Tonics and tinctures for winter wellness

Ingredients for easy wellness tonic. | Priya Hutner

The throat is scratchy and the nose goes from endless drip to stuffed up and congested; coughing fits come and go; body aches and fatigue sets in as the body fights off illness. It’s time for some self-care.

The flu, Covid, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) colds and general malaise tend to increase during winter. Knowing your body is essential. I can tell I am getting sick when my throat gets scratchy or I am exhausted.

This is when I pull out my arsenal of healing tonics, tinctures and natural remedies. I also prepare healing soups and eat a lot of vegetables. Most illnesses will run their course and natural remedies can help support the healing process.

There are several herbs and spices that can help support the immune system; some standouts are ginger, garlic, turmeric, oregano, thyme, rosemary, horseradish and cinnamon. Citrus has vitamin C and is good to include in the diet.

Staying hydrated is imperative. Drink lots of water, juice and electrolytes. I start the day with warm lemon water first thing in the morning.

When I feel like I am getting sick, I prepare a tonic with fresh peeled garlic cloves (lots, at least eight to 10 cloves), one cup of apple cider vinegar, one cup of water and ¼ cup of honey. I mix it well and let it sit for a least an hour. Take a shot of the liquid every couple of hours.

In addition to tonics and tinctures, rest is essential. Try a neti pot, which will push a saline solution through the nasal passages to clear out mucus and allergens and prepare a eucalyptus steam tent. Both are excellent ways to reduce congestion.

Gargling with salt water helps sore-throat symptoms, as well as tea brewed with herbs such as astragalus, mullein, elderberry, echinacea, peppermint, marshmallow root, oregano, thyme and sage.

Staying hydrated is imperative. Drink lots of water, juice and electrolytes. I start the day with warm lemon water first thing in the morning. Herbal teas are also helpful in staying hydrated and they are comforting.

Try some of my favorite tonics and tinctures to help support the immune system. Tinctures are prepared with herbs and alcohol. They take up to six weeks to cure. Prepare tinctures to have on hand once you are feeling sick.

Fire Cider
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner

3 C apple cider vinegar
½ C ginger, peeled & chopped
15 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
½ C horseradish root, peeled & chopped *
2 T turmeric, peeled & chopped *
1 onion, peeled & chopped
2 jalapeños or 1 small habanero pepper, sliced
¼ C daikon radish
1 T fresh oregano
1 T fresh rosemary
1 T fresh thyme
2 cinnamon sticks
2 t of black pepper
1 lemon, juiced
1 t lemon zest
½ c honey

This recipe takes a long time so prepare in advance to have on hand.

Peel and chop ginger, garlic, horseradish, turmeric and onion and add to a large mason jar. Add herbs and spices. Pour the apple cider vinegar over the ingredients. Place a piece of parchment paper over the mouth of the jar and cover it with the lid. Shake well.

Store in a dark cabinet or pantry. Shake the jar every day. After 4 weeks, strain the liquid into a clean jar. Add honey. Taste your cider and add more honey until you reach the desired sweetness.

The fire cider can be kept in the fridge for up to 6 months.

*If fresh ingredients are unavailable, substitute with ground spices and herbs. If horseradish root is unavailable, use prepared horseradish.

Immune Tonic
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner

2 C water
½ C apple cider vinegar
1 large nob ginger, peeled & sliced
1 nob fresh turmeric, peeled & sliced (or 1 T ground turmeric)
1/8 t cayenne pepper
¼ C honey

In a saucepan, add water and all ingredients except honey and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. Add honey.

Elderberry Immunity Tonic
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner

2 C water
1 C dried elderberries
1 large nob fresh ginger, peeled & grated
3 T Echinacea flower
2 C raw apple cider vinegar
1 T raw honey

In a medium saucepan, add water, elderberries, ginger and echinacea and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Pour ingredients into a large glass mason jar. Add vinegar and honey and shake well. Store in the refrigerator. Take 1 teaspoon, three times a day.

Citrus Tonic for Immunity
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner

2 lemons, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
2 oranges, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
1 lime, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
1 grapefruit, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
1 nob of fresh turmeric, sliced (or 1 t ground turmeric)
1 nob of ginger, sliced
3 T fresh oregano

Place the citrus slices, turmeric and ginger in a medium pot, cover with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Add oregano and steep for 10 minutes. Serve with honey.

Healing Honey
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner

1 C raw honey
2 organic lemons, sliced, seeds removed
1 nob fresh ginger root, peeled & sliced
¼ t cayenne, optional
1 small mason jelly jar

Layer ingredients in the jar. Add 1 tablespoon of honey, then lemon, then ginger, alternating until the jar is filled and the last layer is honey. If using cayenne, mix with honey before layering. Take a teaspoon of healing honey to soothe your throat or add it to hot water for a healing tea.

Herbal Tincture for Lungs
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner

½ C elderberry flowers
¼ C echinacea, root
¼ C peppermint flowers
½ C mullein, leaves
½ C marshmallow root
2 C vodka

Fill a large glass mason jar halfway with herbs. Fill the remainder of the jar with vodka. Place a piece of parchment paper over the mouth of the jar and cover it with a lid.

Allow the tincture to sit for four to six weeks. Shake daily.

Strain herbs and reserve liquid. Pour the tincture into amber dropper bottles. Take one dropper full, three times a day.