Herbal Support for Winter Health

Amy Mevorach
Issue Date: 
December, 2017
Article Body: 

The Holistic Moms Network Metrowest chapter met on November 1 to prepare for a healthy winter. I led the discussion on herbal recipes to support winter health for adults and children. Subtle changes in cooking and eating habits can have lasting, rejuvenating effects.
In the chakra system, the third chakra is located in the center of the abdomen, in the area known as the solar plexus. “Solar” relates to the light and heat necessary for digestion, and the color most commonly associated with this chakra is yellow. In tribal or communal societies, people gathered around fires and told stories in the flickering light. The fire mirrors and supports our inner flame, which is necessary for digestion and for self-empowerment and self-esteem. How do we endure dark, cold winter when we lose our connection to fire, starlight, and storytelling?
The energy of heat and light comes to us in many forms. If we cook according to the seasons, we can replenish this warmth and joy through spicy foods, many of which can be recognized by their yellow or orange tint. Ginger, for example, aids digestion by warming the body and by providing enzymes to help break down food. Turmeric combines well with ginger to draw out and release toxins from the body and to warm and dry a damp cold.
The key to supporting our health with herbs and food is to listen to our bodies and discern what they need. If we have a dry cough, our throat and lungs require moistening, demulcent herbs like marshmallow root or licorice, and if we have an excess of mucous, then warming and drying would be the path to relief.
Many herbs in our kitchen contribute antimicrobial or antiseptic properties to our food. We can enhance our immune systems by regularly adding them to our cooking. Sage is antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It contains enzymes to break down meat and beans and also happens to taste delicious when cooked with these proteins. For a sore throat, a gargle with strong sage tea can be soothing. Thyme is also antiseptic and has expectorant qualities. Black pepper, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon and cloves are warming and aid digestion.
Lemon, honey, garlic, onions, and cayenne are all supportive to the immune system and uplifting energetically. Any combination of these allies with food can help to raise spirits and immunity during winter. Also important is getting enough sleep and staying warm, out of cold wind or drafts.
Fire cider is an apple cider vinegar based tonic that is made with ginger, turmeric, onions, horseradish, garlic, cayenne, and honey, with many variations on the basic recipe. The flavor is spicy, sweet, and sour. Fire cider was created in the early 1980’s as a remedy for colds, coughs and flu by Rosemary Gladstar, educator, pioneer of herbalism in the United States and founder of Traditional Medicinals and Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat and Botanical Sanctuary. The recipe can be found at https://blog.mountainroseherbs.com/fire-cider. Since 2012, the herbal community has been dispersing the recipe widely and encouraging people to make their own fire cider, in response to threats from a company founded by a trio of millenials who trademarked the generic name “fire cider” and suspended sales of the tonic by any other herbalists, many of whom had been making and sharing fire cider before the millenials were born. A boycott of that brand, Shire City, is recommended by the herbal community. It is easy to identify the pirated fire cider, as they were audacious enough to emboss the label with the image of a pirate.
The Holistic Moms enjoyed a tasting of homemade fire cider, ginger garlic syrup, astragalus root, and a tincture for immune support. One member, on leaving the meeting, said, “I don’t know what happened but whatever I felt coming on is totally gone.” The group meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of the month from September to June at Common Street Spiritual Center.