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7 Warming Winter Herbs (slideshow)

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Dark orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squash, and carrots provide immune nourishing beta-carotene and the warmth of the orange ray. Grounding roots (especially those that grow in cold climates) such as onions, rutabagas and turnips can help one better acclimate to the seasons. Other warming foods include arugula, mustard greens, and watercress. Nuts, seeds, and their butters make excellent warming and insulating snacks. Icy cold drinks, on the other hand, can cool you quick. If consuming food from the refrigerator, take the item out and allow it to get to room temperature before eating.

The flavor associated with winter is salty. But rather than relying on table salt, learn to enjoy the wonderful mineral rich seaweeds such as kelp, nori, hiziki, and dulse which can be used to season food. Also, Celtic and Himalayan salt contain more minerals, as indicated by their colors. Black colored foods such as black sesame seeds, uncured black olives, and chia seeds make wonderful warming winter condiments.

Here are 7 culinary herbs that help us feel warmer and improve circulation:

Black pepper (Piper nigrum), a member of the Piperaceae (Pepper) family, has antiseptic and antioxidant properties.

Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), a member of the Zingiberaceae (Ginger) family, is an expectorant, thus helps to open the respiratory passages.

Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens), a member of the Solanaceae (Nightshade) family, is rich in vitamin C, and helps relieve chills, coughs and congestion. Sprinkling a bit of cayenne pepper between one’s shoes and socks can help warm the feet when needing to be outdoors. (Avoid the eyes and mouth!)

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) is a member of the Lauraceae (Laurel) family. It helps dry dampness in the body and warms people who are always cold and suffer from poor circulation. Cinnamon is antiseptic and an excellent digestive tonic.

Garlic (Allium sativum), a member of the Liliaceae (Lily) family, helps one be more resistant to infection. Garlic is a potent vasodilator and improves circulation by helping to prevent the blood from clumping together.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale), a member of the Zingiberceae family, is a natural antioxidant and antiseptic. It improves circulation to all parts of the body. Ginger baths are warming, muscle relaxing and cold and flu relieving. To make a ginger bath, put eight ounces of ginger into a half gallon of water, and simmer at a low boil for twenty minutes before straining into the bathtub.

Horseradish (Armoracia lapathifolia) is a member of the Brassicaceae (Mustard) family. It is high in vitamin C, and aids in the digestion of fatty foods. Horseradish is antiseptic and a strong decongestant; helping to open congested respiratory passages.

Use more of the warming culinary herbs to spice up your food and in teas to promote a healthy, warming glow throughout the body. Most of the herbs in chai are considered warming (cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, and cardamom).

Enjoy warmly dressed walks outdoors, taking in some of the full spectrum light during this darker time of the year. Wearing bright warm colors such as red and copper may contribute to one’s feeling warm, according to the ancient art of Color Therapy. Mom was right. We do lose heat through the head and wearing a hat and scarf can help protect the chest, throat and ears from cold invasion that can contribute to infection. Protect the kidneys by wearing undershirts tucked into long johns for example. Yoga, t’ai chi, chi gung, stretching, crawling (helps prevent joint problems) and dancing can easily be practiced indoors even on days where you don’t venture out.

What are some of your favorite ways to stay warm?

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Brigitte Mars

Brigitte Mars, a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild, is a nutritional consultant who has been working with Natural Medicine for over 40 years. She teaches Herbal Medicine at Naropa University, Boulder College of Massage, and Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts and has a private practice. Brigitte is the author of 12 books, including Rawsome!. Find more healthy living articles, raw food recipes, videos, workshops, books, and more at Also check out her international model yogini daughter, Rainbeau at


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7:22PM PDT on Mar 28, 2014

Thank you for the good information.

6:26AM PST on Nov 14, 2011

It doesn't matter really whether the plant bits we use are called "herbs" or "spices".I think most herbs tend to be green and spices brown but not always.
They're delicious and effective.My favourite feel better drink for a cold is lemon juice in hot water with one or two cloves, honey and a glug of whisky,( or whiskey. Rum would be good too)The cloves are left in the glass and of course the kids don't get the alcohol.

5:06PM PST on Dec 28, 2010

TO ALICIA N: The Cayenne pepper goes on your feet B4 you put on your sox TO GO TO BED IN...NOT BEFOR YOU PUT YOUR SHOES ON. ..BUT If you try that and it keep u warm let us know!

9:38PM PST on Dec 26, 2010


8:34AM PST on Nov 12, 2010

I really loved this article, simple to read and very informative. Sharing is caring, thanks a BUNCH . I was surprised about the cayenne beetween the socks and the shoes, must try.

9:16AM PDT on Jun 17, 2010

This is a very informative article, and thanks for sharing!
Georgina Jo

4:48AM PST on Mar 12, 2010


3:12AM PST on Mar 12, 2010

I can say I learned many new things from your post.Yin herbs taste sour, bitter and salty, and yang herbs taste sweet and pungent.Many nutrients and herbs support the heart and circulatory system.

10:21AM PST on Feb 25, 2010

This stew has most of the spices mentioned, and is just great.

8:14AM PST on Feb 25, 2010

Wouldn't it be nice if I could spell?
HERBALIST - lol - sorry for the misspelling.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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