Ten Tips To Stay Healthy In Winter

herbs and food used to stay healthy in winter

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Ten Tips To Stay Healthy In The Winter

Ten tips to stay healthy in the winter provides numerous preventative methods to stay healthy with diet,  herbs and lifestyle changes.  Dr. Sharol shares  herbal recipes,  teas, soups, vinegars and baths to maintain health during the winter months when viruses, depression, holiday stress and other common winter issues rear their ugly heads. She examines the most common winter health problems and provides solutions that are easy and inexpensive.

What You Will Learn in Ten Tips For Staying Healthy In The Winter

#1 Keep Dry and Warm – Include Warming Herbs

#2 Stay Hydrated

#3 Support Immune System With Diet and Supplements

#4 Supporting and Boosting Your Immune System With Herbs

#5 Herbal Baths

#6 Hygienic Habits

#7 Reduce Stress And Relax

#8 Being Grateful

#9 Get healing sleep

#10 Keep Your Spirits Up

#1 Keep Dry and Warm – Include Warming Herbs

Your mom was correct when she told you to wear gloves and a scarf, keep your head covered and to change your clothes if you got wet. These things will keep you from becoming chilled and ill. They are simple, but often ignored. If you do get chilled, drink a cup of hot tea that contains a warming herb and take a hot bath. For ideas on adding herbs to that hot bath, see #5 below.

woman drinking warming tea

A Special Tip On Doses For Children: All doses given for herbs here are for adults: To get  a general child dose for herbs, simply take the child's weight and divide it by 150. Use this percent multiplied by the adult dose.

Example for 50# child and 120 drop dose. 50/150 = 0.33, when you multiple 33% or .33 x 120= 39.6 or 40 drops.

Warming Herbs

Heating or warming herbs that will increase your circulation and warm you up are helpful in the winter if you tend to be cold. They can be added to food, or used as a tea, elixir, tincture, or capsule. If you are dehydrated, use the tea form as this will increase your hydration. Staying hydrated is especially important to protect your mucous membranes.  A few examples of excellent heating herbs are:

Who Should Not Take Warming Herbs: Those who feel hot, are dry or dehydrated, red in the face and/or sweating often do not do well with warming herbs.

 

Ginger - Zingiber officinalis

Ginger is indicated for cold and congestive conditions. It is best used preventatively to help keep you from getting sick as part of a formula after being around others with a cold and flu or if you are in the beginning stages of catching a cold. It is gentle enough for both elderly and children to use.

Those who best benefit from it are:

  • Sensitive to cold environments and cold food
  • Sluggish bowel movements or loose stools
  • Bloating and burping and gas after eating
  • Puffiness around eyes, face or puffy and heavy feeling of extremities

Since your digestive tract contains the majority of you immune system keeping it in good shape is important during the winter viral season. Ginger is useful to for a sluggish digestive tract with burping, and gas. It is a prokinetic, so it helps to keep the digestive tract moving and also decreases inflammation.

Fresh tea infusion: approximately 2-3 centimeters in length of ginger, per cup of water.

Dry tea Infusion: teaspoonful of dry ginger per cup of water.

Tincture: 10-60 drops in a little water.


Ginger with lemon and honey tea recipe

Tea Directions: Boil 1-2 cups of water and turn the burner off.  I use a chunk of Ginger that is at minimum half the size of my thumb per cup of water. (You use your thumb as measurement.) I grate the ginger into the hot water, add the juice from 1/4 of a lemon per cup of water, and throw the squeezed lemon, peel and all into the hot water and add honey to taste. Make sure you  keep the lid on the pot while infusing it for 20 minutes.

 

Garlic - Allium sativum

Garlic is another warming herb that is best to use in a proactive manner to ward off colds in the winter. Your mother told you to eat your chicken soup with garlic to stay healthy in the winter.  A 2001 study supports this use. They had 146 individuals break up into either a placebo and garlic group. The garlic group  that took 1 allicin containing garlic capsule every day for 3 months had less colds. There were 24 colds in the garlic group and 65 in the placebo group.  When the garlic group experienced a cold, it lasted an average of 1.52 days and the placebo group had colds last an average of 5.01 days.

Randomized clinical trials using various commercial garlic preparations revealed a preventative effect of garlic for a number of viral infections in humans including the common cold and flu, viral induced hepatitis and warts.

Organosulfur compounds (OSCs)are responsible for several of garlic's actions including the prevention of viral infections. Although shown in studies to act as an antiviral in a petri dish on contact, it is probably its ability to enhance the immune system that really is of most benefit, unless you are using garlic as a gargle and nasal wash to kill viruses in the upper respiratory tract. Garlic can't act as a systemic antiviral directly. If you are confused by this, please see my antiviral herbs article for clarification.

 

 Cayenne - Capsicum spp.

This is one super hot pepper. Only small amounts are used.

