Dec 13, 2011

Herbs for Winter Health

To some winter means coughs and colds and other stressful winter bugs. There are ways to decrease your risk of becoming ill as well as to feel better if you do get sick. Even though antibiotics are often prescribed for winter illnesses, they are rarely the answer and they do not treat viral infections. With colds and flu we are often seeking relief from congestion and pain, as well as something to sooth the throat. Let's look at some herbs with those properties and how to use them.

Try natural home remedies to relieve the stress of winter infections - they do work!


1. Calendula
Use calendula as a salve to heal wind-chapped winter skin, calm inflammation, speed up healing and fight eczema.

It has wonderful antiseptic properties. You can use freshly picked, open calendula flowers to make an effective infusion for the immune system.


2. Rosemary
Use rosemary, mint thyme and calendula to steam colds and flu away.
Combine with lemon peel, lemon balm, calendula, lavender and thyme and use as an antiseptic .

Add rosemary to bath to stimulate circulation to skin.

Try a few drops of rosemary in a diffuser to keep the flu bugs out of your bedroom.


3. Sage
Of all the best winter herbs for health, I recommend sage for treating coughs and colds.
Use as a gargle for sore throats - infuse three teaspoons of sage leaves in 250 ml boiling water. Leave to steep for 15 minutes, strain and cool. Gargle three times a day.


4. Heart's Ease
Are you surprised to see this as one of the best health herbs for winter? Try chewing Viola tricolour to relieve headaches, you will be surprised at the effect of this lovely herb. You can also make an infusion as a tea for lowering fevers, cleansing toxins, or as an anti-inflammatory expectorant for coughs.
You can use both the leaves and the flowers of this gorgeous plant.


5. Parsley
Parsley is a wonderful source of vitamins A, C and E which build the immune system. Make sure you have some growing in your garden (or in a pot) to give your body the winter edge against infections.
Nibble some every day, sprinkle on salads or blend with apple or tomato for a delicious fresh juice.

* Always pick the outer leaves as new growth comes from the center. You can also extend the plant's life by snipping off the flowering heads.


6. Thyme
If you have a cough or a cold , treat it with thyme.
It is also a great anti-oxidant and tonic to build up the immune system. So don't wait for winter ailments to strike, make yourself some thyme tea and enjoy regularly. Make an infusion and sip.

You can also use thyme in salads and dressings and in your winter casseroles and stews.

Other Decongestant Herbs
One way to loosen and expel mucus is by inhaling vapors.

thyme has a long history of treating bronchitis and other upper respiratory tract infections (see Thyma-flu below). Inhale the steam frequently throughout the day to relieve congestion. Eucalyptus essential oil is also a strong decongestant. Put a few drops of this essential oil on the surface of the simmering water to release the vapors.

You can also use a balm on your chest both for pain and congestion that contains essential oils of eucalyptus, camphor, menthol, sage and peppermint.

Pain Relieving Herbs
For pain such as muscle aches associated with a cold try soaking in a hot bath with a muslin bag filled with herbs. Useful herbs here would include oregano, marjoram, lavender, mint or sage. After soaking in the herbal bath, drink a tea from ginger and lemon. Pain can also prevent one from getting a good night sleep. A few drops of lavender essential oil sprinkled on your pillow or an herbal dream pillow tucked into your pillow case can help you relax to get more sleep.

A typical cold lasts 7 days to two weeks and adults get about 2-4 colds per year (more in children). We don't develop immunity to the cold because there are more than 100 different viruses that cause this. You can limit your risk of catching a cold by improving your immune system. Stress weakens the immune system and can lead to illnesses. Daily exercise such as walking can help control stress. Also try teas made from herbs such as catnip, chamomile, hops, lavender and lemon balm.

Immune building herbs you can use include garlic and whole foods including fruits and vegetables. Phytochemicals such as flavonoids and sterols act as antioxidants that can modulate the immune system as well as provide a host of other benefits including decreasing inflammation. Garlic not only stimulates the immune system but acts as an antibacterial and antiviral.

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