The right herbs to fix your common cold

By Elena Lopez

(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/ Flickr)
(Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/ Flickr)

For those of us that are slightly weary about taking a few pills in the hopes of nixing whatever pain we’re suffering, there is another way. Herbal medicine has been around for centuries and has proven itself time and time again.

Herbs offer just enough treatment to subside and relieve an ailment in comparison to over-the-counter drugs, which  over treat and cause damage to the liver and kidneys, two vital organs that process pills.

There are a few essential herbs that cover the basic struggles of living in close proximity to the common cold. To tackle the cold and flu, echinacea is a great choice and can be consumed in a pill, tea, or oil form. It has anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help with a sore throat, stuffy nose and stomach pains. Basically, this can be your go-to herb for every pain you’d call home for.

Lavender serves as a popular scent amongst the Bath and Body Works crowd, and for good reason. The scent has calming properties which is ideal to help sooth anxiety and stress and is more useful as the academic year begins to pick up. Its antidepressant properties make it especially beneficial in the winter time when the sun disappears, making campus a sad wasteland. Simply having the scent in your room in the form of the plant (dried or friesh) or candle can make a difference.

Ginseng is another winner when it comes to herbs, with many different positive attributes. Long-term coughs, anxiety and fatigue have all been lessened with the help of ginseng. Consumable in tea or by simply eating the plant, it’s the cure-all of herbs that will leave you wondering why you bought the Costco sized pack of DayQuil.

Ginkgo provides similar services as ginseng. In addition, ginkgo improves memory abilities, making it great for when exams come around. Also a mood-booster, ginkgo serves well as tea and is widely considered the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth. It improves cognition, memory, blood circulation and mental alertness, all of which are known to dissipate with age.

While the closest eucalyptus grove may be a bit more than a stone’s throw away, the herb has its place in the basic and best remedies. Tea or pill, they both offer the same relief from colds, flus, chest discomfort, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections. A key ingredient of the much-loved Vick’s Vapor Rub, eucalyptus has the same effect on its own, minus a few stranger chemicals.

In places like Amherst — where winter sprawls on for what seems like a decade or two –it’s hard not to let seasonal depression sink in. While some people turn to Netflix to cure their dreariness, St. John’s Wort is the next best thing. Movies have nothing on this multi-purpose herb. In pill form, it helps symptoms of depression, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia and general irritability. It can also be used as a cream to treat topical pains like burns, bruises and other wounds. Likely to be found in any parent’s medicine cabinet, it truly is better than any antidepressant and is without the many negative side effects that subscription pills can provide.

Some of these herbs seem slightly obscure, but if you wander into the supplement aisle of your preferred store, the herbs are likely to be perfectly packaged and waiting for your consumption. By avoiding the Aleve, Tylenol and multitude of ‘Quil’s available, your body will appreciate the natural products that are much easier to digest and better in the long run.

And while scientific research hasn’t fully confirmed the effectiveness of all these various antidotes, trying some natural remedies is definitely worth a shot.

Lest not forget, there are stranger herbs that have fantastic uses as well. Should you find yourself in need, the Madagascar periwinkle that has been scientifically proven to cure children of leukemia. Don’t doubt the power of the plant.

 Elena Lopez can be found at [email protected]