Due to Cayenne being a spice commonly used in cooking, people can be deceived into thinking it is entirely safe. However, large amounts can burn both skin, mouth and the entire intestinal tract if too much is consumed. When ground up or made into an herbal product, it can be inhaled and irritate the lungs.  If you have ever rubbed your eyes after handling Cayenne, you know how irritating this herb can be to the mucous membranes. There have even been cases of heart attacks from overzealous people thinking they could consume unlimited amounts of hot peppers. So, do go slow and low when using this herb.

Cayenne can be added to soups, stews, casseroles, and pretty much any other kind of dish you come up with.  It is also used in heating salves, tinctures, teas, elixirs, and vinegars. The best way I can introduce you to cayenne is in this wonderful spicy vinegar recipes I have used for 30 years as a winter tonic to heat and nourish the body. This recipe can be found in the paperback book "Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth" as well as the corresponding e-book triology series (book #1) called "Herbal Formulas". Additionally, you will find tips on Cayenne included below as well as the rest of the information on how to use this wonderful formula.

SPICY WINTER VINEGAR TONIC - similar to the currently popular fire cider recipes 

  • Horseradish - Armoracia rusticana 20-35% (use fresh)
  • Garlic - Allium sativa​ 20-35% (use fresh)
  • Parsley - Petroselinum crispum 20-35%
  • Beet - Beta vulgaris 10-20%
  • Ginger - Zingiber officinalis 3-7%
  • Cayenne - Capsicum spp. 2-5%

Tips: You can purchase something similar to this or you can extract it yourself. Making it is similar to how you would make a vinegar for a salad dressing but without oil. Extract this in live apple cider vinegar.

It is very tasty. I have been using this vinegar formula for 30 years and often use it as a salad dressing. It can be used in the place of regular vinegar any time you want a spicy vinegar addition to a dish you are making.

Actions: This formula is useful for the prevention or early onset of flu or colds. It helps relieve sinus congestion and open airways blocked by mucus.

Indications: Spicy Winter Tonic is indicated for individuals with a tendency to have cold hands and feet and catch colds and flu easily.

Dosing: 20-60 drops in a little water, on food, or on salad 3 times per day

Contraindications, cautions and words of wisdom: This formula is contraindicated in individuals with a hot constitution or individuals with hyper-acidic digestion. Most children will not take this formula. It is contraindicated in pregnancy.

More Tips: For making in quart jar: If eyeballing the ingredients rather than using the percents listed above, use - 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne powder per quart jar at 35,000 heating units. Let herbs sit in vinegar 4-6 weeks before straining, then add honey to taste.

Profiles of herbs used in this formula

Beet, Beta vulgaris is in this formula to benefit the liver, cardiovascular system and add minerals.

Horseradish, Armoracia rusticana is antiseptic, warming and relieves sinus congestion. Must be fresh.

Garlic, Allium sativa is antibacterial, antifungal, diaphoretic, cholagogue, supports immune function, protects the liver, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides. It protects against colds and influenza. Use fresh.

Parsley, Petroselinum crispum is a diuretic, expectorant and a nutritive herb that supports general health through nutrition.

Ginger, Zingiber officinalis is warming, antimicrobial, diaphoretic, antitussive, expectorant, anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating.

Cayenne, Capsicum spp. is antiseptic, styptic, diaphoretic and a circulatory equalizer. It is great for cold hands and feet. Chronic use of cayenne has a protective effect

 

Horseradish - Armoracia rusticana

This hot firey herb is used fresh. It does not work well as a tincture, does not dry well and when I preserve it, I use only vinegar as an extracting medium and additionally keep it in the refrigerator to last even longer. I like to keep some growing in my garden, so I can harvest it fresh when I need it.

This high vitamin C herb is great for clearing congestion in the respiratory tract.  It stimulates the lungs to make a thinner mucus, allowing for thick mucus to be more readily removed. I especially appreciate how well fresh horseradish can open up the sinuses.

#2 Stay Hydrated – Drink Healthy Water

In the winter the types of infectious conditions we get are often respiratory related. Staying hydrated by drinking water keeps our respiratory tract  mucous membranes  in good condition.  The respiratory tract can not function well without adequate water. Most individuals need about 8 glasses of water every day. Some people have different needs and may need more or less due to a health condition, exercise or the environment they live in.

Make sure your water is healthy to drink. Check your well water or if on city water, check your local water system to see what contaminants may be of concern and consider a water filter if indicated. A simple charcoal water filter works fine to remove most things. Be sure the pollutants in you cities water supply will be filtered by charcoal, should you use this method. Some contaminants, such as fluoride will not be removed by charcoal. If you have a well, check your well for contaminants yourself to be sure the water is clean.

Get your local drink water report. An annual report is created each year and if not on line, you can ask for a written report. This EPA website can help you find your local report.

