This month, Ana Gross from Ana Healing Herbs, shares with us some Herbal Winter Goodies, to improve the immune system this winter and keep the sniffles at bay…
Ana’s Immune Musts
Before we get to the recipes, herbs or supplements, below is a short discussion about fundamentals for good immune health. Without these, even the best herbs and supplements would not be able to reach their full potential. Since immunity does not happen overnight, it’s a good idea to prepare.
In my view some of these fundamentals are the following:
- Good Sleep: sounds like a no-brainer, but really worth the mention. Ideally, we should aim for getting at least 8 hours a sleep every night (kids need more). Includes good sleep hygiene (such as having a night ritual, like we do for our kids – like winding down, limiting screen time, etc. It can include a warm bath, calming tea, etc).
- Adequate nutrition – this is fundamental. Without good nutrition, all other treatments, whether herbal or conventional medicine will not be as effective. Some nutrition tips that you may want to take into consideration are things like eating seasonally as much as possible, including plenty of fruits (especially berries & no tropical fruits), tons of veggies and good quality protein, limiting refined sugar and eating warm foods. I really love stews, soups, broths, etc. in the winter – you can pack in a lot of nutrition in there, plus you can add immune boosting herbs. I also encourage a smoothie a few days a week and including fermented foods in the diet such as kefir, fermented veggies, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, and yogurt.
There are also immune boosters that you can include in the diet:
- Bone broth
- Broth boosters: dried shiitake mushrooms, ginseng, astragalus, codonopsis.
- Garlic: chopped garlic (add towards the end of cooking to avoid losing too much of the antibiotic activity). Eat chopped garlic when sick. Can also make garlic lemonade for kids (or you!) and garlic honey.
- Spices: a lot of spices will not only help keep you warm but they are antibacterial, and can strengthen your immune system. Favorite spices for winter: turmeric, ginger, peppers, cayenne (if you can tolerate spicy food because this is pretty spicy), cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg. They can also help clear mucus if you have a cold or cough.
- Reduce Stress: stress has a profound effect on the immune health (as does lack of sleep by the way). Stress contributes to the production of adrenal hormones (the fight or flight hormone), which negatively impact the immune system.
- Exercise: I always recommend some sort of exercise (I know its hard since we are all so busy). Among its many benefits exercise stimulates the production of serotonin (happy hormone). This can really help those also suffering from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
- Spend Time outside. Yes, even in the winter when it’s cold and even if it’s just a short while.
Ana’s Herbal Winter Recipes
Disclaimer: Products and information presented here are intended to be used for educational purposes only. They are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease nor are the views intended to be a substitute for conventional medical services. You must always contact your health care provided if you have a medical problem.
BEEF BONE BROTH
- 5-8 lbs beef bones (with or without marrow)
- A scoop of fat – e.g. coconut oil for roasting
- Filtered water
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar – essential to leach mineral out of the bones and maximize the mineral content in your broth
- 1 onion
- 1 chopped carrot
- 1 chopped celery stalk
- 2-3 crushed garlic cloves
- 2-3 bay leafs
- Herbal Broth booster (optional)
- Rinse and clean the bones with water; pat dry, and rub with fat.
- Roast the bones with the garlic at 400F for 45 minutes to an hour, turning once, until they are well-browned. This improves the final flavor of the stock.
- Add the bones and the pan scrapings to a big pot (or slow cooker pot), cover with filtered water and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the vinegar, bay leaves, garlic, onion, celery and carrot.
- Turn down the heat and simmer covered for several hours and ideally minimum 12 hours up to 24 hours. If you use a slow cooker, you can just add all the ingredients to the slow cooker at the start and simmer on medium or high for 24 hours.
- Try to skim off any scum that comes to the surface at the beginning. Keep adding water to keep the bones underwater.
- When the stock is finished simmering, allow it to cool, and filter through a fine mesh strainer. Refrigerate until chilled. Once chilled, the stock should set like gelatin, and the fat should rise to the top.
- Pick off the fat and reserve it for cooking or discard it.
- Scoop out the gelled stock. You can use right away, keep in the fridge for a week or freeze in small portions. You can add it as a base for soups or take drink it directly from a cup.
INFUSED OILS AND BALMS
Infused oils are a great way to extract plant properties into oils in order to use them topically. You can later use the oils in balms and creams. Great plants to make infused oils are chamomile, rose, plantain, lavender, calendula.
How to make an infused oil:
- Fill a glass jar half way with dry herb (ie Calendula)
- Pour in a carrier oil (ie olive oil) until it covers the dried herb completely. Can use any oil, but olive oil is popular one as its very stable (ie does not rancid so quickly)
- To infuse:
- Slow method: let sit in a warm place for two weeks (works best in the summer when you can put in the sun)
- Semi-slow method: if you have a slow cooker, you can leave the covered jar for 3-4 days in warm water on the low setting.
