I've been struggling with a bout of chest congestion and a runny nose for several weeks now. My doctor says sinus allergies have caused a mild case of bronchitis (how generous of them!) and to help with the unpleasant symptoms, such as the complete inability to breathe at times, I should take an over-the-counter allergy medicine. While I would never knock anyone else for making the choice to do this, it just isn't my thing. If I can use herbs to help with any benign (and really unpleasant) symptoms, then I'll always do that rather than take drugs.
So given the fact that it is that time of year when folks get sick with change of season allergies and we're about to lurch headlong into the heart of the cold and flu season, herbal cures and remedies just might be the thing most needed right now. So if you aren't feeling well enough to get to the store, most of these remedies can be found in your kitchen right now. And most or all of these ingredients can be combined together for some even more potent medicine.
Cinnamon is an anti-microbial and cinnamon oil can be used in a steam bath to open the lungs and nasal passages. Keep in mind to not put the oil directly onto your skin so as not to burn yourself with it. Make yourself some cinnamon toast with ground cinnamon sprinkled on it, or a tea made with a cinnamon stick in hot water with added honey drizzled into it.
Eucalyptus and Peppermint are excellent for relieving respiratory distress and opening clogged lungs and bronchial passages. Either can be used as a nasal steam bath with a few drops of the essential oil placed in a large bowl of steaming water and then inhaled. Also, either the crushed leaves of the plant, or a few drops of the essential oil from it, can be mixed with a bit of olive oil and warmed to make a soothing rub for the chest (take care with what you're wearing though so as not to stain it with the oil!).
Lemon is an antibacterial that also helps to flush the lymphatic system. A soothing tea made with hot water and fresh squeezed lemon juice is a great cure for a sore throat and the hot liquid will loosen clogged sinuses.
Onions. Onions contain many volatile oils all of which make for very effective medicine. An onion can act as an expectorant that breaks up mucus and phlegm, as an anti-microbial that has been proven to kill streptococci bacteria, ease asthma attacks and relax bronchial spasms, and can stop a simple cough as well. To ease sinus congestion you can do something as simple as cut a fresh onion and breathe in the vapor from it or eat a sliced raw onion to ease your throat pain. But for those who prefer their onions cooked, here's a few more suggestions. To clear lung congestion, fry an onion in olive oil and sprinkle with cayenne or curry powder. No cayenne or curry? Fry up a couple of onions by themselves and they'll work almost as well alone. Onions are a great expectorant without any added bells and whistles. To make a tasty cough suppressant, grate an onion and mix with honey to taste, fry in a bit of olive oil and eat.
Oregano is wonderful for relieving a fever, a cold or the flu. Keep in mind though to not put any oregano essential oil on your face directly without it being mixed in a fatty oil as it can burn you, believe it or not. This is an herb that in oil form is considered "hot" and will heat up and tingle in no time at all. To be safe, make a rub with some crushed leaves or a small amount of essential oil placed in a warm olive oil solution and have someone rub it onto your upper back to relieve muscle pain and lung congestion. And obviously it goes without saying that the herb itself it can be eaten in a delicious recipe too!
Sage has been used for centuries to treat upper respiratory troubles, such as coughs, colds and fevers. It can be eaten in a dish prepared with it or an infusion made from the leaves and stems can be used as a mouthwash. Gargle with it to cure sore throats and coughs.
Thyme is a natural anti-microbial and expectorant that heals throat, lung and stomach infections, as well as urinary tract issues. If you have a sore throat or chest congestion, make a tea using fresh thyme leaves in place of tea leaves. Gargle with it to heal your throat and drink it to loosen phlegm and heal your lungs. When the volatile oil in thyme reaches your bladder and kidneys, it will heal any condition there as well. Thyme can also be used in a steam bath to loosen your sinuses and bronchial passages. Simply take a small muslin bag of fresh thyme or use several drops of pure thyme oil and place in a bowl of steaming water. Drape a towel over your head and steam your nasal passages to clear them. All varieties contain the same active ingredient, thymol, so choose whatever type you prefer.
It obviously goes without saying that if you are really sick or think you may have an infection, you should please see your doctor right away. While I may use herbs in my daily life, I would never shun proper medical attention when I needed it. Even the Wise Women of old knew when something was beyond their knowledge and it was time to call the village physician!