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Succumbing to a cold or flu at anytime is no fun – but even more so when you're pregnant. It can feel debilitating to not know what's safe or okay to help you kick the illness to the curb – and frustrating when all of your favorite go-to's are suddenly not options of which you can avail yourself.
One of my favorite remedies for colds and flu is herbal tea, but unfortunately even most of my favorite store-bought cold and flu teas contain herbs that are no-no's while pregnant – or at least ones that should give pause at various stages of gestation. (I keep a copy of my book, The Thinking Parent's Guide to Natural Remedies, close at hand so I can look up each herb I see on various store-bought blends and know whether it's safe when my pregnancy brain is too foggy to help me remember off the top of my head.)
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So that's why I set to work to come up with an herbal tea that would be a powerful-yet-gentle-and-comforting remedy for when a cold or flu hits but you're also mindful of the life growing and developing inside you. This tea is high in bio-available Vitamin C (excellent for boosting immunity and also for uterine health), features elder flower (one of absolute best flu and fever remedies), and each ingredient is classified in both the original and expanded Commission E herbal monographs as having “no known restrictions” during pregnancy and lactation.
So, if you're currently pregnant (or know someone who is and who needs a little care package), make a batch of this tea and then brew and sip your way to deep relief.
But first, let's review some cold & flu basics….
If you yourself come down with a cold or flu and want to fight it off quickly – or if someone around you catches a cold or flu and you're wanting to up your preventative measures – don't forget ALL of these basics:
Get plenty of sleep. This one CANNOT be overemphasized and is perhaps the most important thing you can do to help your body fight off infection.
Drink lots of liquids. You want to both flush out unwanted cells and renew your body, so drinking plenty of water, coconut water, herbal tea, homemade electrolyte solution, bone broth, and other nourishing liquids is a must. Drinking hot water with a lemon slice, honey, and/or a few ginger coins is a great option, too.
Eat homemade chicken soup or sip bone broth. You want to ingest as much bone broth as your body will allow and soup makes it flavorful, nourishing, and bountifully restorative. There's a reason chicken soup is considered to be such comfort food!
Gargle. Gargle with warm salt water, if you have a sore throat or cough. This will help dry out the membranes and clear out excess phlegm.
If you're congested, breathe plenty of warm, moist air. Breathing warm, humid air – such as from a humidifier or a hot shower – helps loosen congestion and gets mucus moving so it can be expelled. Placing essential oils such as peppermint or cedarwood in a steaming bowl of hot water and breathing the vapors can also do wonders – just be sure you're using essential oils that are safe during pregnancy. Read our guide to using essential oils safely here.
Wash your hands excessively and don't touch your face more than you absolutely have to.
Take food-based supplements, such as cod liver oil (Vitamin A), apple cider vinegar (to loosen phlegm), and food-based multi-vitamin supplements, such Vitamin Code (and there are others, too – look at your local health food store).
Avoid sugar like the plague. Sugar acts as a depressant on the immune system, so you definitely want to avoid it while you're fighting off a cold or the flu to give yourself the best chance to heal. (Small amounts, such as the honey in homemade cough syrup or many commercial cough lozenges, are fine, especially since raw honey has myriad other benefits.)
Cold & Flu Tea for Pregnancy
- ½ cup dried rosehips
- ¼ cup dried elder flowers
- ¼ cup dried echinacea herb, Echinacea spp.
- 2 tablespoons dried orange rind
- 2 tablespoons dried nettle leaf
- 2 tablespoons dried spearmint leaf, optional
- 2 tablespoons chopped dried apple, optional
- Stir all ingredients together in a medium size bowl until well-mixed, then store in an airtight container for up to 1 year.
- To steep, bring fresh water to a boil, then remove the kettle from the heat and allow the boiling to come to a stop. Place 1-2 tablespoons of the cold and flu tea for pregnancy mixture into a tea strainer in a mug, then pour over the nearly-boiling water, cover with a small plate or other cover, and let steep for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove herbs from the tea, then sip as desired, preferably while wrapped in heavy blankets to promote sweating, which cools the body and helps rid it of unwanted pathogens.
- While this nutritive tea can be considered safe during pregnancy, as with all things, it should be drunk in moderation.
A Closer Look at the Ingredients
I always like to include WHY I've included each ingredient in natural remedy recipes, but even more so for a recipe that is meant to be taken while you're pregnant! So let's take a look…
Rosehips are POTENT sources of Vitamin C – and they taste good! Whether you gather them from a rose bush yourself or buy them, they are the heart and soul of this recipe. Especially in the first 24 hours of onset of symptoms, Vitamin C is one of your best friends when it comes to boosting your immune response.
Elder flowers are long known for their medicinal virtues. Hippocrates around the year 400 BC even wrote about them, and Native Americans have used various parts of the elderberry tree to treat fevers and joint pain for hundreds of years. While elder berries are particularly good for immunity boosting and helping the body respond to the flu, elder flowers are particularly good at zeroing in on fevers and respiratory congestion by promoting sweating and the clearing of mucus.
You may certainly add a couple of tablespoons of dried elderberries to this recipe if you would like, both for taste and for immune boosting power, but during pregnancy when the immune system is often on heightened alert anyway, a gentle nudge to boost immunity is sometimes better than boosting the immune system with every agent of guerilla warfare you can muster, and thus in this case elder flowers are the gentler way to go.
Echinacea's benefits are well-known and widely-recognized, so it's likely not surprising to see it on this list. According to Mountain Rose Herbs, “one of its main uses is to support healthy immune function… [and] it is now one of the most available dietary supplements in health food stores and continues to be a subject of many scientific studies investigating its immune support properties.”
The majority of an orange's Vitamin C content is located in the pith and peel, so to up the Vitamin C content of this tea, as well as create an orange-cranberry-type flavor with the orange and rosehips together, the orange peel is a lovely addition to this tea.
(Side note: If the orange flavor isn't strong enough for you, feel free to add 3-4 drops of organic orange essential oil – such as this one – into the dried mix as you stir it. The oil will absorb into the dried material and the aroma will be released when you pour over the boiling water as you're preparing the tea, but the amount that is actually leeched into the water itself and thus taken into your body is quite small – only slightly more than what would be released naturally from the peel itself, since that's where orange oil is found in an orange, after all…. And of course, skip it if you want to make sure you're not ingesting an essential oil.)
Nettle leaf is a wonderfully broad-spectrum multi-vitamin and multi-mineral plant – just what your body needs when it's looking for every resource it can find to wage war against the invading pathogenic cells. Nettle boosts energy levels and restores depleted stores of minerals in your body.
The inclusion of spearmint is largely for flavor – I like the tea both with and without it, so if you already have some around, feel free to add it in, but if you don't, don't worry about spending the money to get some. It's a lovely flavor, but not needed.
This is merely to provide a touch of sweetness to the tea. It's purely optional, so it's up to you.
If you want more natural remedy recipes – both those that can be taken in pregnancy and in the rest of life – grab a copy of my book, The Thinking Parent's Guide to Natural Remedies.