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Natural Healing For Colds And Flu

     Using herbs and other natural means to help the body recover from an acute (short-term) illness supports the way God designed our immune system to work. Anytime our health is challenged with a respiratory or other type of acute illness, we can accelerate the healing process and benefit greatly by taking advantage of what He has provided in nature. 

     As we learned in last month’s article, many of the symptoms people experience with acute illnesses are a result of the efforts of the body to flush out inflammation-producing irritants. Rather than take drugs that only mask or suppress symptoms, it is far better to work with the immune system by making the symptoms more productive. 

Initiating the Process

      It takes energy for the body to reach the point where it can successfully eliminate any irritants that produce an inflammatory response and resulting symptoms. The first way to strengthen the efforts of the immune system when it is challenged is to use herbs that activate the body’s own healing energy.  If this initial step to combat acute illnesses is applied frequently at the onset, the body is often able to eliminate the virus, bacteria or other irritant before a full-blown condition develops.  Even if it is not “nipped in the bud” completely, the duration is shortened and secondary symptoms are generally prevented.

       Keep in mind that using herbs and other natural remedies may take a more concerted effort than popping a 12-hour symptom-suppressing medication, especially in the beginning. However, it is far more beneficial to the overall health of the body long-term for many reasons. Besides preventing more chronic conditions, the immune system is strengthened and the body is spared the possible need for an antibiotic that would destroy beneficial bacteria in the gut, which are so crucial for a healthy immune system. 

 Natural Remedies for Cold Symptoms


     In order to activate the body’s own healing energy, herbs should first be used that stimulate the flow of blood and lymph and bring oxygen and nutrients to inflamed tissues, in addition to increasing the drainage of waste. These herbs strengthen the efforts of the immune system to throw off anything that might weaken the body. 

     The two classes of herbs mainly used for this purpose are aromatic herbs and pungent herbs. Aromatic and pungent herbs are particularly helpful in the early stages of a cold or respiratory infection. An aromatic herb is an herb that has a strong aroma like peppermint or wintergreen.  A pungent herb is one that has a spicy “hot” flavor like cayenne pepper (capsicum) or ginger. Other examples of “activating” herbs are garlic, onion, hot mustard seed, jalapeno peppers, horseradish root, clove cinnamon, rosemary and thyme. These herbs work effectively in several ways and many have mild infection-fighting abilities that help if the cause of the irritation is a microorganism.

Sinus Drainage

     Rather than trying to stop sinuses from draining, pungent and aromatic herbs also effectively increase the production of watery mucus needed to flush cold-causing irritants from the body. If you load up on them to the point on getting the sinuses running at the onset of a cold, it will help prevent the cold from developing further or at least greatly shorten the time it lasts. These types of herbs should be consumed every two to three hours in the early stages of a cold or other illness.

     This is far better than taking antihistamines that dry up sinus secretions and block one of the body’s channels of elimination. Interfering with the natural healing processes of the body can double the length of time it takes to recover from a respiratory illness. 

     Besides taking aromatic or pungent herbs in supplement form (see guide following this article for specific recommendations of herbal formulas for each type of condition), you can also increase sinus drainage in the earliest stage of a cold by adding cayenne pepper to soup, using fresh horseradish or hot Chinese mustard or drinking fresh apple juice with lemon and fresh ginger juice added to it. In addition you can make an immune strengthening “lemonade” by blending a peeled lemon (peel only the rind and leave the white part, which is rich in bioflavonoids) in a quart of water with a fresh clove of garlic (honey or pure maple syrup may be added to make it more palatable). The garlic is particularly helpful for warding off any potential infection due to its anti-bacterial properties. If it can be tolerated, a small amount of cayenne powder (equivalent to the herb capsicum) may be added to make it even more effective.

Chronic Congestion

     When irritants are not successfully flushed out in the early stages of a cold, the mucus thickens and becomes more opaque instead of clear as the body loses moisture and the irritants weaken tissues. If infection and heat settle in, it may become discolored.  Decongestants are a class of herbs that help clear out the sinus area by breaking up congestion and thinning the mucus.  Fenugreek, thyme, mullein, are examples of decongesting herbs. Herbs such as garlic, either raw or a high potency formula with a high allicin content, (see my article “God’s Good Herbs – Garlic” for more information on “allicin”) and goldenseal may be added if infection is present.

Coughing and Sneezing

     When debris enters the respiratory passages, it can become trapped in the thin layer of mucus that coats the membranes of the sinuses and lungs.  Tiny hair-like projections called cilia sweep this mucus and any debris it has trapped to the esophagus so it can be swallowed and eliminated from the body.  Postnasal drip occurs when excessive mucus is swept out of the sinuses to the back of the throat. The act of “clearing the throat” moves excess mucus out of the bronchioles and into the esophagus. 

     When mucus becomes too thick for cilia to sweep it along, it becomes stuck. This irritation to the cilia produces a nervous reflex action that causes us to cough or sneeze in an effort to break up the thickened mucus. The way over-the-counter cough medications work is by interfering with the nervous system to suppress the cough reflex. The problem is that suppressing the cough does nothing to help the body remove the cause of the irritation. 

     Expectorants are a class of herbs that work by helping the body expel irritants trapped in the lungs or sinuses.  Marshmallow, fenugreek, thyme, mullein, yerba santa, boneset, lobelia and eucalyptus are examples of herbs that break up and help the body expel mucus, which makes coughs more productive. 

Supporting the Need for Cleansing

     Another important way to support the body in its healing efforts is to help it more effectively eliminate toxins and irritants produced by inflammation. It is important that all of the organs and channels of elimination be working optimally for this to occur.


