Medicinal Teas for Colds & Flu Chevy Chase MD

dry, scratchy throat often signals the onset of a cold, and over'the-counter syrups and lozenges just seem to sugarcoat the problem. Fortunately, nature provides some safe and easy'to-use alternatives.

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Healing Herbs - Medicinal Teas for Colds & Flu

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Long before the advent of antihistamine tablets and specially formulated cold remedies, cold and flu sufferers turned to herbal teas to relieve their symptoms. Those homemade infusions were rich in vitamins, minerals and medicinal compounds. You can find commercial versions of these old-time remedies in most health food or natural grocery stores, or you can take a page out of the past and make your own. In the herbalist’s pharmacopoeia, specific herbs address particular symptoms, so we asked the experts to share their favorite blends.

Soothe a Sore Throat
A dry, scratchy throat often signals the onset of a cold, and over-the-counter syrups and lozenges just seem to sugarcoat the problem. Fortunately, nature provides some safe and easy-to-use alternatives. “Sore throats are greatly relieved by herbal tea,” says Brigitte Mars, herbalist and author of Healing Herbal Teas (Basic Health Media, Winter 2006). As a first line of defense, Mars prescribes marshmallow root (Althea officinalis), an anti-inflammatory herb that’s “wonderfully soothing on the throat.” Unrelated to the gooey little campfire confections, this herb has a long, well-documented history of successfully treating irritated mucous membranes.

James Duke, author of The Green Pharmacy (Rodale, 1997), recommends two other herbs for throat discomfort: slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), an antiseptic and anti-allergic agent that literally slips down the throat, and licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra). Antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory, licorice has been scientifically documented to break up phlegm, ease coughs and fight infections. A study at Bastyr University found that tea combining licorice, slippery elm and marshmallow is highly effective for reducing throat pain.

For sore throats accompanied by cold and flu symptoms, Mars suggests drinking stomach-soothing peppermint (Mentha x piperita). “It can lower a fever by helping you to sweat and release toxins naturally. It’s antiviral and user-friendly,” she explains. Mars also likes ginger (Zingiber officinale), which is “good for chills and aching muscles, and relieves nausea.” For extra measure, she adds elder (Sambuca nigra), shown by research to keep flu viruses at bay.

Breathe Easy
“When I have a difficult time breathing, I go for oolong because it opens up my lungs,” says Sara Martinelli, tea blender and owner of The Boulder Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder, Colorado. Indeed, black tea like oolong contains powerful expectorant compounds that help clear mucus from deep within the chest. The caffeine it packs is also a powerful bronchodilator. To take the edge off the caffeine, Martinelli mixes in calming chamomile (Matricaria recutita), touted for its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic and antispasmodic properties. She also adds liberal portions of rose hips (Rosa canina), which, she says, “are high in vitamin C and taste great.”

For a respiratory remedy that relies just on herbal ingredients, Martinel...

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