Herbal Affects on the Body…..

One of my current goals since finishing my latest herbal reference guide, Body into Balance, by: Maria Noel Groves, is remembering how to classify herbs. This helps in knowing how they work within the body, how it’s best to take them, and their general affects/actions. Below I will review these categories, give examples of herbs within the category, and explain how this helps to decide what is the best choice when contemplating how to incorporate them into your wellness routine; whether as a tea🍵, tincture, infusion, glycerite, or in cooking (saute, broth, stir fry, soup, etc.)🥘.
The first group of herbs I will refer to are tonics. These include a wide variety of herbs & tend to be some of the safest and have, generally, very positive effects on a overall health. Tonics are the foundation of herbal medicine and are known for their ability to help with disease prevention and as a companion to other treatment(s) for serious health conditions. They can be used daily and are taken in regular and at times even large doses; with not much risk.

Herbs that are considered tonics also have other encompassing terms like: nutritives, adaptogens, nervines, anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, immunomodulators, etc. This is because tonic is a broader, umbrella term that includes various herbs that are more well known for very specific actions. These include herbs that are known, for example, to boost your resistance to stress, are nutritious, decrease inflammation, support the immune system, and nourish the nervous system. The following are tonic herbs which are high on the list of musts for most people!

  • Nettle Very nutritious and one of the safest remedies. When super-infused or made as a decoction, Nettle provides a very high amount of bioavailable calcium as well as decent amounts of magnesium, potassium, and silica. It is rich in chlorophyll and supports alkalinity throughout the body. Nettles can be wild harvested, but be very careful because the pickers can cause a very painful stinging rash/hives. I have only gotten mine from the store in the organic, bulk herbs section. This has been a new, daily part of my nightly herbal tea ritual (it is a diuretic so should be drank a few hours before bed) mostly due to its myriad of benefits, especially for women. This is a critical herb when it comes to avoiding osteoporosis.
  • Holy Basil(Tulsi) – This is a very useful adaptogen (see description below) that is popular in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s known for its ability to balance cortisol (stress hormone) levels, calm and energize, relieve anxiety & grief, and balance blood sugar levels. Being known as the “great protector” it boosts the immune system, improves digestion, and reduces inflammation while easing chronic pain. For those who have a difficult time with mood and emotional ups and downs, Holy Basil helps curb the hopeless feelings and centers the mind; like meditation or yoga🙏☯️ in a warm cup of tea🍵. It is supposed to be very easy to grow and it was one of the very first of my new sprouts to come up so far!

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    Holy Basil Sprouts
  • Milky Oat Seed – As a nervine (see description below) this herb is known for gently calming the nervous system. Not only does it relax and nourish the body, but it also curbs agitation and is helpful for the nerves and adrenals. It’s a great herb to turn to in times of exhaustion and overstimulation such as: overwork, ADHD/hyperactivity, long road trips, adrenal fatigue, all-night studying, anxiety, stress, and desk/cubicle work. It is also something that can be paired with other herbs/medications to ease drug withdrawal symptoms. This one should be utilized fresh (perfect for a smoothie) or as a fresh herb tincture/glycerite/vinegar since, once dried, the potency and effects are lost.
  • Turmeric – This one seems more well-known since it is a spice used a lot in Asian/Mediterranean cuisine and gets a lot of attention for its benefits as an anti-inflammatory. Another things to note is its highly beneficial effects as an antioxidant. It can also relieve chronic pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis & osteoarthritis. As with many herbs, it works better as time goes on, and if used daily, will start to show its benefits after a few months of consistent use. There are so many health benefits of incorporating Turmeric into the diet but should always be paired with black pepper to increase its bioavailability (by 2000 times) when used in cooking or tea. Additional uses are as a blood thinner (be cautious if on blood thinning medication), preventing heart disease, alleviating depression, improving circulation, fighting cancer, improving digestion and liver detoxification. I now use curry daily; paired with some black pepper. Most of the time I just sprinkle it on eggs or mix it into soup or rice.
  • Hawthorn – Superior for cardiovascular health. It has even been known to reverse, prevent, and treat congestive heart failure. Other heart benefits of Hawthorn are: decreasing inflammation, fighting oxidative stess, toning the blood vessel lining, preventing & reducing high blood pressure, strengthening the heart muscle, and improving circulation. The best part is that it is nontoxic and safe to eat. Most people use the berries in tea or can use the flowers & buds along with the berries to make tinctures or elixirs. In stores it can be bought in capsule form or solid extract pastes as well. It can be incorporated into the diet very easily by choosing any of its various available forms, and it is known to mix well with nervines, adaptogens, berry antioxidants, or anti-inflammatories. Make sure if you are taking others medication(s) you research and talk to your doctor to be sure this is something that will not alter its affects. It is sometimes paired with heart medication but should only be done by a doctor. As with all tonics, once starting to integrate it into your daily routine, it will take weeks to months to notice the affects, but it is a very safe solution/preventative to a variety of health issues/concerns. It’s easier to prevent than cure disease.
  • Astragulus – This herb is known for its outstanding ability to strengthen the immune system; especially for cold stagnant states since it is warming and nourishing. As an adaptogen it helps keep the cardiovascular system, kidneys, and liver healthy. It blends well with other adaptogens and mushrooms. The root is used and can be purchased online in bulk form from Mountain Rose Herbs to add to tea or make infusions with. This and Ashwagandha (an adaptogen as well) are two herbs that are vital for health and well-being. Both are used as preventatives and not as cures once a flu or cold has set in so, as with many herbs, it is best to just make them part of your daily routine because over time this is what will truly strengthen, support, and improve your overall health.

