top of page

Herbs and Mushrooms for Cold, Allergy and Flu Season

Staghorn Sumac

Sumac is a plant medicine we recommend having on hand when allergy, cold and flu season comes around. It’s good to keep in mind that sumac is cooling and drying – meaning that t if you are generally a cold person, it’s probably best to stay away from this herb.

Ironically, Sumac is known for being helpful at replenishing the body when it has lost a lot of liquids from excessive sweating, diarrhea, etc. This is because it tones body systems in order to be able to hold on to liquids and provides vitamin C allowing the body to repair or make new connective tissue. Sumac is antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-fungal, astringent and a diuretic. It’s antimicrobial properties work to keep infection out of the sinuses and respiratory system.

According to Plant Magic by Christine Buckley:

“Drippy head colds characterized by wet sneezes, wet lungs and postnasal drip are no match for sumac. While the deeper airways are generally ideal locations to host a virus, sumac helps to literally dry up a naturally hospitable environment to viruses. If you have the type of cold that sends you into a coughing fit the moment you rest your head, sumac might be an appropriate remedy.”


Ask for violet at the apothecary when you have a dry cough that’s irritating your lungs and causing inflammation. This is due to it’s cooling and moistening properties which mean that this is a good cold and flu herb that is helpful for people who often feel dehydrated, like they can never drink enough water, and don’t struggle with dry skin or mouth. It’s a great alternative to well-known antihistamine and immune system support, Nettle, which can be too drying for some that already have a dry constitution.

According to Plant Magic by Christine Buckley, it’s a great ally to have on hand for the onset or beginning of a sickness. Violet can help to keep the sickness away. It’s especially when someone feels the type of anxiety that feels hot, tight and where they’re nerves cause them to ‘clam up.’

If you are wild foraging violet, it’s important to only harvest the leaves and flowers for consumption because the seeds and roots can make you puke. It’s even more important to make sure you go foraging with an experienced wild harvester.


Pine is one of the best plant medicines because it’s readily available throughout the year. Pine needle tea is delicious, but it’s also a mild diuretic and expectorant. According to Michael Moore, pine is most useful “after the feverish, infectious stage of a chest cold has passed. Even the sap can be chewed and swallowed to break up and soften bronchial mucus. Pine is anti-microbial so it will prevent infection from building up in the lungs. Pine will keep the immune system functioning properly with its high vitamin C content.

Photo by Irina Iriser from Pexels

Next time you’re out in the woods, nibble on different pine needles to get an idea which would taste best in a tea.

Source: Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West by Michael Moore


Oregano essential oil can be used to ease symptoms of respiratory conditions. According to @Organic_Facts, it “acts as an expectorant, which loosens up or helps eliminate the uncomfortable buildup of mucus and phlegm in the respiratory tracts and sinuses. It is also a soothing balm for inflamed lungs and throat, which may often stimulate coughing fits. Therefore, oregano essential oil prevents and slows the progressive symptoms of certain respiratory ailments.”

Photo by Rebecca Roberts

In order to use these benefits, the oil can be applied topically on the chest. Oregano oil’s sedative and anti-inflammatory properties can calm the body's reactive response to allergies and give relief to symptoms associated with them. The essential oil can also be put into a diffuser near someone experiencing respiratory issues so they can breathe it in or in capsule form.


A fever is the body’s immune system response to heal. A fever can be a good thing. Yarrow is a fever medicine – when someone gets a fever, we had an herbalist friend tell us the best thing to do is draw a yarrow bath. In order to do this, make a strong herbal infusion on the stove by. Do this by heating up water and putting a lot of dried yarrow in the pot so the color of the infusion is strong and pungent. Let it steep all day. Then, draw a bath with water as hot as you can handle, strain the infusion into the bathtub and get in the tub. The yarrow should invoke a sweating sensation that increases the fever in the sick person.

Essentially, the sick person will sweat the fever out – it gets higher and then goes away or decreases. By doing this, you are encouraging the body's natural healing response (the fever) so that a feverish person heals in a more timely manner than without intervention.

Photo by Olli Kilpi on Unsplash

Over the counter ‘fever-reducers,’ like Advil, Tylenol or aspirin simply mask the fever and interfere with the body's innate healing response. While one might feel temporary relief, their symptoms will not be resolved and when the medicine wears off they will feel sick again.

Yarrow can also be made into tea and used to clear heat from the lungs which is characterized by yellow or green mucus. Remember that yarrow is a cooling plant, so if you are generally a cold person, it’s best to stay away from yarrow as it could antagonize symptoms. It is also drying, so when consuming, be sure to pair with something moistening plants such as mallow.


Seek Goldenrod when allergies, sinus infection or other respiratory issues get in the way. One of the reasons we love goldenrod so much is because it’s misunderstood. The yellow-flowering plant produces flowers at the same rate that hay-fever inducing ragweed does. Even though ragweed flowers have more of a green tint, people have historically confused the two which has given goldenrod a bad reputation.

Photo by Becca Roberts

When made into a tea, syrup or tincture it can be used as a sinus remedy to dry the sinuses. As a pair with sage in a strong infusion, goldenrod can be used as a gargle for sore throats, thrush and laryngitis. The herb is warming and drying. It is a decongestant, astringent and diuretic so those who have a dry constitution should be wary not to use the herb over a long period of time.


Chaga, also called the “King of Mushrooms,” is a parasitic polypore and grows in cold forests. Although it is usually found on birch trees, according to Géry et al (2018), it can also be found on oaks, poplars, alders, ashes and maples. Chaga is found in Canada, the northern part of the United States, Kazakhstan, in Siberia, in Ukraine, in Japan, in South Korea, in China and in mostly northern and eastern parts of Europe. It looks like a charred, black mass on trees. Most of the medicinal studies done on Chaga growing on birch trees. According to this 2018 study, 2 components found in chaga that are present in Chaga, betulin and betulinic acid have been found to antimicrobial, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, anti-arthritic and have anticancer properties.

Photo by Rebecca Roberts

Chaga’s primary use is to boost immunity and overall health for its antioxidant support. It has also been used to treat diabetes and heart disease. It is low in calories, high in fiber and loaded with antioxidants. Chaga is an adaptogen. According to Annanda Chaga, the adaptogen properties of chaga help balance the body and benefit the nervous system, immune system, the GI tract, cardiovascular system and the endocrine system. By supporting these functions, Chaga helps to take your body out of psychological and adrenal stress, which in turn helps the body stay away from emotional stress and depression. Chaga is also high in antioxidants, helping to protect against free radicals which harm tissue cells that cause disease.


7 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page