We have reached the halfway point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, Imbolc as it is called in some European traditions, a time when we begin to see the hope of spring. In more temperate regions, this hope comes in the form of the first snowdrops and other spring ephemerals piercing through the snow and wet earth. For us in the North, the hope of spring is made of a delicately warm sunshine, longer brighter days and the joy of being able to spend more time playing outside in that newborn sun.
Last month, we discovered how thyme, rosemary, basil, and other herbs in the mint family you may have in your spice rack can support our bodies through the winter (if you didn’t get to read the newsletter, click here). These are not the only common spices that make wonderful self-care allies for the wintertime. In truth, most kitchen herbs and spices have invaluable medicinal properties. However, for today, we’ll focus on two that are easily found and truly shine when it comes to supporting us at this time of year…
Garlic, some love it, some hate it, but I hope you love it, or at least can tolerate it, as it is an incredible protector and healer! Garlic is strongly antimicrobial and can be used to prevent and fight coughs, colds, and sinus infections. In addition, it also helps the body clear the airways and detoxify the body during infections. By increasing blood and lymph flow in the body, garlic is warming and helpful for people with cold extremities. Finally, garlic also promotes a healthy digestion and keeps our gut healthy.
The best way to consume garlic is to add it to your food. It is the most potent when raw, so consider adding crushed garlic to your salads or waiting until the meal you cooked is ready to serve before adding minced garlic. But even cooked garlic is helpful, so if that is the only way you enjoy it, go for it! Honey is excellent at softening the sharp bite of raw garlic and you can make a garlic honey by adding some freshly chopped garlic to honey. Let it sit for 2 weeks, strain, and take 1 to 2 tsp per day.
Ginger is another spice rack superstar, so much so, that in ancient India it was called “the universal medicine”. It is probably best known for its warming and digestive properties: it warms and promotes digestion, eases nausea and bloating (very useful after heavy meals!), and improves blood flow to the extremities. Ginger also being stimulating, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and antiviral is a very helpful ally when treating colds and flus.
Here again, the best way to incorporate ginger in your winter self-care routine is by adding it to food. Fresh is better than dried, especially since dried ginger is also hotter and more drying to the tissues, too much so for some. And fresh ginger root keeps well in the fridge. I like to add ginger to soups (it is fantastic with squash or carrots!) and stir-fry. Or you can make a ginger decoction by simmering 1 tbsp fresh chopped root in 2 cups of water for 15-20 minutes. Make sure to keep the lid on the pot while simmering the ginger, strain, add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or honey, and enjoy! And as with any tea or decoction, adjust the amount of herb according to what tastes and feels good to you.
So, fill your thermos with hot ginger decoction to keep your body warm and comforted while you play out in the snow, drink in each delicate ray of this newborn sun, and let yourself dream and move slowly for a little while longer, spring will come in time.
With much love and blessings,
P.S.: a variation of the traditional fire cider recipe, this Wildfire Cider combines the wonderful properties of garlic and ginger with many other herbs, making it a potent brew to add to your wintertime self-care routine!