Wellness Encyclopedia: 5 Immune Supporters for Winter and How to Use Them
These 5 ingredients can help your body defend against cold weather-borne sickness so you can enjoy a happy and super healthy holiday and beyond…
If you’re like me, this time of year has you walking a thin line between celebrating the season and trying everything in your power to not get sick. I wasn’t so lucky last week, when I returned from a plane-heavy trip to California and Oregon bogged down by congestion, sniffling and sneezing. Yes, when the temperature drops and our exposure to germ-heavy air travel, sugar-heavy holidays and a stress-heavy life skyrockets, often our immunity begins to waver. While it’s not the cold weather per se that makes us sick, it’s the environment created by the weather that makes us susceptible to viruses and bugs. Colds, flu, strep throat and other nasty seasonal illnesses are more prevalent during these months because the air is cool and dry, and we’re more prone to catching them because our immunity is lowered from stress, too many holiday treats and not enough sleep. So, what can you do? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a fruit-and-veggie-heavy diet is a great place to start, then get plenty of rest (seriously, we all need to be sleeping more), lots of water and add in the five super immune-supporters below. These ingredients can help your body defend against cold weather borne sickness so you can enjoy a happy and super healthy holiday and beyond…
What are immune supporters?
Raw honey: You’ve likely dropped a spoonful or two of Honey into your tea when feeling under the weather, but while regular honey can help soothe and lubricate a sore, scratchy throat, it’s raw, unfiltered honey that’s full of the good stuff. That’s because Raw Honey hasn’t been pasteurized, meaning the natural antiviral, antimicrobial, antibacterial aspects of raw honey are left intact. While it can certainly be added to teas and other hot drinks, raw honey is best taken by the spoonful to reap the supportive qualities of this wellbeing-booster. Local raw honey (local to you) can even assist in warding off seasonal allergies by helping adjust your sinuses to the pollen unique to your geographic region.
How to use: Take by the spoonful daily or add to a mixture of fresh lemon, warm water and apple cider vinegar.
Chaga: Chaga is having a major moment in the spotlight right now. You’ve probably even seen this birch fungus (that’s right, it’s a type of mushroom) pop up in teas, tinctures, and powders all over the place. That’s because chaga’s virtues have been well-documented. Studies have found that chaga works as an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body – especially the immune system – regulate itself during times of stress. We all know stress has a special way (that isn’t special at all) of running us ragged and helping facilitate entry into our bodies for viruses like cold and flu. Chaga is especially valuable during travel as it can assist in warding off sniffles and sneezes brought on by recycled airplane air and the international myriad of germs we’re exposed to in the airport.
How to use: Mix chaga powder or tincture with warm water and sip.
Turmeric: As turmeric lattes increase in popularity, the benefits of turmeric are becoming more widely known – this is a great thing! Turmeric’s rise in popularity means it’s more readily available for when we’re feeling under the weather – I even found fresh turmeric in my mountain town market, which would have been unheard of 10 years ago. Turmeric is basically a super spice, and when combined with cracked black pepper, its benefits become more widely bioavailable. The main beneficial compound in turmeric is called curcumin — when paired with black pepper’s piperine compound, curcumin supports anti-inflammatory responses throughout the body, helping to stave off viruses and keep the immune system in top working order.
How to use: Add powdered turmeric to cooked food, or make a turmeric latte with almond milk, turmeric powder, Ginger, honey and cinnamon.
Ginger: Similar to honey in its cold-season popularity, ginger has been used in Ayurvedic practices for over 5,000 years. One of the most popular ingredients worldwide, ginger contains gingerols, compounds that contain potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could support immune function and keep germs away. Warming ginger is excellent to consume in conjunction with raw honey when you’re feeling ill, as it warms the body and encourages lymph drainage while soothing the stomach and helping to encourage digestion. And if you’re A-OK but a loved one is sick as a dog? The antibacterial properties in ginger can help support your own immune function so you can help your friend heal.
How to use: Add slices of fresh ginger to 8 oz of water and place in a pot. Heat until boiling, then strain and add lemon and honey. Sip slowly.
Ashwagandha: Similar to chaga, ashwagandha is an adaptogen, but it’s not a mushroom. Nope, ashwagandha is a root, and while chaga is known for its immune-supporting properties, ashwagandha is a stress-battling superstar. Slightly bitter with a note of caramel, ashwagandha can support sleep quality and function, which in turn can help keep the immune system functioning properly.
How to use: Add 1 tsp ashwagandha to your morning beverage (tea, coffee, a smoothie or your favorite elixir).
Why are immune supporters important?
Along with a well-balanced diet filled with plenty of plants and fresh-from-the-earth foods, these simple ingredients can support full-body wellbeing, including the immune system. When our system is firing on all cylinders, with lowered stress levels, quality sleep, and balanced energy, the body is better able to defend itself against viruses and bugs like cold and flu. Viruses like influenza and rhinovirus thrive in colder, dry environments, which is why we tend to get sick during the colder months. These months also tend to be slightly more stressful to body and mind than spring and summer, with holidays, school and increased work expectations, contributing to lowered immunity and an increased need for wellness support with adaptogens, ginger, turmeric, and raw honey.
How to use them: Utilizing most of these essential wellness ingredients is fairly universal, with most mixing well into warm water (coincidentally, they also all mix beautifully with one another). Or try the recipes listed below:
- MCT Matcha Latte with Ashwagandha
- Adaptogenic Luna Chai
- Fermented Ginger Ale
- Ginger Lemon Tea
- Ginger Aid Immune Juice
- Anti-inflammatory Turmeric Latte
- Turmeric Elixir
- Honey Ginger Throat Drops
+ More Wellness Encyclopedia posts.
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