Wintery Goodness: Herbs for Winter
These last few weeks have me heater hovering like a cat and dry brushing like crazy. I swear there was actual sleet in Bondi the other day! While winter is a wonderful time of rest and rejuvenation, it can also be very draining on the body. Inactivity and being indoors spreads viruses and germs that constantly bombard the body’s immune system. This can lead to an overall decrease in health and wellness. Living in this fabulously modern world, winter can be full of life and good health. We have herbal remedies at our fingertips during a season in which maladies abound, or at least a season during which we try to fend them off. Herbs are a great way to treat illness by addressing the root of the issue—not just the resulting symptoms. Here are a handful of my favorite winter herbs to improve health throughout the coldest months of the year. Let it be known that I found it VERY difficult to narrow this list down.
Research shows that echinacea enhances the activity of white blood cells and other specialised immune system cells. It increases their ability to attack foreign invaders such as cold or flu viruses and helps accelerate healing if infection already exists. It’s not a good ideas to take this plant as immune support over long periods of time, It’s best to take this herb when others around you are sick, you feel yourself beginning to come down with something, or you are already sick. If you suspect an autoimmune condition, make sure to only use immune stimulating herbs under a doctor’s care. It can be tingly on the tongue so for kids I like to make up a batch of vegan jelly, dropping the Echinacea into an ice tray works a treat.
These beauties boost the immune system, are great for coughs, colds, flu, bacterial and viral infections and tonsillitis. I often prescribe elderberry flower to induce sweating in order to treat fevers associated with full-blown colds. Elder protects the mucous membranes from infection and congestion. When simmered with honey or sugar, elder berries make a delicious cough and cold syrup. You can also gargle a cold tea made from elder flowers to alleviate a sore throat.
SLIPPERY ELM BARK:
Slippery elm bark is hands down the best herb to soothe sore throats and hacking coughs. Also called sweet elm, the dried inner bark is used for its mucilages, starches, and tannins. This chemical structure of the plant decreases irritation to the membranes that line the respiratory passages by coating the passages and creating an astringent environment. The finely powdered inner bark also can be flavored with a little cinnamon or nutmeg and used as a nourishing food for children. The easiest Slippery elm bark preparation is a tea or gruel, in which the bark is steeped for 10 to 15 minutes in order to release soothing mucilages that coat the throat and ease pain.
This herb is an immune tonic, meaning that you can use it often and over long periods of time to build strength and maintain health. You can take it to prevent getting sick or during recovery from an illness. I tend not to prescribe it in acute cases as it can potentially make you worse, but there are immune stimulants we can use at this time.
King of Bitters, is a traditional Chinese, Southeast Asian and Indian herb, and used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine.The herb has been revered for treating infectious diseases and highly regarded also as having a preventative effect from many diseases, due to its powerful immune strengthening benefits. It is a potent stimulator of the immune system by two direct ways; (1) antigen- specific response: antibodies are made to counteract invading microbes; (2) non-specific immune response: macrophage cells scavenger and destroy invaders. King of Bitters activates both responses, making it effective against a variety of infections and oncogenic, cancer-causing agents.
Culinary herbs have been used for many generations around the world to help maintain health, both in our foods and as teas or other remedies. Thyme is very powerful and is specific for supporting respiratory health.
A fresh ginger tea warms the body and increases blood flow to fight off infection. Encouraging this blood flow also brings more oxygen to the tissues, which enables immune cells to function at their peak and ward off infection. Add a teaspoon of Manuka honey to soothe a sore throat, and you’re on to a winner remedy. If you’re lucky enough to have access to organic dried herbs, licorice and marshmallow are wonderful additions to this mix.
I LOOOVE Licorice! Both medicinally and in the cheeky confectionary sense ) This sweet tasting root supports the adrenals, soothes mucus membranes, and is calming and anti-viral.I also love it for it’s synergistic quality, making it the perfect taste improver for its not so sweet herbal friends..Andrographis, I’m looking’ at you.
Medicinal mushrooms work magic where the immune system needs strengthening, supporting your immune system on a fundamental, multi-levels basis. Mushrooms have a long traditional use in Chinese medicine and contain powerful antioxidants, essential minerals, selenium, copper, vitamin D, B vitamins and fibre. They can help maintain a healthy strong immune system, stimulate your body’s defences, relieve symptoms of upper respiratory tract (URT) allergies, strengthen the lungs, relieve coughs and colds, relieve symptoms of mild URT infections, reduce mucous congestion, facilitate cell death of old, unhealthy cells, reduce viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Powerful stuff…
Some of the most popular medicinal mushrooms include Shiitake, Reishi, Cordyceps, Snow fungus and Turkey tail, which apart from having healthy immune system properties, also possess a number of other health giving properties.
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