Winter is coming, as George R.R. Martin tells us. Although winters are very mild in Cyprus, nevertheless it does get chilly in the evenings and if we’re lucky, we may even get some snow in Troodos and go skiing.
Winter is a time for retreating within. We see this in nature around us. Trees shed their leaves and their energy withdraws deep inside their roots. This is why herbalists harvest roots in October and November, just when this process starts and the roots of medicinal plants are at their energetic peak.
Some of my favourite herbal tea blends for winter include roots, bark and exotic spices. These blends are warming, soothing and comforting like a blanket. The aromas and flavours of spices like cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg, pepper and ginger promote good health and wellbeing and are a perfect healing beverage for coughs and colds. These spices are cultivated in the tropical and subtropical climates of India, Malaysia, Indonesia and surrounding countries in the Far East and were first brought to the West by the Dutch and Portugese at the end of the 16th century from their colonies. In fact, the Dutch built an entire empire out of the spice trade, chased away the Portugese from their strongholds in the Moluccas (Indonesia) and held a monopoly in the trade for nearly two centuries. During this time, spices such as black pepper and nutmeg were more valuable than gold.
All the aforementioned spices are very rich in minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, therefore useful to build immunity, combat colds, reduce inflammation and generally promote overall health.
Nutmeg is a super-spice, packed with valuable nutrients. Always buy whole nutmeg and grind them in a pepper mill to get the most of their flavour and benefits.
Cinnamon helps to lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels and is both antibacterial and antifungal. It also enhances the mood and stimulates the brain.
Ginger is one of those spices no home should be without. Ginger tea is one of the best flu remedies, especially in combination with honey and some lemon juice. It is a great anti-inflammatory and therefore useful in rheumatic and arthritic pain, helps in nausea, stomach aches and digestive problems and improves the absorption of nutrients in the body.
Cloves are tiny flower buds but they are giants when it comes to natural health. They’re packed with antioxidants and are anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic and analgesic.
Cardamom is a member of the ginger family. It is an excellent digestive aid, it fights gum disease and is useful in
Making tea from spices is a great way to boost your health and it tastes delicious too. These spices need to be crushed with a pestle and mortar, ginger root sliced – a couple of
slices will do- then boiled in water for about five minutes to get all the aromas out. Add a few chilli flakes or
peppercorns as well if you like. Strain and sweeten with honey. Enjoy your blanket in a cup!
As the days and nights turn colder even in Cyprus, we may find ourselves and our children coming down with the sniffles, there’s nothing like a warming cup of herbal tea to keep winter chills at bay. There are numerous wild herbs growing on the island to help us combat colds and many other common ailments too. These precious gifts of Nature help us to boost our immunity and keep us strong and healthy.
Traditionally in Cyprus one of the main herbs to turn to in winter is Sage (Salvia Officinalis). Sage has a pungent and bitter flavour, the endemic Cyprus sage of the mountains Salvia Fruticosa much more so than the cultivated Salvia Officinalis.
Sage is a powerful warming and drying herb, very helpful in clearing up phlegm and cattarh, is anti-microbial, decongestant and antiviral, making it a perfect remedy for colds with lots of phlegm.
Thyme (Thymus Vulgaris) is another local herb with powerful antiviral, expectorant and antimicrobial action. A tea made from the leaves gives immediate relief from
a persistent cough.
You can combine these herbs and make a soothing tea by putting one teaspoon of dried herbs per cup into a teapot, then pour boiling water over them and let the herbs infuse for ten minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey if you wish.
In order to combat dry, persistent coughs we need to turn to other green allies, such as peppermint, licorice root or marshmallow root. These herbs moisten the respiratory tract and soothe the dry irritation, and help to expel any mucus too. Roots and bark should be boiled in a saucepan with water for five to ten minutes in order to release their therapeutic properties. Then strain the herbs and enjoy your healing tea. Licorice root is very sweet of itself so you probably won’t want to add any honey or sugar.
The Cyprus countryside offers us various wild berries too, which are full of vitamins, especially vitamin C, antioxidants and flavonoids.
When we go on a hiking trip in the mountains we can find blackberries (Rubus Sanctus), elderberries (Sambucus Nigra) and rosehips (Rosa Canina) in great abundance. These are rich in compounds that disarm viruses and prevent them from taking over healthy cells. We can make a syrup from each of these and take a few teaspoonfuls daily to boost our immunity or to hasten our recovery from a cold. The taste and quality of homemade healthy syrups greatly surpasses any store-bought one and it is a pleasant and easy job to do at home.
Place one cup of fresh elderberries or rosehips and three cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer on medium-low for thirty minutes. Mash the berries to release any remaining juice. Strain the mixture into a glass bowl using a cheesecloth. When the liquid has cooled down to room temperature, gently stir in one cup of raw honey and mix thoroughly.
Enjoy the wonderful and delicious gifts of Nature in Cyprus!
In today’s demanding world, we often find ourselves depleted of energy. Our lives are fast, pressured and stressful. Like it or not, we’re on the treadmill and there seems to be no getting off it. This continuous stress inevitably takes its toll on our body and mind. Most of the time we are tired, overstressed and undernourished, as our bodies are in overdrive producing stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol which use up the vital minerals and nutrients needed elsewhere in the body. Ultimately, chronic stress can lead to many health problems, such as an impaired immune system, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia and depression.
Time to take control and put a stop to the rat race? It might be difficult but we will have to make some lifestyle changes. Setting a specific ‘down-time’ daily to exercise, take a walk on the beach or do some gardening really helps us to wind down and relax. It is vital to set some time apart daily for physical exercise in any form we like. A healthy diet of fresh vegetables, pulses, fruit, juices and whole grains will ensure the body gets all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Avoiding processed foods and eating fresh, natural produce increases our energy levels, especially if we eat raw veggies whenever we can.
Nature really gives us everything we need for health and wellbeing, and Cyprus is a place of abundance when it comes to fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs.
The herbs that help to combat stress and increase vitality, energy and wellbeing are mainly yellow or orange in colour and are ruled by the Sun. Sun herbs promote self confidence, creativity, health, willpower and a sense of wellbeing and abundance. Such herbs work on our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual levels.
Pot marigold (Calendula Officinalis), Nasturtium (Tropaeolum) and Everlasting (Helichrysum Italicum) are all growing abundantly on the island now and are marvellous sun herbs, imparting the Sun’s energies onto us when we use them in salads, as teas or tinctures. Nasturtium and calendula flowers and petals make a beautiful garnish on salads and add spicy flavour, and a tea made from all three of these flowers imparts the plants’ energies, and is delicious as well as a delight to look at!
An important vitality herb is Licorice root (Glykorrhiza Glabra). Licorice is what we call an adaptogen, a plant which regulates stress hormones, is antidepressant and energizing; it promotes balance on all levels. Licorice makes a very tasty, sweet tea and can also be added to other tea blends.
Another adaptogen is milky oats (Avena Sativa), a wild plant which can be found all over the island. We can use the flowering tops in tea or make a tincture. This herb is packed with nutrients and one of the top anti-stress herbs. All parts of this common plant nourish and tone the nervous system. Milky oats is an energizer, but it does this cumulatively, building energy slowly and consistently by deeply nourishing the entire body. It alleviates both physical and nervous fatigue, Taken before bed, milky oats tea or tincture supports deep refreshing sleep.
Let’s add a little sunshine to our life with these vitality herbs!