Less natural light, less time in nature, more time indoors, being cooped up, cold, clouds, rain and snow, all of it can make the winter doldrums set in. That feeling of being lethargic, unmotivated, sleepy, heavy, sad or melancholy, of moving slow, and experiencing less joy or energy definitely characterize this season.
Whether its actual Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or just the winter blues dragging you down, all you want to do is break out of that funk yet you have no energy or motivation to do so.
But herbs can help! They can brighten your mood, increase your energy, nourish your body, warm your heart, and lift your spirit.
Ginger and Chinese Hawthorn (Shan Zha) are both invigorating herbs commonly used in Chinese Medicine to aid digestion and encourage blood flow. Those actions helps you feel lighter and more energized. Ginger is particularly warming for the body so you feel less frozen in the cold. (Chinese Hawthorn is in Belight Tea.)
When the cold outside seems isolating and you begin to feel lonely or have that sinking feeling in your heart, motherwort is the perfect herb. Just like being wrapped in a mother’s love, motherwort lifts your spirit, nourishes your heart space, and makes you feel comforted and loved. Because of the taste, motherwort is better as a tincture an infusion.
If winter has you anxious and stressed, adaptogens are the best choice. They balance major systems in the body, including the immune, endocrine, and central nervous system, they help increase stamina and endurance, and they reduce stress response (including cortisol production). Adaptogens to look for include Gynostemma (in Belight Tea), Eleuthero, Ashwagandha, Tulsi (Holy Basil), and Schisandra.
For more depression-type symptoms, look for turmeric and, though not an herb, probiotics. Turmeric helps blood flow, to release stagnation in the body, and to reduce inflammation. (Inflammation is one of the underlying causes of depression.) Probiotics can also help with inflammation and with rebalancing gut microbes that influence mood through the gut-brain axis.
If you just need an invigorating pick-me-up, a gentle, yet stimulant-free, energy boost the herbs on this post can help.
And finally, while not an herb either, the best all around supplement for anyone during the wintertime is Vitamin D. It is really more of a pre-hormone than a Vitamin because it is quickly transformed into building blocks that support immune, gut, brain, bone and joint health, mood, weight control, and helps to reduce inflammation.
You can pick up some of these herbs (like ginger and turmeric) at you local grocer, for others you may need a specialty health foods store that stocks supplements, or head to your favorite herbalist. Most of the above mentioned herbs can be infused in boiling water for a warming herbal tisane.
The harder, woodier herbs should be steeped for at least 10-15 minutes to allow their properties to release into the water. Some you find taste pretty bad–in that case, a tincture might be easier to get down.
Try them out, see which ones work best for you, which give you the energetic and mental boost you need, and which alleviate your winter blues.
And, let us know in the comments below, which are your favorite wintertime herbs? Which make you feel all warm and cozy?