Winter herbs to grow

Cold Hardy Herbs – Growing Herbs That Survive Winter

Growing herbs in your garden is a great and easy way to enhance your cooking. A lot of popular garden herbs, however, are native to the Mediterranean. This means that your cold climate herb garden may take a serious hit from frost and snow. Luckily, there are plenty of herbs that can withstand the cold, as well as ways to protect those that can’t. Keep reading for tips on caring for herbs in cool climates.

Cold Climate Herb Garden

The colder your climate, the more your plants run the risk of not surviving the winter. Some cold hardy herbs (mint, thyme, oregano, sage, and chives) are very well adapted. In areas with frost, they grow as perennials, going dormant in the winter and coming back with new growth in the spring.

A few weeks before the first frost of autumn, prune your plants, removing any woody or dead stems and snipping off the upper leaves. This will keep your spring growth in check as well as give you some good material to dry or freeze for the winter – especially if you live in a very cold area, as there is always a chance your herb won’t survive to the spring.

If you want, dig your plants up and transfer to containers that can be kept by a sunny window throughout the winter. This will protect your plants and give you fresh herbs for cooking all year long. In fact, year-round container growing is recommended for less winter-hardy herbs.

Best Herbs for Cold Climates

Caring for herbs in cool climates usually means choosing the right plants. Some herbs fare much better in cold climates. As previously stated, herbs that survive winter more often than not, particularly if they’re able to overwinter with a good continuous snow cover, include the following:

  • Mint
  • Chives
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Sage

Lavender is actually quite cold hardy, but is often killed off in the winter by too much moisture. If you want to try overwintering it, plant it in extremely well-drained soil and mulch it heavily in the winter.

Some other good cold hardy herbs include:

  • Catnip
  • Sorrel
  • Caraway
  • Parsley
  • Lemon balm
  • Tarragon
  • Horseradish

Are you looking to fill your herb garden with perennials? I don’t blame you because you plant them once, and they should last approximately ten years.

But which herbs should you choose? It can get complicated when shopping for herbs. There are many different options.

Also, some herbs are only perennials in certain climates. I’m going to inform you of some of the best perennial herbs for your garden. There are some which are only perennial in some planting zones.

But no worries, I’ll give you a few pointers on how to make it work for your zone too. Here are the perennial herbs you should plant in your garden:

1. Lavender

Do you have an area of your yard which needs a splash of color? Lavender is exactly what you need. They produce gorgeous purple flowers which are beautiful in any garden.

They’re also excellent to use in flower arrangements. You can create both fresh and dried bouquets with this beautiful herb. I used to grow lavender right outside of my front door in a flower bed. It made our home pop and looked very welcoming year after year.

2. Mint

Be careful when planting mint. It’s known for taking over the space where it’s planted. For this reason, it might be better to grow mint in a container.

If you’re dead set on having mint planted in a specific garden space, try putting the mint in a bucket. From there, bury the bucket in the ground. This won’t guarantee the mint won’t sprawl, but it should deter it some.

An alternative is to use the excess mint as fodder or for compost and to encourage their abundant growth.

3. Catnip

Catnip is exceptionally addictive to cats. I have a cat which will breathe in catnip extremely hard to the point you wonder if she’s going to fall over. She loves the smell so much! It’s humorous, but I don’t plant catnip openly in my yard because I know it’ll draw stray cats.

But if you love catnip and are okay with neighborly cats, it makes a wonderful tea. Catnip tea also has many excellent benefits. Whether you plant the herb for your cats, the entertainment of watching cats around catnip, or you love the tea, I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

4. Wintergreen


Wintergreen is another form of mint, but it deserves to be mentioned on its own because of all it brings to the table. This herb will make a fantastic ground cover.

The plant will produce gorgeous lilies during the spring and edible berries during the fall. Plus, the leaves are excellent for making tea. If you’re looking for a useful and visually appealing ground cover, this could be it.

5. Echinacea

You may have heard of this herb by its other name, purple coneflower. It’s a wonderful perennial herb because it will grow in practically any garden. They aren’t particular about soil requirements either.

