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Cold and Flu Center

Is There an Herbal Treatment for Upper Respiratory Infections?

author image Robyn Hughes
Robyn Hughes has been writing since 2008 about health, nutrition, fitness and botanical medicine. She is a naturopathic physician and freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in cognitive science from Indiana University and a doctoral degree from the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Ore.
Is There an Herbal Treatment for Upper Respiratory Infections?
Woman with natural remedies including herbs. Photo Credit: Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

Upper respiratory infections are a common health problem. The Cleveland Clinic states that upper respiratory tract infection is a general term describing infection of your nose, paranasal sinuses, pharynx, larynx, trachea or bronchi. Common types of upper respiratory tract infection include the common cold, pharyngitis, sinusitis and tracheobronchitis. Before taking any substance to treat your upper respiratory infection, including herbs, talk with your physician about the inherent risks and benefits associated with these substances.

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Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

The most common cause of upper respiratory tract infections, according to the Cleveland Clinic, are viruses, including rhinovirus, adenovirus and influenza virus. Most signs and symptoms associated with upper respiratory tract infection -- including nasal congestion, sneezing and sore throat -- manifest within one to three days of exposure to the infectious agent. The majority of upper respiratory tract infections occur during the winter months, due to overcrowding. Most adults develop two to four upper respiratory tract infections per year.

Helpful Herbal Remedies

Certain herbs have been used to help prevent or treat upper respiratory tract infections. According to Dr. Sharol Tilgner, a naturopathic doctor and the author of "Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth," horseradish, garlic, parsley, beet, ginger and cayenne can be taken together as a winter tonic formula to help prevent or treat upper respiratory tract infections such as colds and systemic illnesses, including influenza, that affect your upper respiratory tract.

Commonly Used Herb

Ginger is a commonly used herb to help prevent or treat upper respiratory tract infections. Ginger is a warming herb and has antimicrobial, diaphoretic, anti-tussive, expectorant and anti-inflammatory action. Ginger is also an immune system booster. According to the University of Michigan Health System, the dried rhizome, or underground stem, of the ginger plant contains volatile oils, which are the principle medically active constituents in ginger.


Visit a qualified health-care practitioner before taking herbal remedies to help treat your upper respiratory infection. Practitioners of botanical or herbal medicine may provide you with the most relevant and detailed information about herbal therapy, including what herbs are best for you, the appropriate dosage and method of ingestion and any risks, side effects and drug interactions that might occur after taking herbal remedies. If you are pregnant, use great care when taking herbs, since some herbs have been known to disrupt pregnancies.

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