Rose hips are one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin C available.

During the cold winter months when our bodies are vulnerable to seasonal sicknesses, herbs can help keep us healthy. Many herbs have antibacterial and antiseptic properties that help the body resist germs and infection, others boost the immune system and shorten recovery times, and some herbs can be used to naturally treat, sooth, and relieve cold and flu symptoms including sore throats and nasal congestion. Keep these herbal remedies in your home medicine chest and you’ll have them on hand whenever you need them!

Herbal Vapor Balm

Interestingly enough, two of the common active ingredients in commercially-made vapor rubs are Eucalyptus essential oil and Menthol. But, the classic ointments also contain things like Petroleum and Turpentine oil. Luckily, we can make a homemade version utilizing all-natural elements and botanicals!

– 1/2 cup organic Olive Oil
– 1/2 – 1 tsp organic Menthol Crystals
– 1 oz Beeswax, coarsely chopped or use pastilles
– 15 drops organic Eucalyptus essential oil
– 10 drops organic Peppermint essential oil
– 10 drops organic Rosemary essential oil
– 2 drops organic Tea Tree essential oil
– 2 drops organic Thyme essential oil

Heat the Olive oil and beeswax in a double boiler until the beeswax has melted. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little. Add Menthol crystals (1/2 tsp for a gentler balm, 1 tsp for a stronger product) and essential oils, stir, and quickly pour into jars. Immediately place lids loosely over the jars so that the oils do not escape. This balm will last for years, I have some that I made 7 years ago and it is still effective!  Note: The menthol crystals may be irritating when inhaled so use in a well ventilated area or wear a mask if needed.

Osha is a traditional Native American treatment for upper respiratory infections.

 Steven’s Osha Pastilles

This recipe is courtesy of our Quality Control and Laboratory Manager, Steven Yeager. In addition to his work at Mountain Rose Herbs, he has also been teaching at the Columbines School of Botanical Studies for 13 years. These pastilles are great for sore throats and after a long night of singing or howling at the moon!

– 1 gram organic Acacia (Gum Arabic) powder
– 4 grams organic Sugar (Steven uses Maple sugar)
– 3 grams Osha root powder
– 1 gram organic Licorice root powder
– Water or herbal extract/tincture of your choice

Combine and mix dry ingredients in a bowl. With a one ounce glass dropper, add one dropperful of water at a time to the bowl. (Steven likes to use Osha root or Elecampane root tincture instead of water). Keep adding one dropperful of water or tincture until the mixture holds together in a clump, similar to the consistency of cookie dough. Be careful not to add too much liquid. Form into small pastilles/lozenges/stars/hearts etc. Keep the shapes small as the pastilles will be strong! These are medicinal, not candy. Coat the outsides with additional Licorice root powder if desired. Allow to dry on a screen or plate for a few days. Store in a glass jar.

Herbal Steam

Simple to make, this old-fashioned remedy is a favorite therapy for quickly and effectively relieving sinus congestion.

– Herbs or Essential Oil of organic Chamomile, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Rosemary or Thyme.

Use any of the above herbs or essential oils, or create a blend.  Place 2-3 TBSP of dried herbs or 1-2 drops of essential oil into a large ceramic or glass bowl. Boil water and pour over the herbs or essential oil, immediately placing a towel or lid over the bowl so that the oils being released do not escape. Steep for 5 minutes (skip this step if using essential oils). Place the bowl on a table or other surface where you can comfortably sit and hold your face over the bowl covering your head and the bowl with a large towel to make sure that no steam can escape. Make sure to keep your eyes closed and breathe deeply to inhale the therapeutic properties. Steam for 5-10 minutes.

Common Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) has a long tradition of healing.

Sore Throat Gargle with Sage

This delightfully simple recipe comes from our friends at Herb Companion. The Sage (Salvia officinalis) used in the following recipe is a classic gargle, but other herbs such as Marjoram, Tyme or Hyssop can be used instead.

– 1 cup boiling water
– 2 teaspoons fresh or dried Sage leaves
– 1/4 ounce salt

Pour the boiling water over the Sage, cover and steep for 20 minutes. Strain and add the salt. Gargle as needed. May be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Cold Season Tea

When you’re huddled at home nursing a cold or flu, a warm cup of herb tea is comfort in itself. An advantage to drinking tea is that the liquid thins congestion and flushes out toxins. Drinking two to three cups of the following tea, nice and hot, will make you sweat and lower a fever. If possible, tuck yourself into a warm bed afterwards.

– 1/2 teaspoon Yarrow flowers (Achillea millefolium)
– 1/2 teaspoon Elder flowers (Sambucus canadensis)
– 1/2 teaspoon Peppermint leaves
– 1/2 teaspoon Echinacea root
– 1/2 teaspoon Schisandra berries
– 3 cups boiling water

Combine the herbs in a teapot and pour the boiling water over them. Steep for at least 20 minutes.  Strain and drink throughout the day. You can make a double batch and keep it in the refrigerator, just be sure to warm it before drinking.

Sore Throat Gargle and Cold Flu Tea recipes reprinted with permission from The Herb Companion magazine, a division of Ogden publications. Recipes written by Kathi Keville. Kathi Keville is the author of eleven books, including Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Herbs for Health and Healing. She teaches herb and aromatherapy seminars throughout the United States and is director of the American Herb Association (  Click here for the original article: Herbs for Cold and Flu

Don’t have the time to make your own medicine? Check out these herbal products:

Happy medicine making!

 ~ irene