Every season brings with it a new set of environmental and emotional changes. As we head into winter there's a chill in the air which brings with it dry air and cold winds which are responsible for dry skin and sinus'. As the wind howls through trees and over the land, it can push a chill down into our bodies. Winters herbs are moisture enhancing, deeply warming and produce the little boost needed to keep us both happy and healthy.
During this time of year I tend to turn to the warming and emollient benefits of olive and sesame seed oils for moisturizing my skin and salve making.
Olive oil is filled with antioxidants, lipids and and vitamin E. It moisturizes the skin without blocking pores. This oil has high levels of lipids, and fatty acids which can help shield the skin from irritation. Olive oil can also benefit acne plagued skin as well due to it's microbial and anti-inflammatory agents.
Sesame seed oil always feel so luxurious to me. It has a warm nutty scent to it and it always leaves my skin with glow. Coming from ski country, I know that sun burns still occur during winter and when they are paired with wind can cause skin to sting. Sesame seed oil is soothing and fast acting to restore the balance and moisture to the skin. It also helps to keep the flexibility of the skin.
I have 6 herbs that are my go to in my kitchen during the winter months. All my formulations in the winter center around these.
Astragalus - A popular herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine. We use the root of this plant. It can be purchased in small chopped up pieces or sliced in long strips that sort of resemble a tongue depressor. Astragalus is a long term immune tonic meaning it helps the immune system stay strong. It's beneficial in teas, and tinctures. In the kitchen I like to add it to my seasoning sack when I make soup stocks and broths.
Side note: I prefer astragalus for long term immune building. Echinacea is also a
popular immune herb, however it's job is for short term immune needs. Echinacea
works to build the white blood cells on the body and can be taxing on the body during
when used long term.
2. Chamomile - Good chamomile has a sweet apple like smell that is mood lifting, which is
it makes an appearance in my chamomile coco and other winter time indulgences. Not
only does chamomile lift our moods, but it helps to soothe our nerves and reduce the
stress load on our nervous system. This beautiful sunny little plant also aids the digestive
system which is useful as our foods during winter tend to be a little heavier and harder to
3. Eucalyptus - With its deep camphor smell eucalyptus has a place on my stove boiling to
freshen the air and open the lungs. I also like tying up a couple table spoons in reusable
linen bags in the shower. It's warming and uplifting and creates a small sense of a getaway
during the long winter months.
4. Mullein - This soft and fluffy herb is found during the late summer above 5,000 ft in
elevation. It's nature is to protect the mucus membranes of the body, to keep them free of
irritation and well moisturized. Mullein can be somewhat bitter in large amounts but it's
great in tinctures and infused in oils for salves.
Kitchen usage: For easy home use I like to drop 1 TBS into a big pot (like a pasta pot) of
water that's simmering. Once it's boiling, I turn the heat off and drape a towel over my
head to create a personal steam tent. Steaming with mullein opens our pores, it
soothes dry, irritated tissue in the sinuses, lungs and throat. Please use caution when
working with boiling hot water.
5. Rosehips - Rosehips add a cheerful pink hue to everything they are blended with. They are
sweet and tart all at the same time giving blends a complex play for our taste buds. Not
only are they delicious but rosehips are high in vitamin C, they help to facilitate fat
metabolism, and help to fight inflammation and pain.
Kitchen usage: Try using rosehips in your cranberry sauce this year. Here's the recipe:
1 bag fresh cranberries 1 C orange juice 1/2 tsp ginger 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 C crushed rosehips 1 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp clove 1/4 C brown sugar
place all the ingredients in a sauce pan and cook down on low until the cranberries can
be crushed and sauce thickens to desired texture.
6. Thyme - Although a tasty seasoning when cooking, thyme is also a powerful antimicrobial.
I usually keep a little jar of honey with a few sprigs of thyme and fresh lemon in it, in the
fridge to help sooth sore throats during the winter.
Side note: Caution should be used when using thyme during pregnancy.
For more inspiration on culinary herbalism and to see behind the scenes of traditional medicine for modern times follow Crow & Owl on instagram!