     Respiratory problems that are chronic and frequent are almost always linked to a congested colon. Often when a person is feverish or has a cough, runny nose, headache, sore throats earache, diarrhea or flu symptoms, the condition usually improves when the bowel is cleansed.  Since the colon is the primary organ of elimination, it is especially important that it not be blocked or sluggish. Examples of herbs that can act as stimulant laxatives are cascara sagrada, aloe leaf, turkey rhubarb, yellow dock and senna.  Stimulant laxative herbs should only be used on a short-term basis because continual use can overstimulate the colon and weaken its energy reserves.

     Lots of fiber and water is needed for good colon function. Fiber not only helps with constipation but also is beneficial for absorbing toxins from diarrhea that occurs as the body attempts to flush irritants from the system in the case of flu or food poisoning.

     An herb such as slippery elm helps to absorb toxins and soothe the entire digestive system, making it a helpful remedy for diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome and other inflammatory bowel diseases. Other similar herbs like marshmallow, aloe juice or psyllium seeds can also be used to help absorb toxins and slow diarrhea.  In mild cases, forms of fiber such as psyllium hulls, oat bran, rice bran and acacia gum can be helpful.  Though not an herb, activated charcoal is highly effective in absorbing gases and poisons that upset the digestive tract. 


     If the kidneys are sluggish and need assistance with flushing irritants, a class of herbs known as diuretics can help them do so more effectively during acute illness.  Examples of herbs in this category are asparagus, buchu, celery, juniper berries, goldenrod, and parsley.  If infection is present in the urinary tract, herbs such as cranberry, echinacea, goldenseal and uva ursi leaves can be used. All of these herbs should be used with plenty of water to adequately flush irritants. Combinations of these herbs work most effectively in supporting the work of the kidney in ridding the body of toxins and irritants (see herbal formula guide after the conclusion of this article).

Lymphatic System

     The lymphatic system carries waste from the blood to the lymph nodes where it is filtered before being returned to the blood. This system easily becomes congested when the colon and kidneys are overburdened or weakened.  When a person has frequent chronic respiratory problems (chronic sinus congestion, chronic post nasal drip, hay fever and allergy induced asthma), it generally indicates that the lymphatic system is burdened and sluggish. Secondary cold symptoms, such as sore throat, earaches, swollen lymph nodes and tonsillitis, occur more easily when the lymphatic system is congested since the respiratory channel is called upon to take up the slack when the lymphatics cannot adequately handle the load. 

     Since most respiratory conditions take hold when the lymphatic system is sluggish, it is essential to use remedies that increase lymphatic drainage. To reduce congestion in the head and chest, either garlic oil or a dilution of one part essential oil (eucalyptus, lavender, lemon, thyme or tea tree are good choices) with 10 drops olive or massage oil can be massaged into swollen lymph nodes in the neck and chest.  Combinations of herbs such as cleavers, echinacea root, mullein, plantain, red root, red clover, stillingia and yarrow can be used internally to cleanse and promote better drainage to the lymphatics.


     The skin is actually the largest organ or elimination and is used by the body to clear away toxins, especially when the primary organs of elimination are congested. The type of herbs used for this purpose (known as sudorific) work by enhancing perspiration and moving blood to the surface of the skin.  This, in turn, helps to open up sweat glands and promotes elimination. Examples of herbs in this category are blue vervain, ginger , pine bark, yarrow, catnip, and horseradish.

How to Eat When You are Sick

     In order to recover quickly from any acute illness, the body needs high quality nutrition if it is to have energy for the healing process. However, when first experiencing an acute illness, it is actually better to reserve the body’s limited energy by going into a fasting or partial fasting mode, just as small children and animals follow their natural instincts and refrain from food when they are sick. The reason for this is that energy expended on digesting a heavy meal further congests the body and slows down its recovery. Since the body is already in a weakened state, rather than throwing heavy logs onto a smoldering fire, you should instead wait until the body is past the crisis and can devote extra energy to the digestion process.

     When you do resume eating, it is wise to start with foods like raw fruit, vegetable juices and soups that are alkaline, have plenty of phytonutrients and are easy to digest.  Eating these types of foods is like putting easy-to-burn kindling on the fire. Later on, you can incorporate vegetables, nuts and seeds before resuming eating more acid grains and heavy protein foods, such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, milk and beans (the heavier “logs”).  Needless to say, sugar-laden foods and foods that are refined and processed are never good for the health of our bodies at any time, especially during illness since sugar paralyzes the immune system for a number of hours after it is ingested.

Concluding Thoughts

     Although I could not begin to adequately cover the wide range of herbs and specific ways to use them with different types of acute illnesses in an article of this length, I hope I have at least given you some ideas of how herbs and natural remedies can work to bring healing in ways that are safe and non-toxic to the body.


Fundamentals of Natural Healing course by Steven Horne


Herbal Formula Remedy Guide

In order to ensure the best results, make certain that the herbs you use are from a company with the highest standards for testing and quality assurance and one that guarantees the purity and potency of their herbs.  The following herbs and formulas are remedies I would recommend that are specifically designed to address each aspect covered in this article related to natural healing from acute illnesses.

General Activator HCP-X

Preventing and Combating Infection

Sinus Drainage – ALJ , CC-A , Fenugreek & Thyme 

Chronic Congestion – ALJ , Sinus Support 

Coughing and Sneezing – ALJ , Breathe Activator , Marshmallow & Fenugreek , Four

 Allergic Reactions – ALJ, Histablock , Four 

Cleansing Support

Colon Support – LBS II , All Cell Detox , Nature’s Three  (fiber)

Kidney Support – Kidney Drainage, Kidney Activator 

Lymphatic System Support –Lymphomax , Lymph Gland Cleanse , Lymphatic Drainage 

Blood Purifiers – BP-X , All Cell Detox , Liver Balance 

Copyright © 2008-2015 Lucinda Bedogne, CNHP, CNC

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