So Snow Moon began not too long ago (not that I’ve done my blog post about it or anything, but… bear with me), and the snows have come in force, bringing a lot of ice and a lot of quite cold (-23C, so seasonal, but not horrific if you’ve got somewhere warm to be) temperatures.
When I think of “warming herbs” – meaning herbs (and spices) that will produce heat in the body to help you sweat out illness and similar – I tend to think of things like ginger and cinnamon. These days, I also think of garlic and mustard (Woohoo!), but I was wondering – thanks to this post over at Little Red Tarot – what else I might be able to draw on, in terms of locally grow-able flowers, leaves, and roots, that will help someone (like, say, ME – I got a bad bronchial+sinus infection, quite a few years ago now, and it’s left me pretty susceptible to getting more of them) deal with Winter illnesses at home, without having to book an appointment with my over-stretched GP.
Labador Tea (Ledum glandulous) – good for calming coughs. Also good – when the dried roots & leaves are ground and added to an ointment – for helping to relieve chapped lips and hands.
Lavender – I use the essential oil to help heal badly chapped lips and knuckles when the cold, dry air makes them split. NOTE: Lavender is a common allergen, so be careful with this one. Topically, it’s good for helping to heal burns. It’s a powerful antibacterial and anti-fungal (so, for example, good to use on your feet if they are getting gross after weeks of heavy socks).
German Chamomile (Roman Chamomile works too, but German is hardier for the garden) – Steep the flowers into a tea to help gently warm you up. If it’s anything like Ox-Eye Daisies, it will help to increase circulation, but… meh?
Burdock Root – Like chamomile. Make a tea of the roots (you can also tincture them)
Mullein (Verbascum thrapsis) – One of the primary herbs for any lung problem, including whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis and chest colds. Allegedly, the leaves were smoked to relieve lung problems. I wonder if you could use them in a hot water inhalation (the way we use eucalyptus essential oil).
Angelica ROOT – including (hard to find, apparently) Ontario native species Purple Angelica (Angelica atropurpurea) – will help “cut through obstruction” and make you sweat. This one is easy to grow from seed and needs lots of space in the garden. It’s a carrot-family plant, and should be harvested in the fall (late October, early November) of its first growing season. Use the leaves to make a chest compress to relieve inflamation.
In TCM, this root is called Dong Quai, and is used for menstrual stuff like relieving PMS symptoms & menstrual cramps, or helping to encourage a late period to get started. It’s also good for upset stomachs (think gas, bloating, digestive difficulties… but also (apparently?) IBS and colitis?)
As a Winter Herb, though, it’s particularly good – steeped as a tea, or made into a tincture – for helping to increase your circulation, reduce mild fevers (don’t use it for bad fevers), and help you to loosen up thick, gummy phlegm that’s making it hard to breathe.
NOTE: If you are a pasty, white person like me? This can make you more sensitive to sunlight. Also it’s not wise to take this one while you’re pregnant or lactating (it’s bad for fetuses and kids under three).
Allegedly, the taste is somewhere between celery and… juniper? I have no idea how that works, but people candy it and say that angelica root tea tastes good rather than, like, barely tolerable, so… maybe it’s one to look into?
Peppermint – The leaves make a good tea for coughs. Essential oil is cooling (topically) and anti-microbial (see: “mint”) so, when accessed through the leaves, can help get rid of coughs and colds that way.
Basil, Thyme, and Rosemary – Like mint, these herbs make a tea (or an addition to savory dishes) that acts as a digestive aid and can help push through light-weight phlegm. Good for when you have a frog in your throat, not so useful for something heavy like walking pneumonia.
Fennel – Simmer the seeds to make a tea – which you can drink as-is, or else thicken into a syrup for use in calming coughs and shortness of breath as well as loosening up congestion. Apparently you can’t use this stuff in high doses as it can cause spasms and hallucinations (I don’t know what constitutes “high doses”, though, so that’s not very helpful).
Yarrow – Use the leaves and flowers to make a tea, or add them to a bath, to help you sweat out a fever. (Drink lots of water with this stuff. Also, avoid this one if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant). The tea encourages circulation and combines well with peppermint to help one conquer a cold or fever. (Also lowers blood pressure? Maybe, if you have low-enough-to-worry-about blood pressure, this is one to avoid?)
Anise Hyssop – Use the leaves to make a tea to help with colds and with chest pain brought on by coughing. You can use them in a hot bath or inhalation to help you sweat.
Garlic – This is a fairly powerful antibacterial and antiviral (eating whole cloves of it raw will also make you – or at least ME – throw it right back up, though, so make sure to mix it with something easier to swallow). It’s also improves circulation, which will help warm you up.
Cedar (leaves/fronds) – Cedar has antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. A tea – or a hot bath – made with the tips of the leaves, is good for coughs and colds. The essential oil can be used, topically, in an ointment like vix to help relieve congestion (don’t take cedar essential oil internally, generally speaking). I think (I think) you can use this, much the same way you’d use eucalyptus essential oil in a steam inhalation.
Mustard – Use the seeds of the mustard plant (like: the one you would use as cooking greens) to make a VERY HOT poultice. From what I hear, this is super uncomfortable and shouldn’t be put directly on skin BUT if you spread it on a scrap of cloth, and put the cloth on the chest of someone with pneumonia or otherwise really bad chest congestion,it will have an effect similar to a eucalyptus rub (but NOT soothing – this stuff can cause blisters if you put it directly on your skin).
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