Herbal Health Information on Persistent Coughs

I will not see someone with a persistent cough unless it has been first investigated by the orthodox profession, because of the implications a persistent cough might have.

However if it has been diagnosed as having no known cause then it is well worth treating a persistent cough with herbal medicine as there are several herbs that have an excellent cleansing action on the lungs and respiratory system.

Persisting irritating coughs may have several causes


Dry throat


Excess stomach acid

The respiratory system is very vulnerable to external irritants and the first course of action is to protect it from the external environment.

Marshmallow is the herb that does this. We saw the marshmallow on the Cuckmere river walk growing in profusion on the river bank and in the treatment of IBS. It is high in mucilage which coats and protects mucous membranes. The marshmallow leaf is used for the protection of the lungs.

The lungs are just an open space and it is difficult to cleanse a space, but any herb that contains a volatile oil (evaporates on warming) will clean the lungs.

Garlic must come top of the list for this, as it is anti bacterial, antiviral, stimulates the immune system has an anti histamine type action is antispasmodic and an expectorant (helps to cough up gunk). Wow! There you have all you could ever want in one plant to treat most lung infections and irritations.

Thyme, which we saw on our walk on the downs video, is another excellent herb for coughs. It has very strongly anti bacterial and viral properties and the active ingredient is in the Volatile oil breathed out through the lungs, cleansing the airspaces and the linings on the way through

An allergic cough needs to be treated by a professional as the herb of choice for this is Ephedra, a restricted practitioner only herb.

Eyebright and horsetail tone all mucous membrane linings and Horsetail, which I will be showing you in one of my future walks is high in Silica which helps with tissue healing and strengthening in all mucous membranes.

It is always worth reducing dairy intake if you have a persistent cough as dairy is Catarrh forming which may cause aggravation in the whole respiratory system. Whilst we are on the subject of diet (you notice I tried to slip it in quietly), to heal any body tissue you must have a good intake of Vitamin C and Zinc. Vitamin C from any fruit or Veg and Zinc from pumpkin seeds, peas and oats.

Persistent coughs usually respond well to herbal medicine so it is worth visiting a qualified medical herbalist to help get it treated. For my clinic details, please click here or on the tab at the top of page.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

Herbal Health Information on Mullein (Verbascum Thapsus)

Seen at the Shingle Beach Eastbourne July 2011

Wow this puts on a spectacular display, about chest height (girly chest) downy large leaves with spikes of beautiful yellow flowers from about late June. It contains volatile oils (antibacterial), saponins and rutin.

Mullein - great for Cough Syrup

It is a soothing demulcent for the respiratory system. ‘Demulcent’ means an herb rich in mucilage that is soothing.

When you feel the leaves of Mullein they feel wonderfully soft and silky which is a sure sign that the leaves contain mucilage. Mucilage, although it sounds disgusting, is great stuff as it coats and protects mucous membranes lining the gut and respiratory system.

Mullein is used as a cough remedy for irritating dry coughs. See video on how to make Mullein Cough Syrup.

As I explained on the video, how to make Mullein Cough Syrup, it is easy to make a cough syrup from it.

  • Wash, dry and sterilise a jam jar. The best way to do this is to put the clean jam jar into a cold oven and turn the oven on to 200C and leave it in there for about 15 minutes until the oven is hot. Turn the oven off and leave the jar in there until it is cold. (Don’t try and take it out and burn your fingers and don’t pour cold liquid in there otherwise it will crack).
  • Pick as many mullein flowers as you can.
  • Layer these in the COLD jam jar with granulated sugar, about 3 cms at a time. I hope you are proud of me being metric! Store it with the lid on, on a sunny window ledge.

As this compresses down over the next few days you can keep

Topping up the jar, but pick fresh flowers every time.

  • When the jar is full just leave it in sunlight for at least three weeks. At the end of this time you will have some very sorry looking flowers but a beautiful deep yellow/brown syrup.
  • Strain the syrup through a piece of clean cloth into another clean jam jar and keep it somewhere dark (cupboard) and cool until you need it in the winter for a cough.

I teaspoon three or four times a day will soothe the cough.

Don’t forget if the cough is persistent, to go and see your doctor.

If you are on any other medications or suffer from allergies please do not self medicate, but go and see a qualified herbal practitioner, click here for my clinic details or your doctor.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information

Herbal Health Information on Licorice

When I was training all those years ago we had a patient come to the training clinic in Balham who was suffering from a peculiar range of seemingly unconnected  symptoms including, fatigue, low motivation, general aches and pains, digestive disorders and the rest. We treated her for quite a few weeks to try and improve her general well being with no improvement. Then one of the other students had coincidentally been studying the endocrine system and reading about Adrenal exhaustion due to prolonged stress.

We discussed the patient’s symptoms and when she returned to the clinic asked her if she had been suffering from stress. She said she had but it was over now so had not mentioned it in her original consultation.

When we are under stress the adrenal glands, which are situated on top of the kidneys, produce adrenaline to help us cope with the stress. You have probably heard about the fight or flight reaction to stress which is actually a production of hormones, adrenaline being the major one, which either give us the ability to run and get away from the source of the stress e.g. BIG MAMMOTH chasing us, RUN! Or help us to stay and face the situation, e.g. BIG MAMMOTH chasing us but actually I would like some for my dinner so I will stay and fire a few stone arrows at it.

