This mindful monday, we’re talking about how to be mindful of your winter wellness and practice self care by stocking up on winter herbs for immunity. Taking a holistic approach to nourishment means choosing foods, movement, and inspiration that nourishes. But there are also everyday (and not-so-everyday) herbs that have functional properties for keeping us healthy and nourished, especially during the winter season when we’re more susceptible to the common cold and flu.
Not only did we learn about different herbs and their touted health benefits, we got to taste each and every one in a tea decoction and discover easy ways to use them.
- Traditionally used in Chinese medicine.
- Studies have shown antiviral properties and stimulation of the immune system.
- Researchers have also looked at this herb for treatment for cancer patients who have weakened immune systems from radiation and chemotherapy – helps them recover faster and live longer.
- USE: Take preventatively during the winter to build up the immune system. Don’t use during acute illness.
- Note: people with autoimmune disease should avoid
- Cultivated in India. Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine.
- Immunomodulating herb – good for that person who gets every virus that goes around.
- Calming/grounding effect that helps with anxiety and those who have sleep issues.
- USE: immune tonic, used preventatively.
- Strong taste – Steep in 1 cup of milk (any kind) and add honey and cinnamon as desired.
- Native to India – referred to as the “elixir of life” in Ayurvedic medicine.
- High in essential oils (super aromatic) so it’s an antibacterial and a digestive herb.
- Nervine – calming/grounding herb used for overwhelm and over active mind.
- USE: colds, coughs, respiratory illness, low immunity and fatigue.
- Food grade nutritive herb – high in vitamins A and C, variety of antioxidants (bioflavenoids)
- Naturally high in pectin – can be used as a thickening agent for herbal syrups or made into jams and sauces.
- USE: preventative immune tonic
- Traditionally used in Europe.
- Research shows that the elderberry can kill many flu viruses and shorten the duration of the flu.
- Contains flavonoids (antioxidants) that help prevent damage to the body’s cells
- USE: preventatively as an immune strengthener and/or at the onset of cold/flu symptoms
- Originally cultivated in Southern Europe.
- Sweet and aromatic leaves yield a delicious, uplifting tea. Good for newcomers to herbal tea.
- Calming to the nervous system. Traditionally used for insomnia.
- Anti-viral properties
- USE: uplifting herb for mild, seasonal depression or as an anti-viral for colds and flu.
- Originally known to the Greeks as an herb of immortality and for its abilities to enhance inner wisdom.
- Traditionally used an important culinary herb
- Improves digestion with its high aromatic essential oil content.
- Grounding – good for anxiety, depression
- Antiseptic, antibacterial
- USE: sore throat, respiratory infections and colds.
- Originates from Mediterranean one of the oldest plants on record.
- Highly potent and anti-microbial herb. Useful in clearing out infections.
- USE: acute symptoms, especially cough, sore throat, congestion, viral and bacterial infections.
So, how do you use these herbs?
- Create a tea decoction: For woodier, root herbs: simmer in sauce pan for 30-40 minutes. For flower herbs, add to boiling water and let steep for 15 minutes.
- Add to vinegars: fill jar halfway with dried herbs and then cover with vinegar to the top. Let sit for 2-4 weeks (give it a shake daily). Then strain it, transfer to a dark colored bottle and store in the fridge. Vinegars will pull out minerals so it’s good to use vinegars with more nutritive herbs. You can even make your own herbal salad dressing! From a taste perspective, Steph recommended using lemon balm or sage for salad dressings.
- Add to honey: fill jar halfway with dried herbs and then add honey to the top. Steep for 2-4 weeks. To strain, gently heat in a water bath.
- Make a Simple Elderberry Syrup and add to teas, desserts, or eat by the spoonful!
- 2 cups water
- Knob of fresh ginger
- 1 tbsp elderberries
- 1/2 – 1 tbsp thyme
- Spoonful of honey
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Grate a knob of ginger and let it simmer in 2 cups water for at least 15 minutes.
- Turn off heat and add dried thyme and elderberries; let steep another 15 minutes.
- Stir in a spoonful of honey and 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice.
Drink this at the first signs of a cold.
For more resources on herbs from Steph, visit her resources page.
Do you use herbs to boost your immune system during the winter months?
I’m a nutrition coach and yoga teacher helping people to learn to love food again. I love cooking, taking pictures of my food and traveling around the world. Follow my blog for delicious, seasonal vegetarian recipes and simple strategies to bring more yoga and mindfulness into your life. And check out my e-book to learn how to improve your health through nutrition and yoga. Show me what deliciousness you make! Tag me @karalydonRD on Instagram.