#3 Support the Immune System With Diet and Supplements

Nutrients maintain our normal physiology and are necessary for immune support. Lack of efficient nutrition can lower immunity and make it more likely one becomes ill from an infectious disease. It can also prolong the illness and increase inflammation.

colorful vegetables

In General

  • Eat a nourishing diet of whole organic or biodynamic foods that are high quality-fat, high quality-protein, high-fiber, and with complex carbohydrates.
  • A healthy diet has lots of dark green leafy vegetables as well as colorful vegetables and fruits included. Make sure the fruits and vegetables are fresh, and ripe.
  • Remove any food sensitivities and unhealthy foods from the diet. Elimination diets are a good method to find offending foods if there are any. For a quicker process you can undergo food testing to see which foods you are reacting to. Food reactions can be from varied reasons which would include histamine in foods or histamine created by food/gut bacteria, from IgE, IgA or IgG reactions to proteins in food, as well as from envionmental toxins in foods.
  • Sugar is not a friend of the immune system, so remove it entirely.
  • Protein is important: Your immune system needs protein to function properly. Make sure you are eating healthy meat, fish, fowl, seafood or a full protein from beans and grains. You need protein every day.

Winter Soups

I am big on making soups in the winter. I put in a source of protein and tons of vegetables and add nourishing spicy herbs. I change up the soups to make sure there is dietary variety. The great thing about soups is how easy it is to add herbal immune support as long as the herb flavor plays nicely with the soup flavor. Astragalus  has a mild taste, making it  a great immune herb to add into soup. It  is used for both over and under active immune systems. It works best used long-term and in a preventative and nourishing manner. If from China it often comes in a form that looks like a tongue depressor. This makes it easy to add it to your soup and scoop it out later. Some leafy herbs are fine remaining in the soup to be eaten at meal time, while others will be have an unpleasant mouth feel or be too hard to chew. So, herbs like these  need to be removed before serving the soup. When herbs are in cut and sift form, you can wrap the bits of herb in cheese cloth that is then tied shut with a string and dropped in the soup, or put the herbs into a device you would make tea with, such as a tea ball prior to placing the herb in your soup.  This will allow you to remove the herbs easily, rather than hunting through your soup for bits of them.  Any nourishing and safe to consume herb can be added to your soup in this way, but taste it first to make sure it is a flavor you are okay with having in the dish you are creating.

Bone Broth As A Soup Base
  • Using bone broth as a base for a soup can be useful when you need connective tissue support.
  • Bone broth helps build a healthy intestinal tract. Much of your immune system resides here, so building healthy gut cells is important for immune function.
  • Animal bones are rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium and phosphorus, as well as trace minerals.
  • Bone marrow provides vitamin A, K, minerals zinc, iron, born, selenium and manganese.
  • Fish bones contain iodine also.
  • The connective tissue provides glucosamine, chondroitin and other compounds found in cartilage and useful for joint health.
  • All of these substances contain colllagen which turns into gelatin when cooked.

Here are some ideas for a nutrient dense diet:

The main  nutrients associated with maintaining an adequate immune system are the minerals zinc, and selenium, as well as the vitamins A, C, D, E, and B complex. Many people are nutrient deficient, especially of minerals. So a baseline of proper nutrition is very important. Make sure your diet includes these nutrients in adequate amounts.

  • All soups, stir fires and baked dishes should include some types of nutrient dense dark green vegetables added. Examples would include Nettles, Dandelion, Kale, and Parsley.
  •  Vitamin A is helpful for immune function and can be obtained from meat. It is especially high in liver, and Cod liver oil. The precursor of vitamin A is carotene which is in all vegetables that are orange colored such as squash, sweet potato, carrots and is also in many green vegetables to some degree.
  • Vitamin C supports the immune system. Vitamin C is accumulated in white blood cells and used during active immune responses.  It is a great antioxidant, protecting cells from toxins generated by viral activity. As a preventative 1-3 grams per day is used. For treatment, take up to bowel tolerance (1-8 grams per day). You can use vitamin C and/or add rose hip berries to your teas.
  • Keeping vitamin D levels normalized is important for immune health. Adequate vitamin D is needed to support immune reactions to pathogens. If low in vitamin D, sunshine is needed or if unavailable it can be supplemented as D3.
  • Vitamin E modulates immune function in a variety of ways, and when deficient it impairs normal immune function.  It is high in nuts and seeds.
  • Vitamin Bs are also helpful for immune support as well as adrenal support and support of your biotransformation system and mitochondrial support. All these systems work hard during an infection. Some of the B vitamins have been shown to decrease antibody production when inadequate. Some b vitamins are highly important as enzyme cofactors. Sources for b vitamins are green leafy vegetables, salmon, liver (has them all), eggs, beef, legumes, chicken, and turkey.
  • Zinc supplements have been shown to enhance immune function. Zinc has been shown to reduce the duration of flu and cold symptoms from 7.6 to 4.4 days. Zinc lozenges are available in many health food stores. Zinc ionophores appear to help zinc get inside the cells and they include quercetin, and ECGC (in green tea).  Any time you take zinc for more than a couple months you should consult your practitioner as you may need to take a smaller amount of copper with it to balance them. Good sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, grass fed beef, lamb, chickpeas, cocoa powder, lentils, cashews, yogurt, mushrooms, avacado, almonds and chicken.
  • Magnesium is deficient in about 1/2 the U.S. population and is necessary for adequate immune function. Magnesium is high in dark green vegetables, meat, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains that have their germ and outer layers still, dark chocolate. Some hard water has magnesium.
  • Selenium is also necessary for immunity and is very low in the soil in some parts of the U.S.  while very high in the soil in others. This makes actual content of selenium quite different in foods grown in different areas. However, some sources of selenium are nuts and seeds, fish, free range port, grass fed beef, brown rice, dairy, eggs, lentils, mushrooms, oatmeal (these foods are only rich in selenium if from areas with higher selenium in soil).
  • Carotenoids protect phagocytes from auto-oxidative damage, enhance T- and B-lymphocyte proliferation responses, stimulate effector T cell functions, enhance their cytotoxic capabilities and stimulate macrophage and NK cell activities and increase production of certain interleukins. They also protect lipids in the cell wall from damage. Caretenoids (as well as other flavonoids)are found  in carrots, yams, squash, tomatoes, melons, calendula flowers, dandelion flowers, elecampane flowers, green leafy vegetables are beneficial.
  • Gut health is necessary for immune system health. A large part of the immune system is in the gut lining. This is called the gastrointestinal associated lymphatic tissues (GALT). 80% of the antibodies in your body are made here. Support the gut immune system by eating fermented foods to supply extra microbiota and feeding the resident beneficial gut bacteria with fiber. Bone broth with garlic, ginger (or other warming spices), shitake mushrooms and green onions is good for the gut unless you have high histamine issues.
  • Probiotics have been found to be better than placebo in reducing the number episodes of acute upper respiratory tract infections, the severity of episodes of acute upper respiratory tract infection and reducing antibiotic use.

#4 Supporting and Boosting Our Immune System With Herbs

Many of us use herbs to support our immune system when others are sick around us.  Medicinal herbs can be a big help in the winter. They are often considered for individuals who tend to catch colds,  flus or other infections in the winter months. These would include herbs such as Astragalus root, Schisandra berries, Rosehips and Garlic that are used to support the immune system in a general manner and protect us from infections. We also use herbs when acute infection takes place. Herbs in this category would include Echinacea root, Elder flowers and Osha root.

tea cups filled with herbs and herbs growing

 

Examples of Immunomodulating Herbs

Immunomodulatig agents  enhance the body’s natural defense system to better enable the bodies capacity to resist infectious conditions or other situations which tax the immune system. These herbs act in various ways to promote different aspects of the immune system as well as supporting anatomical functions, such as decreasing mucus, tightening up lax tissues and decreasing inflammation, so the tissues are better capable of protecting themselves from invasive organisms.

Dosages of Herbs: All doses are for adults: To get child doses for herbs, simply take the child's weight and divide it by 150. Use this percent multiplied with the adult dose.
Example for 50# child and 120 drop dose. 50/150 = 0.33, when you multiple 33%x120= 39.6 or 40 drops.

For herbs that do not include information on dosing, simply click on the link provided to find this additional data.

Astragalus - Astragalus membranaceus is used for night sweats, deficiency of chi (Indicated by fatigue, weakness, and loss of appetite), and diarrhea. Studies have shown that Astragalus appears to restore T-cell counts to relatively normal ranges, even in cancer patients. This is a good herb to use preventatively. Astragalus has a sweet, mild taste. It can be made into a tea or added to a soup or stew. It is not usually used after an infection has taken hold. I like to add the Astragalus to soups I am making. It is often sold in a tongue depressor shape and is easy to fish out of the soup pot. You don’t want to leave it in the soup as it is a woody root and not pleasant to chew. It does however have a sweet taste that is great in teas and works well with most soups.

Schisandra - Schisandra chinensis

It seems this herb is not often thought of as an immunomodulator, but it is one. It has so many great attributes that it is easy to forget some of its wonderful qualities. It is a wonderful supporter of multiple body systems including the immune system. If someone is immunodeficient, getting lots of viral infections in the winter, may have chronic coughs and wheezing, may be exposed to toxins in their environment, this is an herb to consider to help to rebuild their immune system and give support and protection to the lungs, liver, kidneys, adrenals and heart. I will warn you that it is not the best testing herb. It leaves a flavor of soap behind. For this reason I don't suggest it added to soups, or as a tea. I generally suggest tincture or capsule as the way to go.

Echinacea - Echinacea purpurea/angustifolia increases the production and activity of lymphocytes and macrophages. It also increases the production of interferon. Echinacea enhances the immune system’s resistance to infections. Due to its specificity for infectious conditions, it is often used for influenza and other viruses, but it really shines in bacterial infections. The plant contains 3 groups of constituents, high molecular weight polysaccharides, alkylamides and chicoric acid, that are known to act as immunomodulators.

Whereas Astragalus is good to add to soups and teas for general immune support Echinacea is not as pleasant mixed into food and is not as commonly used to prevent viral infections although some studies do show it being useful in this manner for those who tend to get repetative infections from viruses such as herpes viruses that repeat themselves.

