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The Best Healthy Herbs & Spices for Winter

Healthy Herbs

Worried you’re coming down with something nasty? Flu season is no joke, and you can never be entirely sure your annual flu shot is going to prevent the strain that’s hitting your friends and neighbors. Flu activity spans roughly half the year—from October through May, usually peaking from December through February.

Between the germs and the cold weather, winter can be a trying time for our bodies. Fortunately, you can stay healthy by arming yourself with potent herbal ingredients, which you can add to your favorite recipes, drink as a tea, and more. Here’s a look inside mother nature’s medicine cabinet at some healthy herbs you should incorporate into your diet this winter.

 

Turmeric

Turmeric is kind of the star of the show when it comes to healthy herbs and spices. The bitter orange root is one of ginger’s closest relatives, and it comes from South Asia. Turmeric is vital to the practice of ancient Indian practice, Ayurveda. The pungent root has long been used to heal wounds, loosen mucus, reduce inflammation, and keep bugs away.

The spice gets its power from an active ingredient called curcumin, which gives it its signature color along with the ability to help the body stave off infection and improve your health on a cellular level.

Cinnamon

This fall favorite is the secret power behind all things pumpkin spice, but its cool weather associations actually come with a bit of practicality.  The flavorful spice features natural oils with antimicrobial effects–which helps keep bacteria away. Plus, you’ll get a whole host of antioxidants. The best part about cinnamon–it tastes more like a treat than medicine, and you can add it to coffee, tea, or pretty much whatever you’d like.

Elderberry

Elderberries are unique in the fact that they work to strengthen the body’s mucosal surfaces, which is our defense against incoming cold and flu viruses, as mucus prevents them from attaching to our cells.

Elderberry is also something called a diaphoretic. Meaning, it increases white blood cell activity and makes you sweat, which makes it difficult for viruses to reproduce. While you can’t usually find elderberry in the produce section, you can find elderberry lozenges, tea, and syrup aimed at preventing illness.

Thyme

While thyme is known primarily for adding an earthy quality to your favorite roasted chicken recipe, it may also come with some immune health benefits. Thyme has a calming effect and may reduce inflammation and soothe a sore throat. Plus, it’s mild flavor is more approachable for those turned off by pungent anti-inflammatories like garlic, ginger, and turmeric.

Garlic

Garlic does more than bring pasta sauce to life; the pungent bulb may actually prevent colds and can shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms.  Garlic contains a compound known as allicin, the source of the distinctive sulphuric flavor behind garlic, onions, and scallions. Allicin provides antioxidant properties and promotes anti-inflammatory activity–so if you think you’re coming down with something, add a few more cloves to tonight’s dinner.

Ginger

Like turmeric, ginger is native to Southeast Asia, dating back thousands of years. Often recommended for keeping colds at bay and soothing queasy stomachs, ginger contains a class of chemicals known as sesquiterpenes, which are thought to target cold viruses.

Ginger root is often consumed in tea form–as sipping on a spiced brew can soothe a sore, scratchy throat. Additionally, the root might even help with certain forms of food poisoning like Salmonella and offers pain-relieving properties.

Shiitake Mushroom

Another culinary staple, shiitake mushrooms have been used in Chinese medicine for more over 6,000 years. This mushroom is known for both reducing the risk of heart disease and keeping immune cells from sticking to the walls of your blood vessels—a cause of inflammation. Additionally, shiitake brings a hefty dose of vitamins B and D to the table, making them a welcome addition to any stir-fry or sauté.

Echinacea

Echinacea is a gorgeous pink flower and card-carrying member of the daisy family. Echinacea has long been used by Native Americans as a means of treating everything from wounds to snake bites and infections. The plant also works to promote healthy cell growth, is rich in antioxidants, and may help boost the immune system by increasing white blood cell count. Drink echinacea tea or take a capsule if you’re feeling a little under the weather.

 

If you do come down with the flu or want to cheer up an ailing friend, get some flowers delivered. We’ve got plenty of blooms perfect for brightening your mood. Hey, if you’re stuck inside for days on end, you might as well spruce up your surroundings, right?

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