The Hottest Teas for Cold & Flu Season

​Everyone around us seems to be sniffling, sneezing or coughing these days. Right before the holidays, we were standing on a long, seeming never-ending line at the post office behind a woman who kept hacking up a lung in our direction.

"I'm not contagious," she kept assuring. Uh-huh. Two days later and we joined the rest of our office in having some unnamed winter plague.

The good news is that some food and drink can be useful in mitigating the symptoms of a cold or helping you get well faster, especially herbal teas. We scoured grocery stores and herb shops for teas that will help chase your winter blahs -- and hopefully any flu and cold bugs -- away.

  • Bulk Herbs

Several stores around town, including Chakra4Herb, Southwest Herb and Desert Sage Herbs offer by-the-ounce single herbs. You can use a single herb to make your own tea at home, or blend a couple of herbs if you know what you're doing. When in doubt, ask the resident herbalist (every herb store has at least one) and they'll help you whip up a blend for whatever ails you.

The most important herb for cold and flu season is Echinacea, says Registered Herbalist Kathleen Gould of the new Southwest Herb in Mesa. "It helps your white blood cells mobilize to do what they're supposed to do -- fight infection." Gould recommends Coltsfoot if you have a cough that accompanies your seasonal illness. It's an expectorant and cough suppressant. Think of it as nature's cough syrup!

  • Pre-made Blends

Chakra 4 Herb's pre-blended teas cater to your specific cold.

We tried their Fluberry tea, which includes elderberry, Echinacea, ginger and a host of other cold & flu season herbs. Unlike leafy teas, which can be made in a french press or with a tea strainer directly in your cup of hot water, our herb specialist at Chakra 4 Herb instructed us to made a "decoction" first by boiling the herbs in a non-aluminum pot and straining off the liquid. "You have to do a decoction to get the constituents out of any tea that has whole berries, twigs, bark," she explained. "Use clean water. Avoid making your decoction in copper or aluminum. Stainless steel pots are optimal. Glass, Pyrex also works fine."      

  • Traditional Medicinals and other bagged, store bought teas

Don't want to make an extra shopping trip? You'll likely find teas for cold & flu in your grocery store, under the brand name Traditional Medicinals (there are several others, but this is the most common). They're basically custom organic tea blends pre-bagged so you can soak them in a cup of boiling water like a regular Lipton tea bag.

The benefit of this kind of tea is that it's convenient and not as messy as loose tea. It's also works pretty well -- a pro opera singer turned us on to their Gypsy Cold Care, which opens up our sinuses better than a good chili pepper. The downside is that these nationally marketed brands aren't made in Arizona, so most of your dollar flies right out of our local economy. 

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Wynter Holden
Contact: Wynter Holden