By: Maya Gottfried

While the common cold continues to evade mainstream medical treatments, herbal remedies can offer all-natural relief from the sneezing, congestion, scratchy throat, and achiness that we all seem to suffer through at one time or another. If you start sniffling or begin to feel that familiar tickle in your throat, now is the perfect moment to put time-tested herbal remedies to use. 

And if boosting your immune system is a priority for you, don’t forget that Mab Tabs offer high-potency immune support with the super tabs we craft with your unique needs in mind. 

Here are some of our favorite go-to herbs for when cold season is upon us. We wish you quick relief!

1. Astragalus

With antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, astragalus has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. Harvested from the root of a plant in the pea family, astragalus is known to fend off colds and upper respiratory infections. Evidence suggests that regularly taking astragalus may also relieve allergy symptoms, including itching and sneezing. Try the herb as an immune-boosting tea by simmering 1 tablespoon of dried, shredded astragalus root with 2 cups of water (covered). Then strain and enjoy your steaming mug of cold-busting goodness. Or just toss a few dried slices into a soup.

2. Echinacea

A vibrant purple flower that is part of the daisy family, echinacea is one of the most popular medicinal herbs around the world. Frequently recommended to fight colds, echinacea appears to work best when taken as soon as symptoms start. There are a few varieties of the herb, and Echinacea purpurea has been shown to be the most effective in fighting colds. Try soothing your symptoms with a 6 to 8 oz. cup of echinacea tea four times a day. Studies show that when taken for seven to 10 days, the herb can reduce both the severity and duration of that aggravating cold.

3. Elderberry

This magical herb has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for colds, sinus infections, and the flu. Native American communities traditionally treated infections with it, and ancient Egyptians used it to heal burns. Research has shown that elderberry extracts may repel viruses, shortening the duration of cases of flu, as well as the common cold. Elderberry juice, syrup, and capsules are readily available in health food stores, but it’s best not to concoct your own tonic at home; the plant’s fresh parts may contain poisonous cyanide! Don’t let that deter you, though; there are plenty of safe products for sale at local and online shops. And don’t forget that here at Mab & Stoke, Elderberry is one of our absolute favorite herbs for creating your custom herbal blend

4. Ginger

Ginger has a number of therapeutic qualities and can easily be found at your local grocery store. It’s used in TCM to cure coughs, as well as the runny noses and aches that come with colds. India’s ancient Ayurvedic tradition also uses ginger as a treatment for colds. Hot ginger tea is easy to make, either from a tea bag or using fresh ginger root straight from the produce section. Just cut off the root’s thick skin and put a few slices in a couple of cups of boiling water. The tea will also treat that funky nausea that often comes with colds and the flu.

5. Horseradish

Oh, that stuffy nose! Even when we are on the mend from a cold, the congestion can make it feel as though it goes on forever. That’s where horseradish comes in. This punchy root can do wonders to clear up those passageways, moving mucus out of your system. Simply grate it into boiling water, adding lemon juice and agave to taste. Then strain (or sip your spicy tea just as it is). You can even spread one-half tablespoon of bottled horseradish on your lunchtime sandwich to help clear sinuses. Bonus: horseradish is rich in immune-boosting vitamin C.

6. Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is already the active ingredient in many over-the-counter chest rubs, so why not go straight to the source? Just put a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil into boiling water and breathe in to clear your sinuses (and soothe bronchitis). Along with its therapeutic vapor, eucalyptus oil has antiviral and antimicrobial properties that may help in treating the common cold. To really treat yourself, add eucalyptus oil to a hot bath and soak your way to cleared passages. Just toss in two or three drops before climbing in.

7. Catnip

Believe it or not, catnip is not just your kitty’s favorite indulgence. It can also treat fevers in humans, by stimulating perspiration. The age-old wisdom to “sweat it out” still stands. Just mix two teaspoons of catnip with one cup of boiling water to brew up the perfect potion to fight that cold. Let your tea steep for 10-15 minutes, adding lemon juice and agave to taste. (Please note: do not consume catnip if you are pregnant.)

So the next time that pesky common cold shows up, do not despair. Western medicine may have not found a cure-all, but with plentiful herbal remedies, you have everything you need to fend off the sneezing, sniffling, aching, and coughing. 

And keep taking your Mab Tabs—packed with therapeutic herbal ingredients—to keep up your resistance year-round.

Maya Gottfried is the author of books for children and adults, including Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary (Knopf) and Vegan Love (Skyhorse).