Treating sinus problems, sore throat, cold, and flu symptoms with herbs and home remedies

Sinus problems, stuffy noses, sore throats, sneezing, congestion, and other cold or flu symptoms can be successfully treated with medicinal herbs and essential oils.

Runny nose and stuffy sinuses are the most common symptoms of a cold. Sinuses consist of the air-filled chambers around the nose, on both sides of the forehead, between nasal passages and eye sockets, and around the cheekbones. When the sinuses become infected or obstructed, mucus forms and collects in pockets causing pain, breathing problems, headache, and swelling. Coughing? See lung problems for more information.

Treat sinus infection and congestion with herbs and aromatherapy
© Adam Borkowski | Dreamstime Stock Photos

This guy needs more than a box of tissue. Herbal remedies like drinking eucalyptus tea can help clear his sinus congestion!

Use herbal teas for sinus problems.

Herbal teas are excellent sinus treatments. As you sip herbal tea, inhale the soothing vapors. Effective herbs for treating sinus problems include mullein, chamomile, comfrey, marshmallow, ginger, eyebright, fenugreek, thyme, echinacea, and calendula.

Try this preventive measure when exposed to a cold virus.

Mix a teaspoon of sea salt or table salt with a cup of hot water. Stir to dissolve. When lukewarm, snort up the nose and allow liquid to drain down the back of the throat and then spit it out of the mouth. If you have some powdered myrrh, add a pinch to the mixture before snorting. Myrrh may not completely dissolve and the mixture may need to be strained through a couple layers of cheesecloth before snorting. This all sounds awful but really works to ward off colds. Better to gag for a few seconds than to suffer weeks with a cold!

Using a neti pot to cleanse the sinuses

What can you do about runny nose and nasal congestion? Herbal teas are one option, but so is nasal cleansing. Find out more about nasal cleansing, sinus health, and neti pots from Mayo Clinic:

Sinus problems can be caused by germs and pollen.

Causes of sinus problems include viral infection, bacterial infection, allergies, too much dairy in the diet, constipation, poor circulation, lack of exercise, and air pollution. Suppressive over-the-counter medications can drive infection deeper and produce side effects (although they may bring temporary relief).

Essential oils help clear the sinuses.

Aromatherapy and essential oils can greatly benefit the sinuses. Eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, and rosemary essential oils help soothe and heal the entire respiratory system. Essential oils are also useful in a steam bath. Use lavender and eucalyptus essential oils -- they evaporate with the steam from the bath to penetrate and heal the sinuses. These oils may also be used in foot massage. Concentrate on the bottom of toes and balls of the feet. Dilute essential oils before using on skin.

Good diet can help heal sinus problems.

Sinus problems usually benefit from a cleansing diet of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Greens, lemon juice, carrot juice, pineapples, papayas, and apples are good things to add. Don’t forget to drink plenty of pure, fresh water – the best remedy of all for clearing up sinus problems.

Use horseradish to clear sinus mucus.

When the sinuses are stopped up, a good way to drain them is with horseradish. Grate a couple of teaspoons of fresh horseradish root and take a big spoonful by mouth. Add lemon juice for extra strength. The sinuses will begin to drain and should be clear within a few minutes.

Hot ginger or eucalyptus compresses can also help. Apply compress to chest area and cover with a light blanket for best results. If patient complains of burning, remove compress. Some people with sensitive skin might develop a rash or other inflammation.If so, apply aloe vera to area.

Protect the sinuses by building immunity.

Before the start of cold and flu season, take regular doses of immunity herbs like ginseng, goldenseal, yellowroot, licorice, and astragalus. A strong immunity is the best way to protect against sinus infection. At the first sign of a cold (such as run down feeling with tickle in the throat or sneezing), begin taking three doses of astragalus a day for a week (but not with a fever). Often this one safeguard can kill a cold virus before it gets a chance to invade sinus tissues and other body systems.

Treating cold symptoms with herbal remedies

If a cold or flu strikes, there are many herbal remedies to soothe irritated sinus membranes and hasten recovery. Take a hot bath -- add wintergreen or eucalyptus for congestion, mint or chamomile for headache, and tea tree essential oil for cough. For a soothing massage, mix three drops eucalyptus essential oil, three drops tea tree essential oil, two drops thyme essential oil, two drops sandalwood essential oil, and two drops of chamomile essential oil with a quarter cup of almond oil as carrier. Rub on chest and back with gentle pressure. The touch of loving hands can do wonders, especially when applying medicinal oils.

