Great Remedies for Winter Illnesses

I began my studies of herbal remedies back in the early 1970’s when I was in middle school. Back then, I read everything in print, and started my own herbal remedy library. (To be followed by my supplements library when I was diagnosed with endometriosis at 22.) 

My first, and many of my second-wave baby boomer readers will recall those years where all of us in America were initially exposed to the power of herbs—both in the kitchen and in the medicine cabinet. I remember buying fresh herbs for the first time at the farmer’s market, putting them on my bathroom window sill, and lovingly tending them like a mama hen looking after her chicks.

Soon my mother and I were replacing the dried herbs—the only way I knew herbs existed—with my fresh sprigs in recipe after recipe from Joy of Cooking. In my bathroom laboratory I created beauty potions and medicinal remedies that actually worked. I was hooked!

Fast forward four plus decades, I am still using some of my recipes. Here, I pass on my tried and true ones, and a few I learned about more recently.

There exists a doctor’s bag full of non-allopathic (non-pharmaceutical), deeply researched, offerings to help shorten the duration of illnesses and speed us back to glowing health. 

Since respiratory infections effecting the sinuses, bronchial areas, and lungs, seem to be the most common areas of the body to succumb to illness, we will focus on remedies to help heal these areas. The multi-layer benefits of using complementary medicine is that other parts of the body get a boost as well from the remedies, so we get extra healing and protection all in one!

These are recipes which have been around for years, decades, and even centuries in some cases, and have helped heal the body with time-proven solutions.


One important thing is the dosage. Most of us are used to the dosage of pharmaceuticals: One three times a day; two twice a day, etc. In complementary and herbal medicine, dosage is much more frequent.

 In so many cases, more times used/administered, but not more medicine, is better. Some of the frequencies may seem like a lot, so I wanted to make that clear.

Before you begin:

  • Run the jar(s) you will use (I like Mason or Ball jars) with new lids, through the hottest cycle in the dishwasher, let dry completely
  • Wash and let the herbs dry completely before making recipes (damp herbs will mold)

It Usually Begins with a Sore Throat

You know the feeling: hurts a little to swallow, your head starts to feel just a little stuffy or light. Start immediately with a Sage Leaf Gargle*.

Sage Leaf Gargle

Sage is a powerful antiseptic for internal and topical use. Recommended usage: gargle every 1 to 2 hours. Swish and spit.


  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons fresh or dried sage leaves
  • ¼ ounce salt
  1. Pour the boiling water over the sage, cover and steep for 20 minutes.
  2. Strain and add the salt.

Gargle as needed. Store in the refrigerator for a couple of days

Sage Honey

Also high on the list of other medicinal uses for sage is Sage Honey**.  This honey is also a powerful remedy for sore throats.


  • Fresh sage to fill ½ the Mason jar
  • Local, raw honey to fill the jar to the brim
  1. Chop your fresh sage up as fine as you can and add it to the jar until it fills up about halfway
  2. Cover the jar with a lid and allow to sit in a cool, dark, dry place for 2-4 weeks.

Take one teaspoon every 1-2 hours until sore throat lessens. Turn jar upside down regularly to keep herbs well mixed.

If You Come Down with a Cold or Cold with Cough

There are a couple of items you should always have in your medicine cabinet: Black Elderberry Syrup/Extract and Thyme Syrup***.

Black Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry syrup is great for colds, influenza, and even fever. It is carried at health stores.

Purchase a product containing 5,000-6,000 mg of black elderberry fruit in the extract. Keep the fresh thyme syrup in the fridge.


  • 4 cups water
  • 4 ounces Lemon thyme leaf (or plain thyme)–fresh is best, but dried will work
  • 1 cup raw, organic honey
  • 1/4 cup brandy, optional (works as a preservative)
  1. Put thyme and water in a pan over low heat. Cover with a lid left slightly ajar, simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 45 minutes. 
  2. Strain the liquid and discard the herbs. 
  3. When mixture is just warm, add the honey and brandy (if using). Whisk until smooth. 
  4. Transfer to a glass jar and store in the fridge for up to four weeks (without brandy) or four months (with brandy).

Take 1-2 tablespoons every 2-3 hours to help get the gunk out.

Oregano Honey

Oregano de la Sierra, also called Wild Oregano, or Bee Balm is also an important herb to aid healing when a cold or cough strikes. The recipe for Oregano Honey is simple to make:


  • Pack a Mason jar with fresh oregano
  • Cover completely with local honey and let sit for 2 weeks


  1. Can be added to tea, or just taken by spoon
  2. Take one teaspoon every 1-2 hours
Echinacea and Ginger

Two additional outstanding remedies for winter illnesses like colds and coughs are Echinacea and ginger.

The wise folks suggest Echinacea within 72 hours of coming down with a cold or cough, when the herb is most effective at eliminating viral and bacterial infections. 

ONE NOTE: DO NOT take Echinacea for the flu, as it can make it worse.

Ginger Syrup

Last is one of my favorites, ginger. This Ginger Syrup is a snap to make, works wonders when you feel yourself coming down with a cold or have a chill. It helps kill viruses that can lead to an upper respiratory infection, helps soothe and shrink swollen nasal passages, and calms a sore throat.


  • Chop a 3 inch piece of fresh ginger.
  • Add to 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of honey and 2 cups of boiling water.
  • Stir well and then cover it with plastic wrap for about 10 minutes.


Strain and drink 1-3 times a day


With your fridge and cabinet stocked with these powerful healing tools you’ll be ready for anything Old Man Winter throws at you–including snowballs!

Until next time… Be Well and Be Vibrant!


Always check with your health care provider for any contraindications.

A version of these recipes is found here:




Subscribe to Receive 
Vibrant Aging™ Tips
Delivered Right to Your Inbox

Your Gerontologist
Vibrant Aging™ Coach​