Tea is the elixir of life - Lao Tzu
It’s no secret that herbal medicine or plant medicine is effective. Yet many people are hesitant to dabble in the healing modality. I’m sure your hesitancy comes with good reason. So let me offer a bit of clarity and encouragement!
Herbal medicine has been studied extensively all over the world for hundreds of thousands of years. We know the medicinal properties and appropriate dosage range of more than 50,000 plants! Plant safety is studied by way of self-experimentation (taking the herb and seeing what happens) and by laboratory studies. We know their side effects better than we know those of other medicinals!
For more information on herbal safety, check out Herbal Safety by the University of Texas!
We know they work! Similarly to safety, their effects have been studied relentlessly for thousands of years. To this day, they continue to be studied and can be used for a broad rage of concerns include:
- Ear, nose and throat
One aspect to note about effectiveness and safety is dosage. The desired effect depends on the amount you consume. Certain dosages can cause adverse effects. More is not necessarily better. For this aspect, it’s important to follow the recommended dose on the packaging or consult with an herbalist, like me!
They Target Specific Parts of the Body & Issues
Herbal Medicine is very specific. Studies show that individual herbs target specific systems of the body, certain issues, and even certain organs. Herbal medicine goes right to the source of your concern. This is distinctly different than other medicinals that often affect all systems of your body.
They’re constituents are what makes them specific. Herbs are comprised of many different parts, or elements. Here are 13 constituents:
- Mucilage: Are made up of polysaccharides that soak up water, which produces a sticky substance. This mucilaginous substance protects and soothes the digestive system, throat, lungs, kidney’s and urinary system.
- Bitters: Stimulates salivary and digestive glands.
- Pheols: Includes salicylic acid (found in aspirin)! It reduces inflammation and is antiseptic.
- Tannins: Are a astringent. They draw inwards.
- Coumarins: This compound has a wide variety of actions. Some include thinning the blood and relaxing the muscles.
- Anthraquinones: Stimulate the bowels. It has a laxative like effect.
- Flavonoids: This compound also has a wide variety of actions. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and maintains adequate circulation.
- Glucosilinates: Used topically for painful and/or aching joints.
- Saponins: Strong expectorant and hormonal marker.
- Cardiac Glycosides: Aids in supporting a healthy heart and act as a diuretic
- Alkaloids: Contains a nitrogen bearing molecule that makes them pharmacologically active. Alkaloids are found in a wide variety of herbs. To read more on Alkaloids, check out this article by The Naturopathic Herbalist
- Vitamin: Includes known vitamins like Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and Vitamin K.
- Minerals: Includes known minerals like silica, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and sodium.
About a month ago, I bought a pound of calendula for $15. Calendula is a flowering plant that has many uses, but is primarily used to astringe the skin. Let me say that again, I bought a pound for less than twenty dollars! That’s a large amount at a very affordable rate. One way to decrease the cost, even more, is to grab a friend or two and split a bag. You’ll still have more than enough.
Keep in mind, the more common the plant, the less expensive it will be. The rarer the plant, the high the price will be. Yet for beginner use, you’ll be well under $20 for a few herbs.
For those that want to purchase herbs in capsules, tincture or essential oil form, take into account that you’re paying for packaging too. The expense is still affordable for many herbal products.
Your natural foods store has got you covered! Personally, I feel like the herbal medicine section in natural food stores has grown twice in size in the last 20 years. Woohoo!
You no longer need to wait around for a doctors appointment and then a prescription. Grab what you want at your local natural foods store and take it while you wait in line.
As a physician of Chinese Medicine, I must admit that Chinese herbs are less accessible to the public than western herbs. Nevertheless, they’re still accessible. I know there’s a Chinese Herbalist in every major city and even in the smaller cities too! We’re out here for you. You can also consult with me!
Nature made these herbs! Yes, mankind has a hand in harvesting and even preserving certain plants, but our planet offered the first sprout. Does it get any better than that? Who doesn’t like real-deal natural anyway?
They’re Full of Flavor!
Each plant has a distinct flavor profile. These flavors contribute to the plant’s medicinal properties. The flavor is more important than how they taste. Is that confusing?
Here’s an example, the sour flavor acts as an astringent or draws in. Imagine what happens you bite into a lemon! This flavor can be used to prevent the loss of fluids like in excess sweating or urinary dribbling. However, the herb may not taste as distinctly sour as a lemon.
Often times the flavors we don’t like or resonate with are the flavors we need. Imagine that!
Here’s a few short words on flavors as described in Chinese Medicine:
- Bitter flavor can stimulate the system, act as a laxative and also dry out fluids.
- Sour flavor will astringe or prevent loss of fluids. It will also cleanse the system.
- Sweet flavor can slow digestion, but also acts as a transporter for other flavors.
- Acrid flavor will stimulate the system, disperse (break up), or cause sweating.
- Salty flavor will influence water retention and service as a digestive. It can also soften hardness
- Neutral flavor will promote urination.
Remember, certain dosages cause certain effects. This is why we can use one flavor to drain and the same to gently stimulate the system.
They’re More Specific in Groups
The healing properties of a single herb may be all you need. However, when put together, or built into a formula, herbs become even more specific.
The formula method has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for over 2,000 years. The herbs in each formula are given a distinct role as king, deputy, associate or envoy. The role the herb takes on is used to articulate the kings’ action or to enhance or support the formulas entire action.
For example, when making ginger tea, you always want to pair honey with ginger. The reason for this being the warming and drying nature of ginger. If you were to consume ginger alone, you may over warm and dry out your resources. When honey is added, it’s sweet, slippery nature aids in transporting the medicinal properties of ginger. Alas, you truly reap the healing benefits of ginger by adding honey to enhance and support it. As simple as it seems, these two herbs, ginger and honey, make a formula!
You made it to the end of this article! Hey-o!
I hope you found this information education, inspirational and most importantly motivational!
Are there certain herbs you’ve been curious about? Let me know in the comments section. I encourage you to go out and grab some herbs! Experiment a little.
You can also start with herbs in your kitchen! Go beyond the benefits with my Rosemary and Turmeric Online class. Learn more here!
As always, thank you for reading!
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Disclaimer: This information is intended for general reference only. It is not a replacement for professional health advice. The content in this post intentionally does not provide dosage information or possible interactions with prescription drugs or other medications. Please contact a certified health practitioner such as a physician of Oriental Medicine or Herbalist before considering use. To schedule an appointment with Malerie, visit the services page.