Today we will look at some warming herbs and spices that will help you, who would rather hibernate through the whole snowy season. Some of them are specifically useful if you suffer from notoriously cold feet and hands, while others just help you start your inner furnace, and make you feel all warm and cozy. I bet all of you chilly mortals will be able to get some new tips! Once again, I include my personal favorites.
Ginger and ginseng
Let’s start with probably the most popular warming remedy – ginger. Ginger is absolutely delicious, powerful in its warming effect, and easily available in both fresh and dried form. I always have ginger at home – during the colder months, I brew it into tea, and I enjoy it in lemonade during summer. Ginger is also an amazing and versatile cooking ingredient, and I highly encourage everybody to experiment with adding a little bit to your favourite recipes as it can add some great notes to your dish.
You can use both fresh and dried ginger for your teas. I prefer freshly grated/sliced ginger, as I often eat up the ginger pieces after I finish my tea. I personally don’t bother with peeling ginger before using it, but if you want to peel it, USE A SPOON instead of a knife to peel the root – it works like magic and you won’t waste almost anything.
Another useful warming root is ginseng. Asian ginseng, to be specific. It has many many amazing invigorating qualities like boosting your stamina (in more than one way 😉 ) and overal energy levels, aiding short-term memory and cognitive functions in general, and helping your immune system. What is most important to us in this episode is ginseng’s overall warming effect with special boost to your circulation – that is very beneficial for those who suffer from cold hands and feet. One note – do not drink ginseng tea close to bedtime, it is quite energizing.
TIP: try Insam cha – Korean ginseng tea (external link)
– ginseng can cause insomnia if used long term
– consult your physician before using ginseng, if you take any medication, or if you’re pregnant/breastfeeding
– be minful of using ginseng with other stimulating remedies (or anything that causes alertness)
2 cm of fresh thinly sliced ginger root
steeped in a cup of hot water for 5-10 minutes,
best served with honey and lemon.
(adjust according to taste)
1-2 teaspoon of dried ginseng root
steeped in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes,
best served with honey and lemon.
Tea blend tip
1 part ginseng, 2 parts ginger, 1/2 part liquorice root
best with a generous amount of honey and lemon.
Hawthorn and yarrow
Next on my list are two warming herbs that likely aren’t such an obvious choice as ginger is – well, that’s about to change, dear cold-handed friends! Hawthorn and yarrow are both excellent remedies for all of you whose circulation needs a little boost. If you suffer from cold feet and/or hands, these two herbs are something you should absolutely try.
First one is hawthorn. Hawthorn is a key herb for any kinds of circulatory issues – it opens up blood vessels, reduces fat buildup in the arteries, strenghtens the heart, and more! (It also helps with bloating before and during the period.) It’s possible to use its flowers, leaves, and dried or fresh berries to brew tea. The thing with hawthorn is, that it’s very very effective, but it has to be used daily over a longer period of time.
Yarrow has also many different benefits, and it’s probably most famous for helping with digestive issues. I included it here for its amazing effect on circulation – yarrow dilates peripheral blood vessels, fixing cold feet and hands. It should be also noted that it is also very valuable for treating various period-related issues like cramps, excessive bleeding, and irregular menstruation – I will write more on that topic in some of the future episodes.
The hawthorn berries can be also used to make a tincture that can be used as a heart tonic: Cut up the berries in small pieces, fill a jar with them and cover with clear alcohol – like vodka, gin, or my preferred choice – “slivovice”, our local plum brandy. Make sure all berries are completely submerged, so they don’t get moldy. Store the jar in a dark place for a month and shake the it daily. After a month, strain the content, throw away the berries and keep the tincture. Use 20-30 drops a day to strenghten the circulatory system.
– do not use hawthorn during pregnancy
– do not us hwthorn with high blood pressure or heart drugs
1 teaspoon of flowers/leaves
steeped in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes
1 tablespoon of dried berries
simmered in a cup of water for 10 minutes
2 teaspoons of dried flowers/leaves
steeped in a cup of hot water for 5 minutes.
Tea blend tip
2 parts of dried hawthorn berries, 1 part yarrow, 1 part hibiscus flowers
Turmeric and cinnamon
Another two warming spices that you probably connect much more to cooking than to natural remedies are turmeric and cinnamon.
Turmeric has many different benefits, it’s considered one of the superfoods – it has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, may also help with depression, and even makes your skin glow, apart many other things. You should always use turmeric it in combination with black pepper – combining them boosts curcumin (the main goodie in turmeric) absorption by up to 2000%! The main function of turmeric for the winter months is its ability to improve blood circulation by opening blood vessels and its overal warming nature.
Cinnamon is one of those spices that make you think of warmth, cookies, and cozy blankets. Just like turmeric, it opens blood vessels, aiding circulation, helping your hands and feet to warm up. My main use of cinnamon (apart from baking cookies and other sweets) is brewing cinnamon sticks in red wine together with other spices (cloves, star anis, peppercorns), making wonderful mulled wine – an absolute staple of winter months and one of my favourite ways to warm up – the alcohol helps, too, haha!
About three years ago I “discovered” something called Golden Milk (also known as Turmeric Latté) in one of our local cafees. I fell in love with this lovely drink instantly. This magical drink comes from India where it’s known as Haldi Doodh (= turmeric milk). The recipe varies, there are just two main ingredients that must be present – milk and turmeric. You can use both regular milk or plant milk – I personally prefer plant milk for this recipe, but both are very tasty! The recipe I bring you below is how I personally like to make my Golden Milk!
1 cup of warm milk or plant milk
1 heaping teaspoon of turmeric
a pinch of cinnamon
a pinch of pepper (optional, but helps the body to utilize curcumin, plus adds a nice little kick)
1 teaspoon of honey (optional)
add a pinch of cardamom for AMAZING aroma
I also add cardamom to my coffee sometimes 😉
Cayenne pepper or chilli
The last warming remedy I am bringing you today is chilli. Everybody who ever ate any food spiced with a generous dose of chilli powder or cayenne pepper is more than aware of it’s profound warming effect on not only your mouth, but your whole body. I am personally not a big fan of more than the smallest pinch of chilli in my food for a bit of a kick, as even a tiny piece of bird’s eye chilli in my Phở bò made me cry uncontrollably for an embarassingly long time. 😆
Instead, I am bringing you a chilliwuss-friendly way to utilize this powerful warming remedy: A chilli ointment! It’s pretty amazing for cold feet – I’d just spread the ointment all over my feet, put some warm socks on and enjoy the feeling similar to warming your feet right by a fireplace! This is especially great for long winter walks or skiing, where the toes get notoriously cold – well, not anymore! This ointment is also very useful for those who suffer from arthritis, or muscle sprains and strain. Do a patch test before using it on a larger area.
Just remember to either use gloves, or to wash your hands very thoroughly after the aplication, because you just don’t want to touch your eyes (or other sensitive parts) with your fire hands!
Red Hot Chilli Ointment
1 cup of oil of your choice
3 tablespoons of cayenne or chilli powder
30 grams of beeswax
Heat oil and chilli powder in a double boiler for 5-10 minutes.
(For stroger infusion let it cool down and then repeat.)
Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or a coffee filter, set aside.
Heat the beeswax until it is melted.
Stir the infused oil into the beeswax until they are perfectly combined.
Pour into containers and preferably store in the fridge.
If you try one of my warming recipes or if you have some tips of your own,
let me know in the comments!
This was the second episode of Witch’s Garden, a blog based series about herbalism.
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