Elder in Basket

Herbal Actions: Diaphoretics

Herbal Actions

What is a “herbal action”?

When we speak about the action(s) of a certain plant, we are referring to one or more effects a plant can have on our body. Often these actions are explained in two or three words; however, herbal actions are so much more than that! Since plants are wonderful complex beings, they also have several actions. Most herbs can compliment their action(s) in combination with another herb, basically showing off their best side with the support of a “good friend”. Sometimes they work great on their own, but most of the times, they excel with a good buddy on their side. Think- Teamwork!

Diaphoretics

The time of the year has come where many of us start to layer up again. Our hands and feet feel constantly cold, and the two pairs of socks we are wearing don’t seem to do anything. Additionally, our hands are freezing and all we wish for is a hot water bottle attached right to our bodies, tied down tightly with a warm woolly shawl. Believe me, I know what I am talking about…

Perhaps you think, this is not me! Despite the cooler temperatures outside, you just can’t seem to escape the heat. Just the thought of a hot water bottle is making you perspirate…

In this blog, let’s talk about diaphoretics and how they are not only helpful to both the extreme cold and the extreme hot of us, but also, how they can:

  • Support the skin in its role as organ of elimination
  • Stimulate outward circulation
  • Relax tightly closed pores
  • Stimulate the immune response and support the bodies natural fever response

Diaphoretics and the Skin

If you have a close look at your skin, you can see that the surface of it appears to be like a tiny little mosaic – not completely smooth like glass, but uncountable small sections with hair follicles and pores. Sometimes, the surface can look quite rough, with many small eruptions that can cause a certain area to develop a rash. This could be a heat rash, caused by sweat that is trapped in the skin or any other superficial rash. With any skin eruption, it is important to source out the root cause and treat it as a whole, as often times it can be a sign of insufficiently working organs of elimination. diaphoretics, however, are a great complimentary way of supporting our skin in healing a rash, while addressing the root cause altogether simultaneously.

If a rash is associated with tightly closed pores, we can help opening them up by using a stimulating and relaxant diaphoretic. Using some gentle alteratives in combination with Diaphoretics, is always a good idea.


Fevers and Stimulating the Immune Response

Some of you might be familiar with using diaphoretics during a fever. Starting at the first sign of a cold or flu, start drinking a hot tea with a diaphoretic blend including herbs such as Elderflowers, Linden flowers, Catnip and Peppermint. Let me put some special emphasis on the heat, as only hot liquids can act as diaphoretics. Many cold diaphoretic herbs will act more as a diuretic, which enhance the drainage of tissue fluid and increase urination.

By exciting our sweat glands, our metabolic activity is stimulated which at the same time, is alerting our immune system to ramp up. Through our skin, toxins can be removed, which can indirectly lower a fever.

Not only can it help to ease the signs and symptoms, but it can also help to drive out a fever. A fever is the bodies natural response to dealing with pathogens. It is important to keep a close eye on the temperature, as a out of hand fever can be quite detrimental. In most cases however, our body is doing an excellent job of killing the pathogens all on their own. By using diaphoretics, we can help generate that heat, stimulate circulation and take the heat from the core of the body and bring it to the periphery. While promoting perspiration, it is incredibly important to stay properly hydrated. Drinking lots and lots of hot tea, water and strengthening bone broth are of upmost importance.


Stimulating and Relaxing Diaphoretics

In general, all diaphoretics promote perspiration by opening up the pores of the skin, and even though it might seem we have to pick either of the two, stimulating and relaxing diaphoretics work best when used in conjunction.

  • Stimulating diaphoretics act as a circulatory stimulant. By opening up the capillary beds, they help to bring up the heat up to the surface. For individuals with a cold constitution, this will help to circulate some heat to the periphery. For anyone experiencing hot flashes or are generally of a hotter constitution, it helps to bring the core heat that is stuck on the inside to the outer surface. This is why in most warm climate zones, people tend to enjoy their hot and spicy foods!

Examples of stimulating diaphoretics are: Zingiber officinalis (Ginger), Capsicum annuum (Cayenne) or Achillea millefolium (Yarrow).

