Combating the Winter Blues: 5 Great Winter Herbs
As the weather turns colder, the germs seem to exponentially increase. Pair the winter cold season with the decrease in sunlight and suddenly many of us feel sick and tired of being sick and tired. Instead of enjoying the long days of summer outside, many of us huddle inside, binging on our favorite shows (and favorite snacks). The decrease in physical activity paired with typical cravings for comfort foods can wear our bodies down. Unfortunately, during the winter most of us decrease our natural immunity. And while most of us don’t own a greenhouse to garden throughout the year’s coldest months, we can use the power of herbal supplements to combat winter colds and seasonal mood swings.
Many herbal supplements offer support to both boost the immune system and provide more energy to get us moving during the winter months. Both nutrition and exercise can strengthen a body’s immunity—and nothing is more important than building an arsenal of immunity during cold and flu season! Here are five great winter herbs to help power you through the season.
This bulbous plant is one of the oldest documented plants used by humans to treat ailments. As a member of the Allium family, garlic offers a great number of health benefits. Ancient medical texts from the Egyptians, Greeks, and Chinese cite garlic as a useful plant. In fact, an Ancient Egyptian text, the Codex Ebers, suggests using garlic for a variety of issues including colds and parasites. Studies suggest garlic’s ability to support both the cardiovascular system as well as the immune system. Garlic contains anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties which can aid the body’s response to an infection as well as reduce the infection time.
The Elder plant holds a rather magical history within human culture; many civilizations revered this plant for its medicinal uses. In fact many cultures have associated a mythic quality to Elderberries; the Dutch believed a dryad lived within the plant while Gypsies forbade the plant to ever be used in fires. While many people enjoy elderberry syrup as part of their winter regime to reinforce the immune system, the berries can be just as effective at boosting the immune system, especially when taken on a daily basis. They contain a variety of helpful compounds including high levels of vitamins C and A, as well as flavonoids and amino acids. In addition to aiding immunity, they may also reduce the longevity of colds and the flu and reduce stress. Consider enjoying them boiled in a tea or adding them to oatmeal or baked goods.
Echinacea is native to North America; settlers in the New World learned of this plant’s value from the Native Americans, who used this flower to treat a variety of issues ranging from sore throats to infections. This plant has long been a go-to for individuals looking to activate their immune system. Not only does this plant stimulate the immune system, but it can combat pesky common colds and relieve dry winter skin. Whether ingested as a tea or encapsulated, Echinacea is a powerhouse for the body’s immune system. Individuals allergic to ragweed should use caution when it comes to Echinacea as it may trigger the same symptoms as ragweed exposure.
These tiny, round beauties contain the seeds of the rose flower. Rather like nature’s sweet tarts, they offer both flavors; their tartness comes from the high concentration of vitamin C contained within each rosehip. Traditionally, they’ve been boiled down to create jams and syrups. Their high levels of vitamin C paired with a variety of antioxidants kick-start the immune system and prepare it to defend against the worst winter invaders.
Records report that ancient Romans sucked on sorrel’s pointed leaves to aid digestion. This powder offers significant amounts of vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. The combination of these vitamins and other compounds within this plant create high antioxidant levels that can help boost the immune system. Natural health advocates also believe that sheep sorrel can also act an anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial agent within the body. A note of caution: this plant contains high levels of oxalic acid which can stimulate kidney stone development; for those with a history of kidney stones, sheep sorrel should be avoided.
The key to using plants to combat the winter doldrums is to start early and use them consistently. Allow time for the plant’s properties to build within your own body. Taken regularly, both modern science and centuries of use suggest these plants’ abilities to strengthen the body against winter colds, flus, and depression.