Pagan Paths

The monthly musings of a Druid Herbalist living in New England.


  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Winter Cold and Flu Care, Naturally!

Temperatures are plummeting and winter has set in as I write. A flock of wild turkeys has stopped by on their daily morning forage under the bird feeders and a freezing rain has everyone wishing they were inside, safe from the bone-chilling winds. This is the time to have plenty of winter remedies on hand, to ward off flu and chill.

Caution: if you are on any medications please look online for “herb and drug interactions” or “herb and drug contraindications” before you ingest these plants!
Fire Cider
A friend passed this recipe along to me and he swears he hasn’t had a cold in four years. Take a few tablespoons of this remedy at the first sign of a cold;

(Please use only the finest organic ingredients)

1 quart organic apple cider vinegar
½ cup grated ginger root (Zingiber officinale)
½ cup grated horse radish root (Armoracia rusticana, syn. Cochlearia armoracia)
1 medium onion (Allium cepa) chopped
12 cloves chopped garlic (Allium sativum, A. canadense)
2 hot peppers (also called chile peppers), chopped
Zest and juice from 1 lemon (Citrus limon),
Zest from 1 small Orange (Citrus sinensis)
1 tbsp. Turmeric powder (Curcuma longa)
¼ tsp. Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
½ tsp. whole Black Peppercorns (Piper nigrum)
Other herbs to consider: Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Rose Hips (Rosa spp.), Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), Grapefruit zest (Citrus paradisi) Astragalus (Astragalus membranicus), Schizandra berries (Schisandra chinensis), Parsley (Carum petroselinum), Burdock root (Arctium lappa), Oregano (Origanum vulgare), Basil (Ocymum Basilium), Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus).
Put everything into a glass jar and barely cover with organic apple cider vinegar. Cap tightly and store in a cool, dark place. Shake the jar regularly. After about a month you can strain out the vinegar and reserve it in another very clean glass jar. Add ¼ cup of raw organic honey and stir until well blended.