Meaning, if you have a dry area with poor soil, this herb may grow there with no trouble. You can spread the flowers around by allowing them to dry out. When the cones have dried, sprinkle the seeds where you’d like them to grow, and you’ll have gorgeous purple coneflowers the next season.

6. Verbena

Verbena is an herb which is only a perennial in certain zones. If you live in planting zone 8 and above, this plant will survive outdoors over the winter months.

However, if you live in a colder climate, you can bring the herb indoors to overwinter. If you don’t, you’ll have to plant it as an annual.

7. Chives

Chives are probably my favorite herb in our herb garden. They’re a gorgeous perennial herb which is tasty too. They also are easy to grow and come back more impressive every year.

Something to keep in consideration, when the chives come back each year, they get larger. Be sure to include this when you are planning the spacing for your plants.

8. Oregano

Oregano is another delicious herb. It smells lovely and is useful in the kitchen too. If you live in a cooler climate, you can’t plant the herb and walk away expecting it to return each year.

You’ll need to cut oregano back during the fall. It should be covered with mulch as well to protect it from the elements. Oregano won’t grow and produce year-round, but with proper care, it should return each spring.

9. Winter Savory


This perennial herb is known for producing a strong pepper flavor. If you want a herb to include in your warm or cold dishes which will add a little kick, this could be what you’ve wanted.

Winter savory is an extremely hardy herb and is great for using to infuse vinegar, to make herb butter with, or to make a delightful tea. Growing it from seed is difficult. For this reason, you’ll need to propagate the plant every three years.

10. Lemon Balm

We grow lemon balm in our herb garden because our bees love it. It’s also an excellent herb to grow because it’s useful in the kitchen and contains medicinal properties.

Lemon balm has a pleasant fragrance and is gorgeous in appearance. It is a great candidate with which to garnish your meals. Because of how flavorful it is, it’s a great choice to use in beverages as well. If you’re looking for a perennial herb to give you plenty of bang for your buck, this could be the one.

11. Curry


I’ll go ahead and let you down. You can’t grow curry in your herb garden. The scent you get from curry comes from a variety of spices and herbs.

However, you can grow this perennial (though non-edible) plant to produce the scent of curry in your herb garden. It will add a unique look and make your herb garden smell delicious.

12. Thyme

If you haven’t cooked with thyme, I’ll warn you. It’s a potent herb. A small amount of it goes a long way when cooking. But it is very aromatic and smells lovely in your garden and is delicious (in the right amounts) in your cooking.

This herb is easy to propagate to make new plants. It also grows well in most climates. Thyme does prefer to grow in full sun, though. Be sure to prune the thyme every spring to encourage the plant to produce for the new growing season.

13. Tarragon

Tarragon is a herb which is very difficult to grow from seed. When you purchase a tarragon plant, you can create more by propagating from the plant you bought. You can also grow tarragon indoors year-round. Having indoor herbs is great if you like to cook with it.

However, keep in mind, French tarragon is the only tarragon which is suitable for cooking. There are other varieties which are great for ornamental use. French tarragon is also great for infusing oils and vinegar, using on white meat dishes, and including in your vegetable recipes.

14. Chamomile

Chamomile has a very subtle scent. It isn’t overpowering, which I like about it. It’s great to make chamomile tea with and can also be used to make your home smell fresh in a natural way.

However, if you have a place in your yard where you need ground cover, this could be a functional way to do this. Chamomile is a creeping ground cover which produces an edible for you to use as well.

15. Sage

Sage is another herb we grow in our herb garden, and I love it. We raise our pork and make a great deal of sausage. Sage is lovely to be used in sausage, and we also use it in stuffing around Thanksgiving.

What makes sage great is its hardiness. It grows well in most climates and survives the overwintering process in most areas too. The secret is to prune sage way back in the fall and pad it with mulch. When it’s insulated, it should do fine over the winter months and return each spring.

16. Rosemary

Rosemary is another herb we grow and love in our herb garden. It overwinters well in zones 8-10, officially. We live in zone 7 and have had decent luck with most of our rosemary surviving typical winters. We lost some this past winter because of the unusual cold snap we had late in the season.

