Aromatic Herbs for Chest Infections

Recently there has been a cracking case of flu doing the rounds, presenting with a nasty fever for some people and for others a chesty cough, sore throat, sinus and head congestion, and in both cases utter exhaustion. I’m still recovering from it myself, and it has certainly given me a new appreciation of some of our lovely aromatic herbs. They may not grow as a native in this country but they will grow here quite happily given a little TLC, and that’s good enough for me!   Here is a rough outline of some of the wonderful things that three of our aromatics can do…

Dried Hyssop from last summer

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Until recently I haven’t really worked a great deal with Hyssop, but am rapidly learning a new appreciation for this plant. I dried a load of it last summer when it was in full bloom, and it has kept that pungent scent so beautifully. It makes a wonderful cup of tea and a great addition to a lung remedy alongside plantain. It is used to treat upper respiratory ailments such as colds and catarrh, bronchitis and asthma. It is antitussive, and pectoral, making it great for toning mucous membranes in weakened lungs, where reduced lung tone is rendering a person more susceptible to upper respiratory infection. Hyssop can be used to warm the lungs, and is especially suited to cold, damp, constricted folks where a build up of old phlegm is causing restriction to breathing and a tight chested feeling. The herb is warming and relaxing to the nervous system as well as acting on the circulatory system to relieve constriction. Some herbalists say that it can be used to remove deep seated heat in the digestive tract and to treat deep seated respiratory infection, as well as in the treatment of colds and congestion. I’d be inclined to combine it with an immune boosting herb such as Thyme or Sage to prevent the cold from descending to the chest and becoming a chest infection, or perhaps add it to a plantain salve as a chest balm.

It is warming, aromatic and diffusive, and in addition to its actions on the respiratory system, is also a nervine which can be used to treat anxiety and related problems. It has an action on the digestive system, and is carminative and aromatic. Hyssop is stimulating and astringent to mucous membranes, as well as sustaining the capillary circulation and peripheral nerves by virtue of its diffusive tendancies. It can be used to treat hypertension, in particular stress related hypertension as it causes relaxation of the nerves and relief of stress, though I seem to recall there is some concern about using it in folks with epilepsy – some sources reckon it can be used to ease and relieve epilepsy (which kind of makes sense given its warming, diffusive tendancies) but this is certainly not something to mess around with at home. I’ve also come across some reference to it being used to ease hypotension as well as hypertension, so its probably more balancing in general.

salvia officinalis
Fresh Sage

Sage (Salvia Officinalis)

Sage has a soothing action on the mucous membranes, so is often used to treat inflammation of the mouth, throat and tonsils. I’ve used it often to good effect, as a tea or gargle combined with honey, although it does seem to be a bit of an acquired taste – I quite like it, others absolutely loathe it. Sage can be used to treat pneumonia and tuberculosis in addition to diseases causing inflammation of the upper respiratory tract. It can be used to promote expectoration and is suited to cold, damp, constricted patients. It can be used to treat asthma and bronchitis, as well as being diaphoretic and soothing to the throat, and well as being useful in the treatment of chills, sinus congestion, postnasal drip and cold or influenza onset, in particular where this presents with a sore throat. The action of the herb on night sweats means that it can be used to treat night sweats related to tuberculosis, not just menopausal hot flushes. It is well suited to weakened people who are prone to colds and infections, especially suitable for folks who fall ill with bugs and viruses with the changes of the seasons.

In addition to its actions on the respiratory tract, it also acts as an adrenal trophorestorative, or normaliser, making it very useful for folks whose busy or stressful lifestyle has rendered them more susceptible to illness. It can also be used to enhance immunity, and treat chronic debility from stress or overwork, as well as to treat amnesia, depression and panic, making it similar in this respect to Hyssop. It can also be used to treat menopausal hot flushes.

Please do pop by again next week for part two!


  1. It’s true Ali, there has been a hell of a ‘bug’ going round. It hit North Wales a month ago and I’ve had it for almost 2 weeks… mother’s currently down with it. We’re surviving on a mix of Sambucus fruct 60, Plantago 60, Echinacea 40 and Prunus serotina Cort. 40. 30 ml a day. Now we’re starting to stop coughing I think I will investigate swapping the Prunus for Hyssopus. I’ve had a litre of it on my dispensary shelf for 18 months now and an opportunity to use it hasn’t showed up. Andrew once said it was also an ANS balancing herb… don’t know if there’s any truth to that!

    1. this cold is certainly doing the rounds! I’m on around day 12 of it and I’m still exhausted! Really putting a spanner in the works of getting much done as I haven’t the energy to do much more than quiet admin stuff at the moment, most annoying given that the garden needs more digging and I need to get some seeds in… oh well, it’ll all still be there in a week or so. Time to start necking some adaptogens to pick myself back up again I think…

      1. I don’t think it’s helped being auch a warm, wet winter – at least here anyway it hasn’t frozenand it’s rained almost incessantly from November to the end of February. Green winter, full graveyard as the old saying used to go. You look after yourself Ali… but don’t overdo it!

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