It’s the time of year, where more often than not we are turning to our medicine cupboard to support our bodies and our families. An abundance of tea herbs, honey, and lemon, fresh herbs like ginger, turmeric, cayenne, and garlic are all great to have on hand throughout the winter. A few herbal tinctures also play useful roles and are key ingredients in the medicine cabinet.
Elderberry | Elderberry is an excellent superfood-like ally safe to take in large quantities. With elderberry and plenty of rest, our body’s natural response kicks in–that’s why elderberry syrups and tea have long been used to help support optimal immune function. All these amazing herbs come in handy when our resources are low: elderberry helps our body maintain its normal immune response. Because it’s so much like food, it’s incredibly safe for kids, and happens to taste divine when combined with honey–hence the elderberry syrup! This one is a must-have for the kitchen herb cabinet as it’s family-safe.
The flowers of Elder are also quite useful and are used for supporting sinuses and a healthy inflammatory response. While lovely in tea because of its sweet aromatic quality, Elderflower also is great in tincture form and used in combination with other herbs.
Elecampane | Herbalists rely on Elecampane when it comes to supporting healthy respiratory function. Lungs naturally clean themselves every day by helping to remove mucus through respiration. And in the colder months, they work extra hard. This herb has traditionally supported our lungs by encouraging healthy breathing. Elecampane’s use runs deep within the herbal community, and it is often classified as a tonic. This plant puts all of its energy into its roots, as evidenced by the flower which is spindly and easily unnoticeable–the power is in the roots. A healthy dose of Elecampane is energetically warming and drying, and these qualities can be felt deep in the body. While Elecampane tincture is a great item to have in the cabinet, another great way to use this herb is by making honey drops or candy.
Echinacea | Echinacea’s energetic qualities are cooling and stimulating, and the plant has been traditionally used for added immune support. Our bodies often bear the brunt of seasonal changes or busy periods in life, and there are naturally-occurring processes in our bodies that are designed to keep our systems active and vigorous, but extra support from herbs and lifestyle decisions can aid our bodies’ natural processes of being well. Today, modern research on the chemical compounds of Echinacea has shown that the plant can play a supporting role for our immune cells. Our immune system is the protective shield of our body, and immune cells or white blood cells are the system’s worker bees. To encourage healthy immunity, the extract is taken at doses of 1 teaspoon up to 5 times a day. At these dose ranges, Echinacea is a safe herb for short-term use.
Sage | Sage has one of the longest histories of use of any culinary or medicinal herb. Part of the mint family, this herb has been traditionally used in supporting the health of mucous membranes, especially the throat. While Sage is rich in volatile oils, its energetic qualities are pungent and warming, unlike mint. Historically it was used in a throat gargle and very popular in tea. It coats and soothes, while its aromatic, and astringent properties are drying to secretions and toning to the tissue it comes in contact with. It combines well with lemon and honey in tea form or in spray form for a healthy moistened throat.
Astragalus | A favorite in Chinese medicine (TCM), astragalus is a superb tonic and adaptogen taken to ensure good health year-round. In Chinese herbalism, it is considered to be one of the best tonic herbs available to support a body running on little energetic fuel.This herb is known for its ability to help strengthen immunity. Traditionally the sweet flavor is nourishing and building to our body, acting somewhat like food. In TCM they turn to this root when a person is craving sweets–seen as an internal call from our body as needing nourishment. This warm, somewhat juicy root provides it. Easy to take in tincture form, it also combines well with other supportive ingredients.
Astragalus is great to add into soup stocks throughout the winter and delicious in powder form when eating it is preferred.
Medicinal mushrooms | Herbalists have used mushrooms in extracts, soup stocks and as food for thousands of years. They were introduced to us by Chinese herbalists as a tonic for our Qi- the life force within us. Medicinal mushrooms can often be more food-like but they play a significant role in our toolkit. As gentle tonics, we rely on a few of these as catalysts in sustaining healthy energy levels and strong, healthy immunity. Mushrooms like Reishi are among our favorite adaptogens and have significant widespread use in supporting a balanced immune response. In tincture form, it is best to have a double extracted blend- to get the constituents that both water and alcohol will pull out.
Reishi is also great to have in raw dried form or in powder to use in baking or soup stocks.
Hawthorn | Historically the spirit of the Hawthorn tree is an excellent protector. It also acts this way physiologically and emotionally, as it supports a healthy heart. As a gentle cardiotonic this herb supports a healthy emotional balance as it is a mild nervine. It is gently relaxing and encourages us to remain open-hearted in our approach to life. It aids in allowing the emotional nervous heart to forgive and be a bit more gentle. In supporting our heart physiologically, we are ensuring that it is doing its job to pump blood to all other areas of the body, supporting circulatory processes. This herb is important for the winter months when we hit colder climates and endure more physically.
Hawthorn is one to use daily in a tonic or tea form as its supporting qualities come from long-term use.
Rhodiola | Rhodiola is an excellent adaptogen, Rhodiola has a supportive role in increasing our resistance to life’s stress. As a nervous system tonic, it helps us in maintaining this balance as well: affirming our spiritual grace and resilience in the face of occasional stress. This herb grows at high altitudes in the arctic areas of Europe and Asia, where it is easy to see how this plant embodies resilience. The root has been used in traditional medicine throughout Scandinavian countries for centuries. It is widely used by herbalists as a restorative tonic to support mental alertness during occasional fatigue and to promote general physical strength and vitality: an excellent tool to have throughout a long winter.
Rhodiola is often taken in tincture form, as the taste does take some getting used to. It can also be used in powder form, disguised with other herbs such as maca or cacao.
We hope you are enjoying the task of all stocking your medicine cabinets for the winter to come!