As a liquid extract take 1/2 - 1 teaspoon, three times per day for prevention and 1 teaspoon 4-6 times per day for treatment.

Garlic - Allium sativum has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal activity. This herb is great in the traditional chicken soup of course. Take a clove of raw garlic per day for prevention or 2-3 times per day for treatment. Please see additional data above on Garlic in section #2.

Boneset - Eupatorium perforatum is specific for the type of intense flu pains where you ache to your bones. This herb is a diaphoretic and is best taken as a hot tea, although it can be used as a tincture also. You will see it used the same way in homeopathy too. This herb is used for treatment only. Take a heaping tablespoon per cup of water, infused 3-4 times per day. (In 2016 better testing methods have allowed researchers to find pyrrolizidine alkaloids in Boneset for the first time. It is now known that this herb contains the potentially toxic pyrrolizidines intermedine and lycopsamine. Some samples contain very minute amounts and others larger amounts. So get Boneset with no, or extremely low pyrrolizidines. Look to the European Union for currently acceptable levels.)

Yarrow - Achillea millefollium is a diaphoretic, astringent, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial that is wonderful to use in the feverish stage. It clears upper respiratory congestion from a cold in seconds when small amounts of tincture, or a small bit of tea is consumed.

Osha - Ligusticum porteri is antiviral, immunomodulator, anticattarrhal and diaphoretic. I often use this herb with Licorice and Echinacea. It's especially helpful if you have a lot of mucus, as it helps dispel the excess mucus with its drying and mucolytic action. This warming herb is great for viral infections. Consider growing it. Although, hard to grow, once you get the hang of it, you can grow all you need. This is important since there is not a huge supply in the wild. You can get the seeds and directions for growing Osha from Strictly Medicinal Seeds.

Elder - Sambucus nigra/canadensis This expectorating, antiviral and diaphoretic herb has become popularized with the extensive advertising for the brand name Sambucol that uses a berry extract. Indeed both the berries  and the flowers are useful for the flu. I love to use the flowers as a relaxing diaphoretic. The flowers are safe to use for children and don't taste bad like Yarrow does. You can make a tea with both the flowers and berries. Most elder berry products are loaded with sugar and I tend not to use them for this reason. Sugar consumption can lower white blood cell activity for up to 3.5 hours.

The Lymphatic System

Besides immunomodulating herbs, using lymphagogues to support the lymphatic system, or what I call the white blood cell's highway is also useful. This would include the food like herb called Burdock as well as herbs such as cleavers, calendula and red root. An easy way to gently support the lymphatic system is to grow or purchase burdock root (kind of like a carrot). It is slightly sweet and slightly bitter and is both a food and an herb. It can be used in soups, stir fries, casseroles, or made into an herbal tea. This is found in many health food stores in the vegetable section of the market. You can also find it in Asian stores.

A Few Ideas In Addition To Herbal Immune Modulation

Besides the herbs just mentioned, there are many other treatments used by individuals to help to keep from getting sick or to decrease the symptoms.

Sweating (very hot moist air) such as in a sauna can help prevent the flu if you’ve been exposed. The hot air kills the virus on the mucous membrane lining. The virus can’t survive a 99 degree temperature. This can help if you’ve just treated a flu patient or have one in your home or have been otherwise exposed.

Using an herbal inhalation with herbs such as Lavendula, Thuja, Melissa, Thymus and Mentha pip. are helpful. You don't need all of them. These are just some examples of various antiviral herbs. Don't use an herbal inhaltion without knowing how to do it safely. Use the link provided to learn how herbs are used as an herbal inhaltion.

Be aware of drugs, over the counter or otherwise. The drugs that lower your fever or numb your pain also suppress antibody production, and prolong the disease, and in some cases can worsen it to the fatal point in the case of flu. Fevers above 105.8 are dangerous. I personally don’t like to see a fever over 104 and I use relaxing diaphoretics, tepid baths or body sponging to lower the temp.

Decongestants can increase infection due to drying out the nasopharynx and sinuses. They need to stay moist to protect you from viruses. So, be careful of drying your nasal passages out.

When  flu or a cold is coming on: Many individuals find taking extra Vitamin C - up to 500 mg an hour, stopping immediately if there is  loose bowels (Half life of vit C is 30 minutes meaning 1/2 of what you take is gone in the urine in 30 minutes.)

Hot baths for colds: In the beginning stages of a cold I use a hot bath and a warming tea such as suggested above in section #1.  tea. See the directions below to make a simple herbal bath.

A nice antiviral herbal tea can be added to the bath to use an an inhalation while bathing. (Lavender is nice)  while you sip the  cup of herbal tea. See below for Herbal Bath details.

Hot Nourishing Soup: Nourish yourself with garlicky chicken soup

For more specific herbs to use in influenza, read this article on the flu.

