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Top 5 Herbs & Spices for Winter Woes

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Feeling under the weather when winter is at its worst is no fun. But these herbs and spices can help soothe your aches and sniffles -- and may even help you get well faster.

1. Garlic

© 2007 Miri Rotkovitz

If any spice has been touted as a panacea, it's garlic. Despite overblown claims about garlic's healing properties, it's worth keeping in your anti-cold arsenal. Studies have found that garlic has antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, and (yuck!) antiprotozoal properties. Fans of the stinking rose can top toast with olive oil and chopped raw garlic. Try soothing Garlic Tonic Soup at the first signs of a cold, or add lots of garlic to that other panacea, chicken soup. Skip supplements and go for fresh garlic - it's cheaper, tastier, safer, and likely to be more effective. Safety tip: If you're on anticoagulant drugs or are scheduled for surgery, talk to your doctor before consuming large amounts of garlic.

Garlic Recipes

2. Ginger

© 2007 Miri Rotkovitz

Ginger's warm, spicy kick makes it a favorite culinary spice throughout the world. Long appreciated as an aid to digestion, numerous studies have shown that it is effective against nausea. Ginger has also been shown to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties, so consuming it while you're sick may help knock out whatever is ailing you. Add minced fresh ginger root to soup, or blend it into a Vitamin C-rich fruit smoothie. Feeling too low-energy to cook? Try prepared ginger teabags, or nibble on a piece of crystallized ginger. Safety tip: If you are on anticoagulant drugs or are scheduled for surgery, talk to your doctor or registered dietitian before consuming large amounts of ginger.

Ginger Recipes

3. Chile Peppers

Photo © Flickr user John Winkelman

Ever get that teary-eyed, runny-nosed, throat-clearing sensation after eating hot peppers? Next time you're miserably congested and scratchy-throated, put those peppers to work! Try a little cayenne in soup, or add hot sauce to stir-fried veggies served over soothing rice. Chiles appear to have anti-inflammatory properties, too, so they may give you a little respite if you're feeling achy.

Chile Recipes

4. Mint

© 2007 Miri Rotkovitz

Mint is a natural source of menthol, so a steaming cup of mint tea can actually help open clogged nasal passages and soothe sore throats, at least temporarily. Drinking it throughout the day may even help offset the need for dehydrating decongestants. If you're running a fever, menthol's cooling sensation may help you feel a little more comfortable. Mint is also a great stomach soother. If you get tired of tea, try adding chopped mint leaves to fruit salad.

Mint Recipes

5. Chamomile

Photo © Flickr user matsuyuki

Feeling crummy can make it hard to sleep just when you need rest the most. Some medications can make you jumpy, others might be upsetting your stomach. Enter chamomile. This little floral herb soothes the stomach, and relaxes both mind and body. Because it has mild muscle-relaxing properties, it may help alleviate aches and pains, too. Try a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime, and get the healing rest you need.

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