Zero Waste Cold Remedies Using Common Kitchen Ingredients

Reusable Nation - zero waste colds

Sore throat, headaches, runny nose and congestion - how do you increase your immunity and fight a cold the zero waste way? We’ve even included a herbal tea recipe that a zero waste neurosurgeon is using to combat hayfever.

Before reaching for headache tablets and cold and flu tablets, and ending up with all the waste that comes with them, try a natural remedy. As with the drugs you buy at the pharmacy, they won’t cure your cold, but they’ll reduce the severity of the symptoms.

And they can mostly be made waste free and are much kinder to the body in the long run.

Also remember to keep some hankies handy so you’re not using single-use tissues!

If these remedies aren’t working for you and you’re feeling worse or are not getting any better, go to the pharmacist or the doctor - you may need something stronger to kick whatever’s ailing you.


Common causes for headaches are hunger, lack of fresh air, dehydration, and exhaustion so firstly try drinking some water, getting some fresh air, eating something and resting your eyes and mind.

If that doesn’t work, there are some teas that help clear a sore head:

  • basil tea

  • chamomile tea (it is a mild sedative!)

  • add fresh slices of ginger root to your cup of tea

  • cinnamon tea - pour 1 cup of boiling water over a handful of fresh lavender flowers and half a teaspoon of cinnamon and let sit for 30 to 60 minutes, then strain, add a teaspoon of honey and drink

We learnt from our guide (who was extremely animated and full of fascinating facts - we were hanging on every word) while exploring the Acropolis in Athens that basil tea can cure migraines.

If you need to get rid of a major headache or sinusitis, try this basil tea recipe:

  • 3 to 4 fresh basil leaves

  • a cup of boiling water

Simply steep the basil in the boiling water and drink as a tea. You can add honey for sweetness.

You can also use basil oil topically to ease a headache. Mix basil oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil and massage it into your temples or other areas for relief. Try a small dot first to make sure your skin is not sensitive and won’t react to it.

Sore Throats, Colds and Coughs

If you feel a cold coming on - you know, more phlegm than usual, a sore throat, fatigue and/or clogged sinuses - get as much sleep as possible and drink as much water and eat as many veggies as possible to help your body fight it.

These simple natural cold remedies help to increase your immunity and can sooth a sore throat:

  • just water and lemon

  • turmeric and hot water (you can add honey too)

  • sage tea (the volatile oils in sage are great at soothing sore and scratchy throats)

  • liquorice or marshmallow root tea (also for sore throats)

  • crushed ginger, lemon, honey and hot water (you can also add some turmeric and cinnamon)

  • gargle a hot glass of water and rock salt

Here’s @sustainablesally’s sage tea recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon of dry sage or 2 tablespoons of fresh sage (about 8 leaves)

  • 1 cup of just off boil water

Place the sage in the water and let it sit for 5 to 15 minutes.

After her first cup of plain sage tea, she will include a bit of ginger and lemon and a dash of local raw honey in her second and third cup.

Some more complex cold-combating recipes are:

  • top sliced red onions, chopped ginger and turmeric with honey (just so it covers the rest of the ingredients), let it sit for about 20 minimum and use like you would a cough syrup (for coughs)

  • simmer a thumb-sized piece of grated ginger, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 2 tablespoons of honey and 1 whole lemon in a cup of water on the stove

  • heat honey in a pot very slowly until liquidy, add cloves, pepper, anise, and saffron, and then put this warm mixture in a jar with fresh turmeric, ginger, and lemon zest - you can add it to a warm ginger tea or just eat it with a spoon

  • mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of powdered ginger, 1 squeezed lemon, olive oil (about the same amount as the lemon), 1 to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of honey and drink 2 to 3 teaspoons after every meal

If you are congested and really need to clear up your sinuses, make some of @holistichabitstomato tea natural cold, flu and sore throat remedy:

  • 2 tomatoes

  • cup of water

  • few cloves of garlic crushed (as much as you can handle)

  • hot sauce (as much as you can handle)

  • 1 lemon

Place tomatoes and water in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour tomato juice into a saucepan and heat until warm - don’t boil just warm up. Squeeze lemon in, add crushed garlic, and pour in hot sauce and stir. Pour into a mug and drink up!

You can also add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of oil of oregano to kick it up a notch.

@trashisfortosserszero waste cold remedy is full of good cold-zapping ingredients:

  • A few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

  • 1-2 teaspoons of fresh chopped garlic

  • 1-2 teaspoons of fresh chopped ginger

  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

  • Squeeze of half a lemon

  • Tablespoon of honey

  • 1-2 pinches of pink Himalayan salt

  • 2-3 drops of Echinacea

  • 2-3 drops oil of oregano

Mix these ingredients and add warm water to taste.

Make sure any essential oils you use are certified pure therapeutic grade (CPTG) essential oils and ensure you dilute it properly. Non-CPTG oils should not be ingested.

You can also combat colds with immunity infused broth! Try @roadtonil’s vegan mushroom pho the next time you’re feeling a cold coming on:

  • Dried shiitake mushrooms

  • Toasted cinnamon quills

  • Star anise

  • Cloves

  • Blackened onion

  • Ginger

  • Thai basil

  • Coriander

  • Lime

  • Rice noodles

  • Veg of your choice

Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms overnight, drain the liquid and simmer for 30 mins with toasted cinnamon quills, star anise, cloves, blackened onion, and ginger. Serve with Thai basil, coriander, lime, rice noodles, the soaked shiitakes and veg of your choice.

Nourished Life (AU) sells heaps of natural medicine and remedies if you’d rather buy an already-made, tested remedy, including:

They all come in glass bottles with plastic lids, as does The Pharmaceutical Plant Company’s Cough-Plex and Sinus-Plex, which are Australian-made, traditional herbal remedies.

For those in the US/Canada, has a similar range of natural cold and flu medicine and remedies such as Herbion Cough Syrup, which comes in a glass bottle and provides relief for all types of coughs and chest congestion, and J.R. Watkins Medicated Ointment, which comes in a tin and helps clear your sinuses.


@zerowastebunny, a zero waste neurosurgeon from Newcastle Australia, used to get terrible hayfever and needed to take a high dose antihistamine as soon as spring arrived and would use eye drops and a steroid nasal spray as well to get through the day. She started experimenting with zero waste hayfever remedies so she could stop relying on this medication.

She landed on a herbal tea made from bulk ingredients:

  • nettle leaf

  • echinacea

  • elderflower

  • eyebright (which is meant to be really good for watery, itchy eyes)

Brew it in a teapot and sip it through the day. You can also add green tea leaves if you want.

Other natural hayfever remedies that might be worth a try are Fusion Health’s Sinusitis Tablets (AU), which relieve sinusitis and hayfever, Weleda Hayfever & Sinusitis Drops (AU), which eases the symptoms of hayfever, such as a runny or itchy nose, and Martin & Pleasance Hayfever Relief Homoeopathic Spray (CAN). They all come in a glass bottle with a plastic lid.

I’m trying to get David, who also needs daily antihistamines, to try these non-drug solutions, but he is skeptical and not keen. I haven’t given up yet though. I’ll keep you updated!

Do you have any natural zero waste remedies you swear by? Let us know!

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