Spice it Up

As we move into January, Ottawa has been given the title of coldest capital in the world on several consecutive days.


What does this mean for our health?

More time spent indoors in a dry heat, drying out the mucus membranes lining our noses and sinuses, and unfortunately, more opportunity for the spread of cold and flu viruses.

So how can we keep warm?

One way is to have plenty of warming and stimulating infusions, hot soups and spicy stews. When cold and damp make you shiver and chill you to the bone, warming spices warm you up.

In Europe garlic, horseradish and mustard were the plants of choice as warming remedies. Mustard foot baths and chest plasters were still very popular until the middle of last century. Anyone who has eaten horseradish knows how it will clear the sinuses in a fleetingly painful, yet effective manner. When ginger, cinnamon, cloves and chilli entered pantries, they became highly regarded albeit somewhat expensive at the time.

We are fortunate today to have ready access to all those spices and herbs. They warm us up, help get our noses running, and prevent our noses from drying out, thus allowing the mucus to do its job at protecting us from cold viruses. The increased blood flow to the nasal passages and sinuses is believed to be what aids this wonderful reaction.

Some tips and tricks for warming your cold days.

  • Sprinkle powdered cinnamon bark onto breakfast, preferably a warm breakfast like porridge.
  • Chai tea – commercial chai teas are great and convenient. If you are inclined to make your own blend, there is a super recipe here.
  • Add some freshly grated ginger to a small jar of honey and keep this handy to add to infusions.
  • Add a sprinkling of chilli powder to soups and stews
  • To increase antioxidants and anti-inflammatory activity, add black pepper and turmeric to soups and stews.
  • Find a curry and/or chilli recipe for winter nights, and make it a warm weekly winter favourite.
  • Don’t forget to moisten the air – plants are wonderful for this. Consider your workspace and sleeping space, places where you spend most time.
  • Adding antimicrobial essential oils like eucalyptus, lavender, thyme, or rosemary to a diffuser helps purify the air.
  • A hot bath using lavender essential oil helps add moisture to the bedroom with the added benefit of the relaxing and antimicrobial lavender.

Stay warm!

All content provided on this website is for general information purposes only and is not intended to replace medical or specialist advice.

A qualified Medical Herbalist is always your best resource for information related to herbal medicines.

Registered Dietitians are a reliable and trusted resource for nutrition related information, always up to date and always ready to work with you to realise your goals.

ImmunityJill Burnsarticle