#5 Herbal Baths

Baths are therapeutic even if it is just hot water, but add epsom salts and/or herbs and bathing becomes a super therapy. What we add to the water will be absorbed through the skin to one degree or another. Additionally, aromatic herbs will waft into the nose and affect our brain and our emotions.

Soaking in the tub also softens the skin, opens the pores and dead skin cells can be removed with a wash rag or loofa. This allows our skin to function fully as a medium to allow toxins out, while those lovely minerals and aromatic oils in our bath are able to enter more fully. If you are actually dirty, I suggest you take a shower before bathing. You want to be clean when you step into your therapeutic bath.

 

Bath with flowers

How much herb you use in your bath depends on the size of the bath. I make a tea in my kitchen and add it to the water usually. If adding essential oils, I do this direct to the tub. It is best to add less than you think you will need as it is hard to remove the herbs once you add it. This is especially important with  essential oils as they are stronger than one might think. I do give a couple of examples of baths below.

Safety Tip: An important consideration when using essential oils in a bath is that they will often rise to the to of the water. Be sure to mix them up well before stepping into the tub, so they are dispersed, or they may burn your skin when you come into contact with them. An essential oil like Thyme can be particularly caustic.

 

Bath For When A Cold Is Coming On

What you need to make this bath:

 

Directions:

Start by making a tea: Heat two quarts of water to boiling. Turn the burner off and grate in 1-2 thumb sizes of ginger, also add 1/4 cup of Thyme, and 1/4 cup of Bee Balm or Bergamot. If you already have congestion, add peppermint. Let it  steep 20 minutes or more. Strain the tea prior to adding it to the bath. We don’t want the herbs to clog the plumbing or make the bath less pleasant. If you wish to add the herbs to your bath,  enclose them in a large tea ball or in some type of cheese cloth or other cloth before dropping them into the bath water. The reason I make a tea out of them first, is that they are better extracted with this method rather than putting them directly into a bath. This is due to the decreased bath water temperature compared to the boiling hot water that is used to make an herbal tea infusion.

While your pot of tea  is steeping,  run a hot bath. Add a cup of Epsom salts to the bath and when the bath tea is done, add the tea to your bath. Depending on how much water is in the bath and how strong of an herbal bath is wanted, the herbs can be decreased or increased next time.

Filter the tea,  get into the bath with a cup of warming tea,  and focus on relaxation and tea sipping.

For the warming tea you can simple make a ginger, honey and lemon tea as described above in the Tip #1 section on warming Herbs. If you have congestion, add some peppermint or horseradish to the cup of tea depending on your personal taste and needs.

Bath For Relaxation and Peace of Mind.

In the winter, it can help to take a hot herbal bath to lift ones spirits. A simple lavender bath is helpful in this case.

What you need to make this bath:

5-15 drops of lavender essential oil depending on the amount of water.

Directions:

As warm water is filling tub, add:

5-15 drops of lavender essential oil. Mix the lavender essential oil into the water with your hand before steeping into the bath.

Relax and enjoy the bath.

Safety Tip: Remember to mix the essential oil into the water before stepping into the tub. If the oils should pool in one area, direct contact with the skin can cause irritation.  Keep the essential oils evenly distributed throughout the water.

#6 Hygenic Habits

These are the 5 most important things you can do when people are ill around you. Everyone knows them, but  many ignore them.

  • Wash hands regularly
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  • Air out the home when indivdiduals you live with are ill, or use special filtration units to clean the air
  • Avoid sick individuals as much as possible
  • If you feel bad, stay home and rest – really important for you, not just to protect others

#7 Reduce Stress And Relax

Who does not have stress in this world that we have created? Studies show high stress levels make us more susceptible to getting infectious disease. When you have too much stress it will affect your immune system in a negative manner and becomes a factor in making an individual sick. It is best to either remove the stressors or remove one’s self from the stressful situations. However, this is not always possible. When it is not possible, learning how to respond to stress differently can bring peace of mind. Here are some suggestions for methods used to help you diffuse stress.

Photo of person sitting with hands clasped.

General Ideas To Relieve Stress

  • Create a daily relaxation routine
  • Exercise doing something that you find pleasurable
  • Engage in meaningful social interactions
  • Do anything that brings joy
  • Avoid anything that you find stressful
  • Stand up for yourself. Don’t let others pressure you into things you don’t want to do.
  • Avoid negative people or situations that make you feel stressed, and if unable to avoid them, use some type of relaxation technique such as mantras, or  breathing techniques while in their presence.

Specific Ideas To Relieve Stress

  • Get massages
  • Deep breathing
  • QiGong
  • Tai Chi
  • Prayer
  • Mantras or sacred words
  • Yoga
  • Guided meditation
  • Hypnosis
  • Focused mind - focusing intently on pretty much anything - Always focus on something positive.
  • Unfocused mind - letting go of everything and focusing on nothing
  • Dance or music to enduce meditative state
  • Nothing - Just being in the moment
  • Reading spiritual books

#8 Being Grateful

Think about what you have to be grateful about each day at the same time. This will over time become a process that lightens your load, brings peace and gratitude into your life which yes, will support your immune system.

