The Christmas and New Year period is a really busy time for our immune systems! Underneath the fun of gift giving and extra family time, there’s a bit of extra sugar here and there, and for some, more than usual amounts of alcohol because of Christmas parties. The body’s defence system can quickly become overwhelmed, especially if you were already burning the candle at both ends. This is often also the time of year where weight can start to creep on and then we can get a shock as the New Year rolls in. So we have put together a few handy hints to get your through this coming month with more spring in your step and hopefully a little more Christmas Zing!
At PHF, as trained medicinal herbalists we use our herbs in the form of herbal tinctures, but luckily there are wonderful garden herbs and beautiful teas that can make a great contribution to our health.
Easy Herbs to use and enjoy (obviously to be avoided if you have any known allergies):
Chamomile tea: Chamomile is a wonderful, calming herb that many people, young and old find relaxing. It is often encouraged as a sleep aid to drink in the evening. Chamomile is also used to relieve stomach cramps and flatulence. It is often called “The Mother of the Gut” and used for all types of digestive disturbances. It can be a great herbs to introduce to kids as their first cup of grown up tea!
Ginger: Many people know of ginger as an antiemetic – which means it reduces nausea. It is often used in the form of travel sweets for people with motion sickness, at PHF we use it a lot for morning sickness with our pregnant patients. If you over indulge at Christmas and feel a little worse for wear you could try a ginger tea or make your own with hot water poured over cut up ginger root. Ginger is a herb we use in many of our digestive formulas as it has been shown to stimulate the flow of saliva, bile and gastric secretions. Ginger has also been shown to be beneficial in period pain. There have been a number of scientific trials that have shown ginger significantly reduces period pain known as primary dysmenorrhoea. It is a great tea to sip and a great food to include in your cooking as it has many health benefits and tastes delicious.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a favourite amongst herbalists. It has a wonderful blood sugar stabilising effect. As long as you are not any medications then Cinnamon can make a great addition to your diet to help ensure you manage your blood sugars well, if you are on medications, please check with your herbalist first. A sprinkle of cinnamon on your breakfast can help you use the fuel from your breakfast more effectively. A herbal tea with cinnamon is a warming drink and may contribute to better glucose management. Our herbalists use cinnamon medicinally in the treatment of PCOS, weight loss and blood sugar problems. It can be a herb to keep in your cupboard to add that extra zing at breakfast knowing you are helping nourish the body and stabilise your energy during the day.
Garlic: The wonder herb for the immune system but really, what doesn’t this herb do? Garlic is a wonderful antimicrobial herb that is effective against many different bacteria. A 12 week study of 146 people reported in the journal of Advanced therapeutics showed garlic preparations significantly reduced the incidence of colds and accelerated recovery compared with placebo. We encourage many of our patients to try and eat garlic daily if possible. Most of you would know about our wonderful Magic Dressing recipe which tops just about everything perfectly!! Garlic is also used to lower cholesterol, obviously it is not a stand alone treatment but it is a very sensible addition to our diet to help us look after our cholesterol levels. Cholesterol levels go up after menopause, so it is a very smart food to be increasing in the diet as we age. With Christmas indulgences, adding extra garlic to your hummus, guacamole and all of your meals just helps your body stay fit and healthy.
Garden Herbs: rosemary, thyme, chives, parsley: Interestingly garden herbs pack a real punch at adding antioxidants and nutrients to our diet. It is so easy to sprinkle herbs on to a meal but few people are aware of just how greatly that actually increases the nutrient quality and quantity of any meal. Many of our recipes include fresh herbs in them, this is not just for their wonderful taste but because herbs are so full of phytonutrients that they play a great role in improving our health.
So try a ginger tea, be adventurous and try and cinnamon and ginger tea, add fresh green herbs to as many meals as possible, indulge in your favourite garlic rich meals and enjoy the evening sipping a chamomile tea all the while blissfully aware that you are improving your health!