However, if you’re concerned about the rosemary surviving winter in your location, you can plant it in a container and bring it indoors for the winter months. You can dry or freeze rosemary to use over the winter, and it’s delicious when used to season both meat and bread.

Well, you now have 16 different perennial herbs to choose from to fill your herb garden. Some may have to be added to the herb garden in containers to keep them alive over the winter depending upon where you live.

But you should be able to produce plenty of delicious herbs year after year. They all have unique uses and purposes. Which makes them all excellent candidates for your garden. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Was this article helpful?


How can we improve it?


We appreciate your helpul feedback!

Your answer will be used to improve our content. The more feedback you give us, the better our pages can be.

Follow us on social media:

Facebook Pinterest

5 Winter Herbs & Spices to Enjoy This Holiday Season

Dr. Laurie Steelsmith December 14, 2016 Nutrition Advice Email Print Twitter Pinterest Facebook

This post was most recently updated on December 13th, 2017

Few things call to mind the harmony of the holidays like the scent of herbs and spices. Indeed, from cinnamon and clove to rosemary and myrrh, winter yields some of the most fragrant and appetizing aromas of the year. Bring these 5 additions into your world this season—and delight in the wonderful smells, tastes, and health advantages they offer.

Gingerbread men may be the unofficial mascot of the season, but the chief ingredient in this winter treat does far more than sweeten.

Used for centuries in China, ginger offers a bounty of benefits: It naturally supports healthy kidney function and energy, and it’s popular in natural remedies for nausea and digestive upset. What’s more, it organically encourages healthy circulation and pain relief. In fact, ginger is well-regarded in Chinese medicine for its facility to bolster stomach Qi and improve digestive health.*

Warm up this winter in more ways than one by including more of it in your diet. Ginger tea, soy and ginger marinades for meat, and shavings of fresh ginger in stir fries—all will stoke your inner hearth and help keep you warm through March. Or, whip together a first-rate dessert: Blend unsweetened cocoa powder with butter, flour, molasses, eggs, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and ground ginger for an elegant take on cookies. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm: This is a comfort as much for the soul as it is for the tummy.

2. Cinnamon

Cinnamon has long been a darling of the holiday season for a reason: It adds a kick to everything from pies to popovers and possesses a natural heat that’s, well, warmly welcomed during winter.

Both spicy and sweet, cinnamon is also one of the top healthy spices. Derived from the cinnamon vernun tree—and once so revered it served as a gift among dignitaries—it’s commonly used in Chinese health practices to help support stronger Qi. Here in the West, it’s cherished for the antioxidant properties found in its primary active ingredient, cinnamaldehyde. Additionally, cinnamon naturally supports immune health with its anti-inflammatory qualities and organically aids in healthy blood sugar levels (if already in a normal range).*

Sprinkle some on your morning oatmeal, add a dash of it to your coffee to help neutralize stomach acids, or combine it with honey and plain Greek yogurt. Another idea? Have cinnamon do double-duty by coating almonds with it. The excellent levels of fiber, protein, magnesium and omega-3s can naturally boost overall health.

3. Oregano

On the savory side of winter herbs, oregano is an Italian fave—and a terrific seasoning for fancy comfort foods (oregano pesto being one of the more overlooked indulgences).

Native to the Mediterranean, this herb contains choice amounts of key nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and K, iron and manganese. It also naturally supports smoother digestion. Recognized as a “functional food,” the flavorsome herb—which means “delight of the mountains” in Greek—organically supports respiratory health as well.*

Keep yourself operating optimally this holiday season by enhancing a number of winter dishes with it. Try seasoning chicken breasts with oregano and fresh lime for a taste of sunnier climes, sprinkle it on top of pizza, soups and pasta, or create a first-rate Argentinian chimichurri sauce with parsley, red wine vinegar, cumin, garlic, and fresh or dried oregano. Feliz Navidad indeed.

4. Nutmeg

Nothing says the holidays like a mug of eggnog laced with nutmeg—enjoyed, of course, before a roaring fire.

