Lifestyle: Natural remedies for keeping colds and flu at bay

With the dropping temperatures and shortening days, the sniffles often begin to set in but there’s no reason you should need to suffer if you take the necessary precautions. As a bi-annual sufferer of bronchitis for many years, I know how awful it is to dread winter which was invariable spent with a ton of tissues and cough syrup in hand.

Since changing my lifestyle which has included cutting dairy from my diet, doing yoga daily and massively reducing my alcohol intake as well as knocking the weekly spliff smoking habit on the head, there’s not been a cold or cough in sight.
However, James Wong, TV Herbalist has some great ideas to help and there’s also one of my own.

Fir Tree and Calamondin Hot Toddy

Try this soothing and aromatic hot toddy to help ease the symptoms of colds and flu. Use the freshes fir needles you can find as they contain greater concentrations of the essential plant compounds. Use fir needles from the Fraser fir or Norway spruce.

For the echinacea infused rum

15g of fresh echinacea root (or 10g dried)

100ml white rum.

For the hot toddy:

120ml fir needles

1 star anise

3 calamondin oranges or one lime

2 tbsp eucalyptus honey

pinch of black pepper

250ml boiling water

1 shot of echinacea infused rum

1 tsp unsalted butter

1. to make the rum, combine the root and rum and leave it in a cool dark place for two weeks. Strain it and keep it in a cool dark place for up to one year.

2. to make the hot toddy, put the 120ml of needles ina teapot or bowl with the star anise and halved oranges or lime, honey and black pepper and pour over the water. Leave it for 15 mins.

3. strain into a pan and reheat on the stove.

4. once reheated, add the rum and butter until melted and serve in a large cup.


Port Winter Tonic

This unusual combination of ingredients in this tonic will give your immune system a timely winter boost. Hawthorn berries can help increase blood flow to the heart; lime flowers are gently relaxing; cinnamon and ginger help improve circulation while goji berries are highly nutritious and help raise immunity. Try as an alternative to mulled wine.

50g hawthorn berries, fresh or dried.

50g goji berries,  fresh or dried

20g marshmallow root or 40g fresh mallow flowers

4 cinnamon sticks broken up

5cm fresh ginger root, grated

1 litre port


Plae all the plants in large jar. Pour the port over making sure to cover. Leave to macerate for 10 to 14 days. Strain and bottle. Take 25-50ml.

Cold and Flu Chai

5cm fresh ginger grated

1-3 cinnamon sticks

Small pinch of black peppercorns, crushed

Small pinch of whole cloves

6 cardamom pods

peel of 1 orange

600 ml of water

1 tbsp yarrow flowers

1 tbsp meadowseet fowers

300ml almond milk

honey to taste

1. Place all except the flowers, honey and milk in pan with the water and bring to the boil. Reduce it by half (to about 300ml).

2. Add the yarrow and meadow sweet flowers and milk and allow to heat through. Strain and sweten with honey.

(Do not give to children under 16. If pregnant or allergic to aspirin, leave out the meadowsweet).

Sage and Marigold Gargle for Sore Throats

Gargles can provide instant relief from sore, irritated throats and this one packs a big herbal punch. Sage and marigold are both antiseptic and antimicrobial; echinacea slows infection and can boost the immune system; cloves are also antiseptic and – as any dentist will tell you – act as a local anaesthetic.

50g echinacea root

20g marigold flowers

1/2 tsp cloves

200ml vodka

Put all the herbs into the vodka and seal in a jar. Leave in a warm place for 10-14 days shaking every day. Strain then bottle.

Take 1 tablespoon diluted in a small glass of warm, boiled water. Gargle and swallow if you want to. Repeat throughout the day as needed. (Watch you don’t do it too often or you might just end up pissed!)

Nicola’s Fiery Cold and Flu Goodness Drink

2/3 cinnamon sticks

1/2 inch of fresh root ginger

4 star anise

6 – 8 cloves

Juice of 3/4 of a lemon

1 shot of brandy (optional)

Honey to taste

Handful of fresh mint

1. peel and slice the ginger and place in a pint glass.

2. bash the mint leaves and add to the pint glass along with the other ingredients.

3. add boiling water to the top of the glass and leave to sit until it’s cool enough to drink. Give it a good stir and add a shot of brandy should you feel the call.