Folk First Aid for Winter - Part 2

Photo by  Jana Brunclikova

By Jana Brunclikova

Continuing from Part 1, here we take a look at a few time-tested folk remedies for coughs and sore throats. Experiment with all of these remedies until you find the ones that are best for you. 

Note: Please consult your doctor if your condition persists or grows worse, or contact me for a naturopathic consult, where I can create a wonderful personalised herbal blend to support  healing and recovery or strengthen your immune system.




Apple cider vinegar

Vinegar is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and its acidity might help kill the bacteria that cause some sore throats. Add two teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water. Gargle a mouthful, spit it out, then drink a mouthful. Continue this until the mixture is gone. Rinse your mouth with water to prevent the vinegar from eroding your teeth. Repeat the vinegar gargle every hour for as long as your sore throat persists.


Sage is an anti-inflammatory herb and a time tested ally for sore throats. Add one teaspoon of dried sage to one cup of boiling water. Steep for three to five minutes, strain, then gargle and swallow.

Lemon and raw honey

Honey coats the throat, while lemon can temporarily reduce the mucus buildup that often accompanies a sore throat. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into a glass, add a teaspoon of honey and drink. Repeat every two hours.

Tongue stretching

Stick out your tongue for 30 seconds, relax it for a few seconds, then repeat four times. This is believed to increase blood flow to the throat, speeding the healing process.



Essential Oils

We use essential oils in many ways, every day in our home; oil burners, massage blends, balms, on hankies and in baths. When we are healing – these uses get stepped up a notch and added to our cleaning as well. Dropping oils onto hankies to carry with us for inhaling and also to have by us for coughing into are great. For clearing out mucus, massage with a respiratory or immune blend – down across the bridge of the nose, along the cheek bone over to the ear, from the ear down to just under the jaw line. My favourite winter oils are woody types for dilating the airways as well as building the immune system (juniper, pine and eucalyptus are great). Citrus and mint varieties are useful for their cleansing and refreshing properties while tea tree and lavender are strong anti bacterials. You can also try rubbing garlic infused olive oil into the soles of your feet for both an immune boost as well as for treating coughs. 

Tea infusions

Year round there’s always something infusing in our mugs. I think a special tea cup is essential for everybody to wrap their hands around and identify with as their own. There’s something really special about moments spent together drinking tea. When we need some healing, echinacea, juniper berries, peppermint, lavender, chamomile and elderflowers, complimented with citrus, ginger and turmeric root slices find themselves steaming amongst our infusions. Of course in winter all the earthier tones of cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg and star anise find themselves making their way into our brews as well. Liquorice relieves the pain of irritated mucous membranes. Drink liquorice root tea as long as your cough persists. Note: Don’t try liquorice root if you have high blood pressure or kidney problems.

Lemon, honey and olive oil

Honey and olive oil coat and soothe, while lemon reduces mucus. Heat one cup of honey, one-half cup of olive oil and the juice of one lemon over a medium flame for five minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir for two minutes to blend the ingredients. Consume one teaspoon of the mixture every two hours. If you have Manuka honey, the antibacterial action of this mixture will be stronger. Try to get Manuka honey UMF over 15+. The higher the number, the more potent it is. 

Vinegar and cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, a proven painkiller, while vinegar serves as an anti-inflammatory. Add a half cup of apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon of cayenne pepper to a half cup of water. Add honey if desired. Take one tablespoon when your cough acts up and another tablespoon before bed.

Horseradish and raw honey

Horseradish can help loosen mucus, while honey coats the throat. Grate one teaspoon of fresh, peeled horseradish into two teaspoons of honey (use Manuka honey if you have some) . Consume one teaspoon every two to three hours.


Ginger is an anti-inflammatory that contains gingerols, which provide pain-reducing and sedative benefits. Chew a piece of fresh, peeled ginger root when you feel your cough acting up, best in the evening before bed. Chew until the ginger loses its kick.

Cinnamon, sage and bay

Cinnamon contains compounds believed to reduce congestion. Sage can help sooth sore throats. Some Native American cultures have used bay leaves to clear breathing passages. Steep one-half teaspoon each of cinnamon and sage with a bay leaf in a cup of hot water. Strain and add one tablespoon of lemon juice. Lemon helps reduce mucus buildup. If you like your tea sweet, add honey.

Oral Care

Amidst our regular routine of brushing with Weleda pastes, flossing and pikstering, I always make sure we’re tongue scraping and gargling with warm salt water that has a drop or so of beneficial oil along with a few drops of propolis. Run this solution around your teeth, gums, tongue and all through your mouth with an oral care powder on your brush. Tongue scraping has been around for years and is definitely not some new passing fad. It’s a wonderful oral hygiene tool that has countless benefits. Reducing the severity and length of viral infections is one of those benefits as it’s fantastic to remove the bacteria that naturally clings to our tongues. 


Rosehips are so loaded with nutrients that they can be considered a super food.  They contain vitamins A, B complex, C, E, K and minerals including calcium, silica, iron and phosphorous.  Rosehips are particularly high in bioflavonoid rich antioxidants including rutin that help strengthen our heart and blood vessels, and prevent degeneration of tissue. In addition they contain a high amount of vitamin C  making them an excellent flu preventative. Use 1 heaping teaspoon of rosehips per cup of boiled water and steep for 15 minutes.  Some people prefer to boil rosehips, which makes a stronger, darker brew.  While you will lose some of the vitamin C content with boiling, it may increase the extraction of minerals and pectin. One of my favourite winter teas is “Rose Mint” – a combination of rose petals, rosehips, peppermint and spearmint.  It has a sweet and lively flavour that even dubious herbal tea drinkers enjoy. Cheers!

Jana Brunclikova is a naturopath and plant based chef living and surfing in Bondi, Sydney. You can visit her in the beautiful Orchard St clinic in Bronte.