Make Soothing Herbal Tea for Coughs, Colds, and the Flu

Even if you’re ultra-vigilant with handwashing during cold and flu season, it’s still difficult to avoid exposure to nasty germs and viruses – they’re in the air, and on practically every surface in public places.

But should you catch any of the season’s unfriendly bugs, fast, effective relief of common symptoms can be found in this herbal brew that’s made with all-natural ingredients available locally or from the garden.

A close up vertical image of a pot of herbal tea being poured into a small glass cup pictured on a dark background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white printed text.

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This recipe is my adaptation of the concentrated decoction for colds and flu from Stephen Buhner’s invaluable manual “Herbal Antibiotics.

The decoction is used to alleviate symptoms of throat and upper respiratory infections, and when consumed as a soothing tea you get all the benefits of the ingredients plus the comforting and helpful properties of steam.

Herbal Antibiotics

Now in its second edition, you can pick up a copy of this rich resource on natural healing from Amazon.

Join us now to learn how and learn how to make soothing herbal tea to help alleviate symptoms of colds, coughs, and the flu.

Here’s what’s ahead.

Natural Ingredients

When you’re down and out with the aches and congestion of seasonal ailments, the plant world offers a wide selection of relief-giving ingredients – like the ones found in this soothing herbal tea.

A close up horizontal image of the ingredients for a herbal tea set on a wooden surface in a home.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

A great addition to over-the-counter medications, relief is effective, fast, and natural.

And most can be grown in your own garden, which is like a double-whammy of healing properties!

Here’s a look at each ingredient:

Medicinal Sage

Sage, Salvia officinalis, has been used as a curative in folk medicine for millennia in treating a variety of disorders ranging from diarrhea, gout, and hyperglycemia to inflammation and rheumatism.

A close up horizontal image of sage growing in the garden pictured on a soft focus background.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

Numerous studies have supported many of its beneficial health claims, primarily from its abundant levels of important flavonoids such as rosmarinic and ellagic acids.

Areas of interest for its pharmacological activities include its anticancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and hypoglycemic properties.

For cold and flu symptoms, sage brings fast relief to congested respiratory systems and upset tummies, and it helps to prevent viral and bacterial infections as well.

And although sage has a somewhat medicinal flavor in large amounts, the ginger, honey, and lemon in this herbal tea smooth the flavors for a soothing, deliciously sippable beverage.

Sage is easily grown and adds beautiful, silvery foliage to the garden plus tall spires of pretty, blue-to-purple flowers in spring.

Our guide on how to grow common sage has all the cultivation details.

Fierce Ginger

We’ve added ginger, Zingiber officinale, to our adaptation of Mr. Buhner’s recipe because several of its robust antiviral phytochemicals weaken rhinoviruses, one of the most common causes of colds.

A close up horizontal image of fresh ginger root, whole and sliced on a rustic wooden surface.

Other compounds like gingerol and shogaol, can help to relieve symptoms such as body aches, fever, coughs, and sore throats, and ginger is also known to effectively reduce nausea and stomach upset.

Plus, we like the zippy taste!

Ginger can be grown at home as a perennial in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-12, or as an annual in cooler regions.

Our guide has all the steps on how to plant and grow ginger in your home garden.

The Antioxidant Punch of Lemons

Like all citrus fruits, lemons, Citrus limon, are naturally high in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant.

Foods high in vitamin C may help to strengthen the immune system to protect against the viruses that cause cold and flu, and are thought to help reduce the duration of cold symptoms.

A close up horizontal image of lemons growing in the home orchard, ripe and ready to harvest.

Along with its healing properties, lemon juice adds a lovely, piquant flavor to herbal tea that can help to ease a sore throat.

Ever thought about growing your own lemon tree, but don’t have the room? A dwarf tree could be the answer!

Our guide on how to grow dwarf citrus trees has all the info you need.

Soothing Honey

Sweet honey is wonderfully soothing, and rounds out the flavor of the other ingredients.

