Seasonal Health Tips from Your Local Herbalists
As the fall season advances, temperatures are growing colder, the air
in our homes is dry from turning on the heat, the house is closed up
more, and ventilation is poor. We urge you to get plenty of fresh air,
even sleeping outside where you will breathe fresh cool clean air all
As days grow shorter and darkness increases, our metabolism starts to
slow down, our "psyche" makes a subtle shift, and it's not unusual to
feel "under the weather". We encourage you to "eat with the seasons",
ie. , eat the foods grown locally at the time they are available. In the fall seasonal foods include squash, onions, cabbage, peppers, carrots, beets, parsley, turnips, broccoli, and greens like kale, chard, and collards. These foods are rich in bioflavonoids , which are
anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, stress-reducing, anti-aging and support the health of the heart and blood vessels.
Hearty soups made of these vegetables and whole grains are quick and
easy to prepare and slide down easily without much effort. Try this
Winter Tonic Soup offered by Herbalist Marayah Rai:
"Chop these vegetables: 1 cup shitake mushrooms, 3/4 cup beets, 3/4 cup burdock, 3/4 cup carrots, 3/4 cup leeks. Grate 3 tablespoons fresh ginger. Mince 3 tablespoons garlic. Saute the above in 1/4 cup olive oil until tender. Add 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth and 2 table-spoons soy sauce. Simmer 1 hour until ingredients are soft. Add 2 tablespoons miso and serve; garnish with chopped cilantro."
The kids are back in school now and regularly bring home the latest
version of colds and flu for the entire family to share. Although this
strengthens the immune system eventually, having everyone sick all the
time can be frustrating for the caretakers and means missed time at
school or work. Strengthening the immune system with tonics before
illness sets in can mean fewer and briefer illnesses for all. Tonics
work from the inside out and don't address specific signs and symptoms
as much as they help the body's own defenses work better to do their
job. Tonics can be herbs stimulating to circulation, antioxidants,
mood lifting and antimicrobial essential oils; tonics can improve the
efficiency of liver function, digestion, and elimination of wastes and
Some possibilities include astragulus, ashwaganda, burdock; ask an
herbalist which tonic herbs would be best for you. Black beans are
also good tonic food.
Dietary changes can make a big difference in immune system function,
especially in families who experience frequent colds and flu. Avoiding
drinks containing sugar and corn syrup (usually described on the label
as "high fructose corn syrup") is a very good first step. This kind of
sugar has an enormous depressing effect on the immune system. Try
herbal teas sweetened with a little honey or stevia. Tasty and health-
promoting teas include rosemary, licorice, mint, chamomile, fennel,
ginger, raspberry leaf, lemon.
Herbalist Richard McDonald had this to say about the sweetener,Stevia: "Stevia is 300 times sweeter than sugar and can be used in place of sugar, including in cooking and baking. Safe for diabetics, it satisfies the desire for a sweet and has no calories. For convenience of use, buy the powder and use tiny amounts; or dissolve 1/4 ounce of the standardized extract in 2 ounces of distilled water; keep in a dropper bottle."
Another food type having health implications are dairy products,
especially cheese, which can result in increased mucus production and
congestion, as well as frequent colds, allergies, sinus problems, and
Candida infections. Goat milk and cheese may be more easily digested
by some folks. For others, soured or fermented products, ie, yogurt,
kefir, cottage cheese, buttermilk, and soured milk can be used.
Getting lots of sleep is essential for good health. Many of us tend to
think we can get by with just a few hours of sleep but we are cheating
ourselves of the essential act of allowing the body to rest and
regenerate. Those teens who sleep until noon have the right idea!!! A
cup of catnip tea an hour before bedtime can help everyone calm down
and get ready for sleep.
Drink lots of good quality water to keep toxins flushed out of the
body. We do not recommend drinking chlorinated water, as it has been
shown to depress the immune system. Get yourself a good water filter
or buy bottled water.
Once illness sets in, numerous herbs are at your service to ease the
discomforts and shorten the duration. Echinacea has become popular for
colds and flu, and Herbalist Naava Koensberg has this to offer on how
to use it: "The most effective way to take Echinacea is to take high
doses at the very first sign that you may be getting sick. In whole
plant form, this is perfectly safe. Doses range from 30-100 drops of
tincture every 2-4 hours or 3-5 cups of tea a day for the first few
days. It can be counter productive to take Echinacea on a long term
basis as a preventative. Doing this keeps your immune system in a "red
alert" phase and then, when you really need it, your system may be too
exhausted to respond effectively. This herb is often used in
combination with other herbs that provide a "team approach" by
stimulating circulation, assisting lymph movement, and alleviating
Try this recipe for Kid-Fever Tea: equal parts elder flowers, yarrow,
Yerba Buena (Mexican spearmint), chamomile. "A tea made from flowers
or leaves, also called an infusion, is easy to make", says Herbalist
Monica Rude. "Simply pour boiling water over 1 teaspoon dry herb per
cup tea desired. Cover and allow to steep for ten minutes. Strain,
sweeten to taste with honey or stevia."
In summary, herbal products are meant to be supportive and tonifying,
not necessarily curative. A change in diet, attitude, or lifestyle may
be necessary for herbs to be most effective. No medical claims are
made for herbal remedies; if you are ill consult with your health care
practitioner. For questions related to herb use, consult with your
This article was written jointly by members of the Silver City Herbalists Guild, who will be sponsoring classes on proper and safe herb use during the coming months, and through the years ahead.
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