Favorite Cold & Flu Remedies

favorite cold and flu remedies

It never fails… this is the way the end of every year goes for us:

  • November: feel great
  • December 1 – 24: feel great
  • December 25: go hang around a bunch of sick, coughing people in small, closed-in spaces
  • December 26: feel great
  • December 27: whole family wakes up at 3:00 a.m. with sore throats, headaches, chills, coughs and generally blechy yucky, achy feeling.

Fortunately, I’m always prepared for colds and flu and this year was no exception! We managed to feel a lot better in two days (one for my son) while others that we know stayed sick with the same stuff for one to two weeks or longer.

I thought I’d do a quick post noting my favorite cold and flu remedies in case it might help some of you suffer a little less this winter.



My number one go-to remedy is Elderberry. Actually, it’s so important, that I’d consider it numbers 1 through 10!

I first encountered elderberry when my daughter was in second grade. She was in a traditional school at the time and came down with a bad case of influenza. It was the sickest she’s ever been in her life. The doctor gave her a prescription for Tamiflu and in fact, prescriptions for the whole family since he said it was almost guaranteed that we would end up with it too.

Well, I gave my daughter a dose of Tamiflu and it made her feel 100 times worse by triggering severe stomach pain and vomiting on top of her other symptoms. I looked it up online and was appalled at some of the potential side affects.

I found an article that claimed that an elderberry extract with the funny name of Sambucol had been proven to be just as effective as Tamiflu for shortening the duration of the flu. AND, it didn’t have the nasty side affects. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try!

My husband found a bottle at our local CVS and I managed to get two doses in my daughter before bedtime. She slept most of the night and woke up feeling remarkably better. I also dosed the family as a preventive measure, and we never caught what she had.

If you’re interested in the nerdy scientific details, you can view this study on Sambucol and influenza from the Journal of International Medical Research. (hint to what it’s about: Sambucol rocks against flu germs!!) I buy our bottles of Sambucol at either the local health food store or CVS or on Amazon.com.

I now make homemade elderberry syrup from our own plants, but you can use dried berries as well. (I have the recipe for that HERE.)

How to Make Homemade Elderberry Syrup for Cold & Flu Season


I’d also not want to go through winter without my Favorite Cold & Flu Tincture. It works best when taken at the first sign of a cold or tummy bug, but is also great as far as working in synergy with the Sambucol or elderberry syrup to treat symptoms of the flu. (If you’re planning your garden, now is a great time to order Spilanthes seeds!)

cold and flu tincture


Even after you feel better, you may have a pesky, lingering cough. Often, I have my children take a spoonful of plain, raw honey for this, as needed. For the grownups, Whiskey Rose Cough Remedy works wonders (you can use dried rose petals or other herbs if you wish), and for all ages, homemade cough drops such as Honey & Lemon Sore Throat Drops or Rose Petal Peppermint Drops (try them with ginger or lemon balm tea instead of rose) really help.

Whiskey Rose Cough Remedy  honey and lemon sore throat drops  rose petal peppermint drops


Other things you can do:

  • run a vaporizer with a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil in it
  • homemade chest rubs containing essential oils such as camphor, eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, lavender… one day I’ll get around to posting my recipe, but here’s a great one from Crunchy Betty! (please be careful using vapor rubs on infants or if pregnant or breastfeeding without consulting a doctor first)
  • try to stay warm and out of cold, dry air
  • take a warm bath with epsom salts and/or sea salts with a pinch of ginger in it (avoid this if dizziness is an issue)
  • drink herbal teas such as lemon balm/melissa or olive leaf (two outstanding herbs with anti-viral properties)
  • make & enjoy herbal jello (with regular boxed jello OR juice and unflavored gelatin)
  • soup & broth! I like to make a broth with one of our home-raised chickens, plenty of onions, carrots, garlic and sage and a bit of astragalus root (a great immune booster – you can buy it HERE)
  • This is the hardest one for some people: If you’re sick, stay home and rest! (If possible.)


Those are a few of my favorite tips. I’m sure there are lots more out there! If you have any great ones to share, I’d love to hear them!

