Plant Allies for Winter Wellness
Did you know there is a plant medicine to support any ailment you can think of? The natural world around us has much healing to offer if we just open our minds and hearts and listen.
As we move into the long winter months, I start to think of what I can do to support my family’s health and wellness through this health-challenging time period. This is the time of year we spend a lot of time indoors and don’t get to move our bodies as much. We tend to eat more comforting foods and engage in too much screen time which has a negative impact on our nervous system. There is also seasonal depression, emotional struggles, and cold and flu season to consider.
Here are some plant allies I utilize for myself and my family through this season. Many of these plants grow wild right here in Maine!
Immune System Support:
Elderberry: I’m sure many of you know of this wonderfully nutrient dense plant! This is everywhere in Maine in the summer months. First, the flowers appear in June, followed by the berries in August. Elderberry is a powerhouse for cold and flu prevention and treatment. The berries are very high in Vitamin A & C and studies have shown that it cuts flu recovery time in half when taken at the onset of symptoms. This is my number one daily supplement for my family during these months!
Cold and Flu Support:
Echinacea: Considered one of the most important immune stimulants in western herbal medicine used to combat bacterial and viral infections. This plant should not be used in folks with autoimmune disease as it overstimulates an already struggling immune response.
Yarrow Flowers: Grows wild and abundant here in Maine. Has many wonderful uses but especially good when you have the flu. Yarrow, used as a tea, is a great remedy to break fevers and stimulate perspiration.
Propolis: This is not a plant, it’s a substance that comes from bees and had been dubbed the “Russian penicillin” for its potent antibiotic properties. I have used this successfully to combat Strep infections and lessen recovery time.
Respiratory Infection Support:
Mullein: This was the first plant I identified and harvested in the wild. It grows abundantly in Maine, with soft, fuzzy big floret leaves that produces tall, slender cones of small yellow flowers in the second year. Used as a tea, it is my go-to for upper respiratory congestion as it is an expectorant and will help to break up and expel mucus. The flowers are also useful for ear infections when infused into olive oil with garlic.
Some other herbs to consider for respiratory infections are: elecampane, linden, and wild cherry bark
Emotional Wellness Support:
Lemon Balm: Meet Melissa officinalis! Lemon Balm is one of my favorite plant allies to keep around and was the first plant medicine I ever worked with medicinally. She is a safe and wonderful support to the nervous system. I use Lemon Balm in teas and tinctures for myself and my children.
Oats: Oats are best known as a nutritive grain, but are a safe and nourishing tonic when taken medicinally. They are super high in vitamins and minerals, especially B vitamins. They are very nourishing to the nervous system and should be drunk as a strong tea infusion (4-8 hour steep). They are a mild anti-depressant and gently raise energy levels and support the body’s stress response.
St John’s Wort: A well know remedy for depression, this beautiful common “weed” has been extensively studied for its effects. It grows abundantly here in Maine and is found in fields, along road sides, and empty parking lots. It was studied alongside a common SSRI medication and has similar results, without all of the side effects! Please note that this plant is contraindicated in folks currently taking SSRIs or benzodiazepines, among other medications. Please consult your health care provider before using this remedy.
Rose: We have a wonderful wild rose variety here in Maine, Rosa Rugosa. The petals are mildly sedative and anti-depressant. I use this often when there is heartache and sadness. It’s very uplifting, but also calming.
Hemp Cannabidiol: The Cannabis sativa plant has literally saved my life. It is the Mother plant in my opinion, and has way too much to offer to list it all here. It is wonderful for mood and anxiety as it simply assists the body’s endocannabinoid system in balancing to a state of homeostasis. It calms the nervous system, it brings a sense of presence and peace into our being.
These are just a few of my favorites! As you can see, I focused on emotional wellness most as this has been the most important in my experience. Utilizing these plant allies for ourselves and our families is empowering, sustainable, SAFE, and the healthiest possible option. These combined with a healthy and nutritious food intake, exercise, connecting with nature (even when it’s cold) and lots of love and compassion are sure to help you stay strong and ready for these winter months. It’s time to take your family’s health into your own hands!
Kelly Benson is a Maine Herbalist, a Yoga Instructor, and a caregiver in Maine’s Medical Marijuana Program. She is passionate about sharing her story of transformation and sharing her knowledge about how plant medicine can support us in our everyday lives. Her business, Mindful Earth Herbals, offers herbal infused hemp CBD products to support ailments such as anxiety and emotional wellness, chronic pain, addiction, and skin care. Mindful Earth products can be ordered online and are available at select, local Maine stores. Please contact us to find a location near you! www.mindfulearthME.com