Body in Winter
The Theraputic Attributes of Herbs for Winter
by Barbara Tanner Douglass
There is great activity in the areas of herbal cleansing and rebuilding
of various organs during autumn, so the winter quarter of the year seems
more quiet and restful. It may be time to simply snuggle up in front
of the fire with a good book and a mug of steaming chamomile tea on
a cold wintry evening. In this last quarter of the solar year we traverse
the signs of Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces the signs where we
achieve the goals we set at the beginning of the year in Aries (21 March
- 20 April) and we move into releasing those goals, resting a
bit and formulating new aspirations.
Here is an array of holiday seasonal notes from our ancestors, who used
these helpful herbs. Stress relief was found in chamomile tea, botanical
name Matricaria recutita, as it has tryptophan in it. Chamomile in bath
herb mixes may soothe away stress (see recipe at end). Valerian, Valeriana
officinalis, has calcium that is supplied directly to the nerves, so
valerian may help calm the season. Those who find sleep elusive often
place a few drops of valerian extract under the tongue about an hour
before bed. For daytime calm, some like capsules. Some hold their breath
or nose to avoid the odd aroma while opening the bottle to pop a capsule
in their mouths.
Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, is a great herb to use, fresh or dried, in all
holiday soups, stews, vegetables, salads or dressings, just about everything
except chocolate chip cookies. Thyme has antibacterial properties to
assist the body's immune system fight off whatever critters might invade.
Water is most important now as many dry cakes and cookies are holiday
fare. Lots of water, an ounce for each two pounds of body weight to
drink during the day, helps to move all critters and bacteria out and
helps the kidneys as well.
Sugar connoisseurs might like to know that each time sugar is eaten,
the mineral chromium leaves the body. An important trace mineral, chromium
is not easily found in foods. Mineral rich herbs that contain chromium,
such as hibiscus flowers, Hibiscus sabdariffa, (see recipe below) are
helpful to take with each sugar orgy as studies have been conducted
that show those with secondary diabetes have no chromium in their systems.
As aromas are important during the holiday season, a recipe for Scrumptious
Stovetop Potpourri is included. The aroma reminds everyone of good times
and predisposes guests to a happy occasion.
Water Energy Season: Kidney and Bladder
During the last quarter of the solar year, the body finds itself leaving
the Earth and Metal energies of the autumn and on December 19 it moves
into the Water Energy Season. Through mid-March the body focuses on
water energy. This is a soothing thought, as most of us in the north
need water at this time of the year. Shut inside our homes now, many
of us have less water in the air, due in part to the heating systems
we use our skin and hair can easily become dry. We may be less
likely to take a shower or bath since the air is nippy as we jump in
and out of the tub. People may tend to drink less water now than in
the warmer seasons as they do not need to replace body fluids lost through
sweat. All of these possible habits are reasons to focus on water energy
If we could observe our bodies internally at the winter solstice as
Capricorn begins, (21 December - 19 January), we would find our water
energy organs currently enacting their annual ritual of cleansing and
rebuilding. The kidneys and bladder continue cleansing and restoring
now. It is helpful to assist these organs, especially for those who
increase alcohol consumption during the holidays. Kidney cleansing is
deep cleansing. Some cultures believe the kidneys store the energy of
the ancestors and so thoughts of parents and grandparents might surface
now. We also may experience strange thoughts, as if from another time.
These thoughts might never have been our personal thoughts, simply thoughts
stored in the cellular memory of our kidneys from generations past.
Metaphysicians feel the kidneys store our fears, so unusual fears may
surface now. It may become easier to release the thoughts and fears
as they surface, rather than being caught in them, when we know they
are related to the kidney cleansing itself. While releasing old, negative
ideas, fears or thoughts, it is wise to stay open to important ideas
and helpful concepts from the ancestors that may come floating past
as the ideas and fears release. Thus, this time can be one of reflection,
releasing and opening, a good time to carry a small notebook to catch
the brilliance as it passes by.
To aid the kidneys, people often drink a glass of water with an ounce
or less of liquid chlorophyll mixed in it between dinner and bedtime.
