Happy Holidays my friends, you’ve officially made it to the end of the year…Time for cozy winter, peak snuggle time, and cough, cold, and flu season…That last part is way less romantic, am I right? We all want the holidays to be filled with merry and bright times next to our friends and loved ones, but nothing throws off all those plans you have to conquer your winter bucket list more than getting sick. This holiday season, we’re making it a priority to protect our health & wellbeing by boosting our immune systems with daily natural habits. Time-honored folk remedies and herbal medicines are a wonderful way to support your immunity, but the benefits of these amazing self-care practices don’t happen overnight—it’s all about the time and effort you put into them.
One of the beautiful benefits of herbal and holistic health is that it’s gentler, slower, and kinder to our system. This often translates to daily maintenance and tender loving care and attention to your body. It’s up to you to take action every day to support your health. In western medicine, we tend to feed off of instant gratification— have a bug? Take a pill. You’re done. But, did you know it actually takes 6 months to rebuild healthy gut flora after only one round of antibiotics? There is something to be said for preventing illness and taking care of your whole body, rather than going on a roller coaster of health drama month after month. And it doesn’t have to be hard, either! There are ways you can quickly and easily achieve your ‘winter-ready’ immune system, and be ready to hit the holidays full force. Here are 4 simple natural habits you should incorporate into your health routine every day during the winter months.
This folk remedy concoction is full of antimicrobial vegetables, roots, spices, and herbs to provide immune support all winter long. It works like this:
1. Choose ingredients that call to you (see my recommended list below) and cozy up in the kitchen, chopping and chilling for a little less than an hour to make the cider.
2. Put it aside! Ferment all of the potent immune boosting ingredients in apple cider vinegar for 4-6 weeks.
3. Take up to 1 shot glassful every day throughout the winter months.
If you start now, your cider will be ready just in time for peak sick season. There are many ways to modify the recipe to your liking, so don’t be afraid to get creative and play with it – (a quick internet search will give you more adaptations galore).
Here is my personal favorite recipe for immune-boosting Fire Cider:
- ½ Gallon glass jar with a metal lid (make sure to use a square of wax paper between the metal and cider when you’re closing it up, or the apple cider vinegar will rust the metal)
- ½ Gallon of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 cup horseradish root; grated
- 1 head of garlic; chopped
- ½ cup ginger; grated
- ½ cup fresh turmeric; chopped
- ½ cup dried rose hips (I like to source my herbs from a local apothecary, but Mountain Rose Herbs is also a great source)
- 4-6 hot peppers of your choice; chopped (jalapeño, habanero, serrano, etc.) OR 1 tsp cayenne. (You can also leave the pepper seeds out if you’re concerned about too much spice.)
- Zest and juice of 3 lemons
- ½ cup fresh rosemary sprigs; chopped
- 1 cup fresh oregano leaves; chopped
- Place all chopped ingredients in the glass jar and pour in the Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) until it reaches about one inch from the top of the jar. (You’ll need this extra room for shaking
- Shake the jar until all ingredients are well mixed and immersed in the ACV
- Set aside for 4-6 weeks in a cool dark place (corner of kitchen or pantry), giving it a good shake every day or so (I like to write myself a sticky note to remember to shake it often)
- As the ingredients sink down and eventually soak up the ACV, continue to add more vinegar to fill the jar.
- Strain the juice from the ingredients into a clean bowl, empty the roughage into the compost or trash, give the glass jar a rinse and pour cider back into the glass jar.
- If you’d like to make it a bit more palatable, add honey to your liking and taste (~1-2 cups) – shake very well or use an immersion blender to mix
- Finally: Some people like to pour into large glass bottles with stoppers for easier access. You can also buy a clean dropper to pull from the bottle with
- Enjoy your strong immune system!
Daily Immune Tea
Drinking tea every day in the winter is a great morning or bedtime routine, it’s comforting, warming, nourishes your soul and additionally is a great way to infuse daily immune boosting herbs. Echinacea, ginseng and ginger are 3 of my favorite go to herbs for immunity and anti-inflammatory properties. There is actually a fair amount of great evidence based research on the beneficial properties in each herb. Why not get a little bit of this earth medicine in your body daily?
