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Winter herbal — Garlic and honey plus other seasonal favorites

Garlic garlic for nourishing and stimulating your immune system

Curious about winter herbs like garlic and honey to support your immune system and nourish you through the dark months of winter?

In this article, I'll share the scoop on making garlic elixir, as well as other winter herbal kitchen favorites. Plus I have a 10-step recipe for you to make your own herbal tinctures from medicinal roots.

Table of contents

Slowing down with the winter season

The plants aren't the only ones called back to the roots at this time of year. As wild as I am about the lush herbal growth in spring and summer, my favorite time of the year is this season, between Halloween and winter solstice.

As the Earth's cycles naturally move away from creating and producing, we feel a tug toward a place of reflection, restoration, and self care—to rest and replenish our energetic reserves as the plants do, in their roots under the ground.

The long nights and colder weather beckon us to go inward too.

That inward pull runs contrary to the hustle and bustle of the holidays when there is so much pressure to be outward and focused on others.

A quiet yet potent way to connect with the rhythms of nature and support your health is to bring medicinal herbs into your everyday life—from garlic and honey in "garlic elixir," to reishi broth and root tinctures. 

Garlic and honey  — blended with vinegar for Garlic Elixir 

One of my favorite winter remedies is Garlic Elixir. It's a tangy, pungent—yet slightly sweet—combination of garlic, apple cider vinegar and honey. A delicious way to nourish and stimulate your immune system!

I love to buy garlic and honey from local farms to make this tonic for sore throats, sinus congestion, colds and winter blues. 

So as you stroll through your local farmer’s market, keep an eye out for garlic and honey to brew up some zesty Garlic Elixir.

Garlic Elixir Recipe

Makes: 1 quart; for smaller batch use same ratio
Prep time: 30 min + 6 weeks brewing time

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz garlic
  • 16 oz apple cider vinegar (or another kind of vinegar)
  • 5 oz honey

Directions:

  1. Break apart several heads of garlic into individual cloves (leaving the skins on is fine) and roughly chop with a knife or minimally chop in a food processor.
  2. Fill a quart jar with chopped garlic, should be approximately two-thirds full.
  3. Mix together 3 parts vinegar to 1 part honey. If your honey is too thick to mix, warm it in a saucepan over low heat until it becomes liquidy thin.
  4. Pour the honey-vinegar mixture over the garlic until the jar is full. Use a plastic lid or cover the mouth of the jar with wax paper before securing the lid (the vinegar tends to rust metal lids).
  5. Tend your brew every couple of days for the first week, then once a week after that. Poke it with a spoon to release air bubbles, then top it off with the vinegar.
  6. After 6 weeks, strain out the garlic and enjoy!

    “Garlic and vinegar have been prized for thousands of years for their amazing healing powers. Alone or in combination, these foods are powerful medicine.”

    - Garlic and Vinegar: Nature’s Healing Twins by Julia Charles 

Q: "I made a batch of Garlic Elixir and when I checked it the next day all the liquid and garlic had turned deep blue! What happened and is it still safe to eat?"

A: Garlic contains sulfides that react with copper compounds found in some utensils and water. This reaction will cause your Garlic Elixir to turn blue. It may be hard to avoid, since you probably don’t know which utensils have copper compounds or whether your water supply carries it. However, don’t be alarmed, even though it may look like a science experiment we know people who eat it anyway! 

3 more winter herbal kitchen concoctions

In this winter season when we don’t have the fresh herbs handy, like our foremothers, we rely on herbs that we have preserved for the winter. I drink nettle infusion almost every day, covering a cup of the dried herb with a quart of boiling water in the evenings, to steep overnight and heat up the next day for my warm mugs of infusion.

I also especially enjoy brewing three other dried herbs, each in her own water-based form of extraction--depending on which method optimizes the medicinal properties of that particular herb.

Reishi mushroom broth

I add a handful of the dried reishi mushroom slices to each pot of bone broth, for the adaptogenic and deep immune support that reishi offers.

Similar to making stock, a long slow simmering is the most potent way to extract the medicinal properties of reishi, which adds a rich, deeper flavor to the bone broth.

As the name suggests, adaptogens support our bodies and hormonal systems to adapt to a wide range of circumstances and changes, both physically and emotionally.

Marsh mallow root infusion

I also love to make cold infusions of marsh mallow root. Now, we’re not talking about sugary puffs that you roast over the campfire! Although the marsh mallow plant was originally an ingredient in the candy, contributing mucilaginous properties.

