By Jacqueline Thompson
Autumn has come and gone, along with the season’s plentiful harvest. As the deep chill of winter sets into the bones of the landscape, plants send their energy stores down into their roots. As nature surrenders to winter’s great period of rest and retraction, humans aren’t immune to the instinctual desire to nest and rest in these rejuvenating months.
It can be challenging to thrive in the nippy, vitamin-D-deprived winters of the Pacific Northwest. The season has a reputation for bogging down immune systems and dampening spirits as if the wet weather were raining directly upon hearts and minds. Looking to nature and food for medicine can be superior to tropical vacations or pharmaceuticals as an antidote to seasonal ailments and blues (and much less expensive).
Leaning into winter’s gifts is the most effective way to do this. Summer and autumn can be incredibly energetic, busy and even stressful times of the year. If life didn’t cycle through winter, it would burn out like a mad worker bee pollinating day in and day out without a wink of rest. The way to stay healthy through winter is to embrace it
Winter Medicine Soup Recipe
Remember how – botanically speaking – plants send their energy to the roots when winter arrives? Humans should relish all those nutrient-dense root veggies in warm soups, curries and crock-pot dishes. Medicinal mushrooms (like chaga, shiitake and reishi), grains, fats (in the form of animal fats or plant-based oils), and warming spices (start with cinnamon, black pepper, and ginger – think pumpkin spice lattes, but nix the sugar) are all superfoods for the season, and can be incorporated into nearly every dish.
1 sweet potato or yam
1 cup shiitake mushrooms
4 cloves Garlic
1 quart bone broth, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter, ghee or coconut oil
1 teaspoon each whole mustard seed, cumin, whole coriander seed, turmeric, oregano
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Salt to taste
Directions: Dice the sweet potato, carrot, onion, garlic and mushrooms. Heat your oil of choice in a skillet at medium low, then add mustard and coriander seed. Stir until the seeds start to pop, then add the remaining spices and diced veggies. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion begins to turn translucent. Transfer the veggies and spices into a pot or crock-pot and pour the broth over the mass until it is covered. Cook the soup over medium heat for at least one hour, adding spices to taste.
Cocoa Bliss Balls
While we lean into the darkness of rest and regeneration, incorporating uplifting herbs into our regiment also becomes a beacon of balance. Cacao, originating from Central America, was well known as an emotional and physical heart medicine. The cacao bean in its least processed form is cacao paste, which contains the greatest bioavailability of its medicinal properties; however, responsibly sourced cocoa powder is still full of antioxidants, is anti-inflammatory, improves blood flow and has been proven to improve mood and depression. You know how chocolate makes people happy? Well it is not just because it tastes good.
1 cup nuts of choice (almonds and walnuts are a nice option)
1 cup dates
? cup cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon ginger powder
Directions: Soak the dates in water for at least 10 minutes. Then, combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until you have a doughy consistency. Roll the dough into small, bite-sized balls. Roll the balls in cocoa powder to prevent them from sticking together.
Milky Oat Nourishing Infusion
In addition to cacao, milky oats (or oatstraw) are a major contender to fight the midwinter blues. Milky oats are one of the most nourishing mood boosters available, and are used to strengthen and soothe the nervous system, balance the endocrine system and ease stress and anxiety. This profoundly restorative herb addresses mood, stress and mental and physical exhaustion while working gently so that – like a multivitamin – it can be enjoyed on a daily, long-term basis.
1 ounce dry oat straw or milky oats (same plant, two different parts)
1 quart boiling water
Directions: Using a kitchen scale, fill a quart-size mason jar with 1 ounce of dry oat straw. Fill the jar with boiling water, stir, then top off. Cover and allow the infusion to sit for at least four hours or overnight. Strain the infusion, squeezing the plant material to get every last drop of goodness! Reheat and drink your quart of infusion throughout the day. It is most effective when taken daily!