Chlorophyll is equivalent to the blood of plants and usually it is taken
from alfalfa, Medicago sativa, a plant rich in minerals and vitamins
due to the roots, which may pierce the earth to a depth of 40 feet or
more. Chlorophyll may assist the body to build healthy blood, become
more alkaline and, taken before bedtime, alleviate the uric acid crystals
that tend to accumulate in the kidneys during the night.
During this water energy season, the element for Capricorn is earth.
Earth and water produce mud, the very uric acid sludge we seek to release
now from the kidneys and bladder. Liquid chlorophyll is available at
health food stores. Good varieties usually have mint added for flavor.
Herbs such as watercress, Nasturtium officinale, cranberries and parsley,
Petroselinum crispum, are also helpful for the kidneys, eaten as foods
or taken in capsule form. Parsley is another high mineral content herb
and its nourishment of the body and kidneys can create a diuretic action,
allowing the body to release excess water and toxins as the parsley
nourishes the kidneys. I never plan a long car trip the day I begin
to use parsley in earnest.
Kidneys also connect to the bones, sometimes excreting needed calcium
from the body. Women moving through Change of Life find that adding
horsetail, Equisetum arvense, or oatstraw tea or capsules to their diet
assists the body retain needed calcium. Many Change of Life bladders
also have found benefit and strength from the addition of extra silica,
a mineral found in herbs that assists us to absorb calcium. Some women
notice their ability to control their bladders increases within a few
days after beginning to ingest oatstraw or horsetail. An added virtue
of silica is that usually hair and nails grow more easily and have more
strength. Another herb helpful to the cleansing and rebuilding of the
bladder is uva ursi, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, available in capsules
or extract form. Many herbal combinations for the urinary system have
all of these herbs included.
Water Energy Season: Adrenal glands
During the water season, the adrenal glands are also busy cleansing
and recharging. Parsley again plays a role as it also nourishes the
adrenals. So, while people focus in Capricorn on kidney and bladder
cleansing and rebuilding, the parsley taken for the urinary system assists
the adrenals as well. Usually people wait until Aquarius (20 January
to 18 February) to nourish the adrenals during the post holiday season
after the stress is reduced. In this water energy season, Aquarius is
an air sign and air and water produce rain, or tears, something we often
shed after the panic of an adrenaline rush subsides.
An interesting tea to support the adrenals is one I make by placing
a few sprigs of fresh parsley in a mug and pouring boiling water over
them, covering and steeping for about five minutes before discarding
the herb and drinking. Parsley won't win the Tea Taste of the Year award,
but it is pleasant tasting and yields great nutrients. Usually people
drink a cup or two a day.
Parsley stays green all winter, even in northern gardens. I put sticks
in the soil to mark the spot and clear the snow over it so the parsley
stays green, rich with minerals. Others plant parsley in a pot inside
or buy fresh bunches at the grocery store. Fresh organic parsley is
best due to the higher mineral content.
Licorice, Glycyrrhiza glabra, also benefits the adrenals and is available
in many forms. It has high sugar content and those with blood sugar
concerns would be wise to discuss it with someone knowledgeable about
herbs or research it thoroughly. Licorice lovers should seek a balance
with potassium rich herbs, as licorice may help potassium leave the
Potassium/sodium and calcium/ magnesium are electrolytes and must be
in balance in the body. The typical American diet has more sodium than
potassium so most health conscious people make sure they take potassium
rich herbs, such as celery, parsley, lemongrass, dulse or peppermint
(see tea recipe).
Many women move into Change of Life with exhausted adrenals. Adrenals
take over estrogen production when the ovaries complete their life work,
so frequent nourishing of the adrenals with parsley or licorice may
be helpful in providing food to the adrenals. I always have some on
hand and occasionally take it just to keep adrenal exhaustion at bay,
especially in stressful times. Had I to do it over, I would have spent
my forties nourishing the adrenals once or twice a year for a month
Water Energy Season: Reproductive Organs
The last system of the water energy season is the reproductive system,
usually focused on in Pisces (itself a water sign), beginning right
after Saint Valentine's Day (19 February to 20 March). Nourishing the
body in watery Pisces assists the body to keep itself moist inside.
