Keeping healthy this winter

Winter is here but with it comes cold and frosty days with far less daylight hours. Also, the dreaded onslaught of winter colds & flu, which can turn a normally fun and festive holiday period into a miserable and downright depressing few weeks.

So how can we prevent being struck down with these winter illnesses?  There are many tried and tested remedies but not all work.  Spices, however, have been revered for centuries for their healing formula and anti inflammatory properties and are used in the ancient Indian system of medicine called Ayurveda.

Keen to find out more, we caught up with local medical herbalist and aromatherapist, Bee McGovern, for her top tips on how to keep fit and healthy using spices for promoting good, basic health.

How long have you been practicing as a medical herbalist and aromatherapist?

I qualified with a BSc (Hons) in herbal medicine 12 years ago and have been practicing ever since – with slight peaks and troughs along the way, partly due to having kids (who respond wonderfully to herbal medicine!)

Aromatherapy was an additional diploma which I completed during my training as a herbalist.  I love working with essential oils too (some great ones are derived from spices!) and consider my aromatherapy massage work to focus on ‘hands and heart’ and herbal medicine to make use of ‘head and heart’.  Both are deeply holistic and focus very much on the Individual person and their needs.

Which spices would you recommend for preventing the common cold or flu?

It’s challenging narrowing down recommendations to just spices (and not herbs), however we have so many great spices at our finger tips. In our kitchens – my favourites are:

Garlic – raw garlic is the essential form when treating infections.  It’s wonderfully anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral (killing off the bad bugs), helps clear catarrh and gets phlegm moving, helping you cough the gunk up.

Cinnamon – gently warming and drying, anti-microbial and useful for clearing mucus from the lungs and sinuses, making it effective in the treatment of coughs and colds.

Ginger – helps to clear mucus and stoke up your internal fires to fight off infection, wonderful with hot water, fresh lemon and honey at the onset of a cold.

Cloves – one of the main constituents, eugenol, is antiviral, antiseptic and unaesthetic (many know of the traditional use of clove oil applied to a sore tooth or gum).

Star Anise – helps to clear congestion and catarrh from the upper respiratory tract and lungs.  Interestingly enough the active Ingredient in the antiviral drug Tamiflu Is derived from star anise

Turmeric – useful in maintaining a healthy microbiome (gut flora), which is key in prevention, fantastic anti-Inflammatory action and generally supportive of good health.  It may be used to help treat colds and catarrh.

Horseradish – great for clearing the sinuses!

What would be the best way of consuming them?

In terms of prevention, a great way to include spices is in your everyday diet.  Add cinnamon, star anise and nutmeg to porridge, turmeric, black pepper, coriander seeds to soups, stews.  Indian cuisine makes great use of a variety of spices in each meal – perfect for protection from colds and tummy upsets! Likewise, things like Thai curry are great examples were food almost becomes a medicine.  Lots of veg and lots of great spices!

When it comes to treatment it is usually about increasing the dosage and therefore making decoctions (gently simmering the spices in a pan with the lid on) of spices works well.  If you make a couple of pints in one go and store them in a flask you will have a fantastic ready made supportive beverage to have throughout the day.

Raw garlic (freshly crushed) is fantastic for treating colds, coughs and flu, however you need to aim for at least 3 cloves a day – not something that those with sensitive tummies can easily do. A good proportion of one of the active constituents is excreted into the lungs – thereby reaching the ‘target organ’, the drawback is that this what makes your breath smell!


Do you have a favourite spice for healing and if so, why?

That is a really difficult question!  I guess if I could only pack one spice in my suitcase for a week away it would be ginger because it is so wonderfully versatile and suited to most people.

Ginger can be used for everything from tummy upsets, nausea and period pains through to inflammation, improving the circulation and warming one through. As a gargle it can be used for sore throats and it is also useful in fever management.   Ginger is gently cleansing if you start your day with a mild cup of freshly grated ginger and hot water.


Which spice would you recommend for keeping warm during winter?

Ginger and cinnamon would be my top two!  And chilli, although It’s technically a fruit!

Please note that when using spices in larger quantities i.e., medicinal quantities herb-drug interactions can occur.  If you are on any medication it is important to get expert advice.  Also remember that not all spices (and herbs) agree with all people!

Dosage is also key – one dose may be a food, a higher dose a medicine and an even higher one a poison!  Recommended dosages vary from plant to plant and person to person.  Applying a good dose of common sense is key.


Bee has had a lifelong interest in plants and natural healthcare, her first science degree was in Botany.  Bee practices herbal medicine and aromatherapy from Healing Thyme in Whitchurch and also runs a clinic from her home.  She Is the founder and owner of Bee’s Teas -loose leaf blissful botanical brews. Bee runs foraging walks, workshops and is available to deliver talks to groups.  For further Information check out her website:

The next Ginger and Spice Festival will take place during September 2019.

For all information about the Ginger and Spice Festival including the events, please visit the what’s on section of the website: