6 Culinary Herbs to Keep you Healthy this Winter
By Aidanne MacDonald-Milewski, ND • December 7, 2020
Winter is a time of change. Change in season, change in daylight, and change in routine. The change in season can be particularly challenging to the immune system. Ensuring adequate hydration and nutrition can help to support your system through the winter months. Culinary herbs are another gentle way to support the immune system through the diet and can be quite tasty! Here are some of my personal favorites to help you stay healthy this winter:
Ginger is a flavorful root that can be enjoyed as a spice when cooking or steeped into a tea to ease a sore throat. It also helps alleviate indigestion or IBS that can result from altered dietary habits around the holidays, and promotes smooth movement through the gastrointestinal tract. From an immune standpoint, ginger has anti-inflammatory, immune modulating, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties.
Ginger Tea Recipe for Sore Throat:
– 1 tbsp of finely grated fresh ginger root (peel prior to grating)
– ½ tsp of manuka honey
– 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
– Pinch of pink Himalayan Sea salt
– ½ tsp of slippery elm powder (optional)
– Instructions: Add all ingredients to 1-2 cups of boiling water, and steep for 5-7 minutes covered prior to consuming.
Garlic should be a staple in your spice cabinet this winter! It is not only a tasty addition to most savory meals, but contains a compound called allicin that has anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-viral properties. It is also a wonderful cardiovascular support, as it acts to modestly lower blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and triglycerides. It has also been shown to have protective effects in certain cancers, likely due to its positive effects on the immune system and supporting lymphocyte proliferation.1
Thyme is a culinary herb originally native to the Mediterranean. As a spice, it is a great addition to most savory meals and can also be steeped into an herbal tea. Thyme has been used traditionally to alleviate a sore throat, bronchitis, and cough. The oils present in Thyme leaves also have anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
In addition to the spice that you can purchase at the grocery store, Thyme can also be purchased as an herbal extract or an essential oil. The essential oil can be used around the house in a diffuser or in the form of a steam inhalation to promote drainage of the sinuses and alleviate bronchitis.
Oregano, like Thyme, is a traditional Mediterranean herb that is an easy and accessible addition to the daily diet. The leaves can be cultivated and mixed into your favorite recipes or steeped into a throat coat tea. Oil of oregano is often found in the medicine cabinet and delivers a more potent anti-microbial and anti-viral effect. Oregano has a rich traditional use in alleviating symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, sinusitis and gastrointestinal complaints and can make your home smell like a pizzeria!
Oregano, Thyme + Marshmallow Throat Coat Tea:
– 1-2 tea bags of marshmallow tea (Althea officinalis)
– ½ tbsp Thyme leaves
– ½ tbsp Oregano leaves
– Instructions: Add marshmallow tea to 1-2 cups of hot water. In a stainless-steel mesh tea infuser, place thyme and Oregano leaves. Add the infuser to the marshmallow tea, and let it steep covered for 5 minutes prior to consuming. Ensure all oils that have collected on the cover are added to the tea.
A staple of south east Asian cuisine, turmeric is a root herb that packed full of flavor and anti-inflammatory properties. It has a rich orange color and provides anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic and anti-microbial properties. A sprinkle of this warming spice is a nice addition to any chai or spiced latte!
Spiced Turmeric Latte:
– 100-250ml of chai black / green tea or coffee
– 200-250ml unsweetened almond or coconut milk (approx. 1 cup)
– ¼ – ½ tsp of fresh grated or ground turmeric
– ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
– ¼ tsp of vanilla extract
– ½ tsp of honey, maple syrup or stevia leaf extract
– Instructions: froth milk with turmeric, vanilla extract and sweetener. Once frothed, add milk mixture to tea or coffee. Sprinkle cinnamon to top.
Elderberry, also known as Sambucus, is a fruit that has long been used to alleviate symptoms of colds and flus such as congestion, sore throat, fever and cough.2 Elderberry is often consumed as a syrup or lozenge, but can also be infused into an herbal tea. The raw berries should never be consumed but, once cooked, the otherwise toxic agent present in the berries is inactivated.
Homemade Elderberry Syrup:
– 1 cup of dried elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
– 4 cups of water
– ½ – 1 cup of raw buckwheat or manuka honey, coconut sugar or cane sugar
– (optional) ½ tsp cinnamon
– (optional) ¼ tsp cloves
– (optional) 1-2 tbsp ground or minced ginger
- Soak elderberries in 4 cups of water for 1-2 hours covered.
- After soaking, bring mix to a boil and allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes.
- Turn off heat and let cool. Gently mash the berries to further release juices.
- Strain the mixture, to filter out the berries through a fine colander or cheese cloth. Retain the juice and add to a small pot. This is what will be used to make the syrup.
- Add additional spices to elderberry juice if desired.
- On low heat and uncovered, heat the elderberry juice. Add sweetener stirring occasionally until thoroughly mixed.
- Let cool.
- Bottle and store away from heat.
*Recipe inspired by Clef des Champs Master Herbalist (www.clefdeschamps.net)
Disclaimer: None of the herbs listed above have any evidence to support their use in the prevention, treatment or cure of COVID-19.
1. Garlic Professional Monograph. Natural Medicines Database. Accessed From: https://naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=300#mechanismOfAction. Accessed 11/24/2020. Updated: 9/18/2020.
2. The American Botanical Council. The ABC Clinical Guide to Elder Berry. Accessed from: https://cms.herbalgram.org/press/files/elderberry-scr.pdf. Accessed 11/30/2020.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.