By any measure, Saint Hildegard of Bingen left an indelible mark on the history of the middle ages. Much of her life’s creative, theological, and philosophical work was groundbreaking for the epoch. Yet she also was a steadfast practitioner of healing and medieval medicine.
It was her unique union of creativity, theology, and scientific inquiry that earned her regard as a foundational figure in the evolution of Western medicine.
3 Natural Cold Remedies from Hildegard of Bingen
Many of Hildegard’s early remedies have since received scientific credibility. Her formulations remain in use today, particularly in her homeland, Germany, where she remains a household name. From Hildegard’s extensive repertoire of herbal remedies, we present you with several successful time-tested natural cold remedies. We hope that you won’t need them, but just in case.
1. Pelargonium spice mixture (“flu powder”)
This special blend of 4 teaspoons of pelargonium (commonly known as geranium) fine powder, two teaspoons of Bertram powder, and 2 teaspoons of nutmeg powder is Hildegard’s best-known cold and flu prevention and treatment method.
There are several different ways to apply this mixture
To demonstrate the efficacy of variations on Hildegard’s geranium powder mixture, the primary active ingredient pelargonium (the scientific name for geranium), has been shown effective for treatment of the common cold. A close relative, the African Cape geranium, known in Zulu as Umckaloabo (or, “great cough”), is a traditional African cold remedy, reported to significantly reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the duration of the common cold.
Use with foods as a spice or topping
This powder can be added to soups, salads, or other dishes to help stimulate the immune system. This non-invasive approach works for people of all ages, including the elderly. Use one teaspoon of the mixed powder as an additive to your meal.
The same mixture can be applied as a “flu spray” in aromatherapy or to disinfect a room. In order to convert the powdered solution to a liquid form, use an alcohol-based solution, as if you were making tinctures. You can also start with a mixture of the essential oils to satisfy the same purpose without having to concoct a solution.
Powdered topical application
At the first sign of a runny nose, or sneezing, distribute ½ teaspoon of the powder evenly on a post card, and lightly sniff the powder (do not snort). This is most useful as a preventative remedy, best done in the morning. If the sniffles have already started, repeat this process after blowing your nose, for one to three days.
Of this application, Hildegard wrote:
“For those with a cold, hold this powder close to the nose, draw in the scent, and the cold dissolves lightly, and passes quickly without danger to people.”
– Hildegard of Bingen
Advanced cold remedy
If the cold has already advanced and/or is accompanied by hoarseness and sore throat, combine 1 teaspoon of Geranium powder mixture with a cup of white or red wine, boil and allow to simmer.
Serve as a sort of mulled wine. Ideally take this mixture before bedtime, and allow for profuse sweating. In some cases, this relieves cold and flu symptoms altogether. More commonly, this approach mitigates against the further course of infection.
Hildegard’s Cold Pancakes
“For those with coughing and afflictions of the chest, combine this powder with flour to make cakes in a pan, using fat or butter and eat them often, before and after meals, and the cough and chest difficulty resolves easily, and people get better.”
– Hildegard of Bingen
These are Hildegard’s words for the use of Geranium powder with pancakes to treat a persistent cough, accompanied with chest pain.
The proportions: 2 cups of spelt flour with 1 ½ Tablespoons of Geranium powder mixture, add apples and brown sugar for additional flavor.
2. Mullein Natural Cold Remedies
“If someone suffers pain in the chest with a rough voice and throat, take equal parts mullein and fennel and cook them in good wine, sieve through a cloth, drink it often, and he will recover his voice and the chest heals.”
-Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard tells us everything we need to know about this simple herbal cold remedy for treating hoarseness and bronchitis. It also works for treating coughs and other lung conditions. Mullein leaves and flowers are traditionally used to treat bronchitis, colds, flu, earaches, emphysema, and laryngitis.
Use equal parts fennel and mullein leaves/flowers. Combine 3 teaspoons of the powdered mixture with one cup of wine (apple juice substitute), and allow 3-5 minutes to simmer. Strain the mixture through a sieve, and pour into a thermos. Drink several shot glasses throughout the day; results should not exceed 3 days. This remedy is available in Germany as a prepackaged herbal drink.
What makes mullein work as one of Hildegard’s natural cold remedies?
Mullein promotes the discharge of mucus. Mullein tinctures, teas, and syrups help bring up sticky phlegm and inhibit the spread of flu viruses. Fennel also has anti-inflammatory properties to promote the healing process.
Mullein has a rich history in premodern medicine. Pedanius Dioscordes, 2000 years ago, treated dry coughs using mullein. The famous German monk, Sebastian Kneipp also used mullein as a heart strengthening remedy, which he prepared by cooking the leaves in broth. Hildegard wrote about a similar remedy.
“For those with a sad or weak heart, cook mullein with meat or fish, no other herbs, eat this often, and it strengthens the heart and brings joy.”
– Hildegard of Bingen
Types of medicinal mullein
Today, there are three types of mullein commonly used for medicinal purposes, generally associated with the flowering patterns: large flowered plants, common-sized and small flowered. Also known by their Latin names, these are Verbascum densiflorum, Verbascum phlomoides and Verbascum Thapsus. All of which serve a similar purpose in forming mucous membranes in the mouth and throat to sooth any pain and irritation.
For more advanced cold and flu cases, Hildegard recommends supplementing mullein with “flu herbs” such as dill and white horehound, which helps soothe the symptoms of a flu-like infection.
3. Hart’s Tongue Fern Natural Cold Remedies
“Hart’s tongue is warm and helps the liver and the lungs, and intestinal pain. Make a tea using hart’s tongue fern, long-pepper, and cinnamon and drink it often before and after eating, it benefits the liver, cleans the lungs, heals aching intestines, and takes away the inner rot and mucus.”
– Hildegard of Bingen
Hart’s tongue is a species of fern that was Hildegard’s best remedy for a dry, persistent cough that just won’t go away. Prepare the following:
Cook 3 teaspoons of hart’s tongue fern in 2 liters of wine, add ½ cup of honey and boil a second time. Add 3 tablespoons of cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of long pepper and continue boiling then strain through a sieve. Long pepper (Piper Longum) is a flowering vine that is a closely related to the common black and white pepper, but is hotter.
Dosage: in the 1st week take the equivalent of a shot glass 3 times daily, after the first week, take before and after dinner for 6-8 weeks.
Over-the-counter Hildegard (in Germany)
This may sound complicated and it does require effort. If you are not up for the work, German companies have prepackaged products, including the herbal mixture, so all you need is the wine and honey. Alternatively, a German brand has a completed ready-to-drink mixture, that does not require any additional preparation.
Hildegard believed in a functional relationship between the liver and the lungs. According to this relationship, a persistent dry cough may be the result of irregular liver function. Mucus develops in part due to liver metabolism, and may signal the rise of bronchitis and lung infection.
In addition to the strengthening of the liver and lungs, Hildegard believed that her hart’s tongue remedy supports hormone regulation in abdominal ailments, thyroid issues, and pancreas dysfunction.
A perennial fern, hart’s tongue is protected in Germany as a healing plant and is commonly cultivated in natural healing gardens, consistent with Hildegard’s natural cold remedies.
Healthy Hildegard wishes you a cold free winter!