This time of year in the western hemisphere, most of our favorite herbs have all but disappeared from view and are hiding out underground. A few of us have disappeared too, even if just socially, enjoying a little ‘down time’ as the cool, dark, rainy weather has us preferring the warm and dry of home. Shifting our activity levels with the change of season helps us adapt to the unfolding of the year and its energy requirements. Even as roots are living off of stored minerals, they are also gathering nourishment and ‘rest’ for the growing season soon to follow and it is a good time for ‘people plants’ to do the same! 

In Chinese medicine, winter rules the kidneys and our kidneys and adrenals are like storage roots for our physical energy. These organs usually enjoy a bit of rest in the winter months. Sleeping more (or at least slowing down) and eating root vegetables are a great way to rejuvenate. There are plenty of roots available at your natural foods grocer, including: celery root, turnips, yams, daikon radish, rutabaga, parsnips, sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes), burdock root, beets and carrots. More condiment-type roots available are garlic, ginger, turmeric and horseradish, all of which have powerful medicinal value.

Raw garlic is highly antimicrobial, so keeps the cold and flu bugs (and perhaps a few folks) at bay, while cooked garlic serves to clean out arteries and lower cholesterol if you find yourself eating richer, fatty cold-weather foods.

Both ginger and turmeric are highly anti-inflammatory and cleansing to the blood, so work well as a team. Ginger is warmer so stirs up circulation and promotes sweating (which expels toxins) while turmeric is more cooling and a strong liver detoxifier. Small peeled nubs of each of these roots can usually be pushed through a garlic press into sauces, dressings and stir-frys. 

Horseradish has an upward moving energy which many of us have experienced eating too much wasabi paste! There is no better root for clearing the sinuses and stimulating the flow of fluid in the ears and eyes. It can be freshly grated into apple cider vinegar and stored in a jar in the fridge to use as needed (also see the Supertonic Recipe in Recipe Archives). 

If you are daunted as to how to cook all these nourishing roots then see my latest entry under Recipes for quick and easy cuisine. You can also choose one or two root vegetables to add into a favorite soup or grain dish.

Take the time this winter to replenish your body, mind and spirit. Replenish your body by drinking root decoctions (see Recipes) and eating roots along with winter greens, and re-mineralize your bones with sea vegetables and wild mushrooms. Replenish your mind by learning a new craft, practicing a foreign language or music, playing games and reading interesting books. Replenish your spirit through meditation, contemplation, yoga, chi gong, journal writing and spontaneous singing and dancing around the house! 

Use the dark, cold and often lean times of the winter months to rest, re-organize and visualize about what you wish express in the year ahead.