Wintertime brings a rise in common health issues, such as sore throat, fever, congestion, and other usual symptoms of lung or viral infections.
Our immune and digestive systems are especially vulnerable around the holidays, with rich food and drinks in excess, which can all take a toll on our health.
Herbal medicine has been used for centuries to help fight off common wintertime ailments, diminish the symptoms, and even shorten the duration of the cold or flu altogether.
By now you’ve probably heard of usual winter herbal remedies, such as ginger, echinacea, and elderberry, which are widely known and used to treat most of the cold weather related health challenges.
However, there are some other quite rare, but powerful immune boosting herbs that you probably haven’t heard about and that can get you through the winter healthy, warm, and strong.
Not only are these herbs loaded with powerful healing properties that will help your body in the cold and flu season, but they will also make gloomy winter days brighter, filling them with a nice smooth aroma that fights off winter depression and improves your mood.
In times of global pandemic that harshly attacks our respiratory and immune systems, these potent herbal teas and tinctures can help protect your health and relieve a lot of uncomfortable symptoms, which makes them a perfect addition to your tea winter collection.
If you’re interested in the most powerful immune boosting herbs to help you out in winter and treat those nagging symptoms, here are the 5 rare medicinal herbs you must have in your winter apothecary.
Do you believe kissing under the mistletoe on Christmas ensures happiness, good luck, and a long married life?
One of the explanations for this tradition comes from Norse mythology where it is believed to be inspired by the (un)lucky destiny of Balder, the God of peace.
Mistletoe branch was apparently used to kill Balder in an evil conspiracy and wizardry of other gods. His life was restored, however, so mistletoe plant was promised never to be used again for any bad deeds, only for the ones promising happiness, hence its modern purpose.
In another belief during the 19th century mistletoe was known as ‘Celtic-All-Heal’ and symbolized fertility.
Mistletoe was also considered to have a great power against lightning - and witches!
An apparent witch repellent and actual Christmas decoration, this herb has other mighty roles you may not have known about. These make it one of the most powerful immune boosting herbs to be used in wintertime.
The nerve-soothing aspect of mistletoe makes it ideal for calming the respiratory system in case of distress or irritation.
From sore throats, common colds, fevers to coughing and bronchial inflammation, it has shown its ability to calm the irritation and lower the discomfort and tightness in the chest.
Mistletoe has antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulatory properties.
The potent healing agents found in mistletoe make it one of the best teas for immune system, fighting against illnesses and infections in winter.
There is a psychological connection between the act of coughing or wheezing, as might occur in an asthmatic attack, and the panic and mental distress, which causes a feedback loop.
Mistletoe can interrupt that neural connection and calm the mind and body at the same time.
If you suffer from winter blues, insomnia or restlessness when you sleep, using mistletoe to brew a tea might be the answer for you.
The chemical components of mistletoe impact the release of neurotransmitters that calm you down, soothing the nervous system, and allowing for healthy, restful sleep and preventing winter depression.
The nervous system is strongly linked to our circadian rhythms, so calming down our nerves can regulate our sleep cycle and give us the rest we need.
All of this makes mistletoe one of the best herbal teas and tinctures for winter.
2. Winter Savory
Winter Savory, a delicate, aromatic herb stemming from the mint family is not only a delicious spice commonly employed in the culinary world, but it is also used for medicinal purposes as well.
Its name is associated with satyrs, pleasure-loving mythical half-man, half-goat creatures with a horse tail. They were wild and seem to have loved a good party in the ancient forests.
Companions of Dionysus, the god of wine, ecstasy, and ritual madness, satyrs were said to be great lovers of music and dance, as well as women and wine.
A part of the mint family, the flavor of savory is comparable to thyme and oregano.
The leaves of winter savory have been found to contain medicinal essential volatile oils like carvacrol and thymol.
Thymol is an anti-septic and anti-fungal agent, making it a great way to fight and prevent the spread of fungal infections.
Carvacrol, meanwhile, is an antibacterial agent, effective in fighting such bacterial strains as Bacillus cereus and E coli.
The iron content in winter savory encourages the development of blood cells, while zinc and vitamin C help boost the immune systems, which puts winter savory tea among the best herbal teas for winter.
Savory is a source of dietary fiber.
It’s important to get enough fiber to keep your digestive system running smoothly. Fiber is also essential to helping reduce bad LDL cholesterol while helping to boost good HDL cholesterol.
Fiber is an important prebiotic that helps nurture good gut flora, which is immensely helpful around the holidays.
If you feel like you're coming down with a cold, drinking winter savory tea may help relieve nausea, bronchial congestion, sore throat, and headaches.
3. Sweet Violet
Imagine you see a beautiful violet flower, smell its sweet scent, fall in love with it and want to indulge in it some more.
But you can’t, the magic is gone!
According to a legend, a person can only smell sweet violets once, since they "steal your sense of smell".
Mother Nature had its own trick with this herb - sweet violets contain a ketone compound called ionone which briefly desensitizes the receptors in the nose, so after you sniff it once, ionone will make it impossible to smell it again for some time.
Violets were Napoleon’s signature flower. He loved them so much that he covered his beloved Josephine’s grave with them and was said to have died wearing a locket of violets from her grave.
The violet was a symbol of ancient Athens believed to strengthen and comfort the heart, moderate anger, and promote refreshing sleep.
Sweet Violets have been used in herbal medicine to treat ailments such as depression, headaches, to ease pain and emotional upset, as well as treat insomnia.
