Anticatarrhal herbs are the ones that act on our body’s mucous. Generally, we think of using these herbs for the sinuses but they can be used on a wider spectrum than just ENT (ear, nose, and throat) related conditions.
Our mucus in our body serves a purpose, to help move toxins and pathogens away from the area. Anticatarrhal herbs can have two different actions themselves. They may stop the flow of mucus or aid in producing a more viscous mucous. If you think about blowing your nose, an anticatarrhal may thin your mucous so you can blow your nose more easily to remove potential pathogens. It may also dry up your mucous so much that it remains in your sinuses. If you have ever taken Mucinex you will know that second feeling of dry sinuses, hence why the box says take with an entire glass of water.
Even if you have never been exposed to marshmallow root products, when you think of the word marshmallow you think of sticky things. Marshmallow, yes it is a real plant, root is filled with polysaccharide molecules that make a lovely mucilage, sticky liquid. This mucilage is great for coating and calming the digestive system with over acid production as well as supporting the mucus of the urinary system and the lungs (lower respiratory system). It can also be an excellent emollient topically to sooth erupting skin conditions.
This common plant of the mint family is one I love to use this time of year. Not only does it support the flow of mucous from the nasal passages, it also stimulates circulation, warms the body, and has antimicrobial actions as well for the mouth, throat, and tonsils.This herb does not need to be taken in large doses but mixed with the other herbs here can make a nice blend for a winter’s cold.
Both the flower and berries of elder can be used medicinally. For upper respiratory inflammation and stuck mucus, the flowers are best taken as a tea. Don’t worry. This plant tastes delicious in all forms and I love making at tea with the flowers and splitting it with some seltzer water once it has cooled. The berries work great that way as well. As you will hear more of in a few weeks, elder berries are also excellent to use when sick but are more used for their antiviral and antioxidant activities.
Mullein leaf and flower (yellow flower stalks can be seen in featured image) are both used for various herbal preparations. For mullein’s anticatarrhal actions, the leaves are best used. Mullein supports the toning of respiratory membranes and enhances the flow of mucus, helping to expel any pathogens that have been trapped, from the body. It is also anti-inflammatory and supports moistening of the trachea when illness has dried the lower respiratory tract.
For more information on herbal actions such as anticatarrhals, please consult the book “Medical Herbalism” by David Hoffmann. If you are interested in using these and other herbs on a daily basis, please consult with a professional herbalist and consider taking our class on Kitchen Medicine for colds and flues.