The temperature has plummeted, the rainfall has begun pouring and winter is finally upon Turkey. All hail the welcome return of the flu season!
It's been a thankfully slow return this year, but the steady rise of coughing and sneezing citizens is now in effect. Unsurprisingly, we are now at pains to protect ourselves from the bitter cold. Besides the obvious way of protecting yourself – your annual flu shot – people are also looking for more natural alternatives to bolster their immune systems to fight against viruses.
In Turkey, herbal teas are usually the first line of defense people turn to get the necessary vitamins and nutrients to avoid the sniffles.
In southeast Anatolia, locals have begun to frequent herbalist shops (or "aktar") to stock up on herbal tea blends and a mix of spices to protect themselves and their loved ones against the cold – or to treat those already in the throes of one.
One shop, in particular, has made a name for itself in this field, receiving more and more orders daily not only from inside Diyarbakır but also from every corner of Turkey.
Managed by Süleyman Onur and his older brother in Diyarbakır's Sur district for almost 40 years, the Kör Yusuf ("Blind Yusuf") spice store offers its customers an impressive range of teas, spices and herbs to give their bodies a little extra help this winter.
"Hacı Naide," a special tea the shop has created from a blend of eight powerful herbs and spices, has proven popular with locals, helping soothe their colds and reducing their times of recovery.
Onur said they usually advised customers to drink tea with linden, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric – all which serve as anti-inflammatory herbs high in antioxidants.
He said herbal medicine was an alternative way to boost one's health and that even doctors were among their customers.
However, Onur cautioned against mixing herbal blends with conventional drugs, saying it could cause potentially dangerous interactions. Herbs can alter the effects of prescription medication, either by diluting them or making them more potent, leading to unwanted side effects.
Onur also said people should follow the herbalist's directions to a T when consuming such herbal remedies and that people should only go to reputable outlets to purchase them.