Tips for Winter: Warm it up!

It is very important during this time of year to keep your body physically warm, with special attention to the head, neck and kidneys. Body heat is lost by exposed surface area, and the head tends to be exposed more often as folks forget to wear hats or hoods.  So don’t go outside or go to sleep with wet hair, and don’t forget your hat!

Your kidneys are hard at work cleaning and circulating your blood, and this circulation is imperative to keeping your body warm.  So help out those little kidneys by keeping them warm and active!  Kidneys are located at your lower back so a simple remedy to remember is to tuck in your shirt to avoid allowing cold air to travel up your back, while more active kidney support can be done by rubbing your lower back to warm it up, and to keep your kidneys active by drinking plenty of hot water and tea.

Skin Soothers

If you've concerned about sun damage, or find yourself with a sunburn, these remedies can help to heal your skin from sun exposure:


Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is a useful plant to have on hand and it does well in a pot, even on a windowsill if you don't have an outdoor spot. If you find yourself with a minor burn or sunburn, simply harvest a leaf of the plant and remove the skin from one side (being cautious with the spikes.) Slather the goo from inside the leaf on your skin every few hours to get relief and aid in healing.


The sweet chamomile flower is a really healing plant for skin damage and burns. To make a chamomile foment, pour one quart of boiling water over 1 cup of dried chamomile flowers. Let steep one hour then strain and cool. Dip a washcloth into this cooled tea and apply to the affected skin. You can also include chamomile tea bags in your first aid kit to have on hand when traveling.

 Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar, diluted in water, can help to cool and soothe sunburns. According to Kami McBride, Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) that has been infused with rose petals is even more effective. You can steep 1/2 cup of fresh rose petals in 1 cup of ACV and leave in a cool, dark place for a month before straining the roses out. Pour the rose vinegar into a spray bottle to have on hand for misting sunburns and agitated skin.


Calendula flowers are soothing to minor burns and inflammation, speed tissue repair, and help the itching that can accompany peeling skin. When first recovering from a sunburn it’s best not to use an oil based remedy. But once you have cooled your skin with one of the methods above, using a calendula based salve or infused oil can help your skin to heal more quickly. Calendula is also an easy to grow plant and the more you harvest the flowers, the more they will bloom!

Staying Hydrated!

If you know you'll be working in the heat, here are some good remedies to have on hand to keep your body balanced:


Homemade Electrolyte Mix


 -1 quart of water

-juice of one lemon

-juice of one orange

-3 tablespoons honey

-1/4 teaspoon sea salt

 Add 1/c cup of this mix to your water bottle or drink straight if you're really in need!

Marshmallow Root Infusion

Marshmallow root is cooling and moistening and deeply hydrating for those of us who tend to run dry or get easily dehydrated. It is strongest when brewed as a cold infusion. To do this simply put 1/2 cup of dried root in a quart jar and fill with cold water. Leave to steep for 2-8 hours before straining- being sure to press out all that medicinal goo! Marshmallow tea can go off quickly so store it in the fridge to avoid spoiling.

Sun tea

Although sun tea isn’t usually quite as strong as an infusion made with boiled water, it can be a nice way to make tea on a hot day. Simply place 1 tbsp of dried herbs for each cup of water (or 2 tbsp of fresh herbs for each cup of water) into a jar, cover, and use the warmth of the sun to brew your tea. Some cooling herbs to consider for warm days are: roses, mint, lemon balm, lemon verbena, red clover, lavender, hibiscus and tulsi. (Warning: If you’re on land with a high fire danger you won’t want to leave a clear jar in the sun! move it into the shade or inside instead.)


Plants for First Aid

Whether you're in a city park, or a backwoods trail, these are helpful plants to befriend!


Plantain grows as a weed over much of the continent and Narrow Leaf Plantain is abundant in California. This plant is antimicrobial and a great remedy for rashes, bites and stings and it has strong drawing properties. If you are outdoors and a rash is really bothering you, a splinter is deep in, or a wasp bite is growing larger, look for a plantain plant. Harvest a leaf, chew it for a few minute so it will release it's juice (yes, plantain is edible!) and then apply the mashed leaf to the area in need.  Lauren has had great success pulling the infection out of aggressive spider bites with a plantain poultice. 


Yarrow is antimicrobial, helps with bruising and it can stop minor bleeding. If you find yourself with a cut in the woods, take a yarrow leaf or two and chew on them to release the oils. Apply to your wound to staunch the bleeding, then wash with soap and water when it becomes available. You can also add dried, powdered yarrow to your first aid kit to have on hand to sprinkle into wounds. If you only have tincture on hand that can help for wounds that are starting to get hot and red and infected.

