Treating Winter ailments

Winter requires a different way of life and a lot of self-care. Warmth, company and hearty nutritious food are vital. A good walk whenever the weather allows it is a boost – as is any kind of exercise. But really winter is a time for taking things a bit easier and protecting yourself.

Let’s start with some of the smaller ailments like cracked lips and cold sores. Herbalist Christine Best from Tralee ( is glowing in her praise of calendula as a healing herb and recommends using it in an ointment or lip balm to soothe cracked lips. If you suffer an outbreak of cold sores, which is a sure sign you are run-down, she advises applying licorice to the sore – either a good quality liquorice sweet or liquorice tea. Lemon balm is another good remedy. You can make an infusion with it and either take it internally or apply it to the sore.

Geraldine Woessner of Flourish Organics ( has a range of lip balms based on sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil and beeswax. Her particular recommendation for winter is the lavender lip balm, which has skin repairing qualities and a touch of tea tree oil to protect against cold sores.

Colds and Flu
Inevitably some of us will succumb to colds, flu, and other infections. Preventative medicine is best. The use of Vitamin C is generally accepted as being of help and rest, of course, is the best treatment when you feel something brewing. “Rest Rest Rest” advises classical homeopath Pam Muller from Sneem ( “Do not exercise when you are sick. Wait until your energy returns. Your body has enough work to do when you are sick just dealing with the virus or bacteria.”

There are some homeopathic flu remedies you could use at home once you know how and Pam runs introductory courses in homeopathy. However, boosting your health and energy before infection strikes, is how Pam practices.  “Even with a good, healthy lifestyle getting our general health up to a level where we stop getting colds and flus every winter, is something that requires the use of dynamic medicine.

“This means visiting a classical homeopath before acute illness strikes, or when it is over, to get a single remedy which is individually indicated. It is not in the province of home treatment. Success depends on the level of health one has to begin with and the skill of the homoeopath.  People with chronic illness will most likely have a longer and more winding road back to an improved level of health.”

Similarly, a visit to a herbalist will help to identify the correct remedies for your specific condition however Christine Best offers a few general tips on treating colds and flu – and she’s particularly keen on the use of elderflower for flu.

• Elderflower syrup
Cover the elderberries in water and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for about ½ hr and then strain off the liquid. Measure the liquid and add 500g sugar for each ½ litre. Stir until dissolved. Add a tsp of this syrup to a glass of hot water to help fight off colds and ‘flu. You can add cloves, a slice of fresh ginger and lemon to add an extra zing to this delicious remedy.

• Ginger and Lemon Tea
Add a slice of lemon and a slice of fresh ginger root to a cup of boiling water.

• Flu Tea
A traditional remedy for colds and flu – particularly feverish head colds. Both Christine and Pam recommend this one. Mix equal parts of yarrow, elderflower, and peppermint. Use 1 tsp per cup of boiling water – or make up about a pint of ‘tea’ and add it to a hot bath.

Cold weather can be a nightmare for those who suffer from arthritis. Using warm applications externally can bring some relief.  Herbalist Christine Best suggests a mustard plaster. Simply spread the mustard on greaseproof paper; fold it into a parcel and apply it to the aching joint. Leave it there for about 10 minutes or until it starts feeling hot. Do not allow the mustard to come in contact with the skin.

Alternatively use comfrey cream with a pinch of cayenne in it or make up an essential oil remedy using a base oil with drops of rosemary juniper or black pepper added to it. Aromatherapist Geraldine Woessner is also fond of the use of benzoin to warm the heart, improve circulation and ease the aches of arthritis.