Happy woman wearing Christmas hat, relaxing on the floor with a present

Essential herbal remedies for the Christmas period

Stuck for stocking filler ideas? Check out Editor Jane Garton’s Christmas picks from the herbal medicine chest that could make a big difference to you and your family’s health during the festive season and the year ahead.

VALERIAN – for a sound night’s sleep

Getting the recommended quota of shuteye is especially important at this time of year to keep energy levels up on the Christmas party circuit. But sometimes stress gets in the way of a sound night’s sleep. And this is when a dose of soothing valerian can often help.

Long used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a mild sedative, its active ingredients include volatile oils, iridoids and alkaloids, which all have calming properties.

MILK THISTLE – to stop those bilious feelings

Festive eating can quickly lead to liverish feelings, but a daily dose of milk thistle can soon put a stop to that.

The seeds contain a bioflavonoid known as silymarin, which research shows may help protect the liver from poisonous toxins as well as boost the re-growth of liver cells to replace those damaged by disease or toxic substances such as alcohol. It also helps stimulate the gall bladder, which in turn can help you digest fatty foods.

ARTICHOKE EXTRACT – to beat the bloat

It can be hard to resist all that party food but it can leave you over full, bloated and crying out for relief. But a good dose of artichoke extracts can help things run smoothly through the festive season.

Artichoke extracts are thought to help the digestive process by stimulating the production of bile and helping to break down and eliminate fatty foods and alcohol from the body. They can be taken daily as a protective measure over Christmas and best of all the dose can be increased to up to six capsules for fast relief from the immediate symptoms of over indulgence.

ECHINACEA – for cold protection

The cold season tends to peak around Christmas and New Year, which is why it pays to be prepared with some echinacea. Commonly known as the purple coneflower, this popular winter herb contains active ingredients in its roots that have anti-viral, antibiotic and anti- inflammatory properties.

It is thought to help encourage the production of white blood cells whose job it is to fight infection, which in turn improves the body’s ability to detect and deal with viruses and bacterial infections such as sinusitis, bronchitis or middle ear infections, which often follow on from the common cold.

PELARGONIUM – to protect against respiratory infections

Extracts of pelargonium are becoming more and more popular as a natural alternative to antibiotics for treating symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, such as colds, coughs, sore throats, sinusitis as well as for helping to prevent secondary infections such as bronchitis.

Research shows that the anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties of pelargonium help to prevent bacteria and viruses from attaching themselves to cells in the mucous membranes as well as stimulating the immune system to stop viruses and bacteria from multiplying. Extracts of pelargonium can also act as an expectorant allowing the body to expel infected mucus, which makes conditions less suitable for bacteria and viruses to multiply.

RHODIOLA – for instant energy

All that festive shopping and running around quickly uses up the body’s natural energy stores and before you know it you feel overwhelmed with fatigue and lethargy. Enter rhodiola.

Extracts of this alpine plant from the East are thought to have anti-fatigue, anti-stress, antioxidant and immune-enhancing effects and studies show it may help improve mental and physical performance under stress.