Thanksgiving coincides with the cold and flu season, and the rich food of the holiday doesn’t always support your body’s ability to fight back. Fortunately, some of the best healing herbs that have traditionally been used to help your body fight colds, flus and other ailments taste great, too, and can easily be incorporated into your Thanksgiving feast.
Here are five herbs you can sneak into your holiday meal to help boost your immunity and, bonus, make your dishes taste even better.
Rose hips are the fruit of the rose plant; roses are in the same plant family as apples, and the hips often look like small versions of their fruit cousins. Rose hips are potent antioxidants and are high in vitamin C, which is critical for optimal body function and helps to support immune health. They are also pretty tasty! Rose hips can easily be added to your meal by incorporating them into your cranberry sauce for an extra depth of tart and sweet flavor. Add about 2-3 ounces per 12 ounces of cranberries.
Rose hips contain pectin, which will help the sauce to firm, reducing cooking time and making a firm sauce that won’t go running around your stuffed Thanksgiving plate.
Mushrooms are all the rage for optimal wellness, as studies show they contain anti-cancer and immunomodulating properties. They are also one of the easiest ways to boost the health properties of your Thanksgiving meal.
The trick with mushrooms is that many of the potent constituents are best extracted in water, so the sauté-and-call-it-a-day route isn’t going to unlock their healing potential. To optimize your mushroom magic, select a medicinal mushroom like reishi, chaga, shitake or turkey tail (all easily found dried from herb vendors such as Mountain Rose Herbs) and simmer for 40 minutes over low heat.
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Preserve the liquid and use it as a replacement for turkey or chicken stock in your stuffing recipe. Sauté the mushrooms and add to your favorite gravy or side dish. Using both the liquid and the mushrooms will ensure you receive all of the health benefits.
Astragalus is a root used in traditional Chinese medicine as an immune support tonic. Like many roots, it is best prepared in a slow decoction by simmering in water on low for at least 30 minutes to make a strong tea with an earthy, sweet flavor. But tea isn’t the only way to extract the beneficial properties of astragalus: You can add it to any part of your Thanksgiving meal that has water or broth, such as gravy.
To plan ahead, just add a handful of astragalus to your bone or chicken broth and simmer for 30 minutes on low heat. After simmering, strain the astragalus root. Then use the astragalus-infused broth to make a basic pan gravy that tastes great and helps to boost your immune system.
Sage — yes, the simple culinary sage that you probably already have in your spice rack — is a fantastic healing herb to invite to your Thanksgiving feast.
Sage has antimicrobial properties that help to soothe digestion if Grandma takes the turkey out of the oven while it’s still a little too pink. Sage was also traditionally used as a lung remedy, supporting the lungs in fighting infection. Sage can be incorporated into almost any dish, but a favorite way is as an infused butter to baste your turkey.
You may already be using turmeric for its remarkable anti-inflammatory properties, and while it’s a non-traditional Thanksgiving flavor, this tropical rhizome deserves a place at the holiday table. Fortunately, turmeric pairs perfectly with pumpkin, adding depth of flavor along with potential anti-cancer and antioxidant effects. Simply add 1/2-1 teaspoon of powdered turmeric to your pumpkin pie recipe and enjoy! Turmeric can also have a star turn in your mashed potatoes; just half a teaspoon of powdered turmeric will add a festive orange color (turmeric can stain, so try to be neat when working with this healing herb) while deepening the flavor with a hint of spice that guests are sure to love.