Eating Spring Greens

Tender young greens are sprouting up all over the place right now (in the Bay Area at least!).  We love this time of year as some of our favorite perennial and wild leafy greens start to leaf out and become available for colorful salads or just lightly wilted at the end of cooking.  There are many benefits to eating seasonally with fresh produce from farmer’s markets and CSA’s. There is also a beauty to eating the wild foods that grow around you, and Spring is the season when wild edible plants are most abundant and the most tender. Some of our favorites coming up right now are Stinging Nettles, Nasturtium, Sorrel, Shungiku (Edible Chrysanthemum), Dandelion, Chicory, Miner’s Lettuce and Chickweed. It’s important to know which plants are poisonous (like hemlock!) and which are edible so go on a plant walk with someone who knows or check out a field guide, like The Flavor of Home by Margit Roos-Collins.

Here are a couple of ways that Finn likes to use wild greens:

Stinging Nettle Vinegar

An herbal vinegar is a way to get the benefits of a plant without eating it directly, in case you don’t find wild greens to be super palatable.  By making an herbal vinegar you are essentially creating a tincture that you can use in your cooking in an everyday way.

To make Stinging Nettle Vinegar, harvest a large bowl full of Stinging Nettles (while wearing gloves and a long sleeved shirt!) Chop the nettles up finely and place them in a clean mason jar. Top the jar with raw apple cider vinegar. Use a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper to cover the mouth of the jar before screwing on the lid so that the metal of the lid doesn’t corrode from the acidity of the vinegar. Label your jar and leave out of direct sunlight for 4-6 weeks. When 4 -6 weeks have passed, strain your infused vinegar with cheese cloth or muslin and store in a glass jar. Add this nutrient rich vinegar to cooking greens or salad dressings whenever you think of it. You can also use it diluted on your scalp for dandruff! 

Dandelion Pesto

Bitters are an important, and often overlooked, part of a healthy diet because they help to stimulate your digestion and support your liver. Here is a way of preparing dandelion greens that cuts the bitter taste without taking away the bitter effect.

-1/2 bunch of wild or cultivated dandelion greens

-1 bunch of parsley

-5 cloves of garlic

-3/4 cup of sunflower seeds

-olive oil to preferred texture

-sea salt to preferred taste

Blend everything in a food processor until it reaches the texture you like for pesto. Add to eggs, toast, pasta, rice, etc!

Preparing Your Body for Allergy Season

Approaching Spring, the pollen counts are already super high in the Bay Area. If you find yourself struggling with Seasonal Allergies every year, here are some tips for early allergy prevention and care:

  • Having a strong immune system can help to decrease the effect of seasonal allergies.  Medicinal mushrooms and astragalus root are herbs that can be added to foods or taken as tinctures to work to build your deep immunity. (Check out an earlier post for more info on these two.)
  • Nourishing herbs like nettles and mullein can be taken daily to help prepare your respiratory system for seasonal allergies.
  • Raw local honey and local bee pollen can help your body to build a tolerance for plant pollen.
  • Facial steams help with the allergies as well as colds. Elderflowers and yarrow are both helpful herbs for relieving congestion, and chamomile can be a nice addition to soothe irritated nasal passages.
  • Using a neti pot or a bottled saline solution can help to wash away pollen and other irritants from your sinuses.
  • Herbalist Sarah Holmes says that a few drops of strong digestive bitters (like dandelion, gentian, artichoke or others) can help to take the edge off a strong histamine response.
  • If your allergies are super acute taking tinctures of herbs like goldenrod, eyebright or red root can help bring relief. (We just started goldenrod seeds for next year’s tincture!)
  • We’ve also found acupuncture treatments to be helpful and the Bay Area has many community clinics that offer sliding scale treatments in a group setting.

Herbs for Winter Cooking

Food is our first and most important form of medicine. In addition to eating lots of good healthy fats this Winter- like butter, ghee, olive oil and coconut oil- and eating warming foods, consider adding medicinal herbs into your diet to help build your immune system before you get sick. The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride is a great resource for easy ways to incorporate common herbs and spices into your cooking. Here are a few of the herbal allies that we recommend using throughout the Winter:



Astragalus root is a gentle and powerful herbs that strengthens the immune system, inhibits viral growth and increases vitality. You can usually find dried slices at herb shops and some natural grocery stores. It is great to add to this root to slow cooked foods like rice, stews and soups (but it stays tough so remember to remove before eating!)

M E D I C I N A L    M U S H R O O M S

Reishi, shiitake, maitake and other medicinal mushrooms are powerful aids in strengthening deep immunity over time. These delicious mushrooms also have many anti-oxidant properties. Add them to long simmering stocks and soups or enjoy them in other dishes. Herbalist Karyn Sanders recommends cooking all mushrooms for a minimum of 30 minutes so that they have the chance to become more digestible.


