The changing season brings with it a whole apothecary of herbal preparations. As the days grow shorter and colder, we reach for herbal remedies that support immunity, emotion, energy and vitality. Here are a few of our favorite herbal preparations for staying healthy this winter.
Before we dive in, please note that if you are following any of Doctor Morse’s protocols for fasting and detoxification, the following preparations are not for you. This winter wellness apothecary is for folks that are looking for supportive recipes for winter related seasonal discomforts.
Winter inspires more inward focus and introspection, the gathering of family, and a slower pace. Preparing a warm cup of herbal tea is a lovely way to pause and take in this seasonal shift. You can choose from our herbal tea offerings or choose to create your own herbal blend from herbs grown in your garden or purchased from your local herb shop.
There are multiple ways to make tea, depending on the herbs you are looking to enjoy. Reference our article How to Make a Tasty Cup of Herbal Tea for specific instructions for each type of tea:
Hot Infusions are for softer plant parts, such as leaves and flowers. These plant parts easily lend their supportive phytochemicals to the hot water without any type of agitation. You simply measure out your tea blend, pour hot water over it, place a lid on your infusion and let it steep.
Decoctions are reserved for roots, bark, seeds and hard berries. These herbs need heat and time to soften enough to lend their phytochemistry to the tea water. For this reason, decoctions are simmered for 7-15 minutes before straining and drinking. All Dr Morse tea blends are designed to be prepared as decoctions, because they contain a blend of herbs, roots, barks and seeds. All of Doctor Morse’s tea blends are best made using this method.
Cold Infusions use cold to room temperature water to specifically target mucilaginous polysaccharides. These molecules are extremely hydrophilic (water loving), swelling as they encounter water, resulting in a thickening, hydrating effect. Mucilaginous herbs include Marshmallow root, Licorice root, Cinnamon bark, Fenugreek seed, Chia seed, Flax seed, Comfrey root, and Irish moss.
In Q&A 120-3 Doctor Morse recommends vegetable broths. When you are under the weather, vegetable broth can be a saving grace. It can be difficult to motivate yourself to make a meal, so having some pre-made broths in the freezer is an easy way to warm up the body and get essential nutrients, hydration, and herbs into your daily diet.
To start your broth, dig through your veggie drawer and grab a little of everything you love. Be sure to include carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Then add immune supportive herbs like reishi, goji berry, kombu (seaweed), nettle, astragalus, burdock, dandelion and codonopsis.
Place everything in a crock pot or instant pot, cover with water, and leave to cook on low for a day or two (or the equivalent for the instant pot). Allow to cool, strain and can in quart mason jars. If you plan to freeze these, be sure to leave 2-3 inches of space at the top of the jar to allow for expansion.
Herbal syrups are another tasty and kid friendly herbal preparation that is perfect in the winter months. They are very easy to make, and only require a few ingredients: water, herbs, and honey. Now that we’ve reviewed how to make herbal tea, you already know the bulk of what to do; Syrups are simply a combination of herbal tea and honey!
Try turning any of Doctor Morse’s teas into a syrup!
- Make a strong tea. Ideally, start soaking the herbs the night before. This is especially useful if you are working with hard herbs, fruits and roots like elderberry, echinacea and elecampane. Once these harder herbs have softened, you can take the optional step of using a stick or immersion blender to further break down your herbs before you start simmering your tea.
- Simmer your tea for 1-2 hours, leaving the lid partially on the allow steam to escape while also retaining those essential oils.
- Allow the tea to cool before straining with a fine muslin cloth or cheese cloth.
- Measure the volume of your strained tea and add equal parts honey. For example, if your strained tea measures out to 1 cup, add 1 cup honey.
- Store in an amber glass Boston Round or something similar and enjoy daily. Syrups last 1-2 months in the refrigerator.
As with herbal syrups, gummies are made by combining a few simple ingredients: herbal tea, honey, tincture (preservative) and gelatin. Follow the directions above in the syrups section and make a strong tea decoction and then combine the strained tea with honey and gelatin as directed below:
Gelatin Gummy Recipe:
1 cup herbal tea
1⁄4 cup tincture
1⁄3 cup juice (optional, creates a more Jello-like gummy)
4 tablespoons Honey
4 tablespoons organic Gelatinlico
Vegan Gummy Recipe:
1 1⁄3 cup herbal tea
2⁄3 cup juice
4 teaspoons Agar Agar powder
4 tablespoons honey
Gelatin Gummy Directions:
- Start your decoction! Simmer your plant material in enough water that, after straining, you have 1 cup remaining (start with 2 cups water); simmer for30 minutes to 2 hours, partially covered - the longer you simmer, the stronger and more concentrated the tea becomes.
Helpful tip: halfway through simmering your herb, use an immersion blender to break down the plant material a little more.
- Turn off the heat and let your tea cool. Once it has cooled enough to handle, strain the tea through a strainer/straining cloth, reclaiming the liquid. Squeeze the plant material to get as much of the liquid out of the plant material as you can. Allow it to cool.
- Combine tea, tincture and juice with 4 tablespoons gelatin, wait a few minutes for the gelatin to ‘bloom’ (swell) before returning to heat. Heat and dissolve the gelatin with the tea, stirring throughout.
- Once the gelatin is fully dissolved, remove from heat and add the 4 tablespoons honey, stirring until dissolved.
