Coughs / Colds

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Coughs can be caused by many things including irritants and allergens, viruses and bacteria.

Coughing is a reflex action as an attempt to expel foreign matter from the air passages. The commonest cause of a dry, tickly cough is inflammation in the throat due to a viral infection. Mucus can also be produced as a response to dust, bacterial infection and other irritants.

It is not always easy to find the right remedy to treat a cough and professional help may be required under some circumstances. If there are any signs of a fever, shortness of breath, in very young children, if the cough does clear up in a few days, or the person becomes generally unwell urgent medical treatment must be sought.

Seeking professional help for a cough usually isn’t necessary – most clear up on their own within a few weeks. A simple and soothing cough remedy suitable for adults and children can be made from a slice of fresh lemon, a teaspoon of honey, and a few drops of elderberry tincture added to hot water.

There’s little evidence to suggest that cough medicines will be any more effective.

Herbal remedies

A simple and soothing cough remedy suitable for adults and children can be made from a slice of fresh lemon, a teaspoon of honey, and a few drops of Elderberry tincture added to hot water.

Coltsfoot, Elderflower, Sage: Effective selection of expectorant herbs with a soothing and antibacterial action. Make an infusion and drink 3 times a day, or use the tinctures.

Coltsfoot should only be taken for 3-4 days at a time. Do not use coltsfoot or sage during pregnancy or breastfeeding unless prescribed by a qualified practitioner.

Aniseed: Add this for spasmodic or irritating coughs for its antispasmodic action.


Choose the remedy that best matches the symptoms.

Aconite 30: Sudden onset often after exposure to cold wind. Dry croupy cough with runny nose and sneezing. Cough with hoarseness/ dryness of throat. Try this remedy first in the first day or two of a cough developing. Three times a day for one or two days.

Ant Tart 30: Noisy, rattling, loose cough as if chest full of mucus. Often useful for young children or elderly with a chesty cough. Cough is often worse at night. Three times a day for two or three days.

Bryonia 30: Dry hacking or barking cough. Spasmodic cough shaking the whole body. Pain in the head or chest from coughing. The patient holds the chest when coughing. Dryness of all air passages with thirst. Three times a day for two or three days.

Causticum 30: Cough with raw, hollow, sore feeling in chest.

Drosera 30: Spasmodic, dry irritating coughs like whooping cough. Barking cough which is dry in the evening and loose in the morning. Retching after spasmodic cough. Often useful to clear up a cough that is dragging on. Three times a day for two or three days.

Ipecacuanha 30: Almost always totally dry cough which comes in paroxysms causing choking, gagging or vomiting. Worse: at night and in the morning while lying in bed, warm room. Better: after expectoration and cold drinks. A good children’s cough remedy if the symptoms fit. Three times a day for two or three days.

Rumex 30: The main remedy for tickling irritated coughs. Incessant, violent, tickling cough with scant expectoration. Intense tickling in the larynx and trachea. Teasing cough preventing sleep. Cough is noticeably worse when going outside and from talking. Three times a day for two or three days.

Elderberry Syrup is a great Immunity Booster. My children love this with hot or cold water. We have even drizzled it over porridge, ice cream and sweet pancakes (especially those made with coconut oil!).

Elderberries – The Immune Booster


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In many parts of the world early autumn sees trees in the hedgerows hang heavy with deeply coloured elderberries.

There are several species of elder, but Sambucus nigra, or European elder (also called black elder), is the one used most often for medicinal purposes.

The tree, which is common throughout Europe, North America and Asia, was once regarded as a complete medicine chest. All parts of the plant can be used medicinally, however in today’s kitchen it is the fruits and flowers which are most commonly consumed.

Such is the plant’s repute that elderberries are fast becoming accepted a functional food, especially in parts of Europe such as Austria, Germany and the UK where it is gradually being incorporated into more foods and supplements.

A versatile plant

The elder (Sambucus nigra) belongs to the same broad family of fruiting trees as blackcurrants. In folk medicine, the berries have been used for their diaphoretic (promotes sweating), laxative and diuretic properties and to treat various illnesses such as stomach ache, sinus congestion, constipation, diarrhoea, sore throat, common cold, and rheumatism.

The flowers are said to have diaphoretic, anti-catarrhal, expectorant, circulatory stimulant, diuretic, and topical anti-inflammatory actions.

The leaves and inner bark have also been used for their purgative, emetic, diuretic, laxative, topical emollient, expectorant, and diaphoretic action.

Some of these uses seem justified since elderberry contains tannins and viburnic acid, both known to have a positive effect on diarrhoea, nasal congestion, and to improve respiration.

Modern research

Ancient belief has been borne out by recent research. Elderberries contain concentrated amounts of Vitamin C and beta carotene, flavonoids, fruit acids, and antioxidant polyphenols, flavonoids and anthocyanins. Levels of these nutrients are comparable and in some cases exceed those found in blueberries and strawberries, and research suggests these are bettrer absorbed than those from blackcurrants.

It is believed that the anthocyanins in elderberries enhance immune function by boosting the production of cytokines, proteins acting as messengers in the immune system to help regulate immune response.