The good news? The spice in this signature holiday swill is also a blessing for your health. Originally from Indonesia, with a woody, robust flavor, nutmeg naturally supports sleep and a smoother complexion. Furthermore, nutmeg contains thiamin, folate, copper and macelignan—a botanical compound that’s been shown to have germ-fighting merits. When nutmeg is grounded down into a fine powder, it also retains its fiber content, rendering it a sage choice for naturally supporting digestive function.*

While a delicious addition to drinks (try a smidgen of nutmeg in your smoothie or the next latte your order), it’s also a brilliant way to enhance sweet potatoes, butternut squash soup, pumpkin pie, and Swiss chard. Or, go for a nutrient-rich carrot soufflé by pairing carrots, unsalted butter, onion, eggs, and flour with freshly grated nutmeg. The beta carotene in this comfy dish will organically encourage healthier skin—and what better way to shine at all those holiday parties?

5. Garlic

Bram Stoker had something right by turning to garlic in his classic novel. But garlic accomplishes far more than warding off vampires: It can also help support immune health and help maintain healthy blood pressure and cholesterol already within normal range.*

Sharp and piquant, from a Chinese point of view this winter herb naturally supports recovery from “wind colds” because of its warming qualities. From a Western perspective, it’s equally valued for its potent immune enhancing qualities. Low in calories and rich in vitamins C and B, it can also organically encourage vitality so you can tick more things off that holiday to-do list.

Embrace winter vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli,and beets by topping them off with olive oil and garlic; use it to season meat, fish and potatoes, or roast garlic cloves and serve with a creamy goat cheese, olives and crostinis. Or, give garlic to your host in lieu of holiday wine: Infuse high end olive oil with chopped garlic and sundried tomatoes and present it in a pretty jar. After all, there’s no greater gift than health.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Dr. Laurie Steelsmith

Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness. Visit her website at

Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness. Visit her website at

Similar articles

Clearing Up Confusion on 4 Common Food Myths

May 10, 2017

Top 5 Tips for Gluten-Free Baking

October 18, 2016

10 Food Swaps for Better-for-You Holiday Dishes

December 7, 2016

The ability to pick fresh herbs, or lighten a winter meal with a crunchy home-grown salad from your food garden, makes winter feel a lot less drab, grey and long.

General Tips for Growing Winter Herbs and Vegetables

Growing herbs and vegetables in winter does take a bit more effort and care; after all its not their natural growing season. But growth does continue, although at a slower pace and by choosing hardy herbs and vegetables that prefer cooler conditions it is possible to keep a supply of fresh greens on the table.

In summer rainfall areas where there is frost you need a sheltered, draught-free area that catches the sun. Watch the movement of the sun and move your pots accordingly. Most kitchen courtyards are south facing and cold during winter so you need to seek out north facing patios and balconies or corners that are east or west facing and receive at least four hours sun a day.

In winter rainfall areas there is less need for protection, especially with herbs because most are indigenous to the Mediterranean so they prefer hot dry summers and cold, wet winters. Here the challenge is to make sure that the pots have good drainage and the potting soil is fairly light. Although growth slows down it is still important to fertilise monthly, especially if you are harvesting continuously.

7 Herbs to Grow in Winter

The first step is to pick herbs that are hardy enough to weather cold high-veld winters. We recommend thyme, oreganum, chervil, parsley and sage for culinary use. Thyme, sage and parsley also have strong medicinal properties and to complement them you can grow hyssop (for bronchitis) and yarrow (for infections and fevers).

Herbs like sweet basil, borage, lemon balm and the various mints are too tender and will die down so its worth treating them as summer annuals.

Herbs need at least four hours sun in winter and a sheltered position. For this reason they should be grown in pots so they can follow the sun.

Choose containers that are a minimum of 20cm in diameter, have drainage holes and are deep enough for the herb’s roots to develop. Use a normal commercial potting soil that drains well.

Herbs don’t like wet feet so don’t put saucers underneath the pots. Check the soil moisture levels daily because the soil should not dry out completely. Generally potted herbs only need to be watered one or twice a week in winter, preferably in the morning. Feed once a month with a liquid fertiliser, like Multisol General, Nitrosol or Multifeed, at half the required strength.

