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WINTER HERBS FOR HEALTH AND CHEER



Many of us anticipate the sights, sounds, and activities of the holidays as we move into the darker, colder months of winter. Some of us might yearn for peaceful snow days and the chance to reflect. Or, winter could have a somewhat different flavor depending on where you live. Winter in some regions is a time to venture outside for walks and other outdoor activities among the palm, cactus, or mango trees as the scorching days of summer fade into the distance. Any increase in family get-togethers and travel is a good reminder to pay a little extra attention to your health, no matter where in the world you live. Let's look at some herbs for well-being and happiness, particularly in the winter.


Herbs are one way to help us achieve this objective of having a joyful and colorful holiday season and a healthy winter. There is no one herb or one set of plants that is best for health in the winter. But, I'll focus on a few herbs for their utility in promoting circulation, bolstering the immune system, and providing mental support by warding off the winter blues and reducing stress around the holidays.


Herbs That Are Internally Warming

Winter is the time of year when using warming herbs becomes particularly vital, especially for people who tend to run chilly, such vata types. Fortunately, there are a number of delectable culinary spices that, in addition to providing a wealth of other advantages, also promote good digestion and circulation.



Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum spp.

In addition to being a deliciously comforting and aromatic culinary spice, cinnamon has a variety of health advantages that are especially advantageous in the winter. Because of its ability to improve circulation, it is a particularly beneficial herb for the winter. Both the vata and kapha doshas can be balanced by cinnamon, while pitta types can utilize it in moderation. Cinnamon is a particularly suitable choice for vata dosha and for fall and early winter—the vata season—due to its mix of heat with a touch of sweetness and a little demulcent characteristic.



Moreover, cinnamon is a carminative, which means that it helps digestion in part by reducing stomach cramps and spasms, which reduces gas and bloating. Moreover, it has antibacterial characteristics that make it helpful in warding off colds and other viruses that tend to be particularly prevalent in winter, as well as anti-inflammatory advantages that are beneficial for a variety of conditions, including calming an irritated gut lining (Groves, 2016).


As if cinnamon didn't already have enough benefits, it also helps regulate blood sugar, which is another reason why it is the ideal spice for winter, when many of us indulge in more sweets. Several studies have shown that cinnamon is beneficial for decreasing blood sugar levels and promoting insulin sensitivity (insulin resistance being a significant contributor to a variety of metabolic and endocrine problems) (Groves, 2016).


The Benefits Of Cinnamon

There are countless ways to consume cinnamon, which is another another exceptional quality of this wonderful spice. Tea made with cinnamon sticks is one easy approach. Just place 1-2 cinnamon sticks in 1-3 glasses of freshly boiled water. Steep for at least 30 to 60 minutes with the lid on in a mug, thermos, or tea kettle. The cinnamon sticks can either be taken out at this point or left in. Drink and take pleasure in cinnamon's cosy, calming, and circulation-enhancing properties. Moreover, you can flavor your tea with a dash of ginger powder or some honey. Another simple and enjoyable way to eat cinnamon is as a stir stick for hot cocoa or cider.



Rhizome of ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger is a multifaceted marvel of the herb and spice world, and it has numerous advantages! For its numerous benefits and uses, ginger is highly regarded in herbal traditions. Ginger is said to balance the vata and kapha doshas in Ayurveda (while pitta types should use it sparingly). Rhizomes are said to be nutritious when they are fresh and cleansing when they are dried (Dass, 2013). In addition to its many health benefits during the winter, fresh ginger also contains antibacterial characteristics.


Ginger is recommended for menstrual cramps, arthritis, colds, the flu, cough, nausea, indigestion, and general heart health (Dass, 2013). It is one of the best medicines in Ayurveda for enhancing agni (digestive fire). In fact, chewing on a small piece of fresh ginger for around 15 minutes before meals can help with digestion, which is a useful suggestion for winter holiday feasts.


Booster made of ginger


Ingredients

1 piece of fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome, about the size of a finger

1 lime or 1/2 a lemon's juice

Add a little salt


Directions

Ginger should be cut into small, bite-sized pieces.

Slices of ginger should be placed in a little glass jar or container.

Sprinkle a little salt and freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice over the ginger.

Maintain in the fridge for up to a week.


To Use:


Consume 1-2 slices 15 minutes or so before meals. You can also drink on a little lemon or lime juice because the acidic flavor stimulates the digestive system.



Fruit of the cayenne (capsicum spp.)

Ginger is a little spicier than cinnamon and cayenne adds some heat. Because the heat of this pepper can be a little too severe for vata and pitta doshas, it is best savored by kapha types. All things, though, in moderation, right? Only a pinch of cayenne pepper will do. Add a very tiny amount to curries or your own handmade masala spice blends, or simply sprinkle a bit over your dish.