You can use the strained out vegetables and spices in a stir fry with cabbage and carrots when everything is finished.
Elderberry Elixir
Elderberries (Sambucus nigra, S. Canadensis) are proven immune enhancers and anti-viral as well. The simplest way to make an Elderberry Elixir is to fill a jar with the berries, barely cover with Vodka (or any alcohol that is 80% proof or above). I like Vodka because it is basically tasteless and the flavor of the berries comes through. Let the jar steep for a few weeks, shake every few days to distribute the liquid, strain and store in a dark cupboard or in an amber or blue glass bottle. I find that fresh elderberries make the very best Elixir, but dried berries can be purchased if necessary.
To further enhance the potency Echinacea root (Echinacea angustifolia), fresh or dried, can be added to the jar. You can get even fancier by adding Astragalus root (Astragalus membranicus), Rose Hips (Rosa spp.), Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) or Elecampane root (Inula helenium).
Another method is to cook the herbs. First make a decoction of the roots and berries. Simmer (never boil!) for about 20 minutes in a pot with a tight lid;
7 cups water
1 cup Elderberries (Sambucus nigra, S. Canadensis)
1 ounce Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) which builds stamina and the immune system, especially when taken for 3 months or longer
1 ounce Rose Hips (Rosa spp.)These provide bio-flavonoids and Vitamin C)
A few inches of freshly sliced Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale) Moves internal secretions and helps to break down mucus while warming the body)
1 ounce Elecampane root (Inula helenium) Dries up wet lung conditions.
Remove from the flame.
Now you can add leaves and flowers such as;
½ ounce Nettles (Urtica dioica) Very warming to the system and provide trace minerals.
½ ounce Elderflowers (Sambucus spp.) They help to lower a fever.
¼ ounce Mint leaf (Mentha spp.) Lowers fever and improves taste.
Steep in the pot for about half an hour, strain and while still warm add honey to taste. Keep for two months in the refrigerator in a glass jar with a tight lid.
Take this as a daily tonic all winter (about 2 tsp. a day) or in the event of illness an adult dose is about ¼ cup, three or four times a day (this assumes a 150 pound person). Adjust for body weight (a 75 pound child would take half as much). Infants should get the remedy through their mother’s breast milk.
Cough Syrup
Steep 1 ounce dried Hoarhound (Marrubium vulgare) leaf in 1 pint freshly boiled water for 10 minutes. Strain and add twice as much honey as tea. Blend well then cool and bottle. Store in the refrigerator for up to two months. Use 1 tsp. 4 times a day.
Other herbs can be added such as 1 ounce Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), 2 ounces Peppermint (Mentha piperita, M. balsamea Willd) or ½ ounce Thyme (Thymus serpyllum, Thymus vulgaris).
Antibiotic Tea for Kids
Per 2 cups of water add;
½ tsp. Echinacea root or leaf and flower, depending on the species (Echinacea purpurea, E. angustifolia) which stimulates immune cells.
½ tsp. Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) caution: this herb is not for diabetics, it is sweeter than sugar. It should also be avoided by persons with high blood pressure.
½ tsp. Oregon grape root (Mahonia aquifolium) or Barberry, bark of root (Berberis vulgaris L.)
Simmer for 20 minutes in a non-aluminum pot with a tight lid, strain and bottle. A 50 pound child can take ¼ cup four times a day. Infants can take the herb through their mother’s breast milk. The tea can also be added to juice.
*plain raw honey taken in teaspoon doses can be an effective cough remedy for children but DO NOT GIVE HONEY TO A CHILD LESS THAN ONE YEAR OF AGE.
Warming Winter Brandy for Grownups
2 tbsp. Ginseng root (Panax quinquefolius) chopped
2 tbsp. Elderberries (Sambucus nigra, S. Canadensis)
½ tbsp. Wild cherry bark (Prunus serotina, P. virginiana)
½ tbsp. Elecampane root (Inula helenium)
4 tbsp. dried or 8 tbsp. fresh or frozen cherries
¼ tbsp. Gentian (Gentiana lutea) root
2 inch piece of Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum verum, C. cassia)
1 inch Ginger root, chopped (Zingiber officinale)
6 crushed Cardamom pods (Elettaria cardamomum)
10 whole black peppercorns (Piper nigrum)
4 tbsp. raw honey
Place everything in a very clean glass jar with a tight lid. Pour brandy over the herbs until they are well covered. Place in a warm location and shake regularly. After a month strain out the herbs and bottle, this drink can help with sleep, chills and stiff joints.
Make Your Own Vicks Vapo Rub Salve
Melt in a double boiler;
½ cup olive oil, 1 cup coconut oil and ¾ cup chopped or grated bee’s wax
Stir in;
35 drops or more Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus spp.) essential oil
30 drops or more Peppermint (Mentha piperita, M. balsamea Willd) essential oil
15 drops Lavender (Lavandula vera, L. officinalis) essential oil
15 drops Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) essential oil
10 drops Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) essential oil
Pour into containers and allow to set before capping. Rub under your nose, on your chest and feet when you have a cold.
Herbal Support for Flu
In the initial phase of Flu look for warming herbs that build the immune system such as Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and Garlic (Allium sativum, A. canadense). Avoid heavy foods and take liquids as much as possible.
When the cough sets in look for cooling herbs that help lower fever such as Peppermint (Mentha piperita, M. balsamea Willd), this herb is mildly antiviral and helps cool a fever), Elderflower (Sambucus spp.), King of Bitters (Andrographis Paniculata) is antiviral and does well when combined with Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)and Honeysuckle flower (Lonicera spp.). Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is especially useful as a calming antiviral for children, add Ginger (Zingiber officinale) and/or Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) for taste.
Baikal Scullcap root (Scutellaria baicalensis) helps deal with flu symptoms (avoid if there is diarrhea).
Asian Red Sage (Salvia miltiorrhiza) can be taken as a cooling tea (avoid this plant if you are on blood thinners).
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is antiviral and also supports the lungs.
Finally, as a restorative tonic follow with demulcents such as Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) which is anti-viral and loosens dry cough, (caution: avoid if you are diabetic or have high blood pressure), Slippery Elm (Ulmus rubra) which is particularly helpful to soothe a sore throat), and Pleurisy Root (Asclepias tuberosa) which is an expectorant.
Stomach Flu
A classic triangle of herbs for stomach flu is Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Elderflower (Sambucus spp.) and Peppermint (Mentha piperita, M. balsamea Willd).
Use equal parts of these herbs; 1 tsp. of each, steep in freshly boiled water for about 10 minutes. Add honey and lemon to taste.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Astragalus root (Astragalus membranicus, tincture or capsules or tea) builds white blood cells and the immune system, the yellower the root the better the quality. However, Astragalus should not be taken once Flu symptoms appear. Also, this herb should be avoided by those who do not sweat easily. As a form of prevention try adding it to soups.
Garlic should be used in cooking, salads, etc. on a daily basis. It is anti-bacterial and antiviral but it has to be taken raw (take it with a meal to avoid stomach upset). Before Penicillin was discovered, Garlic was the best remedy for infection. (Caution: avoid garlic for two weeks before surgery and also if you are on any blood thinners).
Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) strengthens immunity, reduces the duration of a cold, and is anti-oxidant.
Mushrooms such as Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) and Maitake (Grifola frondosa) can be added to stir-fries and soups to build the immune system. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum, G. tsugae, G. sichuanense) also enhances immunity.
To ward off colds and flu make sure you are getting enough sleep and eating a fiber-rich, plant based diet. Have your vitamin D levels tested and then try to get twenty minutes of sunlight daily, to keep up your Vitamin D levels. If you are surrounded by others who are sick at work or at school, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your nose and eyes.
*If you enjoyed this blog please consider visiting my website where you can find my books and DVDs and blog
Howell, Patricia Kyritsi,   Warming Winter Brandy Recipe     accessed 01/01 2014
Masé,Guido, Herbal Support for Influenza         accessed 09/30/2009 
Mountain Rose Blog     accessed 12/29/2013
‘Stephanie’, Garden Therapy, All Natural Vicks Vapo Rub Recipe      accessed 01/01/2014
Vukovic, Laurel, How to Boost Your Immune System with Herbs, Mother Earth Living, October/November 2009        accessed 01/01/2014