A close up horizontal image of a bowl of honeycomb set on a wooden surface with wildflowers scattered around.

It also has antibacterial and antiviral effects, and is known to reduce the pain of sore throats and the intensity of coughs.

When possible, use a local wildflower source of raw honey to ensure pollen has been collected from flowers free of commercial chemicals. Or better yet, harvest some from your own hives!

Heat-Inducing Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper, Capsicum annuum, is known as a thermogenic spice with analgesic properties.

That is, it stimulates circulation, increases blood flow to the skin, and has a diaphoretic effect that induces perspiration – all of which help to reduce fever, relieve congestion, and reduce achiness.

In addition, cayenne performs catalytic actions that enhance the efficacy of other herbs. So be sure to include some in your tea when you’re suffering from a fever, or head and chest congestion from a cold.

A close up horizontal image of hot cayenne peppers growing in the garden.

And as cayenne does induce perspiration, bundle up to avoid catching a chill!

For this recipe, you can use store-bought powdered cayenne pepper, or dehydrated homegrown peppers, ground up using a pestle and mortar.

Hot peppers like cayenne can be cultivated in a sunny garden and do well in containers too.

Learn how to plant and grow hot peppers in our guide.

Recipe for Soothing Herbal Tea

This soothing herbal tea should be served piping hot. While you sip, be sure to breathe the steamy vapors deeply to help loosen congested airways.

Yield: 3-4 servings


  • 4 heaping teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 4-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and sliced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3-4 tablespoons wildflower honey, or to taste
  • Dash of cayenne powder (to induce perspiration — may be omitted if fever is not present)


1. First, gather and prep your ingredients. Wash the sage and ginger under cool, running water.

Chop the sage coarsely, slice the peeled ginger into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and juice the lemon. Remove any seeds.

A close up horizontal image of the ingredients needed to make a soothing herbal tea.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

2. In a small pot, add the chopped sage and sliced ginger to 24 to 32 ounces of water.

Cover and bring just to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

A close up horizontal image of a pan with ingredients to make soothing herbal tea on a hot stove.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

3. Remove from the heat. Just before serving, add the lemon juice and cayenne (if needed), stirring well.

Strain into your favorite tea mugs.

A close up vertical image of a herbal tea being poured from a saucepan into a ceramic mug on a wooden surface.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

4. Sweeten each mugful with a generous spoonful of raw, local wildflower honey. Sit back, relax, and sip slowly to enjoy the spread of warmth and natural healing properties.

A close up horizontal image of a mug of freshly made herbal tea with ingredients to the side.
Photo by Lorna Kring.

Strain any leftover tea into a ceramic or glass jar, cover, and store in the refrigerator for up to three days. Reheat in a small saucepan as needed.

The Last Sip

When you’re in the acute phase of a cold or flu, drink several cups a day for effective pain relief and to reduce symptoms – you’ll feel better while you’re sick, and this herbal remedy may shorten the duration of your illness as well.

A close up horizontal image of hot tea in a glass cup with steam pictured on a dark background.

Do you folks have any other favorite herbal remedies for cold season? Drop us a line in the comments section below.

And check out some of our other articles on healing herbs next:

Photo of author


A writer, artist, and entrepreneur, Lorna is also a long-time gardener who got hooked on organic and natural gardening methods at an early age. These days, her vegetable garden is smaller to make room for decorative landscapes filled with color, fragrance, art, and hidden treasures. Cultivating and designing the ideal garden spot is one of her favorite activities – especially for gathering with family and friends for good times and good food (straight from the garden, of course)!

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N cohn
N cohn (@guest_21158)
1 year ago

In raised beds in the fall, is it better to add compost followed by leaf mold , or plant a cover crop? The top 3-4 inches of my vegy/herb beds has become compacted following the compost/leaf procedure last fall. The soil below is very healthy and loose. I practice no till/ no dig gardening. (Same issue for my in ground vegy/herb bed. Thanks for your response.