- Quick method: put in pot with simmering (not boiling water) for 3-4 hours.
- Strain the oil and discard the plant material.
- You can use the oil directly or use it to make a balm or cream.
To make a basic balm:
- Prepare a double boiler or a glass jar in “bain marie”. Caution – put tray on bottom of pan or use larger jar lids so glass jar is not on directly on bottom of pan.
- Bring water to a light simmer.
- Measure 1 cup of the infused oil and 3 tablespoons of beeswax
- Add 3 tablespoons of beeswax to the top boiler or glass jar. One the beeswax has melted, add the infused oil. Mix well to make sure it is well combined and the beeswax is melted.
- If using a double boiler, pour the mix into a clean glass jar. If using the jar directly, just remove from the heat. Make sure no water leaks into the oil, as it can make the balm rancid.
- At this point you can add essential oils if you wish. Mix well with a stainless steel fork or whisk.
- The balm will start to set after a few minutes.
- Wait until completely hardened and cool. Then add the lid and label.
- The shelf life of a balm is about 1 year.
Balm Recipe #1: Calendula Lavender Balm
- 1 cup Calendula infused olive oil
- 3 TBSP beeswax
- 10 drops lavender essential oil
The calendula oil can be used for all kinds of skin irritations and dry skin. Can be used by the whole family.
Balm Recipe #2: Respiratory Relief Balm
- 1 cup Lavender infused olive oil
- 3 TBSP beeswax
- Essential oils: 20 drops eucalyptus, 5 drops peppermint, 20 drops rosemary
Rub in the upper back, chest, feet. Wash hands well after applying as it can irritate eyes and sensitive skin areas! Not for use with small children.
For smaller children over 2: you can use the following essential oils: 15 drops pine essential oil, 20 drops frankincense essential oil, 5 drops bay laurel or fir essential oil
Quick honey syrups
- Can add extracts to honey to make a quick syrup (e.g. cough syrup recipe below).
- Fresh herbs syrups:
- Fresh ginger with honey. This is a great tasting warming remedy. Great for fevers and coughs, as well as stomach ailments such as nausea, diarrhea and stomach flus. Great to sweeten tea. Keep refrigerated. Chop a few pieces of ginger.
- Fresh onion with sugar (or honey). Cut onion into thin slices. Place layers in a jar alternative with sugar. The onion juices will mix with the sugar to become a syrup. Great for coughs and colds.
- Cold infused syrups
- Marshmallow Root Syrup. Mix 3 Tablespoons Marshmallow root powder of finely cut with 6 ounces of cold water, let sit 4 to 8 hours
- Strain and measure 2 ounces of the liquid and place in a glass jar or bottle.
- Add 2 ounces of honey (or maple syrup) or 2 ounces of glycerin.
Elderberries (Sambucus nigra) have a long history of use to prevent and treat colds and flus. When used on a regular basis throughout the winter, it can help prevent colds, flus, and respiratory infections. Can be prepared with honey or with glycerin (for children under 1 or those with honey allergies).
- ½ cup dried elderberries
- 2 cups of water
- 1 cup honey OR 1 ¼ cups food-grade glycerin (honey is a medicine in itself so when possible, use honey).
- Place elderberries and water in a pot on medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Turn off heat and steep for 30 minutes
- Strain the mix and return the liquid to the stove on low heat until the liquid is reduced to 1 cup.
- Remove from the heat and mix in 1 cup of local honey (or if planning to use for children under 1, mix in instead 1 ¼ cup of vegetable glycerin.
- Label and bottle. Will keep for at least a year refrigerated.
For illness, general immunity, maintenance and prevention give 2-3 times a day. Can be given directly, diluted in a small amount of water, juice or formula/breast milk, or added to yogurt of smoothies.
- For children under 2 – ½ tsp.
- Older children – 1 tsp
- Teenagers and adults – 1 TBSP
And for a quick cough remedy that’s safe for kids and adults:
Mix the following in a 4 ounce bottle:
- 2 ounces elderberry syrup
- ½ ounce thyme glycerite
- ½ ounce Echinacea tincture or glycerite
- ½ ounce anise seed tincture
- ½ ounce catnip glycerite or tincture
Take for up to a week and if there’s a tendency for recurrent coughs stay on it for several weeks. The echinacea prevents recurrence, the elder is a respiratory immune tonic, the catnip relaxing and the anise mucolytic and a respiratory antispasmodic.
- Kids: ½ tsp 4-6 times/day
- Adults: 1 TBSP 4-6 times a day
INFUSIONS & DECOCTIONS
Infusions are basically teas prepared medicinally. They are steeped for a longer time than a tea, and usually are steeped covered (usually flowers and leaves).
Decoctions are preparations of herbs that have to be simmered to obtain their maximum benefit (usually harder pieces and roots).
