Medicinal teas for coughs & colds

Uruguayans love herbal remedies. When you have a cough or cold, here's what to look for in the supermarket to make a soothing brew.
By Karen A Higgs
Uruguay medicinal teas for coughs & colds
Last updated on May 26, 2022

If you get a chesty cough and cold while you’re in Uruguay, just pop into one of the many natural remedy stores and pick yourself out some herbs from the shelves. You’re ready to make yourself some great medicinal tea.

Uruguayans traditionally love to use medicinal herbs, or yuyos* as they are called. You pronounce yuyosZHOO-zhohz. (Yuyos is also the word for weeds, of the garden variety.)

So particularly in the wintertime when lots of Uruguayans get the sniffles, you can find packs of yuyos in many supermarket, even small local ones.

The herbs will usually be bought loose-leaf. You can pick up a strainer (colador para te) at larger supermarkets.

Herbal remedies in Uruguay supermarket by Guru'Guay
Natural remedies made of "yuyos" are so popular that medicinal herbs are found in most supermarkets during the winter in Uruguay. Photo: Guru'Guay.

Herbs for flu, coughs and colds

This is a personal list of my favourite natural remedies based on my personal experience. It is by no means exhaustive and certainly not scientific. I share them for your information, and take no responsibility for their efficacious or otherwise!


Guaco is commonly used as a medicinal tea as an expectorant and anti-inflammatory.

It’s the herb I use for a chesty cough to loosen up the mucous and get it out (yuck). Yes, you will get worse before you get better but it works wonders.

Guaco (Mikania glomerata Spreng)

How to prepare guaco tea

Add a serving spoon of guaco to one litre of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 4 minutes.

I usually reheat the tea gently (not boil, as that would remove properties) and serve myself during the day. It’s actually quite refreshing.

Ortiga (nettle)

Ortiga is the Spanish word for nettle. It’s a decongestant and anti-inflammatory and good for treating fevers. Ortiga also has another bunch of properties and is good for tiredness and fatigue.

Ortiga or Urtica Urens is a different variety from stinging nettles.

Ortiga (Urtica Urens)

How to prepare ortiga tea

Put 3 leaves or one dessert spoon of the herbs in a cup. Pour on boiling water, cover and let sit for ten minutes. Drink 2 or 3 times a day.

Right now I am drinking guaco and ortiga tea together. I tossed the ortiga into the just-prepared guaco tea, covered it and let steep for a few minutes It has a pleasant almost neutral flavour, much nicer than the medicinal teabags I was just drinking in the USA last week which are overpowering and often kind of sweet.

Beloved Uruguay herbal tea for sore throat

Yerba de los cantores – The Singers’ Herb

Yes, recommended for people who work with their voices, but also great for catarrh, hoarseness, laryngitis.

You buy this compound already made up at one particular Montevideo herbalist chain, Herborista Madre Tierra. As a singer, this tea has saved me many times. You may even want to take some home with you.

Yerba de los cantores (Sisymbrium officinale)

How to prepare Singers’ Tea

Add 2 soup spoons to one litre of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Drink warm or hot every 3 to 4 hours.

More winter tips

[Article first published: Jun 22, 2016. Lots of people read it, so we keep it as up to date as possible]




0 Responses

  1. I had a dry cough after a cold and purchased guaco in a cough drop format. Very sweet maybe bad for my teeth but they were soothing for sure and good tasting. An interesting S. American herb I dont think can be found elsewhere. Wished I’d brought tea home but didnt want to travel with green leaves.

    1. Yes, probably not the best idea to travel with green leaves, especially coming from Uruguay!

  2. I was recently in Uruguay with a bad cough and was introduced to Guaco. I bought some Cabral tea bags and a couple of bags of loose leaf to bring back to Australia as it worked a treat. I cant find this herb for sale anywhere in Australia and wonder if you might know how I can bring it in from Uruguay?

    Kind regards. Pam.

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    1. That’s great! So you’re visiting from Panama. I just checked out your blog. 🙂 Be prepared, Uruguay is still very much in winter in September – though there are lots and lots of gorgeous sunny days too, but definitely not tropical. If you’re looking for more reading about Uruguay, check out my Guru’guay Guide which you can buy here for digital or on Amazon. Thanks for writing! – Karen

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