by Kate Lundquist, guest writer, the Wellness Cricket
This winter I have had the great fortune of working closely with an herbalist and dear friend (and alum!) Sarah Wishnick. A garden crew member and graduate of 2009, Wishnick now works in the Asheville area as an herbal consultant. Whenever I feel a cold coming on, stress seeping in, or energy levels dropping, she is the first person I call. Whether her remedies are nutritional (eat more protein) or herbal tea (she has a blend called Calming Sage which I am in love with), she’s always ready to listen to what your ailments are and how to incorporate herbal care for your daily needs. I asked her to write up some tips for how to keep the flu away and body and mind restful. The cool part is that she KNOWS how psycho life at Wilson can be. Here’s what she came up with:
This may be the last thing you want to do when it’s 40 degrees outside (and you have four papers due the next day), but it’s important to incorporate at least 20 minutes of physical activity into your daily schedule. Think gentle — try a yoga class or take a brisk walk outside. Exercise improves circulation, warms your body, and helps to stimulate the lymphatic system, which is one of the key players in your body’s immune response.
Eat warming, nourishing foods.
Nutrition is key to wellness. When possible, try to incorporate soups or stews into your diet. This is a quick way to incorporate a variety of nutrients into one meal while also heating your body. As a bonus, they are gentle on your digestive system, which can aid in nutrient absorption. Other good food choices include dark greens, lean animal protein (if you are an omnivore), and legumes. These foods are higher in B vitamins, zinc, iron, and vitamin C, naturally supporting immunity. Often overlooked, it is important to incorporate “good” fats like coconut, olive, or walnut oils into your diet as well. These help support the nervous system and hormone production, providing emotional balance.
Sensing a trend with warm things? Yes, tea is warming, but it also keeps you hydrated. The combination of indoor heating systems as well as the naturally dry winter air can be dehydrating, making you more prone to fatigue and illness. In particular, focus on non-caffeinated herbal teas. Ginger is a good choice, since it naturally stimulates heat in the body, has anti-inflammatory properties, and stimulates gastrointestinal based immunity (which provides about ⅔ of our total immune response).
Elderberry is one of my favorite herbs to use year round, but it’s particularly valuable during winter and seasonal changes. Elderberry contains Vitamin A and B, a high amount of Vitamin C, flavonoids and antioxidants, all which help to stimulate the immune system. It can be used daily as a preventative or at the first sign of acute illness to reduce the duration of symptoms. Interestingly, elderberry is one of the few holistic herbal remedies that is backed by extensive scientific research. Nettles are also a beneficial wintertime herb. Besides being highly nutritious, they are known to help with the body’s response to allergens. Finally, since many people suffer from seasonal depression, I often recommend St. John’s Wort, a well-known herb that has mood lifting, antidepressant effects. However, while elderberry and nettles can be taken daily with no side effects, it’s important to note that St. John’s Wort can have negative interactions when taken with other antidepressants, and may possibly reduce the efficacy of birth control pills.
Overall, the best way to stay healthy and balanced during these winter months is to be gentle with yourself. Winter is traditionally a quiet time to look inward to your individual needs, gathering new energy for the more active spring and summer months. With proper nutritional and herbal support, you will be rejuvenated and ready to face the months ahead with vigor.
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