The fabulous scents and flavors which we associate with winter holidays are more than simply delicious memories of home and family. Sage, frankincense, myrrh evergreens, cinnamon, and nutmeg are just a few of the herbs which offer multiple health benefits. Let’s take a quick look at what holiday herbs may offer for your health.
A Healthy Holiday Toast
Traditional holiday beverages such as glogg or wassail provide healthy benefits. The next time that you are toasting someone’s health with these delicious winter warmers consider these facts:
Orange and other citrus fruits add more than beauty and bright flavors to holiday drinks. They are fabulous sources of vitamin C. The peels of citrus are rich sources of antioxidants which prevent illness and slow down the aging process. Compounds in citrus peels bind with carcinogens and aid their elimination from the body. In addition to being potent fighters of cancer, citrus fights infections and provides benefits for heart health.
Nutmeg is used to top eggnog and in holiday baking. It is a very potent herb. Nutmeg may be used to promote sleep, especially when combined with the milk in eggnog. It has strong antibacterial properties and helps to relieve pain and inflammation.
Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Oh My!
While not known for their nutritional benefits, pumpkin pie, holiday cookies, and elaborate desserts are important parts of holiday traditions. Most of us overeat during the holidays. As a result, digestive disturbances are common. Fortunately, ordinary baking spices provide rapid relief.
Ginger possesses a well-deserved reputation as a remedy for nausea. Ginger is great for relieving any type of congestion. Research confirms numerous benefits for the circulation.
I like to use ginger as a cold remedy. Simply take some freshly grated root or dried ginger and add water with some honey and lemon to make delicious tea. It is a wonderful herb to use to relieve chills.
Ginger’s relative, cardamom, offers stomach soothing benefits too. In addition, cardamom has been promoted as an aphrodisiac for thousands of years. Cardamom aids concentration and relieves winter coughs.
Cinnamon helps to relieve digestive upsets. It is good to employ if you have eaten too much. Cinnamon helps to lower blood sugar levels among type two diabetics. Like many other holiday herbs, cinnamon possesses decongestant qualities which unclog the lungs and sinuses.
Potent Antibacterial Holiday Herbs
You may only think of sage as an ingredient for a holiday turkey. It is much more than that. Sage is my favorite remedy for sore throats. It provides relief of discomfort and destroys bacteria which cause sore throats and other ailments.
One of the reasons that sage was traditionally used was that it kept meat from spoiling before there was refrigeration. The same properties which prevented meat from spoiling can kill bacteria which are so abundant in winter.
Sage was also used as people felt better after eating fatty foods if they cooked with sage. It turns out that sage helps to protect the liver, which may have translated into “feeling better” after a night of imbibing alcohol and rich foods.
Two of the most potent holiday herbs are frankincense and myrrh. Traditionally used in rituals meant to purify, that is exactly what these resinous herbs do.
In addition to very strong antibacterial actions, frankincense is a terrific addition to skin care products. It prevents aging of the skin.
I use myrrh frequently in my herbal practice. It has antibacterial and antiviral actions. I use it for tough respiratory infections, topical sores, and to promote healthy teeth and gums. It is great for skin care too.
Evergreens and Health
Many evergreens were used by Native Americans to relieve coughs and respiratory illnesses. Pine tar is still listed in the National Formulary. Pine species have stimulant and diuretic actions. They kill parasites and relieve herpes infections such as cold sores. Pine tar heals wounds.
Juniper is an antiseptic which relieves urinary tract infections. It is potent and should only be used occasionally and is not for use by people with kidney disease. It relieves joint pain and gas.
Mistletoe should only be used by qualified experts as it can be deadly. It offers potent medicine for the treatment of cancer. Mistletoe has been used to treat a variety of serious illnesses.
I do not recommend using holly for health; however, Native Americans used it as a strong laxative. They also used it to cause vomiting in case of poisoning.
Even our holiday foods are healing. The orange vegetables, such as squash and sweet potatoes, are potent sources of vitamins and fiber.
Olive oil, used to keep the Hanukkah lamps burning, heals the body inside and out. It is the best oil to use as a base for making herbal salves as olive oil contains a multitude of healing benefits. Olive oil is well known as a heart healthy dietary fat.
Cranberries prevent and heal urinary tract infections via three scientifically proven actions. Use cranberry tablets or unsweetened juice.
As you prepare for the holiday season, be sure to give thanks for the herbs which grace our tables and homes. They help us to stay healthy during this busy season and for the New Year to come.