The upper respiratory system includes the lungs, windpipe, ears and sinuses. Infections in these areas can be from bacteria or a virus, resulting in a common cold, flu, sinusitis, otitis (ear infection), croup and bronchitis. Upper respiratory infections caused by viruses are nonresponsive to antibiotics but some natural remedies can help prevent a worsening condition and alleviate bothersome symptoms.
Aromatherapy is the inhalation of essential oils through steam. This type of natural herbal remedy can help clear a tight, congested chest. Boil 2 quarts of water and pour into a bowl. To the water, add a few drops of eucalyptus and sweet thyme essential oils. Put a towel over your head and the bowl and inhale the steam as deeply as possible. Do not use this natural herbal remedy if you have asthma.
A little known herbal remedy for upper respiratory infection is an elecampne infusion that you can make at home. Pour 1 cup of cold water onto 1 tsp. of shredded elecampane root and let it stand for 10 hours. Heat and sip one cup full 3 times a day.
If you have an irritating cough, a wild cherry bark infusion may just be your cup of tea. Pour 1 cup of boiling water onto 1 tsp. of dried cherry bark and steep for 15 minutes. Remove the bark and drink this concoction 3 times a day.
If you have access to homeopathy medications, which many health food stores carry, aconite 6c can help with fever, tight chest and a tickling cough. You should take aconite 6c 3 times a day for up to 4 days. Kali bichromicum 6c is beneficial for a loose, rattling cough. Voice loss along with a burning throat and cough is often treated, homeopathically, with Kali Phosphorus 6c.
Traditional Chinese treatments for upper respiratory infections focus on preventing an attack of sudden symptoms, such as an uncontrolled cough. Make a therapeutic tea with some or all of these herbs: plantain seeds, balloon flower root, honeysuckle flowers, skullcap root, or gardenia fruit.
An upper respiratory infection in the middle or inner ear can result in extreme itching, throbbing and a feeling of water in the ear. Refrain from eating or drinking dairy products while treating an ear infection as it can worsen the symptoms. Sipping St. John’s wort tea along with holding a warm hot-water bottle to your ear can quickly ease ear pain. Homeopathic remedies for ear infections include Aconite 6c, Belladonna 6c and Chamomilla 6c.
China is well known for growing vast fields of herbs for the herbal medicine cabinet. Astragalus root is one of the best natural herbal remedies for treating an upper respiratory infection. As a preventative, astragalus root helps fend off viruses and bacteria for people who are prone to upper respiratory infections. Typically, as with traditional Chinese medicine, this dried root is combined with several other herbs, such as chamomile, for use in teas, capsules or tinctures.
Make Astragalus tea by steeping 3 to 6 tablespoons of the dried, chopped root in 2 to 4 cups of water for about 10 to 15 minutes. Drink this tea several times a day as a preventative measure against colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections. If you are already sick, you can double the amount of root used in the tea as well as doubling the amount of tea you drink each day during your illness. It is common to use even higher doses of Astragalus root as it is a safe herb and very well tolerated by most people. If you have never tried this root before, start with the lower dose to see if it has any adverse effects for you.
Your local health food store may carry Astragalus root in capsule and tincture forms or you can make your own if you prefer. A typical dose in capsule form is 1 to 3 grams of the root per day. For a tincture, the recommended dose is 2 to 4 ml, taken 3 times per day. Adding pieces of dried Astragalus root to soups provides you with a daily tonic, providing you eat the soup daily.
Astragalus roots contain several compounds that provide medicinal effects. These compounds include Flavonoids, saponins, and polysaccharides. Flavonoids have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Polysaccharides boost the immune system, while saponins provide protection for the liver, inhibit virus growth and help metabolize insulin and glucose. Due to the big boost this herb gives your immune system, consult your health care provider if you have an autoimmune disease or if you are taking any other medications.
The benefits of this herb are many and some believe the immune-boosting effects can also help cancer patients after receiving chemotherapy by increasing the level of white blood cells. The increase in white blood cells results in a quicker recovery time. Some tests, conducted in China, show an increase of white blood cells in only eight weeks.