When excellent hygiene, a healthy diet, adequate exercise, and sunlight aren’t enough, antiviral herbs offer immune system support to help ward off the cold and flu! These top nine antiviral herbs for the cold and flu season make the best home remedies when the creeping crud hits!
Even herbalists get the flu.
True story. Two years running, I have been hit with the flu. Hard. After many flu free years, my poor-self-care-fill-everybody-else’s-cup-first attitude has bit me in the behind. On any given day, I can be caught dosing the entire family with elderberry tincture and fire cider — while forgetting myself. The irony doesn’t escape me, friends. I offer holistic suggestions to people EVERY SINGLE DAY, and somehow fail to take care of myself.
Now for some accountability. So, all you other super poor self care people out there — let’s make a pledge of solidarity. Repeat after me “I will take care of myself everyday. I will nourish and protect my body everyday. I will make my health a priority everyday.”
And on that note — let’s talk about antiviral herbs and the cold and flu season. Firstly, I should point out that cold and flu viruses exist 365 days a year. However, during the fall and winter months, we are often cooped up in close quarters with stagnant re-circulated air making person-to-person transmission of viruses much easier. And because the cold and flu are VIRAL, not bacterial, they cannot be treated with antibiotics. Even the modern pharmacopoeia offers very little in the way of effective antiviral medications and the efficacy of the “flu shot” varies greatly depending on the strain of the flu you come in contact with.
Enter antiviral herbs. These botanical allies provide some of the best herbal remedies to help prevent transmission, and/or lessen the duration and severity of the cold and flu!
I am a trained herbalist with a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I am not, however, a doctor. Posts in this blog are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Before using any herbs, check for appropriate dosage, drug interactions, and contraindications. Information contained herein is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. Please consult your primary care physician regarding your specific health concerns.
Favorite Immune Boosting & Antiviral Herbs
You really get two for the price of one with this favorite of the antiviral herbs. Elderberries are an excellent immune booster and are widely considered a preventative measure against cold and flu by the herbal community. While the efficacy of elderberries as an actual “preventative” has not been established medically speaking, a number of studies demonstrate that the use of elderberry remedies shortens the duration of and reduces the severity of flu symptoms. I make elderberry syrup every year, and have found these elderberry lollipops to be a fun way of coaxing the littlest members of my family into taking their medicine
Elderflowers absolutely deserve an honorable mention in the antiviral herbs pageant. Cooling elderflowers are an excellent way to draw down a hot, spiking fever accompanied by flushed skin and irritability. I keep a blend of two parts elderflower, to one part each chamomile and spearmint to prepare as a tea when the proverbial mercury starts to rise.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard of echinacea and its reputed ability to help one stave off the common cold and flu. This antiviral herb is, in fact, a powerful immune stimulant that can profoundly reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms such as cough and runny nose. Additionally, the roots of this powerful medicinal herb increase the promote salivation which contribute to good oral health — which often translate to increased total wellness and immunity. As such, I feel that echinacea is best taking in tincture or syrup form.
This common and particularly lemon-y member of the mint family is a profound antiviral herb in its own right. Not only will this lightly sedative and relaxing herb help ward off cold and flu, but it is also effective for preventing and healing cold sores that often accompany the seasonal crud. Poultices of the fresh or dried herb applied directly to an emerging sore can greatly lessen the severity of the ensuing blister.
St. John’s Wort
Touted as an herb for depression (this reductionist notion makes my brows furrow), St. John’s wort is an excellent anti-viral herb that offers a host of other total health benefits including speeding up the detoxification process in the liver and supporting vagus nerve health. Additionally, SJW is a powerful reliever of pain, an is particularly effective for those suffering from the nerve discomforts associated with shingles.
Everybody’s favorite allium has really “got it goin’ on” when it comes to ward off the common cold and flu. Pungent garlic is not only a mighty germ fighter and immunity booster, it is will also keep the vampires away. Haha — back to reality. Garlic is especially effective for those prone to coldness and congestion. While I am one to pop a raw clove of garlic in my mouth at the first tinge of a sore throat or stuffy nose, this honey fermented garlic is tasty and amazing remedy!
This exotic sounding member of the pea family is a excellent immune modulating herb with strong anti-viral benefits. Astragalus is one of my favorite “preventative” remedies and I incorporate it in this syrup with elderberries and rosehips. Not only is it antiviral, but it also acts to stimulate the immune system and help prevent secondary infection by supporting white blood cell production.
These two aromatic herbs are similar enough in their constituent profile that I felt they could share the spot light on this antiviral herb list. Both wild bee balm and culinary are warming diffusive herbs that stimulate immune system. One of the most gentle and profoundly soothing remedies that I suggest when tough sinus congestion is this herbal facial steam.
Diminutive little culinary thyme is actually and antiviral powerhouse and a germ-fighting super hero(ine). This woodsy aromatic herb also has warming, stimulating properties. I like to infuse raw, organic honey with copious springs of fresh thyme during late summer to be taken by the spoonful at the first sign of a sore throat.
Oregon Grape Root
The bright yellow inner parts of Oregon Grape root contain a powerful infect fighting constituent called berberine. Berberine is also the the same constituent present in the widely over-harvested and threatened goldenseal. This bitter herb is highly effective for warding off the common cold and flu, as well as having great antibiotic action on secondary bacterial infections. I prefer to take Oregon Grape root in tincture form.
Usnea is the probably my most favorite infection fighter in my natural remedy apothecary. It is so useful that my family knows the usnea deal and their assigned dosing and my husband calls me up to prepare a bottle when his friends and colleagues get sick. Usnea is extremely effective for bacterial infections of the respiratory and urinary tracts, but it also has profound antiviral properties and should be taken at the first sign of exposure to the common cold and flu. You can get more information and instruction on how to make a usnea tincture here.
A note on safety of immune enhancing herbs
The herbs mentioned in this post are widely regarded as safe remedies. This list also includes immune enhancing herbs like astragalus, echinacea and elderberry and it should be noted that there is some conflicting evidence as to weather these herbs are safe for those have autoimmune disease. Please consult with your physician if you have autoimmune disease, are pregnant or nursing, or are taking prescription medication if taking these or any other herbs.