I have noticed that herbal "information" is being flung around quite a bit on the internet. Herbs are wonderful allies, but I feel as though people are partaking in herbs, just because it seems like the cool thing to do.
Herbs are WONDERFUL, but they live in a world that needs to be better understood before consumption.
Let us start here. There are over 40 different categories to classify herbs under. FOURTY! This means that there are over 40 different primary functions of different herbs. A few of my favorite categories are: ADAPTOGENS, ALTERATIVES, BITTERS, EMMENAGOGUES, NERVINES (tonics, stimulants, & relaxants), & SEDATIVES. **When combining herbs, this is important as you want to make sure each plant assists the purpose of the other** These are my favorite herbs because these have been the main herbs that I have used over the years to help my body. I will focus on these few categories and give examples, but if you want to go through the whole list of herbal actions and a more in depth description + examples, you can go here.
ADAPTOGENS: help increase body's resistance and response to stress. It improves the body's ability to recover from stressors by helping the body adapt to issues before the point of collapse. Rachelle Robinette wrote a wonderful article (that you can read here) that dives into adaptogens. She is also an amazing herbalist based in NYC.
Adaptogenic Herbs – Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng), Tulsi/Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)
ALTERATIVES: help bodily functions return to their proper status, which increases health and vitality.
Alterative Herbs – Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), Burdock Root (Arctium lappa)
BITTERS: triggered by sensory responses in the mouth (tongue), which then causes the gut to release helpful hormones. Bitter herbs are helpful when it comes to preventative medicine and detoxification.
Bitter Herbs – Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis), Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
EMMENAGOGUES: stimulate menstrual flow and promote a healthy functioning menses.
Emmenagogue Herbs –Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa), Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
**These herbs are to be used with extreme caution and not to be taken in large amounts as it can be very harmful to the body
NERVINES: act on and support the nervous system. There are three different types of nervine herbs- tonics, stimulants, & relaxants. Nervine tonics help to strengthen and restore the nervous system. Nervine stimulants activate/stimulate the nervous system. Nervine relaxants soothe and ease the nervous system. Nervine relaxants are also called sedatives. Nervine relaxants are wonderful to consume before meditation or bed to calm and prepare the body for relaxation.
Nervine Tonics – Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica), St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
Nervine Stimulants – Kola (Cola vera), Caffeinated herbs (Green/black teas)
Nervine Relaxants – Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Lavender (Lavandula officinale), Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla/recutita), Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Amazing herbs to help combat depression and anxiety (mostly nervines and herbs that aid in brain function)– St. John's Wort, Lemon Balm, Passionflower, Lavender, Chamomile, Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng), Rhodiola rosea
Herbs for energy – Maca Root, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, Holy Basil
Other great herbs are moringa and matcha (both usually come as a pulverized green powder)
Over the past 5+ years I have tried all of these herbs, testing how they work for and with my body. I will say that I know the effects would have been better had I stuck to my herbal blends for a consistent amount of time (I have a hard time taking anything consistently).
As with anything that is written and read, please do your own thorough research on these herbs as well as any other herbs that you plan on consuming as to make sure that your body will not have an adverse/allergic reaction. On top of doing research, trust your intuition. That is how I went about making herbal blends for myself and others! It was a very fun and exciting process to see, smell, and touch the herbs, mix them, consume them, and see the effects within my body.
When consuming (new) herbs, it is best to start off with a small amount and a small frequently as to not overwhelm your system. When combining herbs, it is best to start with only one herb and then work your way up to 2-3 at a time to see how your body reacts to each herb. Also, please know that some herbs do require you to stop using them after a period of time. For example, if you consume ashwagandha every day for 6 months, you would take a break for 1-2 weeks and then resume consumption.
Preparation: There are plenty different ways to prepare your herbs. The most common ways are infusions and decoctions. Infusions are what most people prepare. An infusion is seeping your 1 tsp of herbs: 1 cup hot water for a few minutes then consuming the herb infused water. You can also allow herbs to steep longer or do a cold infusion by allowing herbs to sit in room temperature water for 6-24 hours. To get a stronger brew, you can do a decoction which is where you add 1 tsp-1 tbsp of herbs to 1 cup water & bring to a boil, then you cover the pot and allow herbs to simmer for about 20-30 minutes. This allows for a release of the plant medicine, especially in roots and barks. Other ways to prepare herbs are in tinctures, salves, ointments, and baths.
**I am not a medical doctor. The information above is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information presented here is not meant as a substitute for or alternative to information from healthcare practitioners.
(cover photo found on pinterest via afrocentric-divination.tumblr.com. if source is known, please let us know so that we can give proper credit)