Medicine in a Cup: Herbal Teas That Really Work for Winter Wellness

Assorted hanging Herbs on an old and vintage wooden blue background, for seasoning concept.

Who doesn’t love a good old lemon and honey drink when they’re under the weather? We know that lemons have antiviral properties and honey has antimicrobial and soothing properties for throats and chests. The humble cuppa can indeed be the very best support for winter ailments, especially when prepared medicinally.


Herbal teas are transformed

from a simple pleasant drink to a proper therapeutic intervention when they are correctly prepared with:

  • The right quantity of a good quality herb: Yep loose herbs are the best, you won’t get too much goodness mooshed up in a tiny tea-bag usually!

  • Steeped for the right amount of time: Ideally steep your brew covered for a good 5-15 minutes. Covering the tea (with a saucer on a cup or in a teapot or coffee plunger) stops any of the goodies escaping in the steam. This is especially true of herbs containing precious volatile oils- the ones that smell great- such as thyme, rosemary, or mint.

  • Drunk often enough (the right dose)

And if you do it right, they can still be a pleasant drink too!


Supercharge Your L&H!

Upgrading your lemon and honey drink can be a winner when it comes to fighting infection. Try adding any of the following to help with immune support, infection fighting, and the easing of mucus and congestion:

  • 1tsp Turmeric powder: this golden superstar helps fight infection and also reduces inflammation. Turmeric also improves mood, so if you’re feeling sorry for yourself, this is a beautiful addition to your tonic.

  • 2 slices fresh or grated ginger root: has direct antibacterial and antiviral properties and well as reducing pain, nausea and inflammation.

  • A pinch of dried cayenne pepper: this really gets the blood flowing! Especially good if you have mucus that is stuck and won’t move, either in your sinus or chest. Cayenne helps to liquify mucus and aid its removal from the body. Pow!

  • ½- 1 tsp cinnamon: warming and drying, cinnamon helps to balance damp cold conditions such as head-colds and congestion

  • ½ -1 clove of garlic, crushed or diced: not for the faint hearted, but proven in its ability to boost the immune system’s ability to fight viral and bacterial infection and reduce the duration of illness.


Get a Sweat On!

Diaphoresis is the act of sweating or bringing on a good sweat. Diaphoretic herbs are those that help promote sweating. Getting a good sweat on is an age old way to speed your recovery from an infection. Traditional herbs used for this include Yarrow, Elderflower, Boneset and Lime Blossoms (Linden). Almost any hot herbal tea will have this action to some extent, which adds value to other medicinal qualities the herbs themselves may have.


Fresh Garden Brews

Ever since my goddaughter was small, her favourite thing to do at my house was to pick a fresh garden tea. She still loves to do that and she’s now 15. She loves the specific cups we use for it- sweet Japanese ceramics with a rough glaze. The ritual of picking herbs can be a tonic in itself, and I refuse to believe it was just because she always had her tea with lashings of honey that it was so popular! Her faves, and herbs that are easy for anyone to grow in a garden or pot:

  • Mint, spearmint, peppermint

  • Pineapple sage

  • Rosemary

  • Thyme, Lemon Thyme

  • Lemon Balm

  • Lemon Verbena

Just from this small number of herbs we can easily make therapeutic teas to calm the nerves, improve digestion and support immune function.


Cuppa Soup

The other good cuppa when you’re sick of course is a cuppa homemade chicken soup! Again, garlic, thyme, sage, and rosemary can all be added for extra medicinal support. Get into the habit of adding fresh herbs to all cooking for additional antioxidants and immune support all year round.


Sage: Wisdom for Sore Throats and More

Sage grows easily in a garden or a pot and is a little medicine chest all by itself. Not only can the leaves be chewed and eaten for sore throats or oral infections, but a tea steeped overnight can be useful for women experiencing menopausal hot flushing. What we NEVER do is use Sage during pregnancy or breastfeeding however. Sage is what we use herbally to help dry up breast milk if a mother wants to wean her baby, so don’t touch it if you’re breastfeeding. That action is a clue that sage is a pretty powerful little plant. The other clue is the smell- sage is particularly pungent!

Sage is strongly antibacterial and effective against many common strains of oral bacteria. If you have a sore throat, pick 10 good sage leaves and pop them in a small teapot and cover with boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes then drink a cup hot with good quality manuka honey. Leave the rest steeping and use it to gargle with throughout the day- gargle and swallow. If you don’t have fresh sage, you can use 1-2tsp dried sage per pot.


Cough and Chest Tea

Just as sage has an affinity for sore throats, thyme is a wonder when it comes to coughs. Thyme is also easy to grow and can be used fresh or dried. Thyme and hyssop are both easy to grow, and if you keep a wee stash of dried licorice root in the cupboard this is a winning trio for helping ease a cough. Licorice is used for soothing the tissues lining the lungs and easing coughs of all kind. Again, add a good quality honey like manuka, kanuka or thyme honey to help soothe the chest and give further antimicrobial support.


Sweet Solutions

Two stars spring to mind when you want to sweeten a cup of herbal tea to either balance the flavours or make it more appealing for smaller patients:

  • Licorice Root

  • Honey


Speaking of smaller patients, if you have sick children, making a strong cup of chamomile or lemon balm tea can be a winner for helping ease agitation and improve restfulness. Give them a warm cup with honey to sip on the couch or a strong cup before bed. Sleep is essential for recovery!


We could also talk about the antiviral qualities of a Hot Elderberry drink, the mineral-rich overnight infusion of Nettles, or the calming and nourishing properties of an Oat Straw decoction. The list of useful therapeutic herbal teas goes on. You’ll find them in every culture, for every reason and season. As with many ancient traditions, science is starting to catch up and help us understand the inner workings of age-old practices and remedies.


We hope you’re inspired to get brewing! Remember that medicine comes in all forms- its not just in a bottle with a label that you have to buy, it grows in our gardens, it lives in our pantry, it can be gathered wild. Whether you’re wanting prevention or treatment, herbal teas can be powerhouses of medicinal activity, and the ultimate in tender loving care.

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