As we move toward the last quarter of the year, we’re experiencing the worst possible weather. The monsoon season this year had been terribly long, and the constantly wet garden combined with the humidity have brought with them a viral infection that has been going around in our house for weeks. Colds. Coughs.
I took the usual medication. Benadryl. I’d sleep for 12 hours and, upon waking up, there was a grogginess that wouldn’t go away. As the effects of the drug wore off, there was a down feeling that was hard to shake off. I hated it.
A friend suggested oregano brew but another friend had tried it and, while she said it was truly effective to end the coughing and loosen the phlegm, oregano brew tastes so bad that it’s hard not to barf. But it’s still the go-to cure for cough in her family. She learned it from her old yaya (nanny) who, growing up in the rural area, was raised on herbal medicine.
I’m not fond of anything that tastes terrible but I do agree that there are plants and herbs that work wonders for our health. I still haven’t mustered the guts to try oregano extract but I do love salabat (ginger brew) which I often make with lemongrass.
But let’s separate fact from fiction.
Ginger brew relieves coughing but it is not a cure
There’s a world of difference between relief and cure.
A relief is something that momentarily eases the symptoms but does not necessarily get rid of cause.
A cure, meanwhile, attacks the root of the problem and eliminates it. In most cases, a cure does not provide temporary relief. It takes longer to work.
Ginger brew is a relief. So are the homemade cough drops that Sam makes. They soothe the itchiness in the throat. But to get rid of the phlegm that causes the coughing and makes your throat itchy, you need something else.
Lagundi (Vitex Negundo) is a cure for cough with phlegm
Lagundi has been around as tablets and capsules for a couple of decades. More recently, it has appeared as a syrup. Lagundi has finally made the transition from being a “folk remedy” to real medicine. There are branded lagundi products sold as traditional medicine in the market but they can cost a lot.
Lagundi in teabags is more natural. Just drop into a cup of hot water, leave to seep then drink. Of course, you still need to buy the lagundi in teabags.
If you prefer a long-term supply of lagundi, you can always grow a tree. It only requires a small space. The initial cost is negligible.
How to plant a lagundi tree and how to care for it
That’s the lagundi tree in our garden. It just sprouted there. There’s a second tree in another side of the garden that we grew from a seedling that Speedy bought.
If growing lagundi from a seedling, wait until the plant is at least ten inches high before replanting directly in the ground. It likes the sun so place it where it will get plenty of sunlight.
The seedling will need watering once a day. But when you have a fully grown tree that’s planted where the soil drains well, the roots will grow deep enough to get water underground. Watering every other day should be sufficient except during extremely hot summer months.
Be careful, however, not to pick the leaves off a small lagundi plant. Wait until it grows a woody trunk and plenty of branches before harvesting the leaves to make lagundi brew. That way, you can be reasonably sure that the plant will continue to grow and thrive despite the constant harvest of leaves.
How to make lagundi “tea” (brew)
First of all, lagundi brew is not a tea. Tea is made with Camellia sinensis. But common practice has people labeling all brews made with plants as “tea”. Lagundi brew is just a brew, okay? It’s not tea. If you have to refer to it as “tea”, use the quotation marks to denote that the term is just common usage rather than a misunderstanding of the difference between Camellia sinensis, on the one hand, and every other plant, on the other.
That’s how the lagundi leaves look like. When you harvest them, use shears to cut the leaves. Avoid cutting entire branches. Leave the branches on so they can grow more leaves.
To make a brew, choose the younger leaves (they make a less bitter brew) of the lagundi plant, rinse well, place in a pot, pour in water and boil for 10 to 15 minutes. I usually brew two generous handfuls of leaves with about four cups of water. After boiling, the liquid is reduced to about half.
Cool and drink. Just half a cup. Three times a day.
Replenish your supply by repeating the process.
If you’re bothered by small bits of leaves that may get into your cup, you may strain the brew and keep the strained liquid in a jar at room temperature. It should be good for 24 hours. Beyond that, you’d be better off making a fresh brew.
Is lagundi brew an effective cure for cough? For cough with phlegm, yes, because it loosens the phlegm to allow you to expectorate easily. I also drank it when I got hives.
Drink lagundi brew thrice a day for three days and you’ll start seeing progress. And the best part? There is no drowsiness after drinking the brew and no grogginess before you drink the next cup.