Swiss herbal remedies perfect for cold and flu season

The timing was good when Philadelphia wellness company Penn Herb Company reached out to me in January to see if I wanted to try its herbal remedies. Everyone in my family had a head cold.

It’s a Philadelphia company founded in 1924, by a doctor who was into herbal treatments. In 1962, William Betz, Sr. bought it. It’s been under the Betz family management ever since.

Betz family. Courtesy: Penn Herb Co.

Today, it offers 7,000 herbs, spices and natural remedies in stock, guided by the belief that “…reaching for natural remedies from the earth, we reconnect with our natural environment and with the traditional medicines of our ancestors,” says the website.

One of those herbal lines is Olbas Herbal Remedies from Switzerland, which Penn Herb Co. has been exclusively importing to America since 1975. They sell eight different Olbas products, but I only wanted to try a few.

These came in the mail (though it’s possible the Honolulu health food stores have them in stock; Penn Herb Co. retails both online and via a network of national brick-and-mortar shops) —

Olbas Pastilles (cough drops) (
Olbas Inhaler, Pocket Size (
Olbas Oil (

Olbas oil. Courtesy: Penn Herb Co.

Turns out, each person in my family has a different favorite. My daughter likes the oil. She put it on her diffuser and says it helped her breathe overnight.

The smell is menthol and similar to Tiger Balm or Vicks. She doesn’t like Vicks rubbed on her chest because she thinks it’s still too powerful, but she likes the aroma of the Olbas enough that she continues to use it when she’s not sick!

I like the oil as well, but I apply it directly to aches and pains on my body. (Like Icy Hot.) I found it pleasant.

The oil has peppermint, eucalyptus, cajeput, juniper, wintergreen, and clove. It inspired the entire line of Olbas Herbal Remedies, so expect every other product to have the same fragrance.

I went a little crazy after reading the directions, which suggest you can rub it on your feet, your head, and sore places in between. I ended up smelling like a cough drop for a while. I caution you that it might be overpowering for some noses.

One of the web testimonials, however, said it warded off mosquitos in the jungle of Borneo, and I’m totally going to try it for that. I’m a mosquito magnet.

Olbas inhaler. Courtesy: Penn Herb Co.

My husband’s favorite was the inhaler. It’s a lip balm sized tube with something at the bottom that contains the vapors. You put it to your nose and breathe in.

He grew up in Denmark and says everyone had one of these when he was a kid. I don’t recall inhalers of this sort being popular in America (and I grew up in the West Coast, East Coast, and Hawaii).

Olbas cough drops. Courtesy: Penn Herb Co.

I liked the cough drops best. They’re green because the makers added chlorophyll for fresh breath.

I’m also wondering if, because they’re so intense, it would be good for Big Island vog relief?

They are sweet at first because they’re coated with sugar, but after that wears off, it delivers a strong menthol punch. It’s not for everyone (my husband and child didn’t like them), but I appreciated that it definitely provided instant relief for my sore throats and coughs.

We’re well now. And we’re happy that the Olbas products provided some comfort. We are totally ready for the next head cold that comes our way!

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