December 10, 2014

Herbs to Stay Healthy & Sane Through the Holidays.


Photo: Steven Jackson via Flickr.

With Christmas quickly approaching, the holidays are already upon us, including all the joy and festivities, stress and commitments.

Whether it’s because of the colder weather and less sunlight or more activities and less sleep, it can be very easy to get sick. Likewise, trying to add holiday parties, travel, gift shopping and more into our over-scheduled lives can make us feel frazzled and stressed out. Factor in being surrounded by all the holiday treats, alcohol at parties and large meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas, it’s no wonder most Americans start January at a higher weight.

So, before you find yourself overtaken by the season, stock up on these herbs to keep you healthy (and sane) through the holidays.


Whether you go for fresh or dried, ginger is a wonderful herb (and spice) for winter. It helps to fight the common cold when taken in large doses at the first signs of getting sick. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, it’s a warming herb, great for keeping you warm from the inside out and encouraging blood circulation all the way to those cold hands and feet.

Drink it as an infusion or decoction with lemon and honey added at the end. You can also cook with it or add it grated to salad dressings or smoothies. And it has a kick!


Cinnamon is another spice that doubles as an herb and is recognized by TCM as being very warming—helping to move blood and warm you from the inside out to prevent winter illness.

Cinnamon has another benefit: it blunts blood sugar spikes when taken with sugar and sweets. A smaller blood sugar spike means less belly fat storage, and when used consistently, potentially less holiday weight gain. So pass the cinnamon!

Grab a cinnamon stick and swirl it in your coffee or tea. Sprinkle some cinnamon in your cooking, smoothies, or desserts. Or boil it into an infusion or decoction, perhaps together with ginger, for a delish warming drink.


Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory. But why does that matter during the holiday season? Inflammation oftentimes causes a puffy face, water retention and bloating and after a night of drinking, a queasy or uncomfortable stomach.

Inflammation is caused by sugar, alcohol, processed food, too many Omega-6 oils and too little sleep—all things we encounter during the holidays, especially at parties and while eating on the road. Therefore, turmeric can help maintain your normal glow and leanness, and feel better despite one too many glasses of champagne.

Add turmeric to a warm glass of almond milk, along with ginger, cinnamon, and other spices for a caffeine-free chai latte. Or, use it in cooking; add up to a tablespoon to a smoothie or simply opt for the supplement version.

Milk Thistle

Speaking of too much champagne, milk thistle is a potent liver protector. It helps to regenerate liver cells, keeping the liver clear of congestion, strong and healthy, helping it better process alcohol and other environmental toxins entering the body.

A healthier liver means a healthier you, affecting everything from skin to weight and digestion.

Milk Thistle is most often found as whole seeds or as an extract in capsule form. Grind the seeds fresh then add to a smoothie. Avoid using in cooking as they are most potent unheated. Alternatively, look for an easy-to-take supplement after overindulging.


When you’re starting to feel stressed from the holidays, adaptogens are your friend. Adaptogens are a group of herbs that help the body resist stress, including reducing the negative effects of stress (belly fat, anyone?), and supporting the immune system (like why you always get sick at your busiest time). These special herbs help to restore balance, stabilize blood sugar, and support energy and endurance—all things we need during the holidays!

Some adaptogens to look for include the Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha, the TCM herb Jiaogulan (Gynostemma—not to be confused with Gymnema), Eleuthero and Rhodiola. They can be found in the whole herb form, as tinctures, or as extracts in capsules. Because of their special balancing, do-no-harm nature, most adaptogens can be taken liberally.

Stock up on these herbs now, so you have them handy this holiday season when you’re feeling overtaxed, overfed, or have had too much to drink. They’ll help you stay healthy, prevent or reduce a hangover, maintain good digestion, manage your weight and sustain your vibrant glow even in the colder weather.

You’ll be enjoying all the festivities and joy of the season—guilt free!—while rocking your favorite holiday dresses.



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Author: Toffler Niemuth

Apprentice Editor: Kim Haas / Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Steven Jackson via Flickr.

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