Self-Care Allies For The Winter Season – Part 1

Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year, marks the beginning of winter in our calendars, as well as the end of the solar year. But as it goes in the Yukon, the winter season has moved in quite a while ago already! Though it comes with many wonders (sparkling snow, northern lights, bright full moon nights…), it also brings a few challenges we are all too familiar with: colds and flus, low mood, icy toes and fingers, and the seemingly inevitable digestive issues that follow the heavy meals our bodies crave at this time of year.

And yet, mother nature provides us with nourishing ways to protect our bodies and take care of ourselves that make these challenges melt away like snow in the warm spring sun. You needn’t look any further than your kitchen cabinet or grocery store to find these self-care allies, they have been with us for ages and I bet you already know them!

Meet the spice rack superstars: thyme, rosemary, basil, and other mint family members. These incredibly common and easy to store herbs have a multitude of medicinal benefits to share with us: they are antimicrobial, support the nervous system, improve digestion, and ease respiratory ailments. Each of them has particular affinities and can be used differently, but if you find yourself in a pinch any one of them will help.

Thyme is ideal to support your body through respiratory infections, helping the body to fight bacteria and viruses, removing mucus with its expectorant action, and soothing spasmodic coughs. Thyme also has a strong affinity with the digestive system and will increase its function, warm the stomach, and ease gas and colicky pain. To make tea, use 1tsp dried thyme leaf per cup of hot water and let it steep for 15-30 minutes with a lid on (to keep the aromatic oils from escaping). For respiratory support, you can also make a steam inhalation by filling a bowl with boiling water, adding 1tbsp dried thyme leaf, and inhaling the steam holding a towel over your head (if the steam burns, you are too close). Make sure to keep a lid on the bowl until you are ready to inhale the steam, as the aromatic oils will escape with the steam.

Rosemary is a powerful nervous system and circulatory system ally. It improves blood flow to the extremities and the brain, relaxes us, and is excellent at easing headaches and improving cognitive function. Rosemary makes a wonderful morning tea, simply steep 1tsp of dried rosemary leaves in 1 cup of hot water for 15-30 minutes with the lid on. When the tea Is ready to drink, take a moment to breathe its aromatic scent!

Basil is a much beloved kitchen herb and while it will support your respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems like other mints, it truly shines when it comes to lifting the spirit and comforting us. It combines wonderfully with chamomile and lemon balm (another member of the mint family) for a relaxing after-dinner tea (remember to steep it with a lid on) or can be used for steam inhalations.

These herbs, as well as other mints (e.g., oregano, sage, marjoram) can easily be grown and dried at home or bought in grocery stores. When buying them, organic is best, but any will do, as long as they are still dark green (not all brown) and have an aromatic scent to them. They all make delicious teas, but the simplest way to make them part of your daily routine is by cooking with them, especially in rich meals. Add them to soups and stews, meat marinades, root vegetables, salads, sauces, or anything that inspires you, be creative!

Make yourself a cup of rosemary tea and sit down with it to watch the sun rise and the light return on the first day of the new solar year this Thursday morning. Celebrate this moment and your beautiful self for bringing light into this world.

Wishing you a magical Winter Solstice!

P.S.: if you feel your respiratory and digestive systems need a little extra love, try the Tummy & Lung Love tea, which gives you the added benefits of the soothing marshmallow root.