Mother Earth Living

Curb Winter Illness with these Herbs

Heidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources and business administration. She has written about home and garden topics for various online venues, helps you get your green on at HC Greenery and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources.

Step outside and take a deep breath. Tilt your head back and sniff the air. Smell that? Winter! It’s on the way. The squirrels are venturing out only in the mid-day sun. The skunks aren’t running around all night foraging and stinking up the neighborhood. They are spending more time in their winter dens already, out of the stinging wind and frosty midnights. 

Fresh cold air is invigorating at first, but over the course of several months it can become a source of stress, and it can be dangerous, even life-threatening. As we transition from autumn to winter with colder temperatures and less sunlight, environmental stressors can affect us, lowering immunity and leaving us vulnerable to bacteria and infection. Strengthen your immune system now with herbs for improved vitality and protection from stress and illness.

Astragalus membranaceous is a medicinal tonic with restorative properties.
Photo by
Doronenko/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons 

Astragalus, commonly called milk vetch, is a potent medicinal plant with tonic and restorative properties. It has been used since ancient times to improve immunity and regenerate tissue. It inhibits cancer, enhances digestion, protects the heart and liver and is antiviral. It has demonstrated cold prevention properties. Sliced astragalus roots added to chicken, beef or seafood broth, steeped, then strained, make a strong tonic soup. Fresh slices of astragalus root fried with honey or chewed raw are easy, healthy snacks that taste like sweet licorice. Astragalus supplements, tinctures or fresh or dried root are a smart addition to a pre-winter immune-boosting plan.

Hypericum perforatum serves as a natural mood enhancer.
Photo by
Fir0002/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons 

St. John’s wort has strong antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties in addition to its well-known antidepressant properties. This makes it an ideal herb for the fall and winter, to prevent illness and combat the winter blues, or to treat seasonal affective disorder. When St. John’s wort supplements and tinctures are taken regularly, they serve as a natural mood-enhancer and antidepressant, as well as strengthening the immune system to protect against the influenza viruses and bacterial infections common during the cold winter months.

Rosemary has many illness-preventing properties to help you stay healthy all winter long. It stimulates the immune system, has anti-inflammatory compounds, increases blood flow, improves concentration and aids digestion. Fresh minced rosemary leaves added to soups and stews are not only delicious, but enhance and protect your health with phytonutrients. Rosemary sprigs steeped in boiling water with orange peel, green tea and honey make a powerful winter tonic.

Rosemary is a good immunity-boosting herb for tonics and teas. Photo by Heidi Cardenas

Get ready now for winter cold and flu season the natural way, with herbs. Add astragalus, St. John’s Wort and rosemary to your pre-winter nutritional arsenal. 

Caution: If you are taking medicine for any medical condition, check with your doctor before using herbs. 

  • Published on Nov 22, 2011
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