Natural Remedies for the Winter Sniffles

Once all the trees are composted, the decorations are tucked away until next year and the gifts have been given, the only remnants that seem to be left of the holiday season are a few extra pounds, a stack of bills and the sniffles. Considering that I have spent the last four out of five years either pregnant or nursing, I am always in the market for natural remedies for colds and congestion.

For an irritated throat and nasty cough or irritating throat tickle, I use my niece’s Elderberry Syrup:

  • ½ cup dried elderberries ( is cheapest)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup honey (preferably local)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3-5 cloves
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger

Bring all the ingredients except honey to a boil, smashing up the elderberries as they boil. Strain and bring the liquid back down to room temperature. Stir in honey, pour into glass jar, and this will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 months. You can take a tablespoon or two whenever you need to, as can the kids. Nothing there to harm!

For chest congestion and a stuffed-up nose, I use shower inhalation cupcakes:

Mix in 2 cups of baking soda with about  ½-1 cup water (mix it in until it is plaster of paris-y/doughy).

Put in 10 drops of  peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, and frankincense essential oil (Don’t have all of these? Use what you have. Don’t want to make the cupcakes? Put the oils in your bath, but swish those puppies well before you get in or you can really burn your skin with the neat oils. Worried about a fried can? Dilute oils in a carrier oil: olive, grapeseed, coconut, etc., then add to bath.)

Add the baking soda paste to lined muffin tin and let them sit until dry and firm to touch.

Store each inhalation cupcake in a sealed container.

Pop one out of the liner and place in your shower (right before you get in or as you get in- don’t waste the inhalation oils) when you are feeling stuffy.

For petroleum-free “VapoRub,” I use this salve that feels and smells like heaven:

  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup olive or grapeseed oil (honestly, you can use ½ cup on one, if you like, I am just big on blending oils)
  • 2- 2.5 tablespoons of beeswax (add more if it looks too goopey)
  • 10 drops of the oil blend from the inhalation cupcake, PLUS 5 drops of lemon, tea tree, clove and cinnamon.

Melt oil and beeswax in bain-marie (double boiler) then add essential oils. Place in small metal or glass containers at room temperature.  The most effective place to apply this is the soles of your feet, as that is the most permeable skin on your body. You can also rub this into your chest, temples, or put a dab under your nose.  

For a quick decongestant while traveling or on the go, I use a sniffle sack (or sock):

  • ½ cup comfrey leaves
  • 5 drops of each of the essential oils from the inhalation cupcakes

Mix the oils into the comfrey and place into an unmatched sock, (awesome upcycling!), an unbleached cloth tea bag, or an aromatherapy nasal inhaler (like the Vick’s stick) you can buy online. I got mine off eBay for dirt cheap.

Put your mixture into whatever you are going to use, store in a sealed container, and sniff, sniff, sniff your cold symptoms and congestion away when you need it! If it dries up or loses its umph, just add more of the essential oil blend. 

Instead of a cough drop, because I don’t want menthol and cough drops to turn my stomach, I make horehound drops:

Horehound Drops

This recipe and website are awesome! For an extra punch of flavor and to keep the lozenges from sticking together, I roll in a delicious blend of confectioner’s sugar and cinnamon.  I suppose ground ginger, cloves, or pumpkin pie spice would be delish too!

horehound drops

Horehound Drops

For a kicking cure-all that I have never been brave enough to taste or make, yet, but people swear by, use the legendary “Master Tonic.” 

Evidently, this bad boy can raise you from the dead.  Let me know how it turns out if you make it! Better yet, send me some.

 Master Tonic Recipe

May you stay healthy and well this winter! Here’s to planning the spring garden and getting outside into the fresh air in a few short months!



About Becky Jha

Born and raised in rural Connecticut , Becky DeMattia-Jha attended Salve Regina University in Newport, RI, and has her M.Ed. She has been teaching high school English for 15 years and currently resides in Massachusetts with her husband, their two children, and their German Shepherd. She spends her precious summer vacations indulging in passions other than literature: serving as a lactation peer coach, practicing herbal medicine, organic gardening, making natural cleansers and cosmetics, and preparing quick and easy organic recipes for her family. She hopes to share her efficient, chemical-free, eco-conscious, frugal, and simplistic homemaking and homesteading tips with you.


  1. Ashley Carr says:

    So interesting! I had no idea you could actually make home natural remedies out healthy ingredients. I can’t wait to try!

  2. Our family uses the first recipe ALL the time. We keep a batch on hand. We never let it run out.

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