An example of how to fit this into your life would be to examine your day before bed each night and think about 3 things that happened during the day that you are grateful for. They can be big things or tiny things. It can be as simple as being thankful for getting to bed on time that evening or spending time with a friend. This exercise helps one focus on the positive. As time goes by you will find more and more to be grateful about.

Some people find using a gratitude journal helps them to focus on this process and when they need inspiration, they can go back and read some of the journal entries to lift their spirits.

#9 sleep

Sleep is  when our bodies undergo a lot of healing. This is an important time. It is a cornerstone of health.  When someone has trouble with sleep, it is evaluated in different ways to see what factors are interfering with sleep. You can't attempt to solve the poor sleep issue without getting an understanding of what is causing the insomnia or unrestful sleep.

It helps to investigate if there is a problem falling asleep, staying asleep, early morning wakening or nonrestorative sleep. Is it related to a health issue, stress, diet, lack of proper sleep hygiene, noise or activity in the environment, enviornmental toxins, hormonal, metabolic imblance, nutritional, pharmacological or psychological problem?

If a person is not sure about the type of sleep issue or what factors  are involved, it can help for them to keep a sleep journal. This would include what they eat and drink to see if something they are ingesting is an issue, as well as what they do the last hour before bed. Do they go to sleep easily, do they wake up and if so when do they awaken, and can they go back to sleep easily?Are they rested upon awakening?  Anything that happens during the night is important to put into the sleep journal. What is in their bedroom is also important as well as what others may be doing in the bedroom. Keeping a sleep journal can be a powerful tool for an individual having trouible with sleep.

Sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is important to examine. There are many sleep hygiene factors that have been found to be important for an individual to sleep through the night and feel rested upon arising in the morning. Here is a list of factors known to affect sleep:

Proper Sleep Hygiene and Things To Consider

  • Go to bed at the same time each day
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep – some need less or more
  • Keep nothing in the room that has a light on it
  • Read inspiring books before bed
  • Listen to calming music before bed
  • White noise to block out sudden environmental noise
  • Warm bath before bed
  • It is usually best not to eat after dinner. Definitely, avoid sugar or simple carbohydrate snacks at night. If there is a spike in cortisol at night, sometimes a protein snack in the evening helps.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine after 2PM, recreational drugs, nicotine
  • Ask your practitioner if any drugs you are on could be keeping you awake at night
  • No fluids 2 hours before bed
  • Darken the  room if light is coming into the room from outside
  • No electronic devices on in the bedroom  - decrease electromagnetic fields as much as possible
  • Wif turned off
  • No TV or movies the hour before bed
  • Turn lights low the hour before bed
  • A comfortable bed is necessary
  • Make sure you are warm in bed. Socks and a night cap are good for folks who tend to be chilly.
  • Regular exercise will help sleep, but not near bedtime
  • Resolve any health conditions or mental states interfering with sleep such as depression, anxiety, lack of feeling safe or other stressful conditions. A list of health conditions commonly known to affect sleep is below.

 

Common Health issues that can keep Us Awake

Health conditions and issues that can cause insomnia include:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Hormonal changes
  • Headaches
  • Respiratory problems
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Psychiatric and mood disorders
  • Congestive heart failure
  • GERD
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Anxiety
  • Nocturnal hypoglycemia
  • Chronic or intermittent pain
  • Cancer
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Peripheral vascular diseases
  •  Pregnancy
  • Menopause

 

Solutions To Insomnia and Unrestful Sleep

Depending on the causative factors in Insomnia, treatment can vary. Just identifying issues can lead us to the treatment needed. Sleep hygiene is usually the first thing to examine if there are no health conditions causing one to have insomnia.

When there are no health conditions associated and sleep hygiene does not help with insomnia/unrestful sleep, there are some simple methods that can be used to help an individual with sleep related issues. That does not mean they should give up looking for the factors causing the issue. It simply means that sleep is very important and temporary solutions can be helpful while one continues to investigate the cause of the insomnia/unrestful sleep.

If the insomnia involves trouble falling to sleep, melatonin is often used 30-60 minutes before bed. This is especially helpful as one ages and has less melatonin. It is also helpful for those who are dealing with environmental toxins.

Tryptophan can sometimes help people stay asleep longer if they wake up during the night. It changes into serotonin in our body, although if someone is undermethylated or lacks B vitamins, this will not work as well. Tryptophan changes into 5-HTP and 5HTP changes into serotonin.

Nervine herbs called hypnotics can also help some individuals to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.

Valerian is  a common hypnotic herb that is used by many who have trouble going to sleep and staying asleep. It has been shown to decrease the time it takes to get to sleep, reduce night awakenings, and improved sleep quality. Other nervines used successfully include:

Often people need to try different herbs to see which one works best for them. It helps to read about each herb prior to using it, to find one that best fits the person who needs a nervine to help with sleep. Links are provided for the herbs listed here.