- Set your mold on cookie sheets or trays to easily move to the refrigerator. While still hot, pour the gummy juice into the molds and place the molds in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Fire cider is a traditional herbal preparation made using apple cider vinegar as the base. Keep in mind that Doctor Morse does not recommend apple cider vinegar when detoxifying as it is acidic, and this remedy is not recommended for daily use.
The body has telltale signs to indicate when we may be falling out of balance: a tickle in the throat, lymphatic irritation, and the change in the temperature of our urine are all indicators that we may be fighting something. This is when we reach for fire cider. It contains pungent (warming) and volatile herbs and spices that act as immunostimulants to support our immune response.
“Fire cider” is an herbal preparation that has been around for hundreds of years but was given the name in 1997 by herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. It is a pungent recipe containing ginger, garlic, onion and horseradish that’s pungency stimulates digestion, supports lymphatic flow, and is a general circulatory stimulant. Fire cider herbs are extracted into apple cider vinegar and honey is sometimes added to round out the flavor.*
Recipe (courtesy of Shelburne Farms)
1/2 cup grated horseradish root
1/2 cup or more chopped onions
1/4 cup or more chopped garlic
1/4 cup or more grated ginger
Raw Apple cider vinegar
- Chop up all your fresh ingredients and add them to a 1-quart mason jar.
- Cover your fresh herbs with apple cider vinegar and place a non-metal lid on the jar (metal will corrode when it encounters vinegar).
- Shake daily and strain after 2-4 weeks. It is also traditionally buried for one lunar cycle to allow the preparation to churn with the movement of the earth and collect astral energy.
- Add honey to taste.
- Dilute 3-4 droppers full (1 tsp) to a shot glass of water and take throughout the day until you feel better.
Herbal Winter Formulary
Now that you have recipes for making herbal teas, syrups and gummies, let’s discuss how to choose the best herbs to support your unique health needs. When choosing herbs for winter wellness, a good strategy is to categorize herbs based on their actions.
Immunomodulators are herbs that are builders. They are tonic herbs that are usually rich in nourishing polysaccharides and antioxidants and help to strengthen and build up your natural immunity, so that when your health is compromised, your immune system is strong and ready to react. Immunomodulating herbs include mushrooms (reishi, lion’s mane, turkey tail, shiitake), echinacea, elderberry, cordyceps, astragalus and tulsi.*
Immunostimulants support the activation of the immune system and are best used when you feel your health taking a turn. As mentioned above, you know your body’s warning signs when things start to go out of balance. This is when you reach for these immunostimulant herbs. Immunostimulant herbs include elderberry, echinacea, spilanthes, lemon, and pungent herbs like garlic, onion, horseradish, cayenne, ginger thyme, and oregano.*
Expectorant and Mucolytic herbs support the loosening, lifting, and expelling of excess mucous from the respiratory tract and can be added to a preparation when the respiratory tract gets boggy and/or clogged. Expectorants include elecampane, mullein, yerba santa and eucalyptus essential oil. Mucolytics include elecampane, marshmallow, cayenne, ginger and thyme.*
Antispasmodics can support a cough by promoting airway comfort and include skullcap, lobelia, thyme, licorice, mullein and wild cherry bark.*
Microbe removers are important to include once immunity has become dysregulated. They are supportive of the immune cells because they support the extinguishing of unwanted organisms and foreign particulates from the body. Some of the best herbs for this action are elderberry, echinacea, garlic, oregano, lemon, ginger and essential oils.*
Adaptogens are wonderful tonic herbs that are meant to be taken long term. Similar to immunomodulators, adaptogens are builders that support the strength and function of the immune system. They do this both because they are often high in immune supportive polysaccharides and antioxidants and because of their affinity for the endocrine system and our fight or flight response.
Over time, adaptogens support the ability of our cells to perform optimally when under stress. Adaptogen are great to include in your daily supplement routine except during times of immune imbalance. Use them to build strength and stamina throughout the year. Common adaptogens are ashwagandha, licorice, eleuthero, holy basil, rhodiola and ginsengs.*
Contraindications: Please consult with your physician before taking any herbal supplement, especially if you are pregnant and/or breastfeeding. Avoid licorice root with high blood pressure.
Nervous System Support
Winter is a dark and isolated time of year. For many, it can cause a downturn in mood, energy, and motivation which can lead to the seasonal blues. Remember to support your nervous system with uplifting herbs to brighten your day! Make teas, syrups and gummies that include lemon balm, St John’s wort, linden, albizia (mimosa), and milky oat tops. Take these preparations daily to support a happy mood and outlook.
Prepping for Winter
Keep in mind that it is best to build your winter apothecary before you start to feel the seasonal funk. It is more difficult to make these preparations once your energy levels have diminished and you want to stay in bed.
We suggest collecting and combining your dried tea blends while you have the energy. Cook up your broth and store it in the freezer. Prepare your syrups and gummies ahead of time and store them in the fridge. Syrup should last 1-2 months in the fridge, and gummies, when fortified with tincture, last much longer. Start macerating your fire cider and bury it now.
Enjoy the process of preparing for winter with these wellness recipes. It is a wonderful way to slow down and get in tune with nature’s rhythms. Empower yourself this winter by building your own apothecary of herbal remedies and discover how good it feels to support yourself with your homemade creations.
*FDA warning: This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.