Winter is a season that is beautiful in its own way, full of suggestive atmospheres, a unique light, a harsh climate, but one that evokes a desire for warmth and comforting intimacy, which inevitably takes us back to our childhood, when winter meant snowball fights and hot chocolate.
Sadly, we are no longer children, and certain aspects of this season are more of a nuisance than a pleasure. The low temperatures and humidity that characterise it put a strain on our body and our health. The immune system is constantly under attack, heating in homes and shops makes it very easy to catch a cold when you leave, and, in general, our energy languishes, and we feel the urgent desire to hibernate and wake up in the spring.
Even our mood is often conditioned by this state of affairs. Winter is characterised by fewer daylight hours, bad weather and coldness: there is no need to be meteoropathic to suffer from mood swings, anxiety and lethargy. It is a normal consequence of the climate, but sometimes this seasonal depression makes it laborious and very difficult to concentrate on studying, our job, or to calmly face everyday life.
There are many ways to overcome the winter season without losing our smile and, above all, our good health. We just have to adopt a few simple rules for life, such as avoiding having the heating too high, so we don’t feel the cold when we leave, to make sure that we have the right humidity in the home, so we don’t stress the mucous membranes too much and support the respiratory tract, maintaining regular hours, eating properly and don’t stop going out, to combat depression and keep sadness and fatigue away.
But there are also other, absolutely natural, aids that can help us avoid the ailments that affect the body and the spirit in winter, and get rid of them if we are already their prey.
I’m talking about herbs and spices, which are special and irreplaceable friends, grandmother’s remedies, but are always effective against colds, flu, coughs, as well as insomnia, sadness and anxiety.
Not to mention Christmas offers us countless opportunities to enjoy herbs and spices, as well as fragrant and exquisite ingredients to enrich our feasting! Who can resist the unmistakable aroma of cinnamon, cloves and ginger, not only as anti-flu remedies, but also as a comfort on colder days?
There are many medicinal herbs that can help us to strengthen our immune system and keep away seasonal ailments, and these can be taken in various forms, like herbal remedies, with extracts of their precious active ingredients, or, more trivially, in the form of teas, detoxifiers, etc.
What are the most useful medicinal herbs and plants in winter? How can they be used? How do you infuse them? Detoxifiers?
Let’s find out about just a few of them together.
Echinacea is a herbaceous plant that’s rich in beneficial principles that make it a genuine, natural antibiotic. In fact, echinacea is exceptional for strengthening the immune system, and for preventing and treating the symptoms of diseases like colds, coughs, and even fever. It is the roots that contain polysaccharides, which stimulate the immune system by helping the natural defences.
Echinacea helps our body defend itself against infections by increasing the production of leukocytes (white blood cells) that attack and eliminate pathogenic microorganisms.
The plant is also rich in other components that have antibiotic, bacteriostatic and anti-inflammatory activities. In addition to combatting diseases, echinacea is also effective against infections in general, particularly those in the urinary tract, like cystitis. It also has great healing properties, and is used to prepare soothing and anti-inflammatory ointments.
In addition to drops in the classic syrup, Echinacea can be taken as a herbal tea once or twice a day: just 1 teaspoon of dried Echinacea left to infuse for 5-10 minutes and we’ll be ready to face the winter!
The sundew is a plant with a sour, bitter taste, but it too is very precious for fighting coughs and colds. Its leaves contain substances rich in anti-spasmodic anti-tussive and decongestant properties, Consumed as an infusion or drops, sundew leaves facilitate breathing, soothe coughs, have an anti-inflammatory and relaxing effect on the bronchi, and are also good expectorants.
To prepare a sundew infusion, just pour a teaspoon of dried leaves into a cup of boiling water and leave to stand for 10 minutes. 4 cups a day of this filtered infusion will help the bronchi to function at their best.
Eucalyptus is another precious ally against colds. From its leaves, an essential oil is extracted with incredible balsamic, fluidifying and expectorant properties, which have miraculous effects against cough, sinusitis and colds. Eucalyptus oil has an antibacterial and antiseptic action for urinary and genital infections too, such as cystitis, candida and leucorrhoea, as well as acting as an antiseptic for infections and skin lesions. It is even an excellent beauty product! It makes the skin luminous and the hair bright and shiny.
In this case too, we can prepare a good infusion from eucalyptus by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of eucalyptus leaves with a tablespoon of mallow leaves in 1 cup of water and leaving them to infuse for 10 minutes. This tea, once filtered, will be a precious ally for dissolving phlegm and fighting inflammations of the respiratory tract, allowing you to breathe better.
Who doesn’t recognise the unmistakable taste of fennel seeds, which make bread and many other bakery preparations special and delicious? They are a little reminiscent of aniseed, but are sweeter, more delicate, and contain unexpected curative and preventive properties, which make them invaluable allies for preparing herbal teas with surprising effects.
For starters, fennel seeds are high in fibre, and this characteristic makes them very useful to help food transit along the intestines, eliminate toxins and promote digestion. Drinking one cup of fennel tea after meals is a guarantee of good digestion and avoiding colic, swelling, and meteorism, even in young children. Just 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds left to infuse for 10 minutes in a cup of boiling water and then filtered and drunk without sweetening (the sugar causes fermentation).
In addition, the fibres contained in fennel seeds help us to control cholesterol, and clean up the walls of the arteries. This prevents cardio-circulatory diseases, like strokes and heart attacks, and, thanks to the potassium content in fennel seeds, helps keep blood pressure stable too.
Fennel has great diuretic and draining qualities, and is a useful ally against abdominal bloating.
High in antioxidants and flavonoids, fennel combats free radicals and has anti-inflammatory properties, which prevent and combat degenerative diseases, premature ageing and serious disorders such as arthritis, Crohn’s disease and even colon cancer.
Fennel seeds are also a very rich source of calcium and help our bodies produce more red blood cells.
Melissa (Lemon Balm)
The leaves of lemon balm are pleasantly fragrant and have a taste reminiscent of lemons. This is due to the oils they are rich in, which confer exceptional anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties.
Melissa is therefore useful against abdominal pains, both those related to poor digestion, which lead to cramps, nausea and colitis, and due to menstruation as well. It exerts a powerful calming effect on the nervous and muscular system. With a relaxing and anxiolytic function, it calms the nerves, fights anxiety and helps us cope with difficult times.
To obtain an infusion of lemon balm that can be used to combat digestive problems, pains, nervousness, or even just to help us sleep better, simply put 1 tablespoon of dried lemon balm leaves into 1 cup of boiling water, cover, leave to infuse for 10 min and strain.
Always effective against digestive disorders and seasonal depression, Linden has a calming and relaxing effect. It fights anxiety, helps the stomach function well, relieves tension and promotes sleep. If winter oppresses you with excessive and often unjustified tiredness, linden, with its invigorating effect, can help you. Just put 1 tablespoon of leaves and flowers in 1 cup of water, covered and left to infuse for 10 min. This infused calm palpitations, tachycardia and nervousness and, drunk before going to sleep, has a relaxing function. Moreover, used as a tonic on the skin, it relaxes wrinkles and scars.