Winter is upon us, and here in Sonoma County, that means rain (if we're lucky!) So far, we have had a well-balanced mix of rainy and sunny days, but nevertheless, the cool dampness in the air coupled with our seasonal tendencies to overindulge in... well, everything... has our immune systems overworked and over-stressed. Tis the season for colds and flus, and Plant Speak Apothecary is here to support you and your immune system!
There are many ways to bolster your immunity during the transition into winter, but for now, we can start with three simple and important tips for staying well during the colder months:
Number 1 is to eat warm and warming foods as much as possible. It might seem intuitive, but for many of us who are used to eating on the run, this little reminder can make a big difference. In a nutshell, warm, cooked food is easier to digest than cold, raw food because the digestion process requires digestive fire, energy, or Qi in order to break down whatever we eat into the nutrients that our body can use. Bonus points for including carminative spices in your diet to aid in digestion, such as cinnamon, clove, basil, cilantro, chives, black pepper, cardamom, coriander, allspice, paprika, oregano, orange peel, nutmeg, star anise, rosemary, sage, thyme, turmeric, fennel seed - to name a few.
Number 2 is to wear a scarf. I kid you not. This is especially crucial for us Northern Californians who are so used to mild winters that we often forget to cover up when the wind picks up, or the temperature suddenly plunges when the sun moves behind a cloud. This piece of advice was given to me in grad school with the understanding that, in Chinese Medicine, we recognize colds and flus as the invasion of an exterior environmental element (like wind and cold) into the interior of the human body. And some areas of the body are more susceptible to exterior invasion than others - such as the back of the neck, and the lower back (for women especially.) So bundle up, or at least wear your scarf.
Number 3 is to call on your herbal allies! It is my humble opinion that the best medicine is preventive medicine because it is SO much easier to protect oneself against potential invasions than to treat one that has already become established in the body. However, there is an herb or combination of herbs for every phase and presentation of illness. There are a plethora of herbal options available to us - Western, Chinese, Ayurvedic - but remember that our kitchen herbs are also good medicine. I am going to share our family recipe for Dragon's Breath Tea. This is my husband's go-to any time he feels a cold or flu coming on. It is appropriately named for the smell that the patient acquires after a few days of drinking this remedy, but it is very effective at chasing away an early cold or flu.
Dragon's Breath Tea
1 large piece of ginger (about 4 inches long by 2 inches wide) sliced
4 cloves of garlic, cut in half
6 cups of water
Per 8-10 oz cup add:
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 TB honey
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Slice the ginger and garlic and put in a pot on the stove with about 6 cups of water on high heat. Allow the decoction to come to a boil and then lower the heat to medium. After 45-60 minutes, the decoction is ready to drink. Strain 8-10 oz. into a mug and mix with lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and honey. Drink several times a day for up to 3 days.
For more support with kick-starting your immune system this winter season, or to schedule an appointment for an in-depth consultation and treatment protocol, visit our website:
Isabel Martinez, L.Ac.