Home Remedies for Fall & Winter

by Doreen Shababy | analgesic, colds & flu, home remedies | 0 comments


Here’s a terrific sampler of simple home remedies you can use throughout fall and winter, or anytime of year, when you’re feeling less than your usual excellent self. The instructions are given in each recipe, and most of these can also be found in my book,The Wild & Weedy Apothecary. Do you recognize any recipes from your childhood? Do you have any recipes to contribute?

Garlic Tea

You will use a whole head of garlic for this recipe.

To peel the garlic, lay each separated clove on a cutting board, then smack each one soundly by laying the side of a chef’s knife on the clove and then hitting the side of the knife with your closed fist – watch out for the blade – then remove the peel.  If you don’t have a chef’s knife, just use the heel of your hand and press down real hard until it “pops”.  Next, toss the crushed cloves into a small saucepan with 1 quart of water, and simmer until soft, about 20 minutes.  Mash up the garlic in the broth with a fork, then strain.  A pinch of sea salt for flavor doesn’t hurt.  Take half a cup every couple hours.  This can be repeated the next day if you still have symptoms.

Freshly harvested garlic

Garlic Syrup

First make Garlic Tea as instructed above, but let it steep overnight, unstrained.

The next day, strain the tea, reheat until just warm and add 4 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar; do not let the brew come to a boil.  Take one or two tablespoons for adults, a teaspoon for children (but not babies), every hour or so, for 2 days.  After that, refrigerate the syrup (for up to a week) or use it to baste chicken.

Apple Water

In THE HERB BOOK, John Lust says that the dried peels of apples were used as a tea for “rheumatic illness”.  Mrs. M. Grieve, in A MODERN HERBAL, says that a mild apple beverage is drunk cool for feverish conditions.

Take 3 to 4 whole unpeeled apples, slice thin, place in a saucepan with 1 quart water, and bring to a boil; reduce heat, then simmer until soft, about 20 minutes.  Strain, stir in 2 tablespoons honey, then cool to serve. Drink throughout the day as needed.

Apples are an easy remedy to come by

Barley Water

This recipe is not to be confused with Barley Pops, or Brew Doggies, or any other fond reference to beer.  This is a remedy to be used when the patient may not be able to hold down food, or if the flu is accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea.  It is very soothing to the alimentary tract including the digestive tract because of the mucilaginous nature of barley.

To make Barley Water, use a ratio of four parts water to one part barley.

4 cups water

1 cup barley


fresh lemon

Add barley to the water and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and cover, gently simmering until barley is cooked, about 45 minutes. To serve, strain, and add honey and lemon to taste (if desired) and drink the liquid warm or cool.

Barley grain with sheaf

Lemony cold and flu tea

Perhaps some of the best-known home remedies using lemon are for coughs and colds.  Hot honey-lemonade comes to mind:  simply boil a cup of water, squeeze in lemon to taste and stir in a small dab of honey.  You don’t have to be sick to like it, and if it’s close to bedtime, you could add a dash of whisky (depending on your age) for a good night’s sleep.  Remember not to give honey (or whisky) to babies.  Another hot lemon remedy is a tea made with a pounded garlic clove, a squeeze of lemon, a pinch of cinnamon, and a dab of honey.  The following lemony cold and flu combination includes health-enhancing herbs.

Boil 1 cup water, add 1 tablespoon chopped lemon peel, a pinch each sage and thyme (fresh or dried), then steep 15 minutes.  Strain, then add the juice of half a lemon and a small dab of honey; drink at least twice a day.

Lemons are so cheerful

Zip: A Hearty Garlic Tonic:

I learned about this cold and flu tonic many years ago from my dear old friend Jeannine, who not only had a green thumb, you might say she had rainbow fingers.  You can use Zip everyday in the manner of an old-fashioned apple cider vinegar & honey tonic, with the immune-enhancing properties of fresh garlic.

Dried chiles

To make 1 pint:

Take 2 large heads of garlic (not just the individual cloves, but the whole head), wash well, then smash each clove soundly against a cutting board with the side of a heavy chef’s knife (no need to peel unless they are dirty).  Place the smashed garlic in a pint-sized jar and cover with about 1 to 2 cups good apple cider vinegar; use enough vinegar to keep the garlic completely covered, but it’s okay if some of it floats.  (Don’t expect to use this jar for anything else, except Zip, ever again.)  Place a small piece of waxed paper or plastic over the jar to prevent corrosion, and then screw on the lid.  Label and date.

Keep this somewhere you can see it, and let steep for 2 weeks, shaking daily.  Strain, and then add an equal amount of raw honey to the garlic-infused vinegar.  Place the jar in the sun to warm it if you can to melt the honey easier, otherwise just shake it now and again until dissolved.  You can funnel it into a clean bottle for easier dispensing if desired.  Your batch of  Zip is now ready, and it will keep until you use it up, about 3 months. If you like, you can add a dried cayenne pepper or two to steep with the garlic, and really boost the octane of this bad boy.  I’ve added a pinch of cayenne powder to the basic recipe, as an afterthought, to take when I actually did have the flu.

To use as a tonic, just add a splash of Zip (1 or 2 tablespoons) to a glass of water and sip away.  You could even use it as a pungent salad dressing for coleslaw.  Your kids will probably hate it, but the taste kinda grows on you after a while.  It sure does put hair on your chest.

Yarrow: Trad-but-rad

            To be completely honest, although yarrow smells good as a plant, the tea doesn’t taste that great all by itself.  Nevertheless, when combined with equal parts peppermint leaf and elder flower, it makes an excellent and palatable combination, and a very traditional one I might add, to remedy flu and cold symptoms.  The tannin content is said to inhibit the spread of some viruses, including influenza.
This tea combination taken at the onset of a cold or flu helps you “sweat it out”.

To make plain yarrow tea or the flu combo, place 1 rounded teaspoon dried herb

 in 1 pint (2 cups) boiling water, cover and remove from heat;

steep for 10 minutes, then strain, sweeten if desired, and drink hot 1 cup at bedtime. 

Let the rest cool to drink in the morning. 

Be sure to stay warm under the blankets to sweat it all out,

changing out of your wet pajamas if you have to.

Yarrow flowers

Household uses of Vinegar

            Vinegar makes a great cleaning product, it even cuts grease on a messy stovetop.  While plain old white vinegar works just fine, I make a three-quarter strength vinegar spray by diluting with one-fourth water and adding several drops each of all the citrus essential oils I have, plus rosemary oil, in a sprayer bottle.  I don’t feel so weird then, placing veggies or whatever directly on the counter, knowing I’ve sprayed it with a food-grade substance instead of something made from words I can’t even read let alone pronounce.  You could make an infused vinegar for this use as well; herbs known for their antiseptic properties, such as thyme, rosemary, and the mints, would be good choices, along with aromatics such as clove, cinnamon, and allspice (use whole spices and not powdered).  Plain white vinegar, as well as lavender vinegar, makes a good addition to the final rinse in the clothes washer, as it helps remove any soap left in the water, very excellent for washing baby diapers and blankets and so on.  Lavender vinegar makes a good wash for bedrails and toys and such when the kids are sick; it has a soothing yet refreshing aroma-therapeutic quality, and it just makes everything smell cleaner (the Latin word for lavender, lavare, means “to wash”).  I highly recommend using vinegar as a general household cleaner, even when you’re feeling well!

© Doreen Shababy