Person washes their hands
Wash hands often during cold and flu season to keep germs at bay. Photo courtesy of

Build up your immunity with good diet and medicinal herbs.

I can't stress it enough! The best defense against infection is a healthy immune system. Avoid all processed foods, fried foods, and sugars. Don't take antibiotics or steroids unless absolutely necessary. Avoid pesticides and herbicides. Don't smoke tobacco or abuse alcoholic beverages. Exercise frequently. Eat a diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables which contain live enzymes. Drink lots of pure water.

Stress lowers immunity. Reduce stress by using rosemary essential oil and lavender essential oils with massage therapy. Get eight hours of sleep. Take Vitamin A, C, and E supplements. Drink echinacea, ginseng, astragalus, milk thistle seed, yellowroot, licorice root, or catnip tea often. Add garlic and parsley to foods. Remember that laughter is the best medicine -- it actually builds up the immune system by decreasing cortisol production -- so keep a sense of humor.

Cold and flu germs are contagious.

Colds and the flu are very contagious conditions so If possible, stay at home if you are sick. Symptoms include fever, headache, weakness, dry cough, sore throat, runny nose, sinus problems, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Bacterial pneumonia, ear infection, serious sinus infection, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions are some of the known complications.

Prevent infection!

There are many effective ways to prevent the spread of germs.

  1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  2. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
  3. Dispose of the tissue immediately and then wash your hands.
  4. Wash your hands frequently, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  5. Dry your hands with a disposable towel. Use the towel to turn off the faucet and then discard the towel into a trash can.
  6. Don't share drinks, food, or eating utensils.
  7. Stay home if you are sick.
  8. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  9. Build immunity with medicinal herbs.

Elderberry helps fight viral infections.

For the sniffles and other sinus problems, try sipping a cup of elderberry, yarrow, and peppermint tea. Add ginger root for congestion. Echinacea, yellowroot, and myrrh are powerful natural antibiotics that can help -- but be sure to use in moderation.

Elderberries are known for protecting the lungs, clearing sinus problems, relieving fever, and soothing muscle aches. They grow abundantly in forested areas of the North Georgia Mountains and have been used for centuries as a tonic.

Relieve sore throat with white willow bark tea.

Sore throat is often a painful symptom of a cold. Echinacea, white willow bark, white oak bark, or yellowroot can be made into tea, cooled, and used as a soothing gargle or spray. Mix in a few drops of tea tree essential oil or clove essential oil for added strength. Also try gargling with salt water. Salt really brings relief to a sore, scratchy throat.

A liquid diet is beneficial during the first day of a cold or flu. Include green drinks, vegetable and fruit juices, and lots of pure water in the diet. Only light meals throughout the day should be given until condition is improved.

The best thing for the flu is prevention!

Ways to build immunity include eating a good diet with live enzymes, drinking plenty of fresh water, breathing clean air, getting a good night's sleep, and living in as pure environment. Avoid toxic chemicals poisons like pesticides, herbicides, cigarette smoke, engine fumes, radon, household chemicals, and air pollution.

Man suffers from flu symptoms
Picture of man with the flu -- courtesy of

This man suffers with flu symptoms including headache, fever, sinus problems, and congestion.

Build immunity with herbs so your body can fight the flu virus.

The best way to fight the flu is to start building immunity in spring and summer! Don't wait until coughing, sneezing, sinus problems, and body aches get you down.

Start building immunity by taking herbs before sickness strikes.

Another way to build immunity in preparation for the “flu season” is to get on a schedule of taking herbal supplements. Yellowroot, ginseng, Echinacea, rosemary, licorice, astragalus, burdock, milk thistle seed, white willow, elderflowers, catnip, yarrow, boneset, hawthorn, garlic, dandelion, and mushrooms are good herbs to build immunity.

One method is to start in May taking astragalus everyday for two weeks. Then switch to either yellowroot or ginseng everyday for two weeks. Then skip a week or try a new herb for a day or two. Then start over with the two weeks of astragalus. Do this on a regular basis all year long although astragalus should never be taken during a feverish condition! If sickness takes hold, start treating the symptoms so patient can rest comfortably.

Treat symptoms with herbs.

Complaints of the flu range from sore throat and earache to fatigue and nausea. Full blown cases of the flu require a visit to your healthcare professional. For less severe bouts of illness, there are lots of home remedies to treat allergy, cold, and flu symptoms. White willow bark tea helps fight feverish conditions. Ginger can help with nausea. Eucalyptus essential oil steam baths help relieve sore throat, runny nose, sinus problems, chest congestion, and cough. Hyssop can sooth the lungs. Mullein oil helps sooth earache and mullein tea helps with respiratory problems.