When harvesting collect small quantities at a time and always leave two growth points on the twig for re-shooting. Instead of cutting at random rather use the opportunity to pinch out or prune the plant to encourage bushiness. Once picked handle the herbs as little as possible because the subtle nuances of flavour are lost if handled or allowed to wilt.

Thyme/Tiemie (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme is one of the hardiest of all the herbs. It makes a small, bushy potplant and the more the leaves are picked the better it does. An infusion, especially of lemon-scented thyme, helps relieve coughs and colds. In the kitchen thyme can be used, in casseroles and stews, to garnish roasts or added to salad dressings and salads. Thyme is also an excellent anti-oxidant and tonic, supporting the body’s normal functions, building the immune system and countering the effects of aging.

Sage/Salie (Salvia officinalis)

Sage needs a little more nurturing than thyme and its growth tends to slow down and the leaves get smaller in winter. It needs full sun, must not be over watered and should be kept out of draughts. In the kitchen Sage is a robust herb that stands up well to cooking, especially in slow simmered casseroles, roasts and grills. It also combines well with cheese.

An infusion of sage leaves can be used to treat colds and coughs and it also makes an excellent gargle for sore throats. To make a Sage gargle infuse 3 teaspoons fresh leaves in a cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, strain and cool. Gargle three times a day.

Parsley/Pietersielie (Petroselinum crispum)

Parsley needs full sun if grown in a pot in winter and the soil should be kept moist. Regular feeding encourages the production of leaves, which are rich in vitamins A, C, E, and Iron. Even better, parsley has anti-oxidant properties that neutralise cancer-promoting agents.

Build your immune system by eating two tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley each day. Sprinkle it on salads, add it to meat, pasta or cheese sauces at the end of cooking or juice it up in a blender with apple or tomato juice. Always pick the outer leaves, and extend the plant’s life by cutting off the flowering head. The flat-leaf Italian parsley is even easier to grow than the moss curled variety and it has a more distinctive taste.

Chervil/Kerwel (Anthriscus cerefolium)

Chervil is a hardy annual that actually prefers cooler weather and not full sun conditions. Its delicate, fern like leaves make it a very attractive container plant. The leaves are full of vitamin C and have a slightly aniseed taste. It’s best used like parsley, chopped as a garnish or added to salads, soups, sauces, vegetables and meat dishes at the end of cooking.

It loses its taste when dried so use fresh. An infusion of the leaves stimulates digestion, relieves head colds, and acts as a blood cleanser.

Oregano/Oreganum (Origanum vulgare)

Oregano is one of the more robust winter herbs, easily withstanding winter frost. It likes full sun. The more you harvest oregano the better it grows. It has a strong aromatic taste ideal for rich winter food, but use sparingly or it can be overpowering. An infusion of oregano can be used to treat coughs, tiredness and irritability.

Hyssop/Hisop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Hyssop is a lesser-known herb that grows well in pots and tolerates quite cold weather. It has a bushy form and attractive spikes of blue flowers. Both the leaves and flowers can be used in an infusion to treat bronchitis and loosen mucus. The leaves have a peppery taste and are a good addition to thick soups and stews.

Here’s 7 hyssop recipes you can try.

Yarrow/Duisendblad (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow is a hardy perennial makes a beautiful pot plant with its feathery leaves and pink flowers. Grow in a sunny position in deep, wide pots and keep the soil moist. Yarrow is a good indicator plant because it’s always the first to show that watering is needed.

It’s principally a medicinal herb can be used to bring down fevers, and helps relieve infections, influenza, and sinusitis. Both the leaves and flowers of the plant are used as an infusion. Add peppermint or a teaspoon of honey if you find the leaves a bit bitter.

7 Vegetables to Grow in Winter

Don’t try and sow vegetable seed outdoors during June and July because the ground temperatures are too cold for germination. Sow them indoors in pots or seedling trays. Lettuce, broad beans, kale, radishes, sugar snap peas and spinach are available as seedlings from nurseries. Once germinated, plant them in pots in a sunny, sheltered position. They should receive at least four hours of sun a day.

Although growth is slower because the lower temperatures reduces the uptake of fertilizer, it is still important to fertilise.