Lavender as a dream pillow or a little essential oil on a cloth that can be placed under the pillow or near the pillow is quite helpful to relax an individual and help them get to sleep. A lavender bath as described above in #5 section called Herbal Baths may be helpful.

Tryptophan can sometimes help people stay asleep longer also. It changes into serotonin in our body, although if someone is undermethylated or lacks B vitamins, this will not work as well.

#10  Keep Your Spirits Up

Winter Depression

Depression can be the result of physiological changes due to various disease processes and if it is continuous, or enterpheres in your life, it is important to seek help from a practitioner.

 

Hypericum Saint John's wort flowers

We can’t possibly cover all the reasons for depression here, but I want to focus on winter depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), since this is an article on tips to stay healthy in the winter.  I also want to mention another reason for depression that is common, but does not get enough attention, although it has become more recognized due to COVID-19 lock-downs. I am speaking about depression due to a perceived lack of connection. This is the feeling of lacking connection with your family, friends and neighbors, the community you live in, your environment at large, the planet and Spirit or God. In Northern communities of the world, experiencing the depths of winter, while still dealing with either legal of self-imposed isolation as a reaction to COVID-19, these two types of depression are quite common.

Our personal biological system, mental and emotional system and spirituality play a part in many cases of depression, including winter depression and isolation depression.  An herb called Saint John’s wort is helpful for both winter depression and isolation depression and is a good herb for us to examine.

 

Saint John's Wort

The herb Saint John's Wort facilitates the body receiving sunlight and is well known for alleviating winter-time depression. However, it also is an amazing nervine used for isolation depression where an individual feels lack of commuity, and a sense of being disconnected from the rest of the world.  This is one herb that is not going to work as a tea, or a capsule, so take the tincture. A dose of 5 -30 drops in a little water is a good general dose depending on body size and how sensitive you are to herbs. I usually start most people with 10 drops three times per day.  Most people find this to be a pleasant tasting herb. Please be sure the read about this herb's contraindications before using it as it has a few side effects and can interfere with a variety of drugs. Individuals should not self-prescribe this herb if they are taking any drugs due to possible interactions between the herb and drugs. You will find a free excerpt from my book that covers Saint John's Wort, it's use and many of it's contraindications on the sample pages for  "Herbal Medicine From The Heart Of The Earth."

 

Light Boxes And Vitamin D

Winter depression from the lack of sun can also be remedied with the use of light boxes or full spectrum light bulbs, and vitamin D.

However, neither of these will supply you with the full effect of the suns rays, but they can help many people. Before taking vitamin D, it is best to test for deficiency.

  • Sun is the best solution for this condition. When the sun comes out in the winter, take advantage of it and go for a walk or at least go outside to sunbathe as much as you can without getting too cold. It is best to go out in the morning before noon if you are dealing with depression. It will help to normalize hormones related to your sense of feeling good. Even if you don't get much sun on the skin, do let your eyes bathe in the sun. Don't look directly into the sun, but do let the sun get on your eyes. Don't wear sun glasses.
  • Go on vacation in a sunny place if the winter blues are really getting you down.

 

Increase Community Involvement

Finding a way to connect with others is important. This can be in person, on the phone, on the computer, a CB, throwing notes over the fence to your neighbor (ok, not likely but an encouraging word to a neighbor on a paper airplane might just make their day brighter). Besides conversing with others, find a way to engage with your community through volunteering would be wonderful. This can also be done in person, on the phone or on the computer. It could be as simple as volunteering at the local animal shelter to be a foster parent to a dog, cat or hamster. Connection with animals is as rewarding for many people as is connection with people.

 

 Severe Depression

In severe depression a practitioner should be consulted. However, there is a lot we can do as friends and family to help folks who are depressed, even if it is only making sure they get help. When someone is depressed and their spirit is withering away, it is necessary for them to be surrounded by loved ones. Talk to them, give them  healthy and nutritious food, massage their feet,  get them involved in meaningful community work if possible. Show them the beauty in the world that surrounds us. Put them into positive situations that will be meaningful for them.  Each person and situation is different and needs a different approach. Figure out with them, what might help them most. Just make sure you don't ignore it.

Cognitive Therapy, or some other type of  "Talk Therapy" may be useful. Both cognitive therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy have proven to be as effective as medications in treating major depression. A book that you can suggest to patients or friends is "Feeling Good" by David Burns. A link to this book on Amazon is provided here. (This is an affiliate link that we receive a small commission for at no cost to you, and when purchasing them through these links you support this website. You can get details on our advertising policies here.)

Wrap Up of Ten Tips To Stay Healthy In Winter

This is a glimpse into some of the most pressing health issues that people report in the winter months. If you are personally dealing with winter health issues that are affecting your daily life, consider seeking counsel from a trusted practitioner. They may be able to find the cause of our strife and give you some solutions specific to your needs. If  you don't have a practitioner, ask friends, family and neighbors if they can suggest someone rather than hunting around on the internet.