HERBS FOR WINTER WELLNESS: PART II
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
FIRE CIDER: Fire cider is a staple herbal preparation to stock the winter home apothecary with every year. A traditional herbal folk recipe for both supporting the immune system and warming up circulation, fire cider is a wonderful preparation to use both preventatively throughout flu season and acutely when you feel the “tickle” of an illness coming on. At its most basic, Fire Cider is a zesty infused vinegar, packed with powerful immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and circulatory herbs. The addition of hot peppers and a little local honey makes it both spicy and sweet. Use fire cider as a defense against cold and flu pathogens, at the first sign of cold symptoms, and as a decongestant and expectorant when the cold has set in. Not only an immune tonic, homemade fire cider also stimulates digestion and helps moves circulation throughout the body and to the periphery, which helps keep us warm on cold winter days. Sip a shot glass a day of this hot stuff beginning in mid-autumn and throughout the winter months.
Cayenne (Capsicum annuum): Cayenne is used to help digestion, including easing an upset stomach, slowing intestinal gas, stopping stomach pain and diarrhea, and as a natural remedy for cramps.
Cayenne is also used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels including improving poor circulation, reversing excessive blood clotting, lowering high cholesterol, and preventing heart disease. When consumed, cayenne pepper has the power to relieve a toothache, seasickness, alcoholism, malaria, and fever. It’s also used to help people who have difficulty swallowing.
Garlic (Allium sativum): used for at least 5,000 years as a food and an herb, garlic’s strong odor and pungency, and its primary constituent, allicin, has proven effects on the cardiovascular system, infections, the respiratory system, and blood sugar. An immune system stimulant, diaphoretic, expectorant, and antimicrobial, raw garlic cloves are used to support the body’s response to respiratory conditions in the winter months. Garlic can ease some of the discomforts of a cold through its anti-inflammatory action, as well as shorten its duration by stimulating the immune system, thinning mucus, and throwing off a fever. compost or other rich organic matter into the native soil. Provide with consistent moisture and water when the top inch becomes dry.
Ginger Root: (Zingiber officinale): contains the compounds gingerol and shogaol that help fight off a cold because they can lower a fever, reduce pain, and suppress a cough. These compounds have a warming effect, which is believed to help with cold symptoms. Ginger Root keeps the body warm, while also helping it body sweat and get rid of infections. Other traditional medical uses for ginger root include treating muscle and joint pain, cold and flu symptoms, stomach pain, menstrual cramps, and skin burns.
Horseradish Root (Armoracia rusticana): a member of the mustard family that is most often grown for its tapered root, which is large and white. It's rich in important nutrients such as Calcium, dietary fiber, Folate, Manganese, Magnesium, Potassium, Vitamin C, and Zinc. The main constituent in horseradish root is sinigrin. Studies show that this component can act as an antibiotic agent, especially against E. coli bacteria, act as an anti-fungal agent, act as an antioxidant, preventing the formation of potentially disease-inducing free radicals, and speed wound healing when used topically.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa): This flavor-filled spice is primarily cultivated from the rhizomes of a flowering plant in India and other parts of Southeast Asia. It gives curry its vibrant yellow color, and is also known for having potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The primary active component of turmeric, and the one that gives the spice its yellow color, is curcumin. Curcumin is a natural antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory benefits, slows the aging process, prevents Alzheimer’s Disease, and eases the symptoms of depression.
FIRE CIDER RECIPE: Ingredients: 1 large red onion, chopped, 3 heads garlic, chopped, 1 organic lemon with peel, diced, ½ cup fresh ginger root, grated, ½ cup fresh turmeric root, grated, ¼ cup fresh horseradish root, grated, ¼ cup fresh thyme, chopped, 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper, a few fresh cayenne or jalapeño peppers, raw honey to taste, and apple cider vinegar.
Directions: Remember, these ingredients are a start, but others can be added. Options include dried elderberries, cinnamon sticks, Echinacea, Astragalus root, and lavender flowers. Place all ingredients except honey in a half-gallon jar, and cover with apple cider vinegar by at least few inches, then cut a square of parchment or wax paper and cover the jar before tightly capping it. Store in a warm place for a few weeks, shaking the jar daily. After three weeks, the fire cider will pack a punch, but it can keep infusing if desired. At this point, strain out the herbs from the liquid, or blend the whole batch in a blender and let it sit for an additional week. Do not shake for the last few days to let the ingredients settle, then pour off the liquid. Either way, once the herbs finish infusing, add warmed raw honey to taste, mix thoroughly, and bottle. This doesn’t have to be refrigerated, but it can’t hurt.
HERBAL OXYMELS: Herbal Oxymels are soothing for a dry, scratchy throat, and they are convenient to take on-the-go. Unlike syrup, which tends to be the thickest liquid herbal preparation and often messier to dispense, oxymels can be easily poured into smaller dropper bottles and used for acute support. Made from vinegar and honey, oxymels are a tasty and simple herbal preparation for your winter home apothecary. While syrups and oxymels are generally similar in nature, there are several differences. Given their vinegar content, oxymels tend to have a longer shelf life and a more expectorant quality. In addition, oxymels are generally lower in sugar than herbal syrups. Since vinegar contains a more pungent aroma and taste, syrups are often a better option for children or adults with sensitive taste buds.
Peppermint: (Mentha piperita): a traditional herb used for fevers, colds, and flus due to its antimicrobial, diaphoretic, analgesic, decongestant, and antitussive actions. Inhalation of the volatile oils helps ease nasal congestion in the most pleasant, aromatic way. Peppermint should be combined with warming herbs and/or used as a hot tea when taken during viral infections. Peppermint can be used to ease many digestive disorders, from gas and bloating to intestinal cramps and diarrhea. Peppermint has a cooling quality, so it might be best for someone with an excess of heat in the gastrointestinal tract as in Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Mint Oxymel: Recipe reprinted from Wild Drinks & Cocktails by Emily Han: Fair Winds Press, 2015: Makes about 1 3/4 cups: Ingredients: 1- 1/3 cups local raw honey, 1 cup water, 1/2 cup white wine vinegar, and 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves.
Directions: Combine the honey and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring to dissolve the honey. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and continue simmering for 20 minutes, or until the mixture thickens to a syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam. Stir in the mint. Let cool completely. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer; discard the solids. Transfer to a sterilized container with a nonreactive lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. Kitchen Tip: Vinegar can corrode metal. When using a metal lid with a jar, place a piece of plastic wrap, waxed paper, or parchment paper between the jar and the lid to prevent it from corroding.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis): has a ton of health benefits, including helping to boost memory and mood, and decreasing inflammation. Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which help boost the immune system and improve blood circulation. It is rich in antioxidants, which play an important role in neutralizing harmful particles called free radicals. The aroma from rosemary can improve concentration, performance, speed, and accuracy. Rosemary contains an ingredient called carnosic acid, which is protective against brain damage, improves recovery, and can slow brain aging.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans): Pineapple sage has the sweet taste of pineapple combined with the earthy flavor of sage. It has Adaptogenic, antioxidant, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, carminative, antimicrobial, diuretic, stimulant, and expectorant properties. It is also a good source of vitamin A and Vitamin K. Pineapple Sage relieves Anxiety, lowers blood pressure, eases mental fatigue, stress, and depression.