Ebony Nash - Integrative Naturopath - Bayleaf Wellness - BHSc (Nat)
Waking up to the dark mornings, the cold brisk air, condensation covering the widows and perhaps even some frost… yep, winter is here. Fortunately, not all is doom and gloom! We have some pretty spectacular everyday herbs that you can have throughout winter to help combat symptoms of the common cold. These are herbs that are readily available at your local store; are easy to grow at home; or if you’re lucky, are already growing in your backyard. I’ll give you some tips at the very end on how to best consume these herbs during winter as some can taste… ahhh… a little herby.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
This beautiful herb is well known for its astringent and antimicrobial properties and its these properties that help to soothe an irritated throat while killing off bad bacteria. But did you know that sage can also help reduce excess sweating that coincides with cold and flu? Now, I don’t condone completely stopping these sweats as this is our body’s natural process to help fight and eliminate viruses, but this could help you have a more restful night’s sleep without waking drenched in sweat. But, before you get any ideas, sweating in excess can lead to complications like dehydration. If excess sweating sounds like you when battling a cold or flu, then sage is for you and remember to keep up your fluids.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme is my absolute favourite winter herb, one that I drink whenever I feel run down and on the verge of getting a cold. Thyme has wonderful natural antibacterial and expectorant properties which can help to expel mucous and kill bad bacteria. The phytochemicals in thyme also have antispasmodic properties that can be helpful in conditions like bronchitis. Thyme helps to reduce bronchial spasm which is the cause of that notorious cough that coincides with bronchitis.
Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata)
Ah yes, ribwort! Raise your hand if you’ve ever made a little gun out of this guy’s long stem and flower stalk when you were young to shoot your siblings (guilty), or perhaps you’ve constantly weeded it out of your garden in hope it will never return. Well, it’s time to stop treating ribwort plantain as a toy gun or a weed and start treating it as the ultimate herb for a sore throat. The whole plant is edible but for the therapeutic benefits it has on your throat you will want to use the leaves – warning, they can be quite bitter! The phytochemicals in ribwort leaves have mucilaginous, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which help to alleviate and soothe a sore throat.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is a rich source of antimicrobial phytochemicals that can help kill off bad bacteria and viruses causing cold and flu symptoms. But did you know that rosemary is also an amazing circulatory stimulant and immune booster? This can be attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. The circulatory stimulant action will help to increase blood flow which really comes in handy for those that always feel the cold to the point that their extremities feel numb and look pale.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Lemon balm is a beautiful aromatic herb that tastes just as good as it smells, think mint and citrus! It has antiviral properties that can help to eliminate viruses causing cold and flu symptoms. It also has, what we refer to in herbal medicine, diaphoretic properties. Diaphoretic herbs induce sweating and like I said above, sweating is our body’s natural defence process which occurs to make the environment a lot less favourable for viruses to thrive. I’ll drink to that!
The list could go on! However, the herbs that I’ve listed here are the safest and most common that you can identify yourself and find almost anywhere, even on your afternoon walk. All of these herbs can be consumed by throwing a small amount into your cooking, in the form of a tea and as a throat gargle. It’s important to always wash the collected herbs thoroughly before consumption and is advised to consume the prepped tea or gargle immediately as they can spoil quite quickly. To make the tea or gargle, simply pour 1 cup of boiled water over 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried herb and allow to steep for a few minutes. Use once cooled as your herbal gargle or add your favourite local honey, a squeeze of lemon juice and consume as a nourishing tea!!
Remember that these herbs can be consumed everyday throughout winter whether you’re well, starting to come down with something, or are a complete snotty mess!
Yours in health and happiness