Winter Warming Herbs

Winter weather brings the need for extra warmth. Eating, drinking and ingesting herbs and food with warming effects support a state of wellness as winter can challenge our bodies. What herbs can we reach for mid-winter? Warming herbs can do their thing in tinctures, teas and food. Our body expends energy working to stay heated so warming herbs and food make that job a little easier. While eating fresh, live food is beneficial, eating cooked food while it’s warm will support internal heat. I like to eat a hardy, cooked meal and dress it with sprouts, a side salad, raw veggies or a fermented food like sauerkraut.

Here are three of my favorite winter warming herbs~

Elecampagne (Inula helenium) is stimulating and aromatic and is used for respiratory infections when there is congestion and irritation. It is antimicrobial, antitussive and an expectorant. A tincture or glycerite is probably easier to ingest due to taste rather than a tea, but tea might taste just fine. The root is used and it pairs well with other respiratory medicinals like cherry bark or mullein depending on the overall condition of the person. It is a bitter and contains inulin, a prebiotic, which supports a sluggish digestion and can be added to a stew or broth. Celtic lore reminds us that the elves and fairies enjoy this plant and the name Elfdock or Elfwort came about.

The beautiful flower is shown here, but the root is typically used.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is an excellent winter botanical. A hot cup of tea can warm up a chilly person quickly. It has a zingy, pleasant flavor that enhances herbal teas and dishes. Ginger has been used for thousands of years throughout the world and originated in Southeast Asia. It can stimulate an appetite and supports digestive processes. In Ayurveda it is well-known to promote the agni (digestive fire) essential to break down and assimilate nutrients. It also quells nausea and calms stomach discomforts. It increases circulation and can open pores for perspiration and assist stagnant menstrual flow. Move the Flow topical oil can help with this type of menstrual discomfort.

When using dried ginger powder instead of cured ginger (typical at a grocery store) it will have a stronger drying effect. Look out for fresh ginger at farmers markets depending on the time of year because more and more farmers are growing it.

Grate some ginger rhizome and add a bit of honey. So good!

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)

Cinnamon has been in demand since the time of the Egyptians. It was coveted for its meat preserving abilities, sweet and spicy flavor and as an oil for perfume and ritual. In Arabia there was a bird called Cinomolgus that made its nest with cinnamon bark much to the dismay of the locals! It is a lovely addition to herbal teas such as ashwaganda with milk or an ethically-harvested chaga brew.

Cinnamon is also a circulatory stimulant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and there are studies showing positive results of improving insulin sensitivity and regulating blood sugar levels. Besides from baking sweets with cinnamon it also tastes great with veggies like squash or a beef stew.

More daylight is happening every day, but in the meanwhile stay cozy!

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Andy Rowan

I am an herbalist in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York who loves to grow and wildcraft. My goal is creating vibrant health with the support of plant medicine and lifestyle habits.