If the stress is continuous then the adrenal glands will produce adrenaline for a certain length of time, but then switch off. This is known as adrenal exhaustion and the body then cannot cope with either stress or day to day living. In most cases, the adrenal glands will recover on their own after a period of rest, but if for whatever reason they don’t, then they need help to be switched on again.

We changed tactics and treated this patient with a mixture of herbs to support the endocrine system and the adrenal glands in particular. Licorice was our herb of choice to treat the adrenal glands and it worked like magic (which is of course why herbal medicine had such a mystique surrounding it).Within a month she was back to her old self and full of energy. We kept her on the mix for another two months and then weaned her off after which she was able to maintain her own well being.

Licorice which can also be spelled Liquorice, before you all tell me I have spelled it wrong, is described as “the universal herb”. It has a long history of use by the ancient Chinese, Egyptians and Greeks for strengthening the body.

It is used as a cough remedy, has anti inflammatory properties, is an adrenal restorative, has anti stress, anti viral and anti depressive properties.it also regulates hormones.

This is not all the properties it has but I think it would just be showing off  if I wrote down any more.

Basically it is what is known as an alterative which means it restores body function to normal.

There is always a BUT and that is that if you have high blood pressure you cannot take Licorice as it also has an affect on the kidney blood pressure control mechanism. This will not affect an healthy individual but may affect the blood pressure of someone already suffering from hypertension.

Plants and medicine are so fascinating aren’t they?

If you would like to visit my clinic, to find out more, please click here or click on the tab at the top of the page.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/herbal Health Information.

Yarrow/Milfoil (Achillea Millefoil)

The flowers and leaves are used which contain, flavonoids, volatile oils, lactones and alkaloids

This is the original wonder medicine. As I said in the video it does just about everything and at college, if we could not think of an answer to a question we would write “YARROW” it was bound to be right!


It grows so profusely on all kinds of soils and waste land that if we were ever in a situation where orthodox medicines were not available our first plant hunt would be for Yarrow.

It can stem the flow of blood from a wound, it is a diuretic and urinary antiseptic, has anti-inflammatory and anti rheumatic properties is anti viral, anti bacterial, a vasodilator(relaxes capillaries)  , digestive stimulant and protector, improves both gall bladder and liver function and is a gentle relaxant like chamomile.

I’m sure you get the picture!

Because of all these actions it is frequently used in many different mixes for digestive problems, lowering blood pressure, coughs, colds, arthritis, regulating  hormones, cystitis, stress and toning varicose veins. I’ve probably left out a few actions but I think that is enough for one plant to boast about!!!!!!

I would never be without it on my shelves.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/herbal Health Information

Marshmallow Herb Walk Along The Cuckmere River

We often walk along the Cuckmere River, in East Sussex as it is one of the areas we can take Henry, our Red Setter, without cattle being around, although there are sometimes cows in the fields and we may have to do a bit of a detour, as cows seem to chase Henry and scare us. This is a video we made of that walk and of the rare Marshmallow plants that we found growing there. I hope you find it interesting.


Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist

The Elder Tree (Latin Name ……..Sambucus Nigra)

Parts used…….flower/bark/berries

I am not too proud to admit I probably use this herb more than is decent.

Elderflower on a Martello Tower

That’s because it does soo many different things and there is nothing better to reach for than elderflower tincture from my shelves, from the start of the hayfever season to the end of the coughs and colds season which is pretty much all year around!

Elder flowers are one of those things you either love or hate the smell of. They have a slightly sickly sweet smell that many people find overpowering.

But ignore the smell because you are looking at a flower that has such an astonishing range of actions it sounds like a complete herbal pharmacopeia all on its own!

It is antiviral, immune system stimulating, anti-inflammatory, anticatarrhal, diaphoretic (makes you sweat) diuretic and other actions you can look up but if I add in here it will just sound like showing off.

It is my herb of choice above Echinacea, if I am treating coughs, colds and boosting the immune system.

Although there are several anticatarrhal herbs such as ground ivy, from my experience elderflower is positively the BEST.

At this time of year it goes in every hayfever and anti-allergy mix I make up.

Because it makes you sweat and has relaxing properties, I also put it into mixes for high blood pressure.

Here come the warning bells ringing again…please do not self medicate if you have high blood pressure or any medical condition see a professional.

I pick the flower every year and dry it to store for use as a tea if anyone is feeling they have a cold coming on. It is the herbal equivalent of Beecham’s powders.

The berries, I collect to either make elderflower jelly (you need extra pectin) or a syrup for coughs throughout the winter.

The syrup is dead easy to make.

Pick however many elderberries you want and then make about one inch layers of berries with half an inch of granulated sugar in a  clean and heat sterilised jam jar. You will need to keep topping the jar up as the berries crush down.

Leave this preferably somewhere very mildly warm for about a week and then strain of the gorgeous thick dark red syrup and store it in another clean and heat sterilised jam jar. This is a wonderful soothing cough mixture which should be rich in vitamin C, iron and Bioflavonoids.

In the video you see the elderflower in a hedgerow at the Long Man at Willingdon, but if you look along any hedgerow you will see an elderflower tree dotted in amongst the other bushes. Later in the year we will go back and film the berries and I will show you how to make the elderberry syrup.

Linda Bostock

Medical Herbalist/Herbal Health Information