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:
A S T R A G A L U S
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.
G A R L I C
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.)
G I N G E R
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.