  • Relaxing diaphoretics help to loosen tight, tense tissues. If your pores are closed tightly, the skin is dry and tense and lacks proper hydration in the form of water and oil or if you just can’t get a good sweat, it might a great idea to add relaxing diaphoretics.

Examples of relaxing diaphoretics are: Tilia europea (Linden flowers), Sambucus nigra (Elder flowers) or Nepeta cataria (Catnip).


I hope this post gave you a little insight on diaphoretics and how they can interact with our body. This topic is covered much more in depth in the herbal course, which is currently developed and coming soon by our group of wonderful herbalists.

Resources:

Besides my own words, this write up features information from the following resources:

– Ursel Buehring Praxis- Lehrbuch Heilpflanzenkunde – Grundlagen – Anwendung – Therapie. 4 ueberarbeitete Auflage. Karl F. Haug Verlag in MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG’ 70469 Stuttgart, Germany. 2014. (Published in German language)

– Jim McDonald – Foundational Herbcraft – www.herbcradft.org – collected writings from www.PlantHealkerMagazine.com.

– Lisa Ganora – The action formula – PDF – 2015

– David Hoffmann – Medicinal Herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Art Press, Rochester, Vermont 05767. 2003.


Horsetail

Herbal Actions: Astringents

Herbal Actions

What is a “herbal action”?

When we speak about the action(s) of a certain plant, we are referring to one or more effects a plant can have on our body. Often these actions are explained in two or three words; however, herbal actions are so much more than that! Since plants are wonderful complex beings, they also have several actions. Most herbs can compliment their action(s) in combination with another herb, basically showing off their best side with the support of a “good friend”. Sometimes they work great on their own, but most of the times, they excel with a good buddy on their side. Think- Teamwork!

Astringents

The Astringent feeling is something you probably can all relate with. If you are unsure, taking a bite out of any unripe fruit or vegetable will quickly remind you what it feels like. Rather swiftly, your mouth will dry out completely and leave you with a very puckering sensation. Another great example is that of black tea, especially one that has been steeping for too long. Why not make yourself a cup and consciously experience the sensation of astringent herbs? Take a sip and leave it in your mouth for about a minute or so. Can you feel how it has affected the mucosal lining, how the tissue has tightened and a very mild analgesic feel is overcoming the inside of your mouth? This is astringency.

Tannins

This dryness you experienced is the result of tannins, found in astringent plants. Tannins are a subcategory of phenolic compounds. Back in the day, tanning leather with astringent plants was very common practice. Animal skins were often preserved with Oak bark, Walnut shells and other specific tree barks. Nowadays, leather is mostly tanned with mineral salts and other inorganic substances. However, the term “tannin” comes from its traditional usage for tanning leather.

I always like to find out “why” a certain plant is high in a certain constituent.

Plants high in tannins (often found in the bark, roots and also leaves) protect themselves internally from different kinds of funguses as well as protection from mold; they are helpful for the plant to prevent water, bacteria or other pests to enter. Externally they serve as protection from loss of fluid from the plant itself. Aren’t plants amazing??


How Astringents Work

Traditionally, astringents are used to treat tissue states.

Herbalist David Hoffmann writes that tannins have a lot of benefits, including:

  • Reducing irritation on the surface of tissues through a sort of numbing action
  • Reducing surface inflammation
  • Creating a barrier against infection, which is of great help for wounds and burns

Astringency also dries up extra moisture in the body. This can be helpful for a cold, wet gut or diarrhea.

Where the energetics are mostly plant specific, it can be said that astringents are cool and dry (with exceptions of course). Therefore, astringents are best suited for damp conditions.


Astringents and the Body

So, let’s get into how astringent herbs can be useful for our body.

By tightening the upper layer of the skin, tannins make it hard for germs to enter the body via the skin. In case of a bleeding wound, astringents can constrict blood vessels to help staunch it. In this case, we call the action styptic. Due to the astringent and mildly analgesic actions, astringents work great to soothe a sunburn or other mild burn.


Examples of Some Astringent Herbs

  • Achillea millefolium (Yarrow), Arnica montana (Arnica) as well as Quercus spp. (Oak) are all great astringents for the skin.
  • Rubus fructicosus (Blackberry) root seems to be well known for its high amounts of tannins and is a strong remedy for both diarrhea and dysentery.

Wonderful herbs for the digestive tract include:

  • Rubus fructicosus (Blackberry)
  • Filipendulum ulmaria (Meadowsweet)
  • Salvia officinalis (Sage)

Astringent herbs are frequently used to address urinary incontinence, bedwetting, and are an important part of urinary tract infection treatments.

Specific herbs for the urinary tract include:

  • Equisetum arvense (Horsetail),
  • Achiella millefolium (Yarrow)
  • Cyanococcus (Blueberry leaf).

If you have experienced pregnancy, chances are you drank lots and lots of Rubus ideaus (Raspberry leaf) tea. This nutritive astringent tonic is great to strengthen the uterus and get it in “top form” for delivery – and back into form, after delivery. Rubus ideaus is a wonderful herb for the reproductive system.


I hope this post gave you a little insight on Astringents and how they can interact with our body. This topic is covered much more in depth in the herbal course, which is currently developed and coming soon by our group of wonderful herbalists.

Resources:

Besides my own words, this write up features information from the following resources:

– Ursel Buehring Praxis- Lehrbuch Heilpflanzenkunde – Grundlagen – Anwendung – Therapie. 4 ueberarbeitete Auflage. Karl F. Haug Verlag in MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG’ 70469 Stuttgart, Germany. 2014. (Published in German language)

– Jim McDonald – Foundational Herbcraft – www.herbcradft.org – collected writings from www.PlantHealkerMagazine.com.

– David Hoffmann – Medicinal Herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Art Press, Rochester, Vermont 05767. 2003.

– Abrah Arneson – The Herbal Apprentice: Plant Medicine and the Human Being – Green Heart Press. 2014.

– Matthew Wood – The practice of Traditional Western Herbalism – Basic Doctrine, Energetics and Classification – North Atlantic Books, Berkley, California. 2004.

– Lisa Ganora – Herbal Constitiuents: Foundations of Phytochemistry – Herbalchem Press, Louisville, Colorado. 2009


Herbal Actions: Bitters

Herbal Actions

What is a “herbal action”?

When we speak about the action(s) of a certain plant, we are referring to one or more effects a plant can have on our body. Often these actions are explained in two or three words; however, herbal actions are so much more than that! Since plants are wonderful complex beings, they also have several actions. Most herbs can compliment their action(s) in combination with another herb, basically showing off their best side with the support of a “good friend”. Sometimes they work great on their own, but most of the times, they excel with a good buddy on their side. Think- Teamwork!

Bitters

In our modern “western” diet, there are only a handful of bitters that have established themselves into restaurants and home kitchens. But then, most of the time, the natural bitter taste of these power foods is reduced by for example sprinkling sugar on a grapefruit or by offering caramelized Brussel sprouts instead of experiencing the real deal. How about a good, bitter coffee? Well, most decide to add a big load of sugar into their dark brew… It almost seems like the naturally occurring bitter taste has become the enemy.

How did we get there? Considering the endless health benefits of bitter plants and foods, why do we try to either mask them or associate them with something bad?

Where our ancestors diet mainly consisted of foraged foods, including lots of bitters, it seems that our modern culture has been taught to like sweets, and dislike bitters. A lot of times when we taste something bitter, we think “Eww! That’s so gross!”. But how about don’t engage in this kind of thinking; how about we go “Wow! That is so POWERFUL!!” Because that is exactly what it is! It is within our power to take away that judgement and re-train our brain. Do you want to join? Let’s try something.

