Healing Kitchen

How to Make Herbal Teas, Gargle, and Syrup for Colds

How to Make Herbal Teas, Gargle, and Syrup for Colds


Many of my patients have had great success relieving cold symptoms with the following herbal remedies, which can easily be prepared at home. Depending on your symptoms, you can rotate your tea choices, or become an amateur herbalist and experiment with mixing the herbs for two or more teas together.


Look for the dried herbs for the teas in bulk at health-food stores, through an herbalist, or on-line (you can also grow your own). Some sources may carry the herbs individually or premixed in tea-bag form. Store the herbs in tightly sealed jars for maximum freshness.



To make the herbal mixtures for the three teas suggested below, combine equal amounts of each herb. To make the tea itself, use 1 to 2 teaspoons total of the mixed herbs for each 8-ounce cup of hot but not boiling water. Cover the tea and let it steep for 10 to 20 minutes to get the medicinal benefits (you can reheat it briefly if it's too cool after this amount of time). If you make a big batch, you can store it in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container for up to three days, then reheat.


It's important to cover the cup or pot tightly while the tea steeps to retain the heat-sensitive essential oils. Strain the tea into another cup and add a little honey or lemon for taste if you like.

You can drink these teas throughout the day, as needed.


A tea for decongesting a stuffy nose

Drinking a tea made from a mixture of peppermint, eucalyptus, catnip, goldenseal, and hyssop can have an immediate effect on clogged sinuses.

  • Peppermint (Mentha piperata) leaves and stems contain the powerful decongestant, menthol.
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) leaves and branch tips contain the decongestant, eucalyptol.
  • Catnip (Nepata cataria), a member of the mint family, acts as a mild tranquilizer and overall sedative. It is a traditional folk remedy for colds.
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) has a trio of anti-cold effects to recommend it. It seems to calm inflamed mucous membranes, boost levels of germ-fighting chemicals, and battle both viruses and bacteria directly by activating white blood cells.
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) has been used for centuries to clear away sticky phlegm. Today, many herbal cold preparations contain hyssop, and studies have found that it contains camphorlike chemicals as well as marrubiin, a chemical known for its expectorant properties.

A tea for soothing a sore throat

 A tea prepared from a combination of slippery elm, raspberry, and licorice root is a great soother for a painful throat.

  • Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) The ground inner bark of the slippery elm tree was used by Native Americans to soothe sore throats. It contains mucilage, a spongy substance that swells in liquid and coats and lubricates inflamed and irritated membranes in the throat. The FDA has approved the inner bark as a safe and effective soothing agent (demulcent) for treating sore throat.
  • Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) leaves (not the berries) have a well-earned reputation for soothing a sore throat, probably due to their store of inflammation-reducing tannins.
  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) has anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, it seems to boost immunity by increasing levels of interferon, a powerful natural virus-fighting substance produced by the immune system.

A tea for calming a cough

 Prepared as a tea, the combination of horehound, slippery elm, and marshmallow can reduce cough spasms.

  • Horehound (Marrubium vulgare) has the ability to stimulate mucus production, which has made it a popular cough remedy for centuries.
  • Slippery elm (Ulmus rubra) acts as a calming cough suppressant in addition to a serving as a throat balm.
  • Marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is another herb that contains mucilage to coat the throat and stop the cough-irritation-cough syndrome. In addition, it contains vitamins and minerals, including important immune-boosters such as vitamins A and C.


A gargle made from goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) can be helpful in relieving a sore throat. It appears to soothe inflamed or infected mucous membranes, increase the immune system's output of germ-fighting chemicals, and combat both bacteria and viruses directly.

To make the gargle: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons goldenseal tincture to an 8-ounce glass of warm water. Gargle as needed.



A throat-coating syrup made from echinacea tincture (derived from Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea, or E. pallida), fresh lemon juice, and honey has been very effective for many of my patients. Like goldenseal, echinacea stimulates the immune system by empowering infection-fighting cells and promoting the destruction of invading organisms by white blood cells. It may also limit the duration of a sore throat and lessen its discomfort.

To make the throat-coating syrup: Mix 1 teaspoon of echinacea tincture with 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Add 1 tablespoon of raw, unprocessed honey and stir to combine. Swallow every four to six hours, as needed.

Date Published: 02/08/2006
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