This is the time of year when people are starting to get colds. It’s also the time of year when many of us begin to participate in more indoor activities that bring large numbers of people into small spaces but can also make it easier for people to catch viruses and other “bugs” from each other. And it’s the season when we may find ourselves still dressed for a warm afternoon as an evening chill sets in
Fortunately, there are herbs to help us meet these challenges. The sharper cooking spices, such as garlic and ginger, help warm us physically while activating our immune systems to fight off whatever bugs are surrounding us. Shiitake, maitake, and many other mushrooms help both to stimulate and to strengthen and “train” our immune systems, but please remember to cook your mushrooms before eating them. You can make a wonderful, immune-boosting soup with shiitake mushrooms, seaweed, oodles of ginger, and your favorite vegetables. Astragalus powder helps thicken the broth while adding another immune support. Miso can be a lovely addition after the soup has stopped cooking.
Goldenrod tincture helps treat both colds and allergies, so if you find yourself sneezing, sniffling, or coughing, it’s a great remedy to grab. I also use it when others in my household have colds. For my family, the usual dose is about 3 droppersful, but I have clients who find 2 droppersful effective, and others I have worked with do well on minute doses in the 2-5 drop range.
Fire cider is a wonderful warming beverage popularized by Rosemary Gladstar. It can improve the circulation to help ward off the chills while revving your immune system to stay on guard against whatever bug is going around. There are many recipes for it; one of my favorites follows below.
One last immune-boosting favorite of mine is honey infused with herbs. I like to make ginger honey and ginger elder honey.
Ginger or Ginger Elder Honey
- 2-6 inches of ginger
- 1/2-1 cup of elderberries (optional)
- 1 pint of honey
Chop as much ginger as you dare, and then put it into a pint-sized jar. If available, add a handful or so of elderberries. Pour on the honey and close the jar. Turn the jar upside down at least once a day to help the ginger and elder berries permeate the honey. The ginger juice will rise to the top, mixed with a thinner layer of honey. While this is delicious by itself, the entire jarful of honey will be more potent if you mix it with the thinner syrup that’s on top.
- one large onion
- one head of garlic
- three inches of ginger
- one whole hot red pepper, fresh or dried
- one to three inches of horseradish
- one cup of pine needles (optional)
- one quart of apple cider vinegar
Mince the onion, garlic, ginger, pepper, and horseradish, then put them into a quart-sized canning jar. Add the pine needles; these are optional, but they add significant yumminess and vitamin C. Pour in the apple cider vinegar. Cover, preferably with a plastic lid, although you’ll probably use the Fire Cider before the lid corrodes. Set it aside for one month, but give it a good shake every once in a while.
Optional second step:
After a month, strain. Take all the solids and put them into a stainless steel, ceramic, cast iron, or glass pot. Add two quarts of water, and simmer it until it reduces in half. Strain once again. You may now compost the remaining solid part, unless you made it without pine needles, in which case save it to add by the spoonful to soups, stews, and anything else you’d like to spice up.
Combine the liquid from the first two steps.
Some people like to drink their Fire Cider “neat,” i.e. undiluted, by they shot glass. Others mix it with honey, about half and half, and then imbibe as is or diluted further with water. I like to put a tablespoonful or so into a mug, pour on hot water, and then add honey to taste; that way, different people can drink it with different proportions of honey, or without any.