A very wise and experienced herbalist once shared with me how to get my kids to like/ be okay with bitters – lucky for everyone, this technique also works extremely well for grown ups. Yay!! Ready?? Go outside and pick either a dandelion leaf (a mild bitter) or, for a stronger bitter experience, pick some Yarrow or Mugwort. After a nod of gratitude and making sure it does not come from a sprayed lawn or has seen frequent pet-traffic, go ahead and nibble on it. Now try to experience the following:

Phase 1 – Brain response: Our body notices we are chewing on something bitter – Think: WOW!! This has power!

Phase 2 – Contraction: Now it is time to surrender; let your body feel this power and do not fight it or hold the contraction. How does it make you feel?

Phase 3 – Relaxation: After the initial “power-shock”, can you feel how your system is relaxing? Can you feel how your digestive tract is responding; producing a pleasant warming feel in your stomach? Can you feel how your gut-brain connection is not just helping to relax your gut, but also your nervous system?

BITTERS FOR POWER!!

Try this with many different bitter tastes and gradually increase them in your diet. It is also super beneficial to get into the habit of taking bitters just before a meal. But more on that in a little bit…


But, How Bitter is Bitter?

Sometimes you can find a number referring to how bitter a plant is. The number of 1000 for instance describes that 1g of the plant substance can still be experienced as bitter in 1000ml of water.

To get an idea of how bitter some plants are, let me share a few of these bitter numbers:

Taraxacum officinalis (Dandelion) 100
Orange Peel 600
Alchiella millefolium (Yarrow) 3.000 – 5.000
Artemisia vulgaris (Mugwort) 10.000 – 20.000
Artemisia absinthium (Wormwood) 10.000 – 30.000
Gentiana lutea (Gentian) 10.000 – 30.000

A bitter herb like Wormwood tastes so bitter and bile-like, that you cannot simply “wash it down” with a cup of water or something even stronger. Its bitterness is so intense that it can be felt in both your mouth and esophagus for an hour or more afterwards.


How Bitters Work

Bitters can have positive effects on many body systems. In this post I will be focusing on the bitter action on the digestive tract.

As the traditional German saying has it: “Was bitter im Mund, ist dem Magen gesund” – ‘What’s bitter on the tongue is healthy for the stomach’.

Interestingly, bitter taste receptors are not only found in the mouth, but also in the respiratory tract, the liver, the GI-tract, parts of the urogenital tract and other places in the body.
Bitters are intense communicators; when tasted by the tongue, they literally demand attention and provoke a response. The first response happens right away in the mouth as the salivary enzymes get ready for action and salivation increases. Saliva moistens the food and contains enzymes like amylase and lingual lipase. Amylase breaks down starches into sugars for easier absorbed by the body, and lingual lipase kickstarts the break down of fats.

Besides the increase of salivary secretions, messages are sent to the digestive system, signaling the release of the digestive hormone gastrin. Peristalsis, the wavelike motion of the digestive system that stimulates the motility of food along the digestive tract is prompted as well. The digestive tract is encouraged to start properly breaking down food and ensuring optimal absorption of nutrients.

Among Many Other Actions, Bitters:

  • Trigger digestive functions
  • Stimulate the release of digestive juices
  • Increase the flow of bile
  • Aid the liver in detoxification work
  • Promote intestinal motility
  • Are tonifying
  • Stimulate appetite

Using Bitters and Preparations

Many herbalists suggest using bitters in form of a tincture. Especially for digestive uses, bitters should really be tasted. A lovely herbalist friend of mine once suggested putting them into a small spray bottle for easier use. This excellent technique makes it really easy and convenient to “quickly” take your bitters.

Otherwise, befriend the powerful bitters and add as many as you can to your regular diet. Start slowly and increase the addition of bitters and reduction of sweetness.

Alternatively, any bitter can also be taken in the form of a tea as gentle decoction. As many bitters also contain aromatic compounds, keep the lid on while decocting and carefully add the accumulated drips on the lid back into your brew. A bitter tea, however, may not be your first choice if you are new to the bitter taste.

