To call this an unusual and challenging winter season is putting it pretty mildly! The holiday season is usually a bit overwhelming, and this year, most of us are making decisions with the pandemic in mind. Many people may find this winter season lonelier and more stressful than in past years. Families could use some support – how about from the comfort of your own medicine cabinet?
Here are five different supplements to keep on hand this winter. Each helps support a calm, relaxed frame of mind or to strengthen the immune system. May they help you navigate the season in peace and good health.
5 Supplement to Keep On Hand
CBD, or cannabidiol, is an extract of the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, the active phytochemical in marijuana, CBD contains no psychoactive properties. CBD extracts are legal in all 50 states.
CBD extracts can be calming, soothing, and grounding. A few drops of high-quality CBD extract held under the tongue for a minute or so are absorbed relatively well into the bloodstream, and the effects are pretty immediate. Many people feel CBD soothes anxiety and helps them feel grounded in the present moment.
If current events paired with holiday planning stress you out, try a few drops of CBD under your tongue. You can make this a micro-meditation: Hold the extract in your mouth while taking a few mindful breaths. This lovely herb may help you move forward a bit calmer and more focused.
2. Vitamin C
The folk wisdom that vitamin C improves immune strength may have a scientific basis. And, we could all use an immune boost this winter – for peace of mind as much as anything else.
A 2017 review indicated that vitamin C forms an integral part of the human immune system, supporting various cellular immune functions. Researchers state vitamin C appears to help with both prevention of respiratory infections and with fighting a bug if you catch one.
You can raise vitamin C levels in your diet by eating more citrus or making daily cups of hot tea with a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Keeping a daily supplement on hand is another way to make sure you’re well protected this winter. Ask your healthcare provider to determine dosage, especially if you’re fighting anything resembling a cold or flu.
Cordyceps is a fungus that grows on insect larvae. It’s considered a medicinal mushroom, though it looks nothing like the mushrooms you find in the grocery store.
There exist some 300 species in the cordyceps genus. Wild Cordyceps sinensis is one species that’s been widely used for hundreds of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Due to the decrease in the natural supply of this species, however, different species of cordyceps, as well as cultured cordyceps, are becoming increasingly more common.
In TCM, cordyceps is considered an adaptogen for the immune system. This means cordyceps may enhance the immune response if your immune system is running low and decrease it if it’s a little hyperactive. A TCM practitioner may recommend cordyceps for a condition such as the common cold or to lower inflammation after a bout of the flu.
Cordyceps powder could be a good supplement to stock up on to balance your immune system and keep it running smoothly. The powder has a mild taste, with just a slightly bitter aftertaste. If you blend a small amount into coffee or hot chocolate, you probably won’t even know it’s there.
There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep to lower stress and improve one’s outlook. If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider taking a GABA supplement at night.
GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is an amino acid that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. GABA acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it blocks certain kinds of brain activity. As a result, GABA can have a calming effect, and it may help you sleep more soundly.
A 2002 review suggests that GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the central nervous system and describes how different generations of sleep-enhancing drugs are based on activating GABA receptors. You can take a natural GABA supplement before bed to help you sleep — minus the side effects that sleep medications can cause.
5. Vitamin D
A 2011 review describes vitamin D as a key factor linking innate immunity and adaptive immunity in humans. The study reports that both innate and adaptive immunity may be compromised in cases of vitamin D deficiency.
It can be hard to get enough sunlight on your skin in the winter – the natural way to raise your vitamin D levels. Many people are vitamin D deficient and don’t know it. It’s a good idea to get your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor. This is a routine test covered by most insurance policies. Once you know your levels, discuss using a vitamin D supplement with your provider — and get out for a walk in a t-shirt if the weather permits.
This winter, consider keeping some supplements on hand to help support a robust immune system and decrease stress. CBD, vitamin C, cordyceps, GABA, and vitamin D may help you cope with what might be an unusually challenging season. With any luck, these natural remedies might make enjoying the winter and the holidays a little easier.
- Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017 Nov. doi: 10.3390/nu9111211
- Lin B, Li S. Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. 2011. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92758/
- Gottesmann C. GABA mechanisms and sleep. Neuroscience. 2002. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4522(02)00034-9
- Hewison M. Vitamin D and immune function: an overview. Proc Nutr Soc. 2012 Feb. doi: 10.1017/S0029665111001650
Shona Curley lives and works in San Francisco. She is co-owner of the studio Hasti Pilates, and creator of the website www.redkitemeditations.com. Shona teaches meditation, bodywork and movement practices for healing Lyme disease, chronic illness and pain.