Most of you know that I am absolutely mad about herbs. As the crazy mad scientist herbalist mamma that I am, I wanted to take a moment and share my list of must-have herbs for this winter season. With so many new flu viruses and colds going around it is imperative that I keep my cabinets stocked at all times with herbal meds. From rubs to glycerites and herbal tea blends, I like being prepared in case we get slammed with a pesky invader. On a side note, daily intake of vitamin D3 and zinc is a must during flu season. These two supplements are the lone rangers no one hears about but are extremely important in keeping our bodies healthy.
Soon we will hear kids at school coughing and sneezing on each other all day long. Can anyone say “Yuck” with me?
All germs aside; this year I encourage you to get armed with all the great green herbs that God created for our benefit. As I have said before on this site, there are many hidden medicinal treasures embedded in natures beautiful playground, our earth.
Now for the fantastic six.
1. Astragalus: An amazing root that has been used for centuries as a powerful antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral. Research has shown that it assists the body in returning to a normal immune function especially for those who are very ill. It’s also a powerful adaptogen that according to recent research assists white blood cells in the process of fighting infection by signaling them where they need to go to fight off intruding pathogens. At home, we use it in teas, capsules, tinctures, glycerites, and smoothies.
2. Elderberries: These potent berries from the elder plant are native to Western and Central Asia, Northern Africa, and Europe. I must note that although some people may ingest fresh elderberries I do not recommend you do so due to it causing severe nausea and vomiting in some people. This occurs due to the level of toxic alkaloids present in the berries. The alkaloids are destroyed, however after cooking the berries or simmering them for tea preparation.
At home, we make elderberry syrup, wine, glycerites, and tea. We use it for its immunity boosting properties for colds, flu, fever, sore throat, and overall wellness. Many herbalists and naturopaths note that elderberries have been proven to be effective against 8 strains of influenza. It’s one of the main ingredients in my Immunity Rescue tea and makes a great tasting syrup for sick children.
3. Ginger: With its strong smell and spicy undertones, ginger root makes a fantastic addition to any dish, tea or herbal medicine. I used it for my grandmother in earlier years as a fantastic rub to promote circulation and warm the body. This is accomplished by making a paste with shredded ginger, mixing with olive oil and uncooked rice and gentling massaging the desired area. Ginger root has been used for thousands of years for nausea, motion sickness, colds, viruses, cough, congestion, and stomach flu. Japanese scientists have noted its ability to block mutation of the cells that lead to cancer. At home, we use ginger in everything including soups, stews, herbal medicine, teas, and baths. Is fantastic at relaxing sore and tired muscles and makes a great wash for tired feet as well.
4. Thyme: Oh the wonders of my beloved thyme. Over the years I have created many salves and glycerites with its beautiful leaves. It boasts antiseptic, antibacterial, antispasmodic, expectorant and anti-inflammatory properties among others. We do everything with thyme you can think of. I can’t tell you how many times our entire family has enjoyed a bath with thyme or a nice hot cup of tea. When using thyme I do not recommend you use the oil as it is high in volatile oils that can irritate the stomach. Instead, use the dried herb for your preparations.
5. Goldenseal: Used by many as an herbal antibiotic and a powerful immune system supporter. It’s noted that if it’s taken during the initial stages of respiratory infections, colds or flu, goldenseal can aid the body in preventing further symptoms from developing. It contains properties that help against bacteria, fungus, and other pathogens. Its taste is not pleasant so we use it mainly in capsule form and for topical applications. Goldenseal should not be taken for more than 15 days at a time. When we take it at home we break for at least 2 weeks or more before resuming the consumption of goldenseal.
6. Echinacea Root and leaf (in loose tea form, glycerites, and tinctures) This is one of the best go-to herbs for an acute viral infection. Echinacea has been used for years to aid millions in getting over the common cold and viral infections. It is effective because it increases the activity of our white blood cells and kind of pushes them to target invading pathogens. This is not an herb to take daily as it is a powerful immune system stimulant. When we have used it in our home we take for 15 to 20 days and then break for the same amount of time before resuming if needed.
Well, there you go. That’s my top list of herbs for this upcoming winter season.