October 31, 2023 5:41 pm

We are in full swing with our annual cold and flu season, so I would like to share a few practical tips on how to deal with coughs.

Dry Cough

In this case there may be a scratchy feeling in the throat, and no mucus rattling in the lungs. Soothing, moistening remedies are called for, to reduce the irritation. Simply stirring a spoonful of honey into hot water may do the trick. Seaweed infusions are also very soothing – kelp or Irish moss, steeped in cold water for 30 minutes will form a thick, gel-like consistency, similar to aloe vera gel. You can purchase locally harvested seaweeds at healthfood stores; they are great to have on hand for other medicinal and culinary purposes.

Marshmallow root and licorice root teas are very effective at soothing a dry cough, along with common garden violet, red clover and plantain.

Wet cough

This is when the spice cabinet doubles as a medicine cabinet. Make a strong tea with any or all of the following: clove, cardamom, anise, fennel, coriander, black pepper. The spiciness of fresh ginger, garlic, and onion help to “melt” the mucus, making it easier to cough up. The needles from spruce, fir and pine trees can also be brewed in a tea to produce a more productive cough.

I’m a fan of the following cough syrup recipe because the ingredients are often on hand in the kitchen, it is easy to make and it tastes better than it may sound.

Onion and Garlic Syrup

Peel and slice 6 cloves fresh garlic

Peel and thinly slice one medium onion

1 cup sugar, preferably evaporated whole cane juice.

In a clean wide mouthed glass jar, cover the bottom with a layer of sugar.

Add a layer of onion and garlic, then another layer of sugar, alternating layers until all the onion and garlic are used up.  Cover with a paper coffee filter or a clean, cotton cloth (secure with elastic band).  Let sit 8 hours.  Mixture will liquefy.  Strain into another jar and cover tightly.

Store in fridge for up to two weeks. Take 1 tsp as needed for cough.

Endless Hacking Cough

This is the kind that keeps you up at night, or persists to the point where your ribs hurt. It may be dry or wet. Relaxing herbal teas are helpful, chamomile, lavender, skullcap. Also, warm compresses on the chest. When it is especially disruptive, wild cherry bark, coltsfoot, valerian and crampbark can be used as teas or tinctures to suppress the cough.

Steam inhalations are helpful for clearing lung congestion, use either essential oils, or herbs with a strong fragrance. Add a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint essential oil to a bowl of hot water, inhaling the fumes. Or, simmer a pot of water with herbs such as spruce, pine, thyme, sage, oregano and rosemary, and inhale the steam.

During cold and flu season I always have a bottle of the following homemade cough syrup in the fridge.

All Purpose Cough Syrup

3 cups water

1 cup elderberries

1/4 cup thyme

5 tbs cinnamon

1 cup honey

Gently simmer the herbs for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half.  Strain the liquid.  While still hot, stir in the honey.  Pour into a glass jar and label.  Store in the fridge for up to 2 months.  Take 1 tsp as needed for cough and sore throat.

Other herbs and spices can be substituted, while keeping the elderberries for their well researched anti-viral properties. Elderberries are from a shrub that can be found throughout Nova Scotia, usually in damp places, the dry berries can be purchased at Bloom or  health food stores.

Savayda will be hosting a workshop on natural remedies, for adults and children, for winter ailments such as cold and flu. Thursday, November 23, 6:30-8:30 pm at the Old School in Musquodoboit Harbour.