Your Winter Medicine Chest

Your Winter Medicine Chest

So it's that time of year again – the Autumn colours signposting the season of plenty is soon to end. In years gone by, not so very long ago, we would be setting our store cupboards for the Winter privations. The time of plenty – late Summer/early Autumn – would see fruits being made into jams and jellies, and vegetables pickled, dried and laid down in careful cool storage. This time of year would be one of gathering in and laying down – of preparation and making ready. A time of great activity before the quieter times of snow and ice, short days and long nights.

As more and more of us begin to see sense in the ancient ways – becoming more interested in the self-sufficiency and survival skills of yesteryear – so we can learn from the knowledge and understanding of herbs and traditional remedies too. After all, aromatherapy and herbal medicine have their roots in the mists of time, and we'd do well to listen to those whispers in the wind from by-gone times. There was a time when man trod lightly on the earth and understood nature, learning that plants, flowers, herbs and trees offered not only sustenance and shelter, but remedies for all that ails us too.

So even in the crazy pace of the modern world we can look back, listen and learn. We can use this time for preparation and getting our store cupboard, medicine chests and aromatherapy kits stocked up with those nutrients, herbs and oils that are particularly useful as Autumn fades into Winter. There are so many extra special, natural immunity boosters that are excellent to draw in – as both preventative measures and remedies for those bugs and ailments that can knobble us as the nights draw in.

Before we start preparing our shopping lists though, there are several basic things to remember:-

  • Dehydration is common in the Winter months, as we forget to drink sufficient water in the colder weather. Try drinking warm/hot water to keep the cold at bay whilst maintaining your hydration levels. As the central heating goes on and the fires are lit - the air dries out. It's not only your skin that needs you to keep drinking, but also a variety of other metabolic processes that are essential for good health and wellbeing.

  • Reduce intake of mucus forming foods. Many of us crave hot, milky drinks to keep us warm, and combine these drinks with milky puddings and porridge (which incidentally can be just as delicious with Almond milk). These can make your system sluggish and congested. No surprise then, when you succumb to colds, coughs and respiratory/sinus infections. Congestion, catarrh and mucus slow you down and weaken your immune response. Increase hot herbal drinks with Ginger and Lemon, Sage or Rosemary and find ways of keeping warm that don't rely on gallons of dairy products!

  • Most of us notice our exercise levels go down in the Winter as the days are shorter and easy opportunities for evening walks or sports with friend are less accessible. Get yourself organised by joining a group and prevent this slide into inactivity, get to the local pool, gym, Pilates class, have a laugh and keep up that activity! Immune systems are strengthened with regular exercise, fresh air and laughter lightening that emotional load.

  • Regular massage is even more important during the Winter months than it is in the Summer. Many of us feel the cold, and our circulation is rather slower in the cold Winter months. Massage stimulates the circulation and certain immunity stimulant essential oils can act as immunity tonics too – helping you stay strong and healthy throughout the cold, wet and windy weather.

  • Stay positive! Remember every season brings its delights as well as challenges. Ok, so it's cold and dark in the evenings. This is also the season of beautiful colours in the woods and hedgerows, of children running through piles of leaves, bonfire night and fireworks, Christmas and the sparkles of frosty mornings. Each year, each month, each moment can be a thing of joy and beauty. We get to choose how we process everything we experience, and how to be disciplined as to where we allow our minds to go. So see the beauty in the Winter and “do” the cold with the joy of positive thinking, and perhaps this year will be a warmer Winter than you ever remember. Warmth comes from the inside out, mind, body and spirit in harmony, bound together by your capability to be the best you can be – the authentic “you”!

And now on to the shopping lists...

Medicinal foods for Winter

  • Ginger – dried and root ginger for hot drinks, mulled wine and warming fruit puddings.
  • Leeks, Onions, Garlic, Chives – all from the onion family and all great immunity boosters especially good in soups and stir fries.
  • Chillies – in sauces, soups and savoury dishes – to keep you warm and stimulate your circulation. Mild if you have IBS or inflammation – go gently.
  • Dark berries – elderberries, blackcurrants, cherries, blueberries frozen fresh and added to fruit crumbles, or in cordials and jams. These help keep up those bio-flavonoids and Vitamin C intake, whilst tasting great and reminding you of Summer. Keep a bottle of Sambucol in your medicine chest too, to help fight off respiratory bugs when they strike!
  • Spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric all have fantastic therapeutic properties and help keep you warm. Add to sweet and savoury dishes for flavour and for their medicinal qualities.
  • Herbal teas - fresh or dried herbal teas can give your immune system a great boost. Try Rosemary, Sage or Lemon and Ginger.
  • Pickles - fermented vegetables are right “on trend” at the moment and contain many beneficial pro-biotics. They are easy to make and extremely tasty – they also look great on your shelves and make fab Christmas presents!

Winter supplements

  • Probiotics - to boost your immunity and ease digestive issues
  • Vitamin C - try BioCare's Magnesium Ascorbate Powder (low acid and easily absorbed)
  • Siberian Ginseng - “Elagen” standardised high potency, anti-viral agent
  • Colloidal Silver - a natural antibiotic, powerful and easy to take
  • Vitamin D - try BioCare's drops - especially important in Winter when we get less sunlight
  • Echinacea - try A. Vogel's Echinaforce to boost your immunity if you get a cold or flu
  • Nascent Iodine from Good Health Naturally – helps thyroid balance, energy and vitality
  • BioCare's Sucroguard - a blood sugar balancer - if your sweet tooth kicks in in the Winter it could be a chromium deficiency

Winter 'essential' oils

  • Tea Tree - antiseptic and anti-viral
  • Neroli - a de-stress treasure
  • Rose - a beautifully perfumed and mood enhancing anti-bacterial agent
  • Lemon - decongestant and immunity stimulant
  • Thyme - inhalant and vaporiser for boosting immunity
  • Benzoin – for warming, comfort and calm
  • Lavender – versatility itself – perfect for everything that ails you!
  • Eucalyptus – clears the head and eases congestion
  • Elemi – antiseptic, analgesic, immunity booster
  • Ravensara – decongestant, expectorant, antidepressant
  • Frankincense – for emotional and physical warmth
  • Bergamot – for a blast of Summer sunshine
  • Sandalwood – for a sore throat or sad heart
  • Ginger – for a blast of heat
  • Black Pepper – to strengthen and boost circulation
  • Plai – decongests and warms
  • Rosemary – as a general tonic and for energy
Remember one of the most powerful ways of using essential oils when coughs and colds strike is in inhalations. Breathing in the steam with a towel over your head might seem a palaver - but the essential oils quickly travel through the blood rich lining of the lungs directly into the blood stream. They help fight the infection and act as decongestants, expectorants, pain killers and anti-inflammatories - whilst also lifting the mood! What more could you ask for? Vaporising the essential oils will also help prevent you from succumbing to the bugs in the first place, helping to neutralise air-born viruses, bacteria and fungal spores.

Read our previous blog on Winter health and wellbeing for more aromatherapy advice and essential oils blends.

Here's to a happy and healthy Winter!

Joannah Metcalfe
Consultant Aromatherapist

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