Moistening and silica-rich red raspberry leaf, Rubus ideaus, is an herb
women can take from the day they become a woman through their last day
on earth, even during pregnancy. It assists the reproductive organs
rebuild and balance. It is a fine herb for men as well, as they also
Today a man called to thank me so much for educating him about silica,
calcium and magnesium. His concern was a sluggish colon and within a
week of starting those herbs, his moving experiences were much grander,
much easier and he felt lighter and more clear. A miracle thought he.
A mineral deficiency thought I. We are so overfed and undernourished.
Herb nourishment preventing problems once again.
When men reach 25 or so, some target Pisces every year to add saw palmetto
berries and pygeum to their diets, usually in extract or capsule form.
The herbs assist the reproductive system, the prostate in particular,
to stay in balance. The entire reproductive system for both men and
women is in close proximity to the colon so that colon cleansing can
also be helpful for the reproductive system. Various blood cleansers
also assist the reproductive system. Yellow dock seems most helpful
in the lower torso area, so people cleansing the reproductive system
or any of these water season lower torso area organs choose yellow dock
in capsules. Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, may also be helpful in blood
and internal cleansing.
Since so many women are nearing or are in the Change of Life cycle,
wild yam, Dioscorea villosa, is important to mention as it is a source
of phyto-progesterone. No plants produce hormones; however, they produce
substances that act as hormones do in our systems, without negative
side effects. Wild yam produces a substance that acts the way progesterone
does in the body. The cream of wild yam is helpful for easing many concerns
during this cycle, including heat and bloating. It is critical to use
wild yam as a cream, as research has revealed that the nutrients in
needed by women are ruined during the digestion process of wild yam.
Absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the skin, the substances
in wild yam assist the body well.
A few questions I received in response to the last article regarded
timing. Thank you so much for your inquiries. Surely it is possible
to cleanse any organ or system at any time of the year. However, this
more harmonious path to cleansing and restoring works with the organs
when they are naturally cleansing, easing the body stress of cleansing.
Information presented this way seeks to assist people to move away from
the allopathic disease-and-cure mindset to a health oriented preventative
I trust these herbal ideas, many from my grandmother, add pleasing and
stress-free notes and aromas to this winter quarter and water season
of the year. Blessings on your path.
Stress Free Herbal Bath Sachet
1/3 c. German chamomile flowers
1/2 c. lavender florets
1/2c. thyme leaves
1/2c. lemon grass leaves
1/4c. peppermint or pennyroyal leaves
Mix all dried herb leaves and flowers. Store in tightly
sealed glass container. For bath, take about a half cup
herb mix, place in muslin bag or one of grandmother's
handkerchiefs, which may stain a bit blue. Hang under
tap or place in tub, run hot water first, adding cold when
needed. Remove before soap is added and dry to use
twice more. I hang it on the sink faucet to dry.
Scrumptious Stovetop Potpourri
1/4 c. whole cloves
1/4c. cinnamon chips
1/4c. allspice berries
1/4c. whole rosehips
1/4c. orange peel
1/4c. balsam leaves
handful bay laurel leaves
1 TBS. or so cardamom seeds
Store dried herbs in tightly sealed glass container.
Take 1 TBS or more and put into nearly full teakettle
(top off) or pan and bring to boil on stove. Reduce
heat and simmer at least 20 minutes to fragrance the
home. I put on an oven mitt and walk the steaming
kettle through the house for faster fragrance. Put on
a timer so the pot does not boil dry.
1 c. German chamomile
1/2 c. lemongrass leaves
1/4c. peppermint leaves
1/4c. hibiscus flowers
2 TBS. Mixed orange/lemon peel
Swizzle with a cinnamon stick
Steep in a covered mug or pot for 5-10 minutes.
All Rights Reserved
The information given here does not directly or indirectly constitute
medical advice. Any disease problems should be directed to a qualified
health care practitioner. Neither the author nor the publishers assume
any liability for your personal choices or actions.]
Barbara Tanner Douglass
owns Elizabeth's Garden in the rolling hills on Ohio's
North Coast. An ordained minister and herb enthusiast,
she is a frequent speaker and teacher on herbs and spiritual
Additionally, Barbara facilitates transformational healing
experiences through Ro-Hun® and other techniques,
coaches on holistic and herbal living and sometimes tends
her extensive herb gardens.
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