Help for colds & flu

Evidence shows that elderberries contain potent antiviral compounds as well as high amounts of bioflavonoids and that extracts of the fruit can help fight the flu. The extract is most often taken as a syrup and elderberry syrup is a widely researched and proven way to boost immunity at any time but especially against colds and flu.

Tested in the lab, elderberry syrup worked better than echinacea-containing formulations to stimulate a healthy immune response by increasing inflammatory and anti-inflammatory reactions.

Research proves it to be effective in shortening the duration and lessening symptoms of influenza A and B. A double-blind placebo-controlled trial conducted during an outbreak of influenza B Panama found that within two days there were significant improvements in symptoms, including fever, among 93.3% of those taking an elderberry syrup. A complete cure was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of the elderberry group compared to 6 days in the placebo group.

Likewise, research from Norway, found that flu symptoms disappeared four days faster in patients given Sambucol. On average, patients taking it recovered in 4 days earlier compared to those given placebo.

Inactivating viruses and more

Elderberry syrup works in a very specific way. A virus enters cells by puncturing their walls with tiny spikes that cover its surface. The active ingredients in elderberry bind to and cover the spikes, preventing them from piercing the cell membrane. The viral spikes are also covered with an enzyme that the virus uses to break down the cell wall. Elderberries have high concentrations of bioflavonoids, which appear to inhibit the action of this enzyme.

For this reason the elderberry has shown some promising results in preliminary trials involving other viruses, including Epstein-Barr, herpes simplex, and HIV.

Other evidence suggests that it can have a small beneficial effect on blood lipidsand with a knock on effect of lowering the risk of heart disease.

Scientists from the Austrian University of Graz showed that elderberry extract reduces oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Oxidation of LDL cholesterol is implicated in atherogenesis (the development of plaques on the artery walls), contributing to cardiovascular disease.

Don’t forget the flowers

The flowers are a traditional remedy for relieving lung congestion. They promote sweating and so can cool fevers. They also have an anti-inflammatory action that can help reduce swelling in mucous membranes in the sinuses, helping to relieve nasal congestion.

Other preliminary research shows that an extract of the flowers has an insulin-like effect that could be beneficial in the treatment of diabetes.

Incorporating the flowers into your daily routine is simple if you brew them as a tea. Add 2-4 fresh elderflower heads (or 2 tsp of dried herb per cup) to a teapot, pour in boiling water to cover, leave to infuse for a few minutes, strain, and drink.

If you want to use the fresh berries foraging is still the way most people find them. Once washed and separated from their stems, they can be made into syrups, jams, compotes or smoothies or as an addition to fruit-based recipes.

Product link

Organic Elderberry Syrup 150ml


Lavender Chest Wraps

This was recommended to me by a doctor once. Place 3-4 drops of lavender essential oil in a bowl of hot water (as hot as you can bare, but obviously not so hot that it will burn your skin), soak a muslin cloth or cotton flannel, place on chest, wrap a towel around, and relax for about 20 minutes on the sofa or in bed! It is thought to help shift infection and of course the lavender itself has a calming effect as well.

Here are some more informative articles

And a delicious Super-defence Smoothie

Photo of NYR's Super Defence Smoothie

Another household favourite is the Honey & Thyme Syrup. Ingredients include ‘Honey, Marshmallow root (20%), Aniseed fruit (11%), Thyme flower (10%), E300 Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)’. Again, it can be diluted with warm or cold water, usually we have it in little shot glasses. The honey helps to soothe the throat and the thyme is warming and is known to have an affinity to the chest.

Product link

Honey & Thyme Syrup 150ml

Winter warming drinks

Personally I also like to burn Thyme and Lemon essential oils when cough season starts as they are anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Frankincense can also help as it is a bronchiodilator, helping to open up the bronchials to allow for deeper breath, etc.

Product links

There is also a brand new product, just launched in July 2015, which is meant to work fantastically as an all-round defence blend.

The website gives the following information:

An amazing all-rounder, Organic Defence is a blend of pure 100% organic essential oils that gives you natural protection against most common bacteria and viruses, and helps support your body’s immune system.

Simply infuse a cloth to cleanse and sanitise surfaces, inhale to clear sinuses or vaporise to deodorise and purify the air. It’s your all-natural alternative to harsh chemical cleansing sprays and room fresheners.

With zesty organic lemongrass and purifying niaouli essential oils.

Organic Soil AssociationSuitable for vegansCruelty Free

  • Natural protection against most common bacteria and viruses
  • Clinically proven to help protect against flu
  • Helps to support the family’s immune system
  • Cleanses and sanitises surfaces
  • Vaporise to deodorise and purify the air

How to Use:

Vaporisation: add 2-4 drops to a diffuser to deodorise and purify the air.

Inhalation: add 4-6 drops to a bowl of hot water and inhale the vapours for 5-10 minutes.

Cleansing: apply 2-3 drops to a damp cloth to sanitise kitchen or work surfaces, phones and keyboards; or add to laundry liquids and household cleansers.


Melaleuca Viridiflora Leaf Oil*, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil*, Lavandula Hybrida Oil*, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Oil*, Vetiveria Zizanoides Root Oil*, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Leaf Oil*, Benzyl Benzoate, Cinnamal, Cinnamyl Alcohol, Citral, Citronellol, Coumarin, Eugenol, Farnesol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool.

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