A recurring problem of foggy, damp, autumn days is colds, colds, and more specifically upper respiratory illnesses. Its unpleasant symptoms not only dampen our spirits, but can also put us to bed for a few days.
Which herbs are recommended to relieve unpleasant cold symptoms, to speed up recovery or to prevent complications? Let’s briefly look at some of these, usually common species of plants, some of whose medicinal properties (known as ‘drugs’) should be kept in our medicine chest.
One of the most common weed species in meadows, roadsides and even in fallows is the narrow-leaved (spear-leaved) plantain (scientific name: Plantago lanceolata). The leaves of this perennial herb are elongated and spear-shaped; while the stem is a stalk without long leaves, which is the stem at the tip that holds the inflorescence. The main active substances of the leaves are iridoids (aukubin), tannins, mucilages and vitamin C; their source is an expectorant and expectorant. According to the famous Herbarium of Péter Juhász Mélius (On the Names, Nature and Uses of Trees and Herbs, 1579), ‘it cures the mouth and throat if you wash it with water’.
Also with a capitulum, and very common, is the small daisy (Bellis perennis). The small nesting flowers develop on the capitulum, which is a few centimetres long. The outer, larger flowers are slightly reddish, the inner ones are white. Daisies are a small species of lush, moist turf that can flower from snowmelt to the next frost. The decoction of the leaves contains inulin, saponins, tannins and is suitable for relieving the symptoms of tracheitis and coughs.
Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is a drought-tolerant herb from the Mediterranean basin that has been cultivated for half a century. The essential oil-rich flowers of this plant, which belongs to the lime family, can be blue, pink or white. The medicinal properties are in the above ground part of the plant, the flowering shoot, which can contain up to one percent essential oil. The main uses of hyssop are in cough-relieving, anti-asthmatic tea mixtures, although it may also be an ingredient in appetite-enhancing tea blends. Hyssop has been a known herb since ancient times, according to the Herb Book: ‘it cures difficult breathing, kills worms in the stomach’.
One of the most common and justifiably well-known remedies for colds is the small-leaved and large-leaved linden species (Tilia cordata, Tilia plathyphyllos). The medicinal drug in both cases is the yellowish-white, pleasant-smelling inflorescence, in which the few flowers form a scalloped umbel with the ivy leaf on its axis. Both species, but especially the small-leaved linden, can be found in planted stands (parks, roadside trees), while the large-leaved linden appears as a mixed tree in temperate forests in the central mountains. The drugs collected during flowering of the two species contain mainly flavonoids (quercetin), mucilage, tannins and some essential oils. The inflorescence tea has a perspirant, expectorant and mucolytic effect. These effects of linden tea can be further enhanced by flavouring it with honey.
Liquorice (Clycyrrhiza glabra) is a cultivated buttercup plant that is rarely cultivated. Licorice is the main subject of a work entitled Our first-order medicinal herbs, written in China five hundred years ago. The plant was also found in Egyptian pharaonic tombs, a clear indication of its value. It is still very popular in China today, and Chinese doctors recommend it mainly for sore throats, coughs and respiratory problems. It is a very vigorous, multi-headed, perennial herbaceous species, which can grow to a shrub-like height of several metres. Its medicinal properties are mainly due to its rootstock, where the main active ingredient is a triterpene glycoside, glycyrrhizin. This strikingly sweet compound (fifty times sweeter than sucrose) is combined with flavonoids, saponins and a few essential oils. This chemical composition guarantees an expectorant, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effect, which was already recognised by the Egyptians. The use of liquorice is different from the usual, as it is not boiled or made into a tea, but the black ‘liquorice’ extract of the roots is steamed to a rubbery consistency.
The Roman physician Galenus recommended the use of pemethrum (Marrubium vulgare) a good two thousand years ago. The plant is herbaceous, with a rectangular stem, white woolly, ovate leaves with lacy edges and wrinkled phloem. The flowers are off-white, forming spherical pseudobulbs. Native to the Mediterranean and Central Asia, it is also a cultivated medicinal plant in dry, warm areas and grasslands in our country. The flowering shoots are the drug of pemethrum, containing 0.3-1.0 percent diterpene-type bitter substances, 5-7 percent tannins, mucilages and a few essential oils. Its decoction (tea) is useful in respiratory diseases (cough), but it is also known to have an appetite stimulant effect. It can be used not only as a tea, but also as an ingredient in medicinal candies.
One of the ways to prevent colds, coughs and colds is to ensure that the body is adequately supplied with vitamins, especially water-soluble, constantly excreted vitamins. There are many products (syrups, jams, preserves, etc.) made from the fruits of sea buckthorn (Hippophaë rhamnoides). This plant is a shrub or small tree covered with thorns and silvery hairs. This undemanding, drought-tolerant plant is cultivated in many countries of the world, and in our country it is native to the Danube and Drava rivers, although it is a protected tree in our flora because of its rarity. Its planted and cultivated populations are becoming more and more common, as the juice of the fruit contains, in addition to vitamin C, sugars, organic acids, oil, carotenoids and minerals. It has long been used in northern Europe as a tasty vitamin substitute, and is now being widely used in our country.