Flu season is raging through the U.S. like Mongolian beef through a senior citizen. What many youthful adventurers don’t realize is that the flu can be extremely deadly when not treated correctly. If you’re out on the trail, contracting the flu is extremely dangerous. While the best thing you can do is drink plenty of water and rest, you might want to consider picking up a few prescriptions from nature’s pharmacy to treat the most pressing of your systems. For each of the below herbal remedies, tea is probably the most effective medium of application, except when otherwise noted.
Fever – Yarrow
The most dangerous and most classic flu symptom is a fever, usually of more than 100 F. Yarrow is a diaphoretic, which is a fancy way of saying it makes you sweat a lot. Use the entire plant to help fight your fever in two ways: it cools your body down with increased perspiration and it encourages the virus to pass through your body faster. With consumption of anything that makes you sweat more, make sure you are drinking lots and lots of water.
Cough — Angelica
Angelica is an expectorant, which means it helps clear mucus out of your lungs and airways, one of the principle causes of that nagging cough that accompanies the flu. For Angelica, use the roots of the plant, rather than the stalks or the leaves, when making tea.
Sore Throat – Oregon Grape root (also, blackberry and raspberry leaves)
Oregon Grape root is commonly used to treat sore throats because it acts to reduce both inflammation and irritation. For West coasters, Oregon Grape root is easy to find. For everyone else, blackberry and raspberry leaves are an excellent substitution and provide similar healing effects.
Runny Nose – Nettles
There are dozens of varieties of nettles in the United States, but most backpackers are most familiar with the stinging variety. Luckily all varieties are useful for treating a runny nose because they act as an antihistamine. Avoid using the leaves of stinging nettles, because the individual stingers can easily get lost in your tea and consumed, which can have very negative effects on the status of your sore throat.
Headache – Lavender and Rosemary (aromatherapy and tea)
Lavender and rosemary grow like weeds in much of the U.S., which is good news for headache-weary backpackers. These two herbs can be used in one of two ways: as a delicious herbal tea or as aromatherapy. Grinding the herbs up with a little water or sunblock will create a poultice you can apply to your skin. The smell will help relieve headache symptoms more aggressively than you would think. Consequently, it will probably be the best you’ll smell on the entire trip.