This easy to find herb is a potent antimicrobial, meaning it helps to fight off viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. Sautéed or roasted garlic adds flavor to your meals but raw garlic is a much more potent medicine. Add minced garlic to already cooked foods to get the full benefit of this plant or if sprinkling raw garlic on everything seems unappealing, here are some other ways to use it:

Garlic Honey: Fill a jar about ⅓ full with chopped garlic and cover in raw honey. Poke it to release air pockets and close the jar. You can eat it right away, or continue to let it age and get more potent. Take a teaspoon of it straight or add it to hot water or tea.

Garlic Pesto: Place lots of cloves of raw garlic (as many as you’d like) and a large bunch of parsley into a food processor. Add olive oil and salt to desired taste and texture. Put this simple pesto on eggs, toast, rice- everything! The parsley adds more iron and vitamin c and it also helps to neutralize garlic breath. (Eating large amounts of parsley is not recommended when pregnant.)


Ginger is another potent kitchen herb that is good to have on hand in the Winter. This antimicrobial herb is great for helping a sore throat, a runny nose or warming your up if you get chilled. Add grated raw ginger to veggies, soups and rice. Or to make a strong ginger tea, finely slice about an inch of fresh ginger root per quart of water. Bring water and ginger to a boil, then lower the heat and cover, simmering for 20 minutes to an hour. (You can add cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, orange peels or hibiscus flowers while this brew is simmering for a delicious preventative tea.)

To warm your whole body, you can soak your feet in a ginger bath. Add 6 inches of chopped ginger root to a gallon of water and bring to a boil, then simmer as you would for the tea. Let it cool to a comfortable temperature then pour this into a container that you can place your feet in. A ginger foot soak can also help with nausea and Robin Rose Bennett recommends this treatment for people who can’t keep anything down. Ginger is also an anti-inflammatory so a ginger soak or bath can ease muscle and joint pain too.



Just as washing your hands can help keep you healthy, washing your sinuses and your throat can also be another defense from viral and bacterial infections. Using a neti pot or a syringe to flush out your sinuses with a warm salt water mix, as well as gargling salt water for a few moments, is a good idea if you’ve been on an airplane, in a crowd, or are caring for snotty kids or adults!

S W E A T S  

You can flush out a cold right at the onset, or get rid of a lingering cold that you can’t seem to shake, by encouraging your body to sweat.  Inducing a sweat will help you shed toxins, break a fever and increase your circulation, which will help your immune system really get to work!

Basic recipe and instructions for inducing a sweat:

Diaphoretic (sweat producing) herbs that are great for making a tea to take internally are yarrow, peppermint, and elderflower- these can be taken together as a mix or individually.  Other common diaphoretic herbs are mugwort, cayenne and cinnamon. These can also be made into a tea and taken internally, or used externally in a bath or foot soak. When you are starting to get ready for bed, brew a strong cup of tea, allowing the herbs to steep covered for 5-10 minutes, but ensuring that you drink the tea while it is still fairly hot.  Drink the tea while you soak in a hot bath.  Dry off, get in bed and wrap yourself in heavy blankets.  Go to sleep and sweat it out, and wake in the morning feeling better!

W A R M   I T   U P

It is very important during this time of year to keep your body physically warm, with special attention to the head, neck and kidneys.  It is believed in Traditional Chinese Medicine that cold enters the body through the back of your neck where your bladder and small intestine meridian channels run close to the surface of the skin. A simple remedy for this is to bundle up and always wearing a scarf in cold weather, even when you don’t feel that you need one.  Body heat is lost by exposed surface area, and the head tends to be exposed more often as folks forget to wear hats or hoods.  So don’t go outside or go to sleep with wet hair, and don’t forget your hat! Your kidneys are hard at work cleaning and circulating your blood so help out those little kidneys by keeping them warm and active!  Kidneys are located at your lower back so a simple remedy to remember is to tuck in your shirt to avoid allowing cold air to travel up your back, while more active kidney support can be done by rubbing your lower back to warm it up, and to keep your kidneys active by drinking plenty of hot water and tea.

Causa Justa and TGI Justice Project

We just sent off elderberry tinctures to the staff of Causa Justa :: Just Cause and The TGI Justice Project to support folks at these two awesome Bay Area nonprofits in staying well through this cold and flu season. There's more info about each organization below- please consider supporting as you can!

Causa Justa :: Just Cause is a multi-racial, grassroots, base-building organization. We organize Black and Latino working class communities in Oakland and San Francisco around a vision of a society based on self-determination, social justice, and solidarity. We challenge gentrification and displacement by building people power to win housing and immigrant rights.  Join our work today by donating, coming to an upcoming action, or becoming an intern or volunteer!  We are especially looking for supporters to sign up as monthly sustainers to help our work thrive.

TGI Justice Project is a group of transgender people—inside and outside of prison—creating a united family in the struggle for survival and freedom. We work in collaboration with others to forge a culture of resistance and resilience to strengthen us for the fight against imprisonment, police violence, racism, poverty, and societal pressures.  We seek to create a world rooted in self determination, freedom of expression, and gender justice.