Those Who Should Avoid Bitters – Contraindications:

Pregnant women may want to stick to very mild bitters as stronger bitter can potentially cause cramping. Before taking bitters, contact a professional herbalist if you are experiencing heart burn or gastroesophageal reflux disease. They will be able to help you determine if bitters are going to be helpful or possibly worsen the situation. A further contradiction from bitters is if one is suffering from kidney or gallstones. For those with a generally cool/dry constitution, add some warming spices (like ginger or thyme) to counter the generally cooling energetics of bitters.

Examples of Some Bitter Herbs

Lovely bitter herbs to support the digestive tract include;

  • Rumex crispus (Yellow dock)
  • Gentiana lutea (Gentian)
  • Taraxacum officinalis (Dandelion)
  • Artemisa vulgaris (Mugwort)
  • Matricaria recutita (Chamomile)

I hope this post gave you a little insight on Bitters and how they can interact with our body. This topic is covered much more in depth in the herbal course, which is currently developed and coming soon by our group of wonderful herbalists.

Resources:

Besides my own words, this write up features information from the following resources:

– Ursel Buehring Praxis- Lehrbuch Heilpflanzenkunde – Grundlagen – Anwendung – Therapie. 4 ueberarbeitete Auflage. Karl F. Haug Verlag in MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG’ 70469 Stuttgart, Germany. 2014. (Published in German language)

– Jim McDonald – Foundational Herbcraft – www.herbcradft.org – collected writings from www.PlantHealkerMagazine.com.

– David Hoffmann – Medicinal Herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Art Press, Rochester, Vermont 05767. 2003.

– Lisa Ganora – Understanding Herbal Constituents and Plant Chemistry (2007)


Herbal Actions: Demulcents

What is a “herbal action”?

When we speak about the action(s) of a certain plant, we are referring to one or more effects a plant can have on our body. Often these actions are explained in two or three words; however, herbal actions are so much more than that! Since plants are wonderful complex beings, they also have several actions. Most herbs can compliment their action(s) in combination with another herb, basically showing off their best side with the support of a “good friend”. Sometimes they work great on their own, but most of the times, they excel with a good buddy on their side. Think- Teamwork!

Demulcents

Let’s have a talk about our “Gentle Healers”. Not only are demulcent herbs soothing and gentle, but they also tend to be very nutritive. They are gently supporting and helping us to heal. A group of herbs you simply have to love…

Demulcent herbs are rich in carbohydrate mucilage, which is composed of heteropolysaccharides (various forms of sugars). These posses the ability to bind themselves to water, which will then turn viscous/gel like and stick to the surface of the plant material. Have you ever made yourself a pot of chia pudding? You may have noticed how the dried seeds swell up after a few minutes of being exposed to water (both warm or cold). They can build what seems like a soft cocoon of viscous mucilage around them. A leaf of common mallow will also easily demonstrate this effect – notice how after a few times chewing your saliva turns viscous and gel-like?

Did you know that some plants like to use this feature of the mucilaginous, “slimy cocoon” to spread their seeds? When ingested by animals, the protective coat often helps prevent the eaten seeds from being digested. You can guess what happens next… The animals defecate the coated seeds and give them a little boost with their very own fertilizer. Fascinating!!

Generally Speaking, Demulcents are Indicated in:

  • Dry, tight tissues
  • Inflammation with dried out mucous secretion
  • To cool, coat and soothe
  • To stimulate peristalsis in constipation
  • As binder in cases of diarrhea
  • Soothe stomach and esophageal tissue from acid burn
  • Prevent ulceration
  • Irritations in the urinary tract
  • As lubrication and skin emollient

The energetics of demulcents are fairly straight forward; they are generally moist and tend to be cooling. Due to the polysaccharides, they tend to have a sweet taste. We also have to remember that the energetics of a herbal action are more of a guideline. Considering the individual herb to more properly “classify” its energetics is the right path to go.

Examples of Some Demulcent Plants

Demulcents for the digestive tract: 

Althea officinalis (Marshmallow), Plantago scarba (Psyllium husk) or Linium usitatissimum (Flax seeds). Demulcent herbs have to ability to lay a protective coat over mucous membranes and other tissue it comes in contact with. Therefore, demulcents used in the digestive tract have the ideal conditions to show of their best side.