This tea is so versatile it should be in every home. It can be used for babies, kids and adults. It’s a calming tea for irritability, can be used for teething, great remedy for children’s fever and calms irritated tummies. Safe for pregnant and breastfeeding moms. For babies you can also add a cup of the tea to the baby’s bath.
Mix ¼ cup each of dried Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Catnip in a glass jar. Mix Well. Take 2 teaspoons of the mix and add 1 cup of boiling water. Steep covered for 10 minutes.
- Babies: 20 drops up to 3 times a day
- Toddlers: up to 1-1 ½ cups a day (divided into two doses) and
- Older kids and adults: up to 2-3 cups a day.
Mix ¼ cup each of dried Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Elderflower & Yarrow place in a glass jar. Mix well. Take 2 teaspoons of the mix and add 1 cup of boiling water. Steep covered for 10 minutes. Safe for kids and adults. Safe in Pregnancy.
- Toddlers: ¼ cup to 1 cup (depending on age) up to 3 times a day while fever persists
- Adults: up to 3 cups a day while fever persists.
Steam Inhalations to relieve congestion:
Boil water in a large pot. Have ready a bunch of some of the following fresh herbs; Thyme, Rosemary, sage, peppermint. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat, throw in the herbs and cover. Let sit for 5 minutes. Then, very carefully, open the pot and inhale the vapor while holding a towel over your head. Be very carful to avoid burns. Repeat a few times. Could also use steam in halation with essential oil or vapor rub (use only a small amount (2-3 drops of essential oil) as it can be very irritating. Alternatively, and for younger kids and babies, you can do steam inhalations in the shower.
Steam inhalations for babies and toddlers to relieve respiratory congestion
You need only about 5 drops of thyme OR eucalyptus essential oil on a washcloth. Steam up the bathroom by running the washcloth under the hot shower until the bathroom is steamy and turn off the water. When the bathroom has filled with steam, bring in with the baby into the steamy bathroom for 10 minutes. You can do it twice per day.
Oxymels combine the stimulating properties of vinegar with soothing properties of honey. They are also both anti-bacterial. This centuries-old preparation is great for coughs and congestion, especially when there is a lot of mucus.
Oxymel Recipe: Thyme and Elderberry Oxymel
This is a great recipe for coughs with a lot of phlegm.
- Combine ½ cup dried elderberries + ¼ cup dried thyme in a glass jar
- Add ½ cup honey (local honey preferable)
- Add ¾ cup raw apple cider vinegar
- Cover with a plastic lid or put wax paper on the lid if using a metal lid (as vinegar will corrode the metal). Let sit 3-4 weeks.
- Strain, label and bottle.
- Has a long shelf life. 2-3 years.
Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory and helps strengthen the immune system. The warming herbs are also great for digestion as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.
Mix 2 TBSP of Turmeric powder with ½ tsp each of spices (cinnamon, clove, cardamom, black pepper, vanilla, rose, pumpkin pie spice and ginger in a clean glass jar. If you like very spicy can add 1/8 tsp cayenne powder (optional).
- ½ to 1 tsp of the mix
- 1 cup Milk of choice
- ½ cup coconut milk
- ½-1 tsp of turmeric powder Mix
Combine all ingredients in a pan on medium heat. Once the milk begins to simmer turn it off and serve in a cup. Sweeten with honey (or other sweetener) to taste.
I really like smoothies as I find it’s a great way to add many nutritious items and kids love them.
- ½ cup frozen blueberries
- ½ cup frozen strawberries
- 1 cup almond (or other nut) milk or water
- 1 TBSP nut butter (I normally use almond butter)
- 1 TBSP chia seeds
- ½ cup spinach or other green
- 1 soaked and pitted date
- 1 banana
- small piece of fresh ginger (3-4 cm)
- Can add bee pollen or turmeric root powder for added immune boosting ☺.
Both honey and garlic have natural antibiotic properties as well as antibacterial and anti-viral properties, making them great allies in the winter.
- Peel a whole head of garlic and place the whole cloves in a clean glass jar.
- Add honey enough to cover the garlic
- Let them steep 4-6 weeks. You will have to mix daily since the garlic will float to the top as it slightly ferments. After 4 weeks, store in the refrigerator.
- The garlic will become like candy! You can also use the honey in teas or in cough syrups.
This is a great remedy for kids and adults for when you have a cold, cough or respiratory infection.
Gently crush a clove of garlic. Add 1 cup of boiling water and let it steep for 20 minutes. Sweeten with honey.
More About the Author
Ana Healing Herbs also stocks traditionally handmade products and teas, made with care using only carefully selected natural, organic or wild-crafted ingredients and absolutely no artificial ingredients of any kind – ever. She believes that every product we put in and on our body should be a gift of nourishment to our bodies.