I’ve picked up a thing or two from my herbalist friends, now developing my own home remedies for colds and overall winter wellness. It’s fun to get to chat with people who know plants and motherhood and children and husbands alike, who can endow us with the wisdom of what works, and what the aforementioned hooligans will actually tolerate. As much as I want to get my kids into elderberry syrup, they don’t like the taste and I swear it makes them act a little goofy. So, instead, we do sage-infused honey or garlic honey.
While we also do subscribe to some western medicine practices, I find that having my arsenal of herbs and little tricks helps keep my anxiety at bay and truly helps prevent us from getting colds, let alone every single virus that can come home, and maybe just limit us to a few colds each year – if that.
Wellness should be top of mind all the time, but when the days get shorter and the season gives way to those chills and sniffles, we all start to search for the answers. It’s no coincidence that less sun (less vitamin D), less time outside (overall serotonin and anti-anxiety), and more sugary treats (sugar = sad microbiome and happy viruses) all coincide with a lack of health.
So, we gardeners kick into gear with all the tricks up our sleeves getting to be center stage. Ideally, we begin to prep these things long before they’re needed, as many herbal remedies take time to make. But, here are my top six winter wellness hacks.
Six Home Remedies for Colds.
Since I was a kid my mother used to keep three teas on hand always for the cold season: echinacea tea, throat coat tea, and peppermint tea. Those are easy to find in the store and can be complemented by other herbs or honey infusions too. I’ve learned that there are two other great herbs to make teas from, which are sage and catnip. Sage is very drying (beware nursing mothers) and great for wet coughs. It’s a strong taste though, so maybe best for adults. Catnip is in the mint family and is really mild, a great tea for helping a dry cough. It’s easy for kids, especially with honey and some chamomile or peach tea that they already like.
As mentioned, sage is very drying and healing. We love it for the first signs of a wet cough or sore throat. Because of the strong flavor of sage, I’ve been infusing honey with it so that we can add it to tea without the fuss. You simply dry your sage and fill it to ¼ of the jar you’re using. Add honey on top the rest of the way, leaving a little room for air. Let sit for about two weeks to infuse and then you can take out the sage, OR chop it finely and leave it in there (but strain out when using).
I first learned about sage from my friend Leah, who discusses it (among some other herbs here) with me on The Garden Culture Podcast HERE.
A dear neighbor of mine turned me onto this – mincing up a clove of garlic each night, leaving it out just a minute to oxidize, and then eating it raw. I was so nervous that it would cause heartburn but it doesn’t! It’s great for boosting immunity, decreasing inflammation, and fighting nasty cells like those that can be prone to cancer.
Ah, the wise grandmother of broths. Bone broth is so healing for the gut and holds tons of powerhouse antioxidants and nutrients. Making it yourself is key, and I have a great resource for that HERE. Sipping broth while sick helps keep your bellies full and your body firing on all cylinders, flushing the system with what it needs when occupied internally. Try adding bone broth to rice, casseroles, and pasta sauce if you have picky eaters.
This stunning tree is easy to find and forage for, having excellent properties for opening airways and soothing us. I love to find some to place in a steamy shower, for a facial steam, or just to dry and keep around the house.
I know this sounds wild and maybe gross, BUT onions are detoxifiers and can pull yuckiness out of the air and our bodies – especially our respiratory system. Onion steams, for inhaling when sick or diffusing (be careful of your eyes though and cover them), can be great to grab the gunk out of your system for you. You simply boil onions in a covered pot and then release the steam to be inhaled and let it work its magic!
While I know some of these remedies may seem too simple, or frankly hippie-dippie and unapproachable, it’s small acts of wellness that build up and help us stay strong. Start small by introducing one new practice each season – perhaps just a sage honey, and go from there.