Due to its sweet and powdery scent, this herb has been used in aromatherapy, in perfume-making throughout history, dating all the way back to Classical Greece. In medieval Britain, Sweet Violets were also used to create early household deodorants.
Some of the early European recipes described how cough medicine was made from the blossoms of Sweet Violet.
This herb is very high in Vitamins C and A and has powerful antibacterial properties, which makes it a must-have winter herbal remedy.
Both flowers and leaves of Sweet Violet have mild demulcent and expectorant properties.
If you've ever wondered what tea is good for mucus, look no further.
The Sweet Violet herb also contains phytochemicals which help thin mucous and break up chest congestion, making it easier to cough up.
Sweet Violet Leaf tea reduces pulmonary inflammation, improving the breath and easing the tedious dry cough. It's especially helpful to people suffering from asthma since it benefits and eases respiration.
Sweet Violet is therefore used to treat a myriad of breathing problems ranging from sudden (acute) and ongoing (chronic) bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, swelling (inflammation) of the respiratory tract, “dust-damaged” lungs, cold and flu symptoms, cough, hoarseness, and chest congestion.
With considerable amounts of rutin and salicylic acid (that have similar effects as aspirin), Sweet Violet Leaf Tea is very helpful in relieving pain, inflammation, and body aches, which makes this a wonderful herb to manage cold and flu symptoms.
Sweet Violet is also a powerful diaphoretic which promotes sweating, helping to bring down a fever.
Thyme has been known since ancient times for its magical, culinary, and medicinal virtues.
The Egyptians cleverly used thyme for embalming. It made a perfect embalming agent since its high thymol content kills off bacteria and fungus.
Back in ancient times, thyme was associated with courage, bravery and strength.
The generic name may have been inspired by one of thyme's traditional attributes. Greek folk herbalists believed that thyme would impart courage (thumus in Greek) to those who used the herb, particularly soldiers. Roman soldiers exchanged sprigs of this herb as a sign of respect.
Both Greeks and Romans burned bundles of thyme to purify their homes and temples. They also commonly used it medicinally in their bathwater. They also supposedly offered it as a cure people for who were melancholic or shy.
One of the most well-known and long-standing uses of thyme in traditional medicine is as a respiratory agent.
If you are suffering from bronchitis, chronic asthma, congestion, colds, flu, blocked sinuses or seasonal allergies, thyme acts as an expectorant and an anti-inflammatory substance.
It eliminates phlegm and mucus from the respiratory tracts, eases inflammation to help breathe, and prevents microbial development that can lead to illness.
With one of the highest antioxidant concentrations in any herb, thyme has been praised for thousands of years as an overall health booster and most people use thyme for flu.
The phenolic antioxidants found in thyme, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and thymonin contribute to neutralizing and eliminating free radicals throughout the body.
Thymol, an organic compound found in thyme, has a wide range of effects on the body, including its ability to prevent fungal and viral infections, thereby reducing strain on the immune system.
One of the vitamins in thyme (B6) has a powerful effect on certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are directly linked to stress hormones.
Thyme is a wonderful herb to nip a cold in the bud and cheer you up during the gray winter days.
There are some herbs that are thought to have influence where it matters.
One of those herbs is marshmallow, which was believed to ensure a safe transition to the next world if left on the grave.
Rumour has it that a lover gone astray, yet still alive, could come back to you if you put a bunch of marshmallows on your home’s windowsill.
Marshmallow has been used to treat irritated throat and cough for thousands of years, with the oldest recorded use dating back to the 9th century BC.
In traditional folk medicine, Marshmallow was given to soothe and moisten mucous membranes of the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts.
Pharmaceutical cough medicines such as Benylin, Robitussin, and Vicks - work by affecting a signal in the brain which tells the coughing reflex to turn off.
While this can help in the short-term, these medicines are not suitable for long-term use - people with chronic issues such as bronchitis, asthma, or emphysema.
This is because coughing is actually a protective mechanism in the body - your body is trying to expel something that shouldn’t be in there.
Marshmallow works differently because its effects are much more local. It contains high levels of mucilage, which is essentially a soothing, cooling goo that coats and protects the mucous membranes.
It reduces inflammation in sore and irritated throats and is a great remedy for both dry, hacking coughs and wet, productive ones and the overall respiratory health.
In addition, Marshmallow is a great plant medicine for children because it is effective, soothing, and gentle.
Marshmallow can also make the healing actions of other herbs stronger.
Combining it with other herbs is an excellent idea, and for beating a cold or the flu, try adding more anti-inflammatory and antibacterial herbs such as echinacea, licorice, or oregano.
When combined, these herbs target the underlying cause of the sickness (including bacteria) and coat the throat to ease discomfort.
Should we say more about including marshmallow in between these herbs in your winter apothecary?
Winter, We Got This!
If you’re caught off-guard with a sudden cold or flu and got winter sniffles and blues, there’s comfort in knowing you can rely on these herbs for maximum health support and symptoms relief.
You can take these best immune boosting herbs in the form of either tea or tincture, whichever you prefer.
Make sure your lifestyle supports your immune system and healing as well. Don’t forget to drink lots of water, eat nourishing foods, exercise, and get as much sleep and sunshine as you can get.
This holistic approach to health will strengthen your immunity and protect you from common viral infections during the cold weather season, so you can make the most out of it and embrace its coziness.
Make that warm cup of tea, put your feet up, and enjoy the holidays!