeks really softened me.  

I made a fresh batch of elderberry syrup to combat the cold, and we’ve all been taking spoonfuls throughout the day—Edge and Waylon to get better, and me to stay well.

In between spoonfuls of syrup, we’re drinking ginger-honey-thyme tea, which is so much better than a cough drop.  The warmth of the tea eases the chest and encourages circulation.  And it’s delicious.  

If you’re caught with a fall or winter cold, try these easy herbal remedies:

Ginger-Honey-Thyme Tea

Ginger is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and can increase the speed of recovery from coughs and colds.

Honey has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and can soothe sore throats.

Thyme is an antiseptic, antispasmodic, and expectorant, meaning it eases sore throats and coughs, brings up phlegm, and relaxes the respiratory system.  

Ingredients

  • 1 quart water
  • 4-6 ½” slices of ginger
  • 1 tsp dried thyme, or 1 TBS fresh thyme
  • 1 TBS honey

Add ginger and thyme to water and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat, cover with a lid and let simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Stir in the honey (if a TBS is too much, start off with a smaller amount and adjust to taste).

For a real kick, add a clove of garlic.   

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup is anti-inflammatory and anti-viral, and reduces the severity and duration of cold & flu symptoms; drink it when you’re healthy, and it will help keep colds & flu at bay.

Ingredients

  • 3 C water
  • 1 C elderberries (fresh or frozen)
  • ¾ C honey, or to taste
  • ¼ C apple cider vinegar, or to taste
  • 1-2 TBS ginger, chopped or put through garlic press (optional)

Equipment

  • large stainless steel saucepan
  • medium stainless steel pot
  • fine-mesh sieve
  • glass quart-jar with lid

Combine water, elderberries, and ginger in saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn down to medium heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Take off heat, and crush the berries with the back of a spoon, or a wooden pounder.  

Place the sieve over the pot and ladle the liquid and berries into sieve, pressing the berries with the back of a spoon to squeeze out any retained juice.  Compost elder seeds and ginger mash.

While still warm, add the honey to the pot and stir to combine, then mix in the cider vinegar. Taste the syrup and add more honey or cider vinegar to your liking.

Pour syrup into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep up to three months.

For cold prevention, take 2 or 3 times a day with meals.  If you’re in the midst of a cold, take 1 teaspoon every 1 ½ – 2 hours.


What’s your favorite herbal remedy?  Share it below in the comments~

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  1. I read your post about elderberry syrup a while back and have been intrigued. We rely exclusively on herbal remedies to combat winter, and summer colds, which we don’t get very often. Shortly after reading your post, my daughter informed me that she was taking a weekend herbal course at Green Mountain College where she attends, (she’s in her senior year) and will be making elderberry syrup from berries collected from the professors garden. She brought some home for us to try and I was hooked. I obtained some organic elderberry seeds and some 2 yr old organic elderberry plants which I just planted today. We are planning a move to Vermont in the next 2-3 years, but I couldn’t wait to plant a grove of elderberry shrubs to make our own syrup.
    Thank you for your inspiring and informative posts and recipes, they make the anticipation of our move to Vermont a little easier to bear.

    • Hooray for planting elderberries! This is just our second year with ours—I got a harvest off them even the first year I planted them. I love how quick they are. I haven’t tried them from seed, and I’m interested to hear how it goes for you. I’ve heard more about getting new plants from cuttings, but haven’t tried that yet either (maybe next spring?!).
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting! It really makes my day to know someone is getting value from these words.
      Also, try elderberry syrup on vanilla ice cream—it’s delicious 🙂

      • Hi Kate,
        Hope all is well! I have a question about pruning elderberry plants. Do you prune them back every year or just let them grow? I thought i heard somewhere that you can cut them all the way back in the fall and they will regrow the next season. I planted 2 year old seedlings last October (the seeds were a bust, I think the squirrels , chipmunks or birds got them) that grew to be about 6′ tall this year. I was able to get some berries from them, the birds absolutely loved most of them! I wanted to try planting cuttings but never got around to it, net spring I’ll do that. I want to make an elderberry hedge alone the side of our property along the fence. When we move to Vermont, which will hopefully be soon, I plan on taking most of my elderberry, raspberry and blueberry bushes with us. I appreciate any info you can offer on growing elderberries.
        Thanks again!
        ~Rob

        • Hi Rob,
          Great to hear from you! I do prune my elderberries back, but I don’t mow them all the way down. Instead, I cut back the 2-year-old canes and leave the new growth from this year to overwinter. The older growth is woodier, thicker, and taller. I learned this from an elderberry workshop I went to last summer, from a farmer who’s growing 3 acres of elderberries.

          The birds are always my clue to get out and start harvesting! We do lose some to the birds, too, but unless you’re putting netting over the plants (we don’t) then it seems impossible not to.

          Your elderberry hedge will be beautiful! We have ours lining the walkway from the greenhouse to the farmhouse. I hope this helps! And thank you so much for so generously supporting our canvas bag fundraiser!

  2. Tis the season – my daughter woke up with a cold yesterday morning and slight fever, so I threw the elderberries into the pot first thing and heated up the water for some spearmint/elderflower/catnip tea – she had to steal the catnip from the cat’s personal stash!

    • haha! Hopefully the cat won’t notice 🙂 The spearmint and catnip sound like such a delicious addition. Hope she feels better soon!

  3. Herbal remedies are the best! My family uses immune boosting essential oils and elderberry syrup. I never even thought of making my own elderberry syrup though! I’m definitely going to have to try your recipe.

    • I love essential oils and am starting to learn more about them. What ones do you use for immune boosting? I hope you enjoy the elderberry syrup!

      • Oh, goodness, there are so many! We use Young Living essential oils. They have a Thieves blend that we use topically every day for healthy immune system support. Citrus oils are great choices too. Oh! And we drink Ningxia Red, which is wolfberry purée based supplement beverage, every day.

        • My cousin just started selling Young Living oils! I haven’t bought any yet, but really liked the thieves blend she has. I will check it out some more!