There are several benefits to adding cayenne to your list of herbs for health in winter, provided you don't mind a little spiciness. Cayenne is a blood mover first and foremost. Consider cayenne if you frequently run cold or have cold hands and feet in the winter. Several cardiovascular advantages of this spicy tiny pepper exist as well. When administered in tiny dosages, it may assist in breaking down arterial plaque and dissolving blood clots (Groves, 2016).


Capsaicin or cayenne cream can also be applied topically to reduce swelling, discomfort, and inflammation while simultaneously promoting blood flow. In cases of osteoarthritis, this is a useful application (Groves, 2016). Cayenne is a fantastic choice for fostering both health and cheer because it also contains anti-inflammatory and endorphin-boosting properties (Groves, 2016). Cayenne pepper can also be enjoyed in the traditional winter beverage fire cider.


Fortifying your immune system throughout the winter is a good idea because of winter travel, get-togethers with family and friends, and even spending more time indoors. There are many herbs to pick from for this use, and if you don't already know your go-tos, you soon will. Due to its function in controlling the immune system, mushrooms are becoming more and more well-liked. Certain mushroom species are beneficial for preventing illness as well as enhancing the body's capacity to handle stress. Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), turkey tail (Trametes versicolor), shiitake (Lentinula edodes), and maitake are also recommended options (Grifola frondosa).



The root of astragalus (Astragalus mongholicus)

I also like using astragalus (Astragalus mongholicus) root to treat the beginnings of a cold or low energy. As a stand-alone infusion, this starchy root tastes good. Or, it can be used into soups, broths, and teas along with other immune-supporting ingredients like ginger or mushrooms. Add 1/4–1/2 teaspoon to a cup of miso soup for a quick and easy method to reap the benefits of astragalus. You can make a fantastic warming, circulation-boosting immune booster by adding a little cayenne.


Astragalus is the ideal herb for winter because it contains a warming energy. Similar to many of the super mushrooms, it supports the immune system. Its starchy composition essentially "trains" immune cells to grow better at identifying and eradicating dangerous infections (Groves, 2016).


Winter Mood and Mind Support

During the winter, less sunlight can make you feel down. Here are a few suggestions for herbs that can improve one's mood throughout the gloomier seasons.



Mentha piperita (peppermint)

If you want to add a little happiness to your surroundings, peppermint (Mentha piperita) is a wonderful choice. Peppermint, which has been used for centuries as a carminative and painkiller as well as a remedy for headaches, sore throats, and indigestion, may also improve memory, cognition, alertness, and reaction time (Frawley & Lad, 2001; Groves, 2016).


Personally, I adore peppermint's energizing, upbeat scent. All year long, but especially in the winter, I adore diffusing the essential oil into the air. As peppermint tends to be popular, it is a scent that works well in offices and other commercial settings. In my yoga studio's restroom, I used to diffuse peppermint essential oil, and clients always gave it great compliments.


Using peppermint essential oil is not recommended for children under the age of six since it can decrease breathing.


Flowers from St. John's wort blooming outside the St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

Consider St. John's wort, a herb well-known for its efficacy in cases of depression and seasonal affective disorder, for more focused mood support (SAD). The energy of St. John's wort is sunny, and oddly enough, the plant itself thrives from exposure to strong sunlight (Groves, 2016). You might wish to think about St. John's wort, particularly if you suffer from SAD or even milder episodes of the winter blues. Moreover, St. John's wort provides sattvic, or clarifying/purifying, properties according to Ayurveda, and its cool energy makes it beneficial for mood disorders of the pitta kind (Dass, 2013).



The use of St. John's wort comes with a few warnings. It can interact with a variety of medications, including oral contraceptives, so if you take any, it's a good idea to check for interactions with a reliable source. Moreover, it can lead to photosensitivity and is not recommended for usage during pregnancy without medical supervision (Groves, 2016).


St. John's wort can be administered locally to reduce pain and inflammation or consumed internally as a tincture or infusion. When purchasing St. John's wort preparations, consider the source by looking for goods made with fresh buds and blossoms. A red hue in the oil or tincture also denotes quality and potency.


The subject of herbs for health and cheer is vast. The suggestions included in this article are a few tried-and-true solutions to help you get started. There are other ways to improve your health and attitude during the winter. You might want to take into account what your particular obstacles are during the colder, darker months when selecting herbal companions for winter. There are various plant buddies to give benefits and support, whether your main problems are cold extremities, impaired digestion, susceptibility to colds and flu, or feeling down. Nevertheless, if you enjoy the colder months and just want to toast the occasion with some cinnamon-flavored goodies and peppermint drinks, cheers to you!

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