Herbs for Winter HealthRead Now
Wintertime is pretty much here in Vermont. What can we do to stay healthy?
The first thing is to make sure to stay warm and counteract dryness. Scientists aren't sure if cold weather itself can make people sick, but traditional medicine systems have long considered "cold" itself to be a cause of ailments. Studies have shown that immune response might be more sluggish in a colder environment, but how that translates to humans is inconclusive. My theory is that since the immune cells are transported in part by the bloodstream, if our circulation is impaired we're going to have less immune activity.
In any case, experience has shown generations of humans that it's best to stay warm this time of year! So yes, go outside and get things moving, but make sure to bundle up!
Dryness is important to counteract as well - the cold air holds less humidity, and indoor heating makes things even dryer. Moist mucuous membranes are a very important line of defense against germs. Stay hydrated, but also eat plenty of good quality fat to help hold in moisture.
There are two main categories of herbs that can help with the immune system:
1. Immune Tonics
These include astragalus, reishi, and shiitake. All of these basically help keep the immune system active by making the body think that there may be something to guard against.
For example, polysaccharides present in these herbs can activate white blood cells in our digestive system, causing the immune system as a whole to function at a higher level.
Take these herbs daily in soup, tea, tincture or powder to maintain a healhty immune system during the more challenging months. They are considered "food-like" due to the way that they can be incorporated into the diet.
2. Immune Stimulants
These include echniacea and elderberry. These herbs basically kick our immune systems into higher gear very quickly, making them ideal remedies when people first feel signs of sickness, are around people that are sick, are travelling, etc.
The root is the strongest part of echinacea. The best preparation of that is a tincture of the fresh root - the immune-stimulating compounds degrade afer it's been dried.
Elderberry works well in a variety of ways - syrup, tea (or decoction) or tincture are amongst the most common. Combine it with the elder flower to get a stronger effect.
Let us know if you have any questions! Join us at our "Winter Wellness" class next Monday, 12/2, 6:30-8pm to learn more. Reading this past 12/2/19? Stay tuned on our class and event page for future offerings, we often offer this class two or three times per year.
Stay warm and well out there!
Check in here to keep updated on news and activities at the apothecary.