January is a time of reflection, as signified in this month’s header picture. Sunlight is low and when seen casts a golden glow across the land. The shortest day has passed along with the celebrations of light to ward off the darkness.
Now we face the beginning of a new year, the challenges of snow, frost and continuing cold. The need to stay indoors, to isolate ourselves from those we love and care for whilst worrying about our own health and wellbeing in the increasing web of concern for our wider communities.
How do we cope when the world is plagued by uncertainty and change? By concentrating on the shortest time, the simplest thing, each one building a jigsaw to take us forward into a more positive future.
What are we doing to help ourselves stay safe and well?
Every morning we take a shot glass of herbal tonic. We use tinctures/elixirs because it’s easy to administer.
Mine contains: Solomon seal, agrimony (joint pain) bugle (joint & digestive), St John’s wort and lemon balm (nervine plus SAD), hawthorn and motherwort (heart), dandelion bitter (liver) plus elderberry elixir. This may sound a lot, but when mixed together, it’s only a couple of tsps. topped up with water.
Chris has: dandelion (liver), hawthorn (heart) saw palmetto (prostate) plus elderberry elixir.
Chris spends most winters lurching from one cold to another. This year the elderberry has reduced most infections to one or two days of incessant sneezing and nose blowing with only the odd day feeling under the weather. Once he starts sneezing he takes fire cider vinegar and honey. If you have never made any, this is my version of the recipe.
Fire Cider Vinegar
Equal portions of horseradish and ginger root – grate or whizz in a coffee grinder. (It is your choice whether you peel the roots or not.)
1 head of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 good handful of rosehips (fresh or dried)
2 tsps paprika
2 tsps turmeric
2 tsps cayenne pepper
(If you have access to fresh chilli peppers, you can add these as well, leaving the seeds in to give extra “fire”!)
Mix all dry ingredients together in a large glass jar so it is filled about half full, then add cider vinegar stirring well to remove air bubbles until the jar is full. Place cling film over the top of the jar before sealing with screw top lid. Label and date. Place jar in warm, dark place for 3 weeks. Strain and use.
The drink we make with fire cider is 2tsps infused vinegar with 2tsps runny honey in a mugful of boiling water, stir and sip. Usual dose is 3 mugs a day. If you want to add potency, then you can use an infused honey, such as sage, elecampane or horseradish but the drink is less pleasant using the latter.
When I don’t drink enough, my kidney complains and I end up with back pain. This is dealt with using fresh nettle seed and cramp bark tinctures (1tsp each 3x day) and extra fluids. Yesterday I resorted to a nettle chai which is an easy warm, comforting drink.
2 handfuls of dried nettle leaves
1 inch of chopped root ginger
Spices (cinnamon/nutmeg/1 clove)
Orange or lemon peel
Place all the ingredients in a 2mug/4cup cafatiere (French coffee press) and cover with just boiled water. Infuse for ten minutes, strain and drink.
Another warming drink which helps the immune system is made from astralagus root.
Immune support tea
1tblsp chopped dried astralagus root
1inch root ginger
Small handful of dried rosehips and haws
Warming spices (cinnamon/nutmeg/clove/cardamom)
Citrus juice and peel (orange/lemon/lime/grapefruit)
You could make this as a decoction in a covered saucepan (Cover with 1pint water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins, then strain and drink) but it works just as well as a tea made in a cafetière.
We’re also spending a lot of time in front of computer screens which often means my eyes become either sore or puffy. Putting a square of material or kitchen towel soaked in an infusion of eyebright and goldenrod tea (1tsp of each of the dried herbs) over my eyes for ten minutes during my afternoon nap (yes I am that old!) works wonders.
There is no escaping the fact that life is currently very stressful for most people.
Here are some soothing teas to help
1tsp each of dried chamomile, lemon balm and vervain in a single mug cafetière. Add just boiled water and steep for ten minutes strain and drink.
Ashwagandha evening soother
2 tsps dried ashwagandha roots
1tsp dried rose petals
1/2 pint milk (dairy or nut)
Heat the roots and petals in the milk in a covered saucepan. Simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and drink. Add honey if required.
Keep a dropper bottle of rose elixir and skullcap tincture within easy reach throughout the day and night. Rose will lift your spirits when everything seems too much or when you’ve had bad news about something. Skullcap stops the mice running around in your head when you can’t sleep.
Skullcap is safe for older children and very young children can be sent to bed after a bath to which a strong tea of lavender, lemon balm and catnip has been added. (Bath, bed, story, sleep in strict order, no play fights or running around in between!).
We know these are difficult times. To experience difficult times in winter when energy levels are naturally low is even more challenging but the wheel of the year is always turning and things will change.