Since I just discussed two very beneficial adaptogens, I will go into further detail of what this term means. Just the word gives us clues, but more specifically, adaptogens: help our bodies acclimate to stress by supporting the production of stress-related hormones and neurotransmitters. They are herbs that will assist our bodies by regulating the way it works through increasing or decreasing the functions of any particular system based on what our body needs most. The important thing to consider is whether you are looking for something to increase energy, while still centering you, or something that will be more calming and balancing. There are some that do, one, more than the other; depending on our dispositions.
Peppy adaptogens that will help with sluggishness are: ginseng species, eleuthero, rhodiola, codonopsis, jiaogulan, and cordyceps. Ones that are more balancing & soothing are: reishi, shizandra, ashwagandha, gotu kola, holy basil, bacopa, and shatavari.
Most adaptogens are nontoxic and safe, but always research to be sure it is right for you. They usually have a variety of effects on various body systems, and modulate depending on what the body needs. This works because of adaptogens’ abilities to not only affect the stress response but also the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis of the nervous-endocrine system. This is something that I feel most people can really benefit from. These systems are highly responsible for emotional ups and downs, our energy levels, digestion (weight loss/gain), and adaptogens are amazing in that they can be incorporated into the daily diet and will help you based on what your body needs. I imagine them as little super heroes fighting off the very unique bad guys we each have inside our bodies and creating balance.
Lastly, I will discuss what nervines are. These herbs are known for strengthening and nourishing the adrenal system. Though they often have a calming effect (milky oat seed, lemon balm, damiana, and motherwort) they are not necessarily sedatives. The types that are sedatives–valerian, hops, kava, lavender, and Jamaican dogwood–actually slow down the nervous system and have a more depressant action. Then there are ones that overlap and are a little of both: California poppy, passionflower, skullcap, and chamomile.
Nervines will give your adrenal-nervous system some needed care & support by calming it through their actions which are known to; manage stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and cognitive problems. Be cautious of the sedative nervines because even though they will help more with insomnia and stress they have a tendency to aggravate depression and cause drowsiness. When paired with other nervines or adaptogens they will support the actions of the other herbs.
In my next post I will discuss some more specific ways nervines and adaptogens can by used specifically for curbing depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Everyone is different and herbal remedies must be discussed with a doctor when someone is managing these issues with the help of prescription medication. Yet there are definitely some diet/wellness initiatives, which include some beneficial herbal blends, that can be a great way to alleviate some of the ups and downs/emotional imbalances that are associated with these conditions.
Until then, I hope you found some of this information helpful and learned something new today! It’s been really helpful and useful for me to review the main points I studied because it helps me retain the information better. The links I’ve provided are to give further explanation to some terminology that is still fairly new to me and may help my readers get a more well-rounded, thorough understanding of the information provided.
As always, thank you so much for reading, liking, and commenting!! Have a wonderful weekend. I hope it’s warmer than mine!


Love,
Anne

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