How to stock your herbal medicine chest for winter

Well, the cold weather is upon us! It’s the time when I take a look at my herbal medicine chest and stock up on winter remedies. I do like to make my own, but I don’t always have time to do that. And, I have to buy so many different herbs, it’s not always cost-effective. I mean, who wants to have ten half-filled bags of loose herbs sitting around? Want to know what an herbalist stocks? Here’s my suggestions for how to stock your herbal medicine chest for winter so you’re ready for anything.

How to stock your herbal medicine chest for winter

First, lifestyle factors

Before I get into the herbs and essential oils I personally stock, I have to tell you about the most important considerations for winter wellness. Before considering how to stock your herbal medicine chest for winter, think about these diet and lifestyle factors:

  • Sunlight plays a huge roll in winter wellness. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to lower immunity. Take a 15-20 minute walk every day to get your daily dose of vitamin D, breathe some fresh air, and combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), otherwise known as winter blues.
  • Stale, warm, indoor air harbors germs (not the cold air) and contains lower oxygen levels. Get outside! Also, crack your windows at the top every once in awhile to freshen the air.
  • Winter diets tend to be higher in sugar as we hunker down with our sweet drinks, heavy desserts, and sugary snacks. Sometimes we self-medicate our “winter blues” with treats, too. Vitamin D deficiency coupled with this higher sugar intake drastically lowers our immunity. That’s why we get sick in winter. Help your immune system by ditching the sugar.
  • Stress relief and proper sleep affect winter wellness, too. You’ve probably heard of cabin fever, right? Sometimes stress levels rise in winter because we are cooped up all the time and with reduced recreational possibilities, we tend to get aggravated, irritated, frustrated…you get the picture.

For herbal remedies to assist the body effectively, we need to address these diet and lifestyle factors first. Since herbs aren’t like pharmaceuticals, they offer minimal effectiveness if these other areas aren’t addressed. Now, on to the plants!

tree branches with red buds in winter for winter herbal medicine chest

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I only recommend high quality products I use myself at no extra cost to you. Also, you are responsible for how you use the information shared below. I am a trained master herbalist who teaches people. I am not a doctor and I do not diagnose, prescribe, treat, or claim to prevent any disease or illness. See my medical disclaimer.

Immune-boosting herbs and essential oils to include in your herbal medicine chest for winter

You might see a lot of homeopathic remedies for cold and flu symptoms, but I have not had good experiences with those. All of the remedies and blends I recommend are plant-based and produced by companies with scrupulous quality standards. This is my list.

For families with small children

Not all herbs are safe for small children. Furthermore, some types of symptoms afflict small children more than older ones and adults. My oldest daughter has an infant and this is what I stock for her.

Feel Better Fast This is an all-around remedy for babies and small children afflicted by cold or cough symptoms. The main herbs in this herbal blend are: Echinacea, Fennel, Astragalus, Elder, and Cinnamon.

Breathe Well Salve Just rub it on a child’s chest, much like the old Vapor Rub. Contains essential oils of lemon, rosalina, balm mint bush, and clary sage.

Earache Ease If your little one gets a lot of earaches, something else may be going on, such as issues with dairy. Only use if the ear drum is not perforated. Contains mullein. (Personally, I like to infuse garlic in the oil as well because of its antimicrobial properties.)

For older children and adults


Elderberry Elixir An all-time essential remedy for winter sniffles. Learn more about echinacea versus elderberry for cold and flu symptoms. This post also includes additional suggested remedies.

Breathe Ease When my nose gets all stuffed up, I get out my neti pot. I might put a drop of this oil into the pot, too. But, some people in my family don’t like using the neti pot. So, I also have a diffuser on hand and recommend they breathe in this essential oil blend to aid their bodies in clearing mucus. I just dab a few drops onto a tissue, put the oil up to their nostrils, and ask them to breathe in as well as they can. I diffuse it in the room as well.

Winter’s Remedy Tea This tea contains a powerful combination of herbs that help sore throats and coughs. Personally, I make a strong decoction and add some honey to get relief. Wild cherry bark, marshmallow, ginger, licorice root, and lemon peel make up this winter tea.

General helps

Cold Weather Supplement This supplement contains echinacea, ginger, astragalus, cayenne, olive, lemon balm, and goldenseal. These herbs support the immune system during the winter months.

Immune Strength This is an alternative essential oil blend to the Breathe Ease cited above. It is less specific and helps the immune system more generally. Diffuse it in the room.

Flu Time Use this essential oil blend in conjunction with Immune Strength during times when you need an extra boost of germ-fighting help.

Immune-boosting nutritional supplements

Immune Aid Vitamin C powder Vitamin C revs up the immune system. It’s like high performance motor oil and increases it’s activity and effectiveness by up to 70%. But, guess what? Vitamin C competes with sugar to fill the special receptor sites on your white blood cells. So, don’t eat sugar when you’re sick! For maximum absorption, get your vitamin C from natural sources like what’s included in this powder. It’s made from dried organic berries and orange peel.

Cod Liver Oil Read this post to learn more about the benefits of cod liver oil, an essential winter supplement, especially for those living in the north where sunlight diminishes in winter.

Vitamin D cream Don’t like fishy-tasting pills? Try this alternative to cod liver oil syrup and gel tablets.

What about aching joints and stiff muscles?

Cold weather often makes my muscles feel stiff, even if I’m not shoveling snow. These salves and lotions can increase circulation and warm the muscles to relieve the stiffness and pain.

Magic Muscle Ease This unique herbal rub contains magnesium, which encourages muscles to relax; arnica; peppermint, wintergreen, and citrus essential oils.

True Blue essential oil blend contains Helichrysum and Blue Tansy (plus a few others), aiding the body in healing. Diffuse it in a carrier oil or lotion.

Joint Support helps relax overworked muscles and joints. Again, diffuse it in a carrier oil or lotion.

Fighting winter blues

The best defense against winter blues involves sun exposure and encouraging positive thoughts. See my post here for more information about that. These two supplements can help if part of a more complete wellness plan.

Citrus Passion Diffusing this essential oil blend in the home can help lift spirits and encourage positive feelings.

Anxiety Relief herbal extract contains St. John’s Wort and Ashwagandha root. While research offers mixed results on the effectiveness of St. John’s Wort in combating winter blues, St. John’s Wort has a long history of use for mild depression. Coupled with Ashwaganda, this remedy offers support for the nervous system and lifting the mood.

Stock up beforehand!

Make sure you’re prepared when winter illness strikes and stock your herbal medicine chest for winter ahead of time. Then, you’re ready for anything and don’t have to make that last minute trip to the local store, hoping they have what you’re looking for. Get ready. Stay well.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. JW

    Your note on “winter diets high in sugar” hit home… We’ve all had slightly scratchy throats with sniffles for a couple of weeks, then the day after Halloween, I let the kids eat a small pile of candy before packing it away (we use it to decorated gingerbread houses with friends). Well the next morning, we wake up with full blown sore throats and fevers. Coincidence?

    1. Julie Polanco

      Thank you for your comment! Yes, it’s hard with kids and that’s why we need to be ready, right? And, we aren’t always good at practicing what we preach, either. I know that’s true for me, especially around the holidays.

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