Demulcents for the respiratory tract:

Verbascum Thapsus (Mullein), Tussilago farfara (Coltsfoot), Althea officinalis (Marshmallow). By providing a protective coat over the inflamed airways, demulcents soothe and function as analgesics, anti-inflammatory and as protective layer over the mucous membranes.

Emollient herbs for the skin:

Linium usitatissimum (Flax seeds), Symphytum officinale (Comfrey), Althea officinalis (Marshmallow). Many herbalists refer to mucilage internally used as demulcents and topically used as emollients. Emollients help provide flexibility to dry, irritated and inflamed skin conditions. Often times, applying the herb in form of a poultice seems to work very effectively.

Demulcents for irritation in the urinary tract:

Elymus repens (Couch grass), Zea mays (Conrsilk) and Althea officinalis (Marshmallow) are all excellent demulcents for any irritation, burning, and other irritable sensations in the urinary tract and have been used very successfully over many generations. Diuretics working on solid material work best with the assistance of lubricating demulcents.

Preparing a Cup of Tea

Traditionally, most demulcents are prepared via cold infusions. The reason behind this is that we are focusing to mainly extract the mucilaginous polysaccharides – our gentle healers… If you are preparing milder or more complex demulcents, you might be looking at a hot infusion.

A very effective way is to infuse 1-2 tbsp of dried herb into 1 liter of cold water. Let this sit overnight. In the morning, you have a wonderful soothing infusion. You could also just let it sit for a few hours, but the longer the herb infuses, the more viscous the tea will get.

Especially on hot and dry days, you might want to consider adding some Althea officinalis root to your water; it will help you stay better hydrated and tastes super yummy!


I hope this post gave you a little insight on demulcent herbs and how they can interact with our body. This topic is covered much more in depth in the herbal course, which is currently developed and coming soon by our group of wonderful herbalists.


Comfrey

Comfrey Leaf (Symphytum officinale)


Resources:

Besides my own words and oral teachings from many wonderful herbalists, this write up features’ information from the following resources:

Ursel Buehring Praxis- Lehrbuch Heilpflanzenkunde – Grundlagen – Anwendung – Therapie. 4 ueberarbeitete Auflage. Karl F. Haug Verlag in MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG’ 70469 Stuttgart, Germany. 2014. (Published in German language)

Jim McDonald – Foundational Herbcraft – www.herbcradft.org – collected writings from www.PlantHealkerMagazine.com.

David Hoffmann – Medicinal Herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Art Press, Rochester, Vermont 05767. 2003.

Abrah Arneson – The Herbal Apprentice: Plant Medicine and the Human Being – Green Heart Press. 2014.

Matthew Wood – The practice of Traditional Western Herbalism – Basic Doctrine, Energetics and Classification – North Atlantic Books, Berkley, California. 2004.

Rosemary Gladstar –Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes For Vibrant Health: 175 Teas,…- Storey Publishing, LLC – September 3, 2008


reeds on little lake

Talking About: Adaptogens

Adaptogens

What Are Adaptogens?

Often times, we have to just listen very closely to a client’s story and they will actually tell us the answer themselves. The same concept applies to the term “adaptogen” – listen closely “adaptogen” – “to adapt” – “adapting”… Looking at it from a broad view, this is what this group of herbs does. Adaptogens help us adapt to both environmental and psychological stresses.

It is said that 75% – 90% of all doctor visits in North America may have a stress-related component. Clearly, our bodies are sending us signals – these signals can include loss of interest, poor memory or feelings of worry and fear. Symptoms can also include (but are obviously not limited to) manifestations which we may not even relate to stress; like feelings of tension, fatigue or digestive issues.

If our body is unable to naturally recover from stress, there are two essential ways to support it in its ability to cope and recover. The first one is to address the initial stressors and find ways to limit the root cause. The second is to introduce the “super-heroes” of the herbal world – Adaptogens.

Any reputable herbalist will support clients in both ways. They will help find a herb that suits the individuals needs best, usually within a personalized formula, but will also share effective techniques to help cope with stress and exhaustions.