How to accomplish: I personally never do well remembering to do something everyday unless I work it into my routine and make it really fast, easy and accessible (my busy peeps can you relate?) For this reason I recommend making large batches of the immune tea over the weekend or on a day off and keeping it prepped and ready to pour in your refrigerator for easy access throughout the winter.
You can drink it by heating up a cup every morning or night OR if you’re pressed for time or prefer cold tea, add the tea to a water bottle and sip on it through the day (this is what I do). It’s a tasty addition to your water and helps you remember to stay hydrated.
Ingredients for a large batch:
*again, if you don’t have a local apothecary, I recommend Mountain Rose Herbs online for great quality organic herbs.
- 2 cups dried or 1 cup fresh chopped ginger root
- 2 cups dried echinacea purpurea root
- 1/2 cup dried American ginseng root, broken into small pieces
- Honey to taste
- Lemon Juice to taste
- Mix all herbs together in bowl until well combined (store whatever you’re not using for this batch in a glass jar after – it looks beautiful on a counter or shelf)
- For 15 minutes Simmer ½ – ¾ cup of the herbal mixture per 2 quarts of water *Important: don’t let it boil.
- Turn off the heat and stir in honey and fresh lemon juice to taste
- Let the tea cool slightly on the stove, strain out the herbs if you’d like and pour the tea into a glass jar or pitcher for easy access. This is the pitcher I use and love the way it looks in my fridge too!
- Drink daily through the winter, hot or cold!
Did you know your gut plays a HUGE role in your immune system? A large proportion of immune cells actually reside in your intestines. As everything you put into your body passes through the gut, your gut has the big job of protecting your body against infectious bacteria and regulating your immunity. If your intestinal health is in poor shape – it goes hand in hand with increased acute (short term) illness and long term disease formation. Wowsa! Good motivation to get your gut health on track. One simple thing you can do every day to boost your gut health and up healthy bacteria is take a probiotic.
What is a probiotic? A probiotic, in the form I’m recommending, is a small capsule full of healthy bacteria and yeast that stimulates the increased growth of more natural healthy bacteria in your gut. We normally think of bacteria as a negative, however the human body is FULL of healthy bacteria called “normal flora.” Using a probiotic to power up and grow these healthy bacteria help diversify and strengthen the immune cells in your gut.
How do I take this? Increase your immunity by taking 1 probiotic every day! It’s as simple as that. Be sure to leave them in your fridge after buying.
What kind should I get? I tell all of my patients to use probiotics from the refrigerated section in health food stores. These are “live” probiotics and are more potent and effective than those sitting warm on the grocery shelf. I recommend the brand Mega Flora, however, asking the herbalists at your local health food store is also a great way to find a brand you like. There are plenty of great brands out there – and typically – the better the quality, the more they cost. I usually personally settle for somewhere around 20-25 dollars a month.
Get Your Supplements on Point!
The immune trifecta: These essential vitamins and elements are the standard cocktail of big deal immune boosting. They work on decreasing free radicals in your body, decrease inflammation, help prevent autoimmune disease and flare ups and decrease the chances of coming down with coughs and colds.That’s some powerful stuff. Getting into a daily routine of taking your vitamins and supplements can be a challenge for some people, but try finding the motivation in routine and ritual in your life. It’s extremely gratifying to get organized and your body will thank you as it reaps the benefits of a boosted immune system.
Every Day Take:
- Vitamin C: 1000 – 1500 mg
- Vitamin D: 2,000 IUI’s
- Zinc: 15 to 30 mg
*note: taking zinc on an empty stomach can be tough for some
You can get as spendy or as frugal as you want with supplements, but again, you typically get what you pay for. My favorite pretty affordable brand right now is Garden of Life as they contain whole raw products and don’t contain artificial colors, fillers or sugar!
Also, check out more of my immune boosting tips here. This post has some broader lifestyle measures that, combined with the herbal remedies above, should put you on the highway towards optimal health and feeling your best.
Happy Holidays sweet friends, be truly kind to yourself and others, love deeply, and enjoy the season!