Sprouts can be grown all year round because they can be sprouted indoors and grown on a sunny windowsill. Margaret Roberts and Kirchhoffs have put together a special sprouting mix consisting of Mung beans, Chickpeas, lentils, Alfalfa and Soya beans.

Sprouters are available from health food shops but a quick sprouter can be made from a wide-mouthed glass jar covered with cheesecloth tied with a rubber band.

Place seeds into the jar, cover with water and leave overnight. Pour the beans into a sieve the next morning and rinse under running water. Rinse bottle and return beans to the damp bottle. Cover with cheese cloth and secure. Tilt jar to get rid of excess water, otherwise beans will rot and go sour. The washing procedure must be repeated every morning and evening – in three days the beans will be ready to eat.


Lettuce is an easy vegetable to grow in pots. It needs a rich potting soil mix and should be watered regularly. Plant a row of lettuce in a window box or encircle a standard or tree topiary. Varieties with interesting or coloured leaves are very decorative.

The loose leafed varieties are the most practical because you can harvest the individual leaves for up to three months before replanting. Others, like the butterhead or iceberg, are picked when the heads form so its best to sow seed at sow at three to four weekly intervals to have a constant supply. Fertilise monthly with Multisol P or Ludwig’s Vigorosa. Strawberries and marigolds are good companion plants.

Suggested varieties: “Salad Mixed” (a variety of loose leafed and crisp lettuce), ‘All Year Round’ (Butterhead), Lollo Rossa and Lollo Biondo (Loose Leafed).

Spinach or Swiss Chard

Spinach or Swiss Chard also needs full sun and a potting mix that is rich but drains easily. Spinach needs regular watering and frequent feeding to produce lots of lush green leaves. It will produce over an extended period if the leaves are picked regularly. Spinach is ideal for pots because the plants only need to be 20cm apart. For something different and colourful, try the new ‘Bright Lights’ with its red and yellow stems and different coloured leaves.

Suggested varieties: ‘Bright lights’, ‘Swiss Chard Lucullus’, ‘Fordhook Giant’.


This zesty little vegetable adds colour and a tang to salads. It is ready for harvesting within a month so seedlings should be planted at regular intervals to ensure a yearlong supply. Radishes can be grown 3cm apart so they are ideal for small, sunny spots in between other plants or in pots.

Suggested varieties: ‘Red Cherry’ and ‘Cherry Belle’.

Broad Beans

Broad beans thrive in well-fertilised and well-drained soil so it is important to plant them in deep, wide containers at least 40cm in diameter. They are climbers so the growth needs to be supported and trained. Make a pyramid from stakes tied together or buy a more ornamental obelisk and turn your bean plant into a garden feature. Water regularly especially during flowering and when the pods are developing. For larger pods pinch out the growing point when the lowest pods are 75mm long. Young beans, no thicker than a finger and 75mm long are the most delicious and can be cooked in their pods. A word of warning, do not disturb the plants when in flower as this may result in failure to set pot. For an optimum harvest, fertilise with Multisol K once a month.

Suggested variety: Aquadulce


Kale is a valuable winter vegetable that is extremely hardy. It likes rich soil so potting soil should be enriched with an addition of compost and plants should be fed monthly with Multisol N or Ludwigs Vigorosa. Plant seedlings 40cm apart, which means that a large, deep pot should accommodate about five plants which should provide a regular harvest of leaves. Cut the centre of each plant first to encourage the production of fresh side shoots. The leaves are rich in vitamin C and iron. To prepare Kale for cooking strip the long leaves from the tough stem, shred them away from the white midribs and cook like spinach.

Suggested variety: Chou Moullier Marrow Stem

Sugar Snap Peas

Sugar Snap peas should be planted 40 cm apart and staked for a tidy effect and for ease of picking. Plants grow between 75 to 100cm high and the first fruit should be ready for harvest within 120 days. Water regularly especially when in flower. Pick regularly so that the pods do not become tough. Petunias are good companion plants as they deter caterpillars.

Visit the Eco Herb Store for a range of organic herb and veggie seeds.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2015, and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

From sipping a pumpkin latte to grating ginger into a warm pot of chili, many time-honored cold-weather activities involve noshing on comfort foods, especially those flavored with delicious spices. But these spices aren’t just about pleasing your palate. Many of them boast wellness benefits, as well.

