In Canada, peak times for colds are at the start of fall, mid-winter and again in early spring. This may vary depending on where you live. Seasonal changes bring about bouts of cold viruses passing in-between children and adults. Adults catch approximately 2 to 4 colds annually, while children have a tendency to get ill more often since their immune system is weaker.  

The common cold is a viral infection, which affects the throat, sinuses and sometimes the larynx. Symptoms include sneezing, blocked or runny nose and sore throat. Though a cold should relieve within a week, cough and sore throat can linger for awhile even after recovery. Taking antibiotics unnecessarily means they might not work when you really need them. A safer and equally effective alternative cold and flu treatment is with herbal remedies.

Keep reading to discover 6 fail-safe ways to counteract the cold and flu symptoms with herbs you can conjure up at home.

Echinacea

Echinacea is a flowering plant that grows in Canada, Europe and the United States. There are nine species all of which have been used as a medicine for centuries. The flowers, stems, leaves and roots are all used to make liquid extracts, supplements and teas. Echinacea affects the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells which fight infections. This herb builds the body’s defense mechanism against germs and activates chemicals into the body that reduce inflammation leading to elimination of cold and flu symptoms. It works best when used at the first sign of illness for efficient cold and flu relief.

Elderberry

This tiny berry is one of the most potent herbs enriched with antioxidant properties making it an effective remedy against the flu virus. Elderberry prevents the virus from replicating, which shortens the duration of flu symptoms. Also known to reduce swelling in the mucous membranes, this herb relieves congestion effectively owing to flavonoids which are anti-inflammatory agents. However, be warned this berry contains a toxic compound related to cyanide, if it isn’t extracted properly it can be poisonous.

Astragalus Root

This adaptogen herb belongs to the Leguminosae (beans or legumes) family, it helps the body handle stress by bringing balance to adrenal glands which can be beneficial during illness. Astragalus works as an immune system booster and disease fighter. Though there are 2,000 species of Astragalus, only two are used medicinally, namely Astragalus Membranaceus and Astragalus Mongholicus. This plant contains flavonoids, saponins and polysaccharides which are vital in eliminating disease. Flavonoids found in astragalus contain antioxidant properties which can control free radicals and prevent cancer, heart disease and immunodeficiency viruses. Saponins help lower cholesterol, prevent cancer and boost the immune system. Polysaccharides found in this herb have antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antiviral qualities that promote overall well-being.

Ginger Root

Ginger is warm in nature and contains anti-inflammatory properties that relieve aches and pains, so it’s no surprise Ginger Ale is a widely used cold and flu remedy. In case of fever, it helps you sweat it out and in case of tummy troubles or nausea, ginger soothes the stomach and intestinal tract. When you’re feeling ill, a constant warm feeling can make you feel better in an instant, that is exactly what ginger tea offers. It stimulates the mind and boosts blood circulation. This herb relieves nausea, congestion, fever and cold. Though eating ginger can help, it is most effective when consumed as a juice shot or as an herbal drink.

Yarrow

This herb has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties which reduce pain and improve circulation. Yarrow is an anti-catarrhal and a mild sedative. It is most effective when consumed at the onset of flu symptoms. When taken in hot infusion, this herb relieves dry fever, since it is diaphoretic, it opens up pores and promotes perspiration which makes it a vital cold and flu remedy. Also known for astringent properties, this herb can ease wet cough, sinus infections and allergies. It works by drying up and releasing excess mucus out of the respiratory system while decreasing swelling in the tender membranes of the throat and nose.