Marsh mallow (aka marshmallow) belongs to a family of plants known as the Mallow family (Malvaceae). The edible low-growing common mallow (Malva sylvestris) grows as a weed in many gardens, and I have enjoyed cultivating the much taller marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) in my garden as well.

The mucilaginous properties of marsh mallow offer beneficial support for the mucus membranes which line all of our systems that are open to the world--including the respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems. As a winter ally, marsh mallow has a long history of nourishing the lungs and easing coughs.

Because some of marsh mallow’s mucilaginous and delicate medicinal properties degrade with heat, this is one of the few herbal infusions that I actually prefer to prepare with cold water rather than with boiling water.

I put a half cup of dried herb into a pint jar, cover it with cold water and leave it on the counter overnight. The slippery infusion can be strained in the morning to drink, or refrigerated to extend the life for a day or two. Drink up!

Tulsi, aka sacred basil

The third winter herbal preparation from dried herbs I want to highlight for you is, ahhh, tulsi—also known as sacred basil, an adaptogen. Those of you who already know tulsi, may breathe a sigh just hearing her name!

I savor her in my garden all summer, and then just before the fall frosts, we harvest the remaining flowering stalks to dry.

It's such a treat in the winter to add a small bundle, tied up in cheesecloth, into a steaming bath.

Or you can simply boil a small pot of water and inhale the steam (with a towel over your head to keep the steam concentrated) to relieve dry sinuses and skin.

The pleasurable fragrance reduces stress, nourishes the skin, and opens up the lungs.

Making winter herbal tinctures for your medicine chest

Around the first frosts, I gather the last of the lemon balm and peppermint to brew teas, knowing the rest of the herbs will be taken by the wintery weather that will soon blow in.

And then after the first two nights of hard frost, I turn my attention to harvesting medicinal roots–which reach peak potency as they send their energy below the ground in the cold season.

For many years, I had an arrangement with several nearby organic farmers that after the frosts I would dig out their yellow dock, dandelion and burdock roots–all deep immune herbs, supporting the liver and kidneys. They were always glad to see the weeds go, roots and all!

10 step recipe to make your own herbal tincture from medicinal roots

  1. Harvest the roots by digging a ring or trench around the root, scooping out the soil a little bit at a time until you can gently ease the root out.
  2. Look through the roots and discard damaged parts.
  3. Wash the roots to remove all dirt (note: only wash roots when creating a tincture)
  4. Chop the roots with a knife or put in a blender with the alcohol.
  5. Fill a jar to the top with the plant material, packed tight.
  6. Fill the jar to the top again, with 100-proof vodka, and cap.
  7. Label the jar—eg, Dandelion root, 100 pf vodka, 12/3/2020.
  8. Top off the liquid level the next day
  9. Leave your tincture brewing on your counter for six weeks.
  10. Strain out the plant material

Now you have your own homemade herbal medicine tincture!~

Store the tincture in a cabinet out of direct sunlight (or an amber bottle); potency will be retained for at least 3-5 years.

 

Winter calls us to the roots

I know I’m not alone in this year round love affair with the plants!

And that even through the winter, as wise woman herbalists, many of you continue to weave with the herbs in your day to day lives, from broths and infusions to steams and baths.

Keep using your kitchen creativity to dream up your own medicinal, fun, delicious, tonifying concoctions to nourish and soothe you through these dark days of winter.

How else might we respond to the call inward? I like to take a few moments alone in the early morning or at the end of the day to center and let my mind rest. Some days I take a walk out in nature to hear what the plants are saying–I find movement always brings calm in troubled times.

In the evenings I dim the lights and put on music that quiets my insides as I wrap up my day. Making sleep a priority is my #1 strategy for self care–my family often hears me say that sleep is my source of happiness!

What are the ways you “get away”? What brings you back to calm? What helps to rejuvenate you when you are feeling depleted and empty? What small steps can you take to add a bit more rest into your days and nights?

 

 


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Corinna Woodseasoned teacher and mentor along the Wise Woman path–from herbs to self love

I've been teaching earth-based, woman-centered holistic healing for 30 years. Today, I offer tools to ground you in your own innate wisdom, discernment, and self-understanding. 

I invite you to explore my blog articles, free resources, and online courses—made just for wonderful women like you.
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