Last modified on

Ellen Evert Hopman is a founding member of The Order of the White Oak (Ord Na Darach Gile, and its former Co-Chief, a Bard of the Gorsedd of Caer Abiri, and a Druidess of the Druid Clan of Dana. She was Vice President of The Henge of Keltria, an international Druid Fellowship, for nine years.

Hopman has been a teacher of Herbalism since 1983 and of Druidism since 1990 and is a professional member of The American Herbalists Guild. Her newest herbal is THE SECRET MEDICINES OF YOUR KITCHEN, about making home remedies from foods and spices already on your shelf.

Other publications include; Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey (Llewellyn, February 2008); The Druid Isle (Llewellyn, April 2010); Priestess of the Fire Temple (Llewellyn, 2012); The Secret Medicines of Your Kitchen (mPowr Publishing, 2012), A Druid's Herbal for Sacred Tree Medicine; (Inner Traditions - Bear and Company, June 2008); Being a Pagan: Druids, Wiccans, and Witches Today (Destiny Books, 2001); People of the Earth: The New Pagans Speak Out (Inner Traditions, 1995, currently out of print); Walking the World in Wonder - A Children's Herbal (Healing Arts Press, 2000); A Druid's Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year (Destiny Books, 1994); and Tree Medicine-Tree Magic (Phoenix Publishing, Inc., 1992, currently out of
print). DVD's; Celtic Cosmology, Gifts from the Healing Earth, Vol I and Vol II (herbal healing); and Pagans - the Wheel of the Year.

Her books, DVDs and speaking engagements can be seen online at:


Additional information