In summary, adaptogens:

  • Increase resilience
  • Increase physical performance
  • Increase coordination, cognitive performance, memory and concentration
  • Improve mental and physical activity and stamina
  • Have a tonifying and immunomodulating effect

Getting a Hand on the Root Cause

Yes, adaptogens are amazing. They are the number one group of herbs to help us become more resilient to stressful situations and support our organism when suffering from stress related fatigue and other symptoms. However, when working with adaptogens, we have to keep in mind that they can certainly help us “adapt”, but also, adaptogens will only effectively work long term if we also address the root cause that has brought one to this state of physical and emotional exhaustion. Biological stressors, chemical stressors, consumable stressors, environmental stressors, psychological, physical, as well as spiritual stressors all have to be addressed. Trying to fix symptoms instead of addressing the root problem can be dangerous.

Apoptogenic Herbs

If you think adaptogens are what’s needed in your life, be sure to find the right one for YOU. Adaptogen isn’t always adaptogen. For example, if one lit their candle on both ends and as a result crash and are burned out, a relaxing adaptogen like Ashwagandha might not be the first choice. We might want to work with a more stimulating herb like Rhodiola. But even then, if the client’s constitution tends to be rather dry, Rhodiola might, in the long run, irritate even more. Therefore, in order to receive the best long lasting results, it is always advised to contact a professional herbalist to help find which adaptogen might work best.

Examples of Some Apoptogenic Herbs

Rhodiola rosea (Rodiola) – Stimulating

Can help with brain fog, increase concentration, memory as well as mental capacity. Has also been recognized to help with depression, particularly the “winter blues” (SAD).

Eleutherococcus senticosus (Eleuthero, Siberian Ginseng) – Stimulating

Eleuthero is helpful for those who can’t get out of bed, even after a full night of sleep. For those dragging through the day, foggy brain… Eleuthero supports a depleted immune system by promoting natural detoxification processes in the liver.

Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) – Strengthening without stimulating, calming

Particularly helpful for individuals who seem depleted and “worn out”. Has been used to heighten intellectual capabilities and longevity, for those with insomnia, wired/cloudy thinking and fatigue. Ashwagandha has improved long and short-term memory in people with mild cognitive impairments and has successfully been used those with OCD and ADHD.

Schisandra chinensis (Schisandra) – calming

Schisandra creates a calm feeling while increasing focus and gently boosting physical energy levels. It has hepatoprotective properties, meaning that it is liver protecting and blood purifying. Schizandra is thought to enhance the endocrine system and nonspecific immune system function, which is the one most affected by stress.

Ocimum sanctum (Tulsi/ Holy basil) – relaxing

This calming and relaxing adaptogen has been successfully used to help manage stress, poor memory, anxiety and be of support when one feels irritable. Tulsi clears the Aura, gives the power of awareness and harmonizes. Tulsi may also be beneficial in cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.


I hope this post gave you a little insight on adaptogenic herbs and how they can interact with our body. This topic is covered much more in depth in the herbal course, which is currently developed and coming soon by our group of wonderful herbalists.

Resources:

Besides my own words and oral teachings from many wonderful herbalists, this write up features’ information from the following resources:

Ursel Buehring Praxis- Lehrbuch Heilpflanzenkunde – Grundlagen – Anwendung – Therapie. 4 ueberarbeitete Auflage. Karl F. Haug Verlag in MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG’ 70469 Stuttgart, Germany. 2014. (Published in German language)

Jim McDonald – Foundational Herbcraft – www.herbcradft.org – collected writings from www.PlantHealkerMagazine.com.

Abrah Arneson – The Herbal Apprentice: Plant Medicine and the Human Being – Green Heart Press. 2014.

Paula Grainger – Adaptogens, Harness the power of superherbs to reduce stress & restore calm – Octopus Publishing Group Ltd. 2018

Adriana Ayales – ADAPTOGENS, Herbs for Longevity and Everyday Wellness – Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York. 2019

https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-and-the-body


Pink Phlox flowers

Herbal Actions: Aromatics

Herbal Actions

What is a “herbal action”?

