Winter is Coming: Homemade Tonic for Colds & Flu


Winter is coming, even here in the Northern Rivers region. Late autumn seems to herald the beginning of cold and flu season. I really hate being sick. I don’t have the most robust constitution, so I do need to be careful. When I get a lurgie I tend to feel pretty sorry for myself, grumpy, and may have (once or twice) been convinced my end is imminent, while others in my family have been assured that I have succumbed to a common cold. Colds do seem to bring out my flair for the dramatic. I have 2 kids that go to school & preschool which means we get all sorts of bugs and viruses coming home. Last year I decided to make a master tonic to help me ward off the lurgies and I think it did a pretty good job. I did get one cold, but it was short lived. I also used it for my older child to treat a staph infection that is notorious for being antibiotic resistant, all cleared up in a jiffy. It was so good that I’ve just made it again and I thought I would share the recipe for anyone else keen to avoid winter bugs.

Of course this is only one part of the equation to maintain optimal health, there is no substitute for sleeping and eating well and getting vital nutrients, ensuring good gut health, minimising & managing stress and generally taking care of yourself. But even when we manage to do all those things (is it just me, or is that a full time job in itself?), sometimes our immune systems can still be vulnerable to strong pathogens, and sometimes we have unavoidable periods where it is quite a challenge to fully care for yourself and your family – sometimes life can be unavoidably busy and stressful! This is my first port of call now if I feel any illness coming on, I dose up for a day or two on my master tonic before I reach for any other herbal formulas, and I’m a herbalist! And if I can combine that with some cupping and acupuncture I am pretty well guaranteed to kick that bug before it really hits.

Now is the time to make your own master tonic as it as it takes about 6 weeks to brew to full strength. It is chock full of antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant foods that promote good circulation. Most of these ingredients are also mucolytics, so not only is it good for you, bad for bugs & will help your immune system to fight just about anything undesirable (including candida apparently), it will also help to eliminate excess mucus if you do happen to come down with a cold or the flu. My partner complained that it made him phlegmy, but it was just thinning the mucus to make it easier to cough up and get it out! My older son will take this too (albeit under duress), but my little ones taste buds are still a bit too delicate as this really does pack a punch with chili, garlic, onion & horseradish. You will need to assess whether it will work for the younger ones in your family, and reduce the dose. It is probably worth the battle if the other option is antibiotics! We know that antibiotics should be a last resort, not first, and can have a cascade of It is also safe to take during pregnancy, I’d reduce the turmeric though. I quite like the flavour, I have even used it in a few condiments in the kitchen, try adding it to coconut aminos to make a dipping sauce, pretty tasty!

There are recipes available on the web, this is just what I have done this time. The main difference is the addition of turmeric, because…well why wouldn’t you in that list of things? Even more antioxidant and detoxifying power!

To use your master tonic a tablespoon 4 or 5 times a day if you have an infection of some sort. Less for kids or if you’re pregnant. Take a couple of times a day if you have been around sick people, as a preventative.

I am not good with measures, these are approximate quantities. Essentially you want fairly equal portions of each, a bit less chili, all covered in apple cider vinegar.

  • 1 onion diced
  • 6 cloves of garlic chopped (my cloves were large if they are small I’d do even more)
  • 3 fresh chili chopped
  • fresh ginger, I used 1 whole medium sized root (about 6 cm in length), chopped
  • fresh turmeric, I used a piece about 3cm in length, chopped
  • fresh horseradish – either a large knob or about 5 long thin strands should do it!
  • 2 cups of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
  • A large jar.

Throw all your diced and chopped goodness into the jar and cover it with the apple cider vinegar. Give it a good shake. Leave it to brew away for 6 weeks on your bench, shaking once a day. After 6 weeks, strain off the solids and reserve the liquid – Voila – your master tonic!


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