Our body is designed to adapt to change. We have built-in regulators to make sure we don’t go completely haywire when we get sick, or when we have injury, or when we suddenly jump into a freezing cold pool. We all have an internal circadian rhythm to adapt to night and day changes, and a circannual rhythm to adapt to the changing seasons on a yearly basis. The more gradual the change, the better it is to tolerate. Your body doesn’t really like to be jerked around, forcing itself to make drastic and immediate changes, because that usually throws off other body systems in the process. That’s why when we’re right on the cusp of a changing season (warm to cold, or vice versa), this can sometimes subject us to days of extreme and sudden changes. Enter in the autumn colds and winter flu.
There’s nothing we can do about the seasonal weather (unless you travel away from it), but what we do have control over are our daily inputs and lifestyle choices. These can be powerful tools to support the entire body especially during this time of year. Most of the nutritional and herbal inputs we can use for support work on a theory of opposites. For example – when it’s uncomfortably cold outside, make sure you’re eating warming foods like soups and stews rather than cold raw salads or frozen smoothies. Or when It’s damp and raining for days at a time, eat warmer drying foods like hot herbal pungent teas such as ginger tea or chai. This is all balancing to the body. The external environment has profound effects on the human body, and your internal physiology reacts to that. By utilizing simple inputs, we can help the body to stay as grounded, balanced and healthy as we can throughout the changing season. Some of my favorite herbs for the Autumn season include:
- Dandelion root – this is a deliciously grounding and earthy herbal input that not only connects us back to the summer season, but energetically (as a root herb) helps to keep us grounded. Grounding is one of the most beneficial practices in the autumn and winter months – and you can read about why in my previous posts about the Energetics of Fall. Dandelion also has a wonderful mild cleansing effect on the liver, which is always important to support!
- Nettle – Stinging Nettle is like the ultimate herbal multi-vitamin. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, this herbal daily tea can help increase our dietary intake of nutrients and keep the body strong, especially when we are strained with extra busy fall schedules and copious amounts of relatively unhealthy holiday food. It’s an extremely safe herb – you literally can’t drink too much.
- Astragalus – This is my favorite deep immune tonic herb. It acts more of a preventative than an actual “cold remedy”. I take this all year long in some form or another for deep immune support, and my favorite way to take this is as a tincture (although is natural sweetness makes for a delicious tea, too!). If I actually feel like I’m getting sick, I switch to something else, or when I’m subjected to acute cold or flu people, I immediately start taking….
- Elderberry! This is a perfect anti-viral remedy for acute cold and flu. It’s most common to take elderberry in a syrup form at about 1 teaspoon per day to fight off seasonal illness. I like to make my syrup with some added ginger or cayenne for an extra kick. Gaia Herbs also makes a fantastic elderberry syrup (and it’s perfect for kids too!).
- Ginger – Ginger is a warming, pungent and strong herb that helps get the circulatory system moving almost immediately. It works on almost every communication and messaging system in the body, helping to enliven a weakened immune system, stimulate the cardiovascular system and warm you up from the inside out. If you’re one of those people who just can’t handle the cold weather, have some ginger tea on hand at all times to help keep your body get warmed up. You can read about my personal relationship with ginger here, and why I chose this one to be my herbal ally.
All of these herbs you can find in the bulk section of Ellwood Thompsons, or in tincture or capsule for in the supplement section almost every health food store. Try one at a time to see how they work for you!
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN | HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com