When we speak about the action(s) of a certain plant, we are referring to one or more effects a plant can have on our body. Often these actions are explained in two or three words; however, herbal actions are so much more than that! Since plants are wonderful complex beings, they also have several actions. Most herbs can compliment their action(s) in combination with another herb, basically showing off their best side with the support of a “good friend”. Sometimes they work great on their own, but most of the times, they excel with a good buddy on their side. Think- Teamwork!

Aromatics

Imagine walking through your garden, on your favorite trail, or through the quiet woods. Try to picture this beautiful abundance of growth using your senses. Can you see all the different colors, hear the leaves dancing in the light breeze, feel their softness or even their sharp thorns on your skin? Can you smell the plant? No? Try crushing a leaf… How about now? Can you give it a little taste test? Mild? Bitter? Pungent maybe?

If you have been learning from and with our wonderful plant friends, chances are, you have come across the term/action, “aromatic”. Now let’s get back to our imaginary herb walk from just moments ago. It was right there were you have come across a “sense-able”, or “foundational” (as Herbalist Jim McDonald calls it) action of an herb. An action you can immediately experience using your senses.

When talking about aromatic herbs, we refer to herbs one can easily smell by releasing their oils (referred to as volatile oils or essential oils) from their special secretory structures, such as oil cells, epidermal hairs or resin ducts. Most of the time, this release of oils happens, when the leaves or other plant parts have been crushed.

Did you ever ask yourself why a plant even has all these essential oils and/ or amazing actions? They actually have a variety of natural functions within themselves and act for example as growth regulators, protection from heat or cold or serve, for interplant communication or to attract pollinators.

Before giving you a little glimpse on how aromatic herbs can support our body, please let me clarify that I am writing about aromatics and the action of essential oils within the whole plant, and not the distilled, isolated essential oils (EO) you can buy in little brown bottles. Due to the isolated EO’s high potency, they act very different on the body and should be only used with care and the support of a trained aromatherapist.

Examples of some Aromatic Herbs

Lovely herbs for the respiratory system include Angelica archangelica (Angelica) or Thymus vulgaris (Thyme). With both of them being expectorant, anti-microbial and anti-spasmodic, the volatile oils in the plant help liquify the mucous in the bronchi and transport it upwards via a productive cough.

Lavendula (Lavender) is a wonderful relaxing nervine. Coffee spp. (Coffee- anyone?) on the other hand, is a fabulous stimulating nervine (please note, coffee will only excel if used in moderate doses and if you rule the coffee, not the coffee rules you…) – you got it, both aromatics can be used to address the nervous system.

Often aromatics are referred to as carminatives. I personally see the term carminative as a sub-category to aromatics, specifically in regards to the digestive system. Aromatics/ carminatives are of great help when, for example, fermentation in the stomach becomes a problem. My favorite herbs for the digestive tract include Zingiber officinale (Ginger), Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel) or Matriacria recutita (German Chamomile)


I hope this post gave you a little insight on aromatic herbs and how they can interact with our body. This topic is covered much more in depth in the herbal course, which is currently developed and coming soon by our group of wonderful herbalists.

Resources:

Besides my own words, this write up features information from the following resources:

– Ursel Buehring Praxis- Lehrbuch Heilpflanzenkunde – Grundlagen – Anwendung – Therapie. 4 ueberarbeitete Auflage. Karl F. Haug Verlag in MVS Medizinverlage Stuttgart GmbH & Co. KG’ 70469 Stuttgart, Germany. 2014. (Published in German language) Jim McDonald – Foundational Herbcraft – www.herbcradft.org – collected writings from www.PlantHealkerMagazine.com.

– David Hoffmann – Medicinal Herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Healing Art Press, Rochester, Vermont 05767. 2003.

– Abrah Arneson – The Herbal Apprentice: Plant Medicine and the Human Being – Green Heart Press. 2014.

– Matthew Wood – The practice of Traditional Western Herbalism – Basic Doctrine, Energetics and Classification – North Atlantic Books, Berkley, California. 2004