There are a wide variety of herbs that can be used to keep you well this winter!  When it comes to winter wellness, a key component in the herbalist’s arsenal is the Winter Home Apothecary, which should be stocked with herbal allies that can provide support when needed. These allies should include cordials, fire cider, honeys, oxymels, syrups, teas, and tinctures. 

CORDIALS: Herbal cordials can be enjoyed as delicious beverages, medicinal immune tonics, sleep remedies, aphrodisiacs, and digestive aides. They can be added to marinades, glazes, and jams, used to enhance caramelization when roasting vegetables and meats, and can be a way to utilize excess herbs and fruit. 

FIRE CIDER: Fire cider is a staple herbal preparation to stock the winter home apothecary with every year. As a traditional herbal folk recipe for both supporting the immune system and warming up circulation, fire cider is a wonderful preparation to use both preventatively throughout flu season and acutely when you feel the “tickle” of an illness coming on. 

HERBAL HONEYS: Honey has historically been used for a wide range of diseases, including eye diseases, bronchial asthma, throat infections, tuberculosis, thirst, hiccups, fatigue, dizziness, hepatitis, constipation, worm infestation, piles, eczema, ulcers, and wounds. Today, studies have validated many of these uses, especially in regard to respiratory illnesses, eye disease, wounds, and burns. While honey alone offers potent medicine, infusing honey with medicinal herbs results in a simple yet powerful combination. Herbal honey is safe and effective, and can be made entirely from local ingredients, creating a beautiful relationship between plants, insects, and humans. Herbal honey is easy to make, has a variety of uses and a long shelf life, and is a beautiful way to capture the taste of your favorite herbs.

HERBAL OXYMELS: Herbal Oxymels are soothing for a dry, scratchy throat, and they are convenient to take on-the-go. Unlike syrup, which tends to be the thickest liquid herbal preparation and often messier to dispense, oxymels can be easily poured into smaller dropper bottles and used for acute support. Made from vinegar and honey, oxymels are a tasty and simple herbal preparation for the winter home apothecary. While syrups and oxymels are generally similar in nature, there are several differences. Given their vinegar content, oxymels tend to have a longer shelf life and have a more expectorant quality. In addition, oxymels are generally lower in sugar than herbal syrups. Since vinegar contains a more pungent aroma and taste, syrups are often a better option for children or adults with sensitive taste buds.

IMMUNE STIMULATING SYRUPS: Always ensure that at least one immune-stimulating herbal syrup is on hand before cold and flu season hits. Although herbal syrups are relatively fast to make in a pinch, it makes life so much easier to have them on hand when a sore throat hits, or when immune support is needed. Stock the winter home apothecary with a classic immune-stimulating elderberry syrup, and add an antioxidant syrup such as Rose Hips. Families or individuals who are exposed to colds and the flu regularly may choose to use elderberry syrup daily throughout cold and flu season, use it only when exposure is suspected, or when signs of colds or flu is experienced.

SYRUPS FOR DRY COUGH: Dry coughs are those where no mucus is present, and the throat feels raw and dry. For a dry cough-supporting herbal syrup, moistening, demulcent, and anti-inflammatory herbs are preferred, along with antispasmodics. Herbs with these actions include Licorice Root, Marshmallow Root, Plantain leaf, and Thyme leaf.

SYRUPS FOR WET COUGH: Wet Coughs are those where mucus is coming up. For a wet cough supportive herbal syrup, expectorant herbs such as Elecampane root, Gumweed flower, and Horehound leaf are preferred.

HYDRATING HERBAL TEAS: Hydration is important for the body to keep the organs working and carry nutrients to the cells. Most herbal tea blends lack caffeine, which make them an excellent choice for quenching thirst and promoting hydration. Herbal tea provides the body with nutrients, antioxidants, and the medicinal benefits of the herbs used. Herbs that promote hydration include Chamomile, Hibiscus, Holy Basil, Lavender, and Rose. 

HERBAL TINCTURES: An herbal tincture is a long lasting and effective form of receiving an herb’s medicinal gifts. It has a much longer shelf life than an infusion or decoction and can be stored in a bag or cupboard for easy access and use. Tinctures are herbal preparations that use something beyond water as a solvent. Using a solvent like alcohol, vinegar, or glycerin extracts a greater spectrum of the whole plant and preserves the medicine much longer than an infusion or a decoction. Alcohol is an excellent solvent that extracts a wide range of plant properties and allows for easy absorption of healing compounds into the bloodstream.

~~ Ginger Winn

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