Here, seven winter spices health experts recommend adding to your diet:

1. Ginger

Ginger is not only delicious and warming during crisp evenings, but it may help stabilize cholesterol levels, explains Emaline K. Brown, ND, a naturopathic doctor at Bastyr University Clinic in San Diego, CA.

It’s also known as a go-to for gastrointestinal discomfort. “Many times these issues are a result of internal inflammation,” explains Claire Martin, RD, a nutritionist and cofounder of Being Healthfull from Oakland, CA. So, if you have an irritated esophagus, ginger can help soothe your throat.

Plus, if you’re traveling this holiday season to visit loved ones, it doesn’t hurt to reach for ginger, which can ease stomach discomfort related to plane or car travel, Dr. Brown notes.

2. Cinnamon

It’s pretty much impossible to avoid this staple spice in the cooler months, as it’s used in a bevy of seasonal dishes—from pumpkin loaves to holiday cookies. But don’t worry about overdoing it: “Cinnamon may help balance out spikes in blood sugar from that extra slice of apple pie,” says Dr. Brown.

Research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food points out that cinnamon is “a rich botanical source of polyphenolics that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine and has been shown to affect blood glucose and insulin signaling.” Credit goes to the spice’s ability to “increase insulin receptors, which take sugar into the cells for energy,” explains Serena Goldstein, ND, a naturopathic doctor in New York, NY. In other words, it lowers blood sugar, helping you to feel more stable.

Featured Products

3. Cardamom

Called the “Queen of spices” in India, cardamom is a smoky, flavorful spice that comes in two varieties—brown and green. Green cardamom is generally used in the winter in both sweet foods (like cakes) and savory foods (like curry). It’s recommended that you use the whole cardamom pod—versus the ground spice, since the ground spice loses a lot of flavor.

A study published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease found that cardamom played a beneficial role in promoting metabolic health, glucose intolerance, and oxidative stress.

4. Turmeric

Popularly used in South Asian cooking, as well as in trendy (and delicious!) Golden Milk recipes, turmeric has been used for centuries as a medicinal herb to promote healing from a host of illnesses. Martin describes it as “a powerful antioxidant that not only neutralizes free radicals (disease-causing compounds found in the environment, pollutants, and smoke) but also aids and boosts the body’s own enzymatic responses to free radicals.”

It’s also particularly helpful at keeping your brain firing on all cylinders, notes Mike Dow, Psy.D., Ph.D., author of the upcoming book, Heal Your Drained Brain (February 2018). “The effects of this miracle spice are quite evident in rural India, where fewer than one percent of seniors aged 65 and over have Alzheimer’s disease, compared to about 13 percent in the United States,” he says.

“Turmeric will make feel better, too,” says Dow, “possibly increasing serotonin in the brain.” Additionally, it can address more day-to-day health concerns, as the main ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, is a strong antioxidant.

5. Rosemary

“Rosemary is fragrant and its scent alone may stimulate the brain to improve alertness,” says Dr. Brown. You can also derive long-term benefits from the delicious herb, because the carnosic acid in rosemary may improve cognitive function, notes Dow. In fact, it could even be called a sort of immortality spice, since populations that eat the most of it also live the longest.

That said, too much rosemary can cause diarrhea or headaches, and it’s best avoided during pregnancy, warns Dr. Goldstein.

Related: Shop a whole range of spices.

6. Allspice

One of the most important spices in Caribbean jerk seasoning, as well as in many holiday desserts, allspice has stomach-soothing and cold-battling powers. “Allspice may help ease the abdominal discomfort that so often accompanies holiday over-indulgence,” says Dr. Brown.

It’s also loaded with antioxidants!

7. Nutmeg

If you’re feeling blue, sprinkling a bit of nutmeg onto your oatmeal might help turn your frown upside down. According to Dr. Brown, as well as an animal study published in the Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, nutmeg may be able to boost mood and improve cognitive function. So, next time you want to lift your spirits—for instance, during the stress of the holidays—you’ll know where to turn.

Pin this infographic to your pantry to remember what’s what.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *