Herbal Solutions for Colds and Flu

You wake up with a sore throat, a runny nose, and achy joints. Your brain feels like it’s swimming in cotton, and your stomach is off-kilter. You are experiencing the first signs of a cold or flu.

Unless you take care of these early symptoms promptly, by the end of the day, you will be another statistic.

Each year Americans suffer approximately a billion colds and spend several billion dollars in over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications. Between 10,000 and 20,000 individuals—almost all of them elderly, newborns, or chronically ill—die annually from flu complications, usually pneumonia. And it’s estimated that 15 million workdays a year are lost in the U.S. due to colds or flu.

Four-Point Plan of Attack

Here are ways to nip that bug in the bud.

Start by supporting your immune system and protecting yourself against secondary bacterial infections. For maximum benefits, initiate the following regimen at the very first symptoms of a cold or flu. Continue full force with this program until all symptoms have disappeared.


Every hour take 40 drops of a liquid herbal extract or one capsule/softgel containing fresh or dried echinacea root extract (E. angustifolia, E. purpurea, and/or E. pallida), dried andrographis (A. paniculata) herb, or fresh elder (Sambucus nigra) berry extract.


Take 500 mg of vitamin C every hour. Also consider zinc. Suck on a zinc lozenge containing approximately 15 mg of this mineral four times a day.

Chicken Soup

If you’re a vegetarian, substitute vegetable or miso broth. Drink one cup of soup or broth every two or three hours.


Take one garlic clove, capsule, or tablet every two or three hours.

How Herbs Work

Echinacea helps your immune system tackle both colds and flu quickly and effectively in several ways. It brings more white blood cells to the area of infection faster by amplifying the distress signal sent out by cells being attacked.

Echinacea also increases the aggressiveness of white blood cells toward intruding pathogens. No wonder that in a 2004 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, early intervention and frequent dosage with an echinacea product resulted in milder symptoms in people suffering from the common cold.

Andrographis appears effective in treating symptoms of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infections, due in part to this herb’s immune-enhancing effects. Recent double-blind human studies find that duration, frequency, and severity of colds or flu are considerably decreased by andrographis. In a study published in 1999, participants reported significant decreases in sore throats, nasal secretions, and earaches with andrographis, versus a placebo.

In 2002, another double-blind, placebo-controlled study concluded that this herb improved acute upper-respiratory tract infections and inflammatory symptoms of sinusitis, as well as headaches, nasal and throat symptoms, and general malaise.

In 2003, a group of patients receiving andrographis had quicker recovery time, fewer days missed from work, and fewer post-influenza complications than the control groups.

Research indicates that elderberry is a safe treatment for most strains of flu viruses. When tested against seven strains of flu viruses (Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, Ann Arbor, Texas, Panama, and Yamagata) elderberry extract proved effective against all of them. A placebo-controlled, double-blind study showed that 93 percent of flu patients taking the standardized elderberry extract Sambucol had a significant improvement of symptoms.