Fact: As winter drags on, you feel like you’re constantly on the verge of being sick. The tickle in the back of the throat. The achy-breaky feeling of an upcoming headache. And your energy plummeting faster than the outdoor temps.
But before you reach into your medicine cabinet or run to the nearest drug store, you might want to head to your health food store and stock up on superherbs, says Annie Lawless, a certified holistic health coach and yoga teacher who’s known for her lifestyle website Blawnde, as well as being a co-founder of Suja Juice (although she recently left that company).
Superherbs aren’t for sprinkling on pizza (though you could). They help your body adapt and heal from the inside out, says Lawless, who’s used them as a tween to deal with eczema and again when she was diagnosed with Celiac disease as an adult.
“The issues we experience are just a symptom of something else that needs to be addressed in our body. Superherbs are unique in that they treat the body as a whole and not just one isolated area or symptom,” she says. So, she adds, they might even provide more consistent, long-term relief compared to synthetic pharmaceuticals.
We tapped Lawless to share the five superherbs that have provided her with the greatest relief.
“Not only can you take these herbs in capsule form, you can incorporate them into your diet,” she says.
And while you might not find peer reviewed studies for all of them, they do have a track record. “These foods have been available for hundreds of thousands of years and have been used medicinally before synthetic drugs were available. And the cultures before us were much healthier. Maybe we should take a clue and tap into that power,” says Lawless.
Oregano for cold and flu symptoms
When you feel on cold coming on, reach for oregano. No, not the dried herb sitting in your kitchen drawer. Try oregano oil—the more potent form of the superherb. “It’s an effective anti-parasitic, antiviral, antiseptic and immune booster,” says Lawless. Her preferred form? Capsules. Lawless also takes it after particularly indulgent weekends. “When I’ve been away and eaten a lot of sugar or grains, I take oregano,” she says, explaining that it can prevent candida overgrowth, a bacterial imbalance that can cause serious gut health snafus and can lead to yeast infections.
Turmeric for headaches and inflammation
Instead of ibuprofen, Lawless likes turmeric to warding off headaches. “When there’s inflammation in the body, your blood vessels constrict and you experience a lot of stress,” says Lawless. “Your body doesn’t know what to do and it needs to be soothed.” Instead, try turmeric. Turmeric is full of powerful anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants that can help your body calm down. You can take a turmeric tablet in the a.m., throw some ground turmeric into your smoothie bowl, or try one of these 22 recipes starring the bright-colored root. (P.S. Anyone up for a turmeric milkshake?)
Rhodiola for focus
Before you run for a second cup of Bulletproof coffee to power through an afternoon slump, try rhodiola. This thick root is an adaptogen that helps your body handle stress better. “It helps with brain fog, lowers blood pressure, and normalizes your heart rhythm,” says Lawless. “It helps you get back in the moment and fight fatigue in the afternoon. A lot of the time, when I can’t focus, it’s because I need to calm down my body.”
Arnica for post-workout recovery
Sore from your last boxing sesh? Grab some arnica for natural pain relief. Arnica oil’s post-workout power has been known for a while, but this mountain flower can also be taken in pill form. And the oil can also be used on your skin to treat bruises. “It’s a wonderful treatment for soreness, swelling, joint pain and bruises,” says Lawless. “You can also take it leading up to an event to stay ahead of the pain.”
Chamomile for PMS
If you suffer from OMG-inducing cramps during your period, here’s a soothing solution. Instead of traditional pain relievers, have a cup of chamomile tea. “Chamomile loosens muscles that are tense during PMS and cause menstrual cramps,” says Lawless. Paired with a magnesium-rich nibble (yes, including chocolate!), it sounds like a delicious way to deal with whatever the monthly gods can throw at you.