Take On Cold Season With This Refreshing Herbal Tonic

Cold season is right around the corner (and starting early in some places), but you can strengthen your immune system with this stinging nettle herbal tonic.

by Bevin Cohen
PHOTO: Heather Cohen

Herbal tonics are simply water infusions, very similar to tea, but steeped for longer periods of time to create a more potent and effective medicinal brew. Unlike an herbal tea, which you can make in as little as 3 to 5 minutes, tonics infuse for multiple hours, or even in the refrigerator overnight.

This allows time for the water to extract all of the beneficial constituents from the herbs. 

You can enjoy these revitalizing beverages cold, over ice or even reheated to imbibe just like any herbal tea, perhaps with a bit of honey or agave to sweeten the drink. Herbal tonics restore, tone and invigorate the body while promoting general health and well-being.

This recipe includes herbs renowned for their anti-inflammatory benefits and immune-boosting qualities. 

Ingredients & Their Benefits

The main ingredient for this herbal tonic is stinging nettles, Urtica dioica. Anyone that’s ever brushed up against these plants will know why it’s called “stinging.’ The fine hairs along the stems and underside of stinging nettles’ leaves contain formic acid, a chemical that causes itching, redness and, sometimes, a burning sensation on the skin.

This is one of the plant’s defense mechanisms. But when you dry or heat the herb, the chemical dissipates, making it safe to touch and consume! 

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Nettles, as a nourishing herb, makes the perfect ingredient for our tonic brew. It’s a great source of micronutrients and antioxidants and is high in vitamins A and C. 

The tonic infusion also includes echinacea, sage and ginger, herbs known to support our immune system. For this recipe we’re using Echinacea purpurea leaf. But if you have echinacea root available to you, feel free to substitute with equal amounts in the recipe.

This herb is considered to be a potent antiviral and anti-inflammatory that is often used to combat or prevent oncoming cold and flu symptoms. Sage, or Salvia offficinalis, is also considered antiviral and is commonly suggested in formulas to boost the immune system and promote healthy brain function.

The final ingredient of our herbal tonic, ginger root, will add a warming essence to the brew while also strengthening our immune response. It can improve circulation and calm any stomach upset or nausea.

Read more: Use these herbs to fight colds and the flu this season!

How to Brew the Herbal Tonic

Brewing this tonic is a simple matter. Collect the herbs into a quart jar. Fill the jar with boiling hot water, then cover and place into the refrigerator to steep overnight.

You can fill a reusable tea bag to brew the tonic. Or just leave the herbs loose in the jar and strain them out the following morning. are

Enjoy the herbal tonic throughout the day. You can keep any unused portion refrigerated to extend its shelf life. But discard any tonic that hasn’t been drunk after 48 hours. 

This article appeared in Healing Herbs, a 2021 specialty publication produced by the editors and writers of Hobby Farms magazine. Healing Herbs includes herb profiles, projects such as this one, directions for foraging herbs and more. You can purchase this volume, Hobby Farms back issues as well as special editions such asBest of Hobby Farms and Urban Farm by following this link.

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