If you enjoyed reading about making my favorite flu and cold remedies, let’s keep in touch!
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*Important Note* Check with your doctor or health care provider if you have chronic health conditions, or have any questions or concerns about this or any herbal home remedy. Some sources say that pregnant women should avoid elderberry, so speak with your doctor before use. While this site does its best to provide useful information for others, any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk and not a substitute for medical, legal or any other professional advice of any kind. This post may contain affiliate links, which helps support the site and keeps it ad-free. Thank you! :) 

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Jan Berry is a writer, herbalist, soapmaker, and bestselling author of The Big Book of Homemade Products, Simple & Natural Soapmaking, and Easy Homemade Melt & Pour Soaps. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her family and a menagerie of animals, where she enjoys brainstorming creative things to make with the flowers and weeds that grow around her.

  • Gail says:

    Horehound tincture is my go-to for chest congestion. I discovered it after 3 non productive courses of antibiotics for bronchitis. I also used it on pneumonia when I had an allergic reaction to that antibiotic. Dries your lungs up in 2-3 days. It tastes horrible but works great! I get my elderberries and other medicinal herbs I don’t grow from jeansgreens.com.

    • Jan says:

      I’ve always wanted to try horehound – I’ve heard so much good about it! That’s great information that I will definitely keep in mind! I’m going to check out jeansgreens.com now! Thanks! :)

    • Jan says:

      I am in love with that site!!! Thank you so much for sharing!

  • Farmer Doug says:

    Hi Jan. My wife regularly puts a few drops of eucalyptus oil in the shower and in the car. As a result, we rarely suffer from either colds or flu. Should we ever become afflicted, however, Vick’s Vaporub is our tried and true solution. Thanks for yet another very thorough post!

    • Steff says:

      Hey Farmer Doug,
      What do you mean by a few drops in the shower and car? How often? I love the smell of it and I wouldn’t mind it helping prevent sickness!

      Thanks for such a great post! I’ve never heard of Sambucol before, but I’ll be sure to get some soon to have on hand!

      • Farmer Doug says:

        Hi Steff. Just a couple of drops of eucalyptus essential oil are sprinkled on the floor of the shower. Once the smell begins to dissipate (in two or three days, usually), the process is repeated. In the car, my wife inserts a portable diffuser into the cigarette lighter hole and then adds a couple of drops of the oil into it. Repeat as necessary. Regularly inhaling the vapour (without even having to think about it) is the key. Thanks for asking!

      • Jan says:

        Thanks for the tips on eucalyptus oil, Farmer Doug! I love the smell. Putting it in the shower and car are great ideas I had not thought of before. Thanks! :)

        I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Steff! :)

  • toni says:

    where do you get the eucalyptus oil

  • » More Favorite Cold And Flu Remedies says:

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  • Farmer Doug says:

    Hi Jan. I think I speak for the bulk of your readers when I say that we are missing your incomparable posts and points-of-view! Hope you and yours are feeling 100% again. With warm regards…Farmer Doug.

    • Jan says:

      Hello and thanks Farmer Doug! I’ve been pretty swamped with homework assignments (computer science/programming), so have neglected blogging quite a bit! I’ve had several requests to post about soap-making so hope to get something related to that up in the next week or so! :)

  • Laura Elliston says:

    I am looking for ideas to combat “cold and snot” season for my kids, ages 7, 3 and 2. I ended up staying up to almost midnight last night browsing thru your site, because I just couldn’t tear myself away. Great information!

  • Tony says:

    My mom just put me on point with elderberry. It seems to be working. I’ve been using the ginger and garlic tea too…so far so good.

  • Anna B. says:

    I put tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil in my rinse in the washing machine it goes through all the clothes and they smell fresh. The smell also goes through the house and smells wonderful too. So far touch wood no-one is sick.

  • Ms.Vega says:

    Jan my father is 65 years young and does end up with a cough roughly every 3-4 months. I really considered your whiskey rose remedy however, you did post it should be left in jar with an occasional shake for about 6 weeks. Was curious to know if you know of anything that can be used asap as he currently has this particular cough now.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Ms. Vega, You don’t have to wait the full six weeks. The rose will give some extra benefits as it infuses, but I’ve heard of people pulling it out earlier and using as needed. (Though, if he’s on meds, you might want to double check the alcohol interaction.) Are you on Facebook? If so, I discovered a great group called “Herbal Healing”- there are a lot of knowledgable herbalists there that happily answer questions. You might want to see if they have any feedback (you can also search the group, for past posts.) https://www.facebook.com/groups/2426239459 I hope your father feels better soon!

  • dottiewinn says:

    The best remedy I have found for colds is Umcka. Get at GNC or health food stores or Amazon Instant relief

  • Ruth Cobb says:

    Just found Sambucol the other day. I have had the usual post nasal drip that led to an asthma attack. The sambocol helped control the dripping and helped me I think feel better.

    I just got another bottle because the drip is coming back and I don’t want another asthma attack. Walgreens ordered it for me because Walmart was out and our health food store was currently. Walgreens is 1 1/2 times more expensive than Walmart, but the health food store said they would beat Walmart’s price.

    • Jan says:

      I’m glad you had good luck with Sambucol. I’m about to restock our supply as well. With wintertime coming, I like to keep it on hand!

  • bonnie says:

    We had made and used our own elderberry syrup for the last 7 or 8 years. We rarely have any illness. Others in my family have slowly been won over to using this and now would not consider being without it. It’s easy, inexpensive, tasty and very effective. We have some other herbal backups or preventatives that we use also, but this is our NUMBER # 1 !

  • Isabel says:

    Elderberry doesn’t only rock against flu germs! It also rocks against other germs like borreliose (causing Lyme disease)! I took Elderberry as a warm punch, mixing the red Elderberry juice with apple and orange juice, adding 5 spice and something to sweeten it. Within 3 days I felt 80% better – after 19 years of agony. Mind you, I “overdosed” myself by drinking at least 3 glasses of punch a day (which is approx. 300 ml of Elderberry juice).

  • Sam Wenger says:

    Great site. Sambocol I read was invented by a woman doctor in Israel and it helped stop a major flu epidemic there in the nineties. I discovered another natural product that I was skeptical about UMCKA. I had a bad cold+ i had for five days I was about to go to doctor and found this at Whole Foods. It helped right away. I am shocked. I do not know if the cold ran it’s course anyway but I know I felt a distinct improvemet an hour or so after taking. Just wanted to share. The Blessing of heaven and earth to you

    • Jan says:

      Hi Sam, thanks for sharing the information on UMCKA. I’m 99.9% certain I’ve seen it in my local health store. I’m going to have to try it out next time I get a bad cold!

  • Lisa says:

    I just came across this site by accident. I love the information I’ve book marked it.
    Thank you very much for the info!!!!

  • rukhsana qureshi says:

    sambucol save my life.i have an asthma last three years.it was just started with pneumonia .last few years was hell.last june i was just find out that sambucol works for asthma.i coulnd’t beleave that.so i started to use and the result was exelent.other wise i was hospitalised every month.now thanks to sambucol my asthma is almost under controle.i take three times a day.

  • Lyn Chambers says:

    WOW! Such great information. I don’t do flu shots but really don’t want to get sick as last year I had bronchitis and pneumonia in the same year. I will definitely try the Sambucol and the Umcka if I feel something coming on!!

    Thank you so much!

  • earthmother61 says:

    Have you have made your own elderberry syrup? Just wondered if there was a more economical method.

  • claudia says:

    Can somebody tell me about this remedy sambucol or elderberry, how it works for a baby? 15 months old.
    I know usually Peds don’t believe so much in natural remedies.

    • Jan says:

      Hi Claudia! I’m not sure for babies that young. I do know they have a kids version and it’s very gentle and safe. While I would use it on my own 15 month old, to be safe and sure, you could try emailing or calling the manufacturer and see what they recommend: http://www.sambucolusa.com/store/ Also, since elderberry is so well tested and is available in mainstream drugstores, you might find your pediatrician approves! :)

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