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Herbs For Winter Woes?
Herbs for Winter Woes?

What herbs would you say are essential for staying healthy during the long, cold days of winter?

Answer

The 10 cold-weather herbal remedies I recommend should help you stay well, or at least help cut the duration of most winter health challenges:
  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus): antiviral and immunity-enhancer. If you tend to get every bug that goes around during the winter, you can build up your resistance to disease by taking this Chinese tonic herb on a daily basis. It's safe to take indefinitely.
  • Garlic (Allium sativum): antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, anticancer and cardiovascular tonic par excellence. The best home remedy I have found for colds is to eat two cloves of raw garlic at the onset of symptoms. Chop or crush the cloves to release the allicin (a sulfur compound with strong antibiotic effects) and put them on a sandwich or swallow them in apple sauce. Don't chew and the garlic won't stay on your breath.
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) and Sage (Salvia officinalis): decongestant and antibacterial. Inhaling steam that contains eucalyptus or sage is an excellent remedy for respiratory problems, including chest congestion, bronchitis, bronchial cough and sinusitis. The aromatic oils from eucalyptus and sage leaves halt bacterial growth and reduce the risk of getting secondary infections. Do the steam routine at least twice a day. As a variation, try several crushed garlic cloves in the water. If you have a sore throat, drink sage tea.
  • Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea): antibiotic, antiviral and immune-enhancer. This native American plant is a fine first-line treatment for colds and flu. At the first sign of trouble, begin taking echinacea and continue until the illness runs its course. Children under 10 can take half the adult dosage.
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale): warming, anti-inflammatory and antinauseant. Gingerroot tea helps relieve head and chest congestion while staving off chills. Grate a one-inch piece of peeled gingerroot. Place it in a pot with two cups of water, bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for five minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper and simmer one minute more. Remove from heat. Add two tablespoons fresh lemon juice, one or two cloves of mashed garlic and honey to taste. Let cool slightly, and strain if you wish.
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis): antiseptic. Speed healing of sore throats by gargling with a warm, goldenseal/salt water solution a few minutes at a time, at least four times a day.
  • Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), expectorant, antitussive. Tincture of mullein relieves chest congestion and dry, bronchial coughs. Mullein oil can be used to treat ear infections.
  • Calendula (Calendula officinalis): soothing. Calendula lotions and salves, made from the bright orange flowers of this popular ornamental plant, are gentle and effective remedies for chapped skin and chapped lips. Apply as needed.
  • Tiger Balm: This Chinese herbal remedy, based on camphor and menthol, is great for easing bronchial congestion. The camphor and menthol have a warming action that brings more blood to the area. Just rub Tiger Balm on the chest and cover with a warm towel.
  • Saint John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum): antidepressant. If you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), Saint John's Wort is a useful complement to light therapy. Take 300 mg of a standardized extract containing 0.3 percent hypericin, three times a day. You can taper off this dosage as the days grow longer. Since Saint John's Wort may take six to eight weeks to work, start this well before the dark days of winter.
Keep these around and you'll be prepared for whatever Jack Frost throws at you.

SOURCE: Dr. Weil Q&A Library (drweil.com) - December 22, 1999

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