Using essential oils to treat flu symptoms

Use essential oils to open the bronchial and nasal passageways. Eucalyptus and tea tree can work wonders on sinus congestion. Try lavender essential oil for sinus headaches. Try a soothing bath with a few drops of frankincense essential oil for body aches. Refreshing peppermint can help bring down fevers. The list goes on and on.

Herbalists should listen to their bodies and ask lots of questions when treating others.

The body will develop a taste for the herbs that it prefers and needs. Your body has lots to tell you if you will just listen. If something stinks or makes you gag, do not take it. If you crave something, then by all means, take a little extra. It is hard to overdose on herbs in their original state. Do not take extra tinctures, processed herbal “capsules”, over the counter products, or prescription medications!

Eat local honey to build immunity to allergens.

Allergies, colds and flu can be a nightmare. Get relief from runny nose, sinus congestion, and pollen by eating local honey. A spoonful a day can help build immunity to allergens that cause runny nose and watering eyes. Make sure to purchase local honey as it is made from local flora. There are several honey farms in the North Georgia area and many sell their wares at the Union County Farmers Market, local festivals, and area stores.

Tips for treating sore throat with herbs and home remedies

Sore throat can take many forms including a raw burning sensation, swollen glands, laryngitis, hoarseness, and light to severe pain. Accompanying symptoms may include fever, earache, and runny nose. Strep throat is very painful and comes on suddenly. A sore throat due to a cold or flu comes on more slowly. Tonsillitis and strep throat are more serious infections that require a visit to your healthcare professional.

Herbal tea with lemon - treat sore throat with hot tea
© Jolanta Brigere | Dreamstime Stock Photos

If daisies don't make you feel better, herbal tea with lemon and whiskey will do it.

Treat sore throat with medicinal teas, herbal gargles, compresses, and lozenges.

Lemon, honey, and garlic help sore throat pain. Lemon juice and honey is a well known remedy for soothing sore throat pain. It also helps to drink lots of citrus juice especially orange, pineapple, and grapefruit juice. Sometimes chopped garlic added to honey can help. Take a teaspoon every hour.

Herbal gargles for sore throat

Effective gargles include black tea with a pinch of cayenne, sea salt dissolved in water, yellowroot and myrrh solutions, or vinegar and water. Herbs can really help! Try a ginseng and licorice tonic, echinacea extract, or white oak bark tea. Other herbs to try include sage, thyme, plantain, elderflower, catnip, cleavers, agrimony, rosemary, turmeric, mullein, and chamomile.

Herbal compress for sore throat

Sometimes a warm ginger or parsley leaf compress can bring relief. Zinc, wild cherry, slippery elm, black walnut, and marshmallow lozenges are available at most health food stores and help to bring speedy recovery.

Herbal steams may also help.

Eucalyptus and tea tree oil steams can also help. A warm steam bath or sauna is an excellent treatment for sore throat and congestion. When steaming is impractical try inhaling lavender essential oil applied to a warm, wet cloth.

Vapor rubs can be very soothing and healing.

Mix a teaspoon of olive oil with a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Gently massage into throat and upper chest area. Cover with a warm, dry cloth for best results.

Try sticking the tongue out as far at it will go.

Hold for 30 seconds. Relax and repeat three times to increase blood supply. This speeds healing. Never whisper when suffering from a sore throat or laryngitis – it is very abrasive.

When suffering with a sore throat avoid dairy, sugar, fried foods, and fatty foods.

Also stay away from smoke and be sure to get plenty of rest. Try changing your toothbrush more often if sore throats reoccur on a regular basis.

Are allergies causing your sore throat?

Many people wake up every morning with a sore throat that improves as the day goes on. This is usually due to allergies and should be treated as such. A child that is constantly complaining of sore throat and ear pain may have an allergy to milk. Try limiting dairy products or switching to soy or almond milk.

* Sore throat may indicate a serious condition. See your healthcare professional if sore throat pain lasts for more than two days. If you have a fever of 101 degrees or higher, difficulty swallowing, swollen glands in your neck, white patches on your tonsils, or reddish, sandpaper like rash on your body seek professional help, Echinacea, cloves, and other herbs can make the throat feel numb. This is not dangerous unless patient complains of difficulty breathing or smothering. If so, call 911 or seek emergency care. Immunity building herbs should be rotated. None are recommended for constant long term use. Always consult with a healthcare professional before taking any herbal remedy especially if you are on prescription medications, pregnant, or nursing.

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Herb Articles by Janice Boling

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