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The Top 6 Most Underutilized Herbs That Can Change Your Life

  • Published on: 12 November, 2017
  • Last update: 15 November, 2017

Over the past month, I’ve had several friends & family members come to me asking, “What herb can I take for _____?” (with their medical diagnosis in the blank).

My teachers are constantly telling us that we need to listen to our clients’ unique symptoms and habits first before we consider their medical labels — and moreover, we need to do so with a sharp eye for tell-tale patterns. We need to see our own picture that considers the whole person, their lifestyle, and ALL the signals their body is sending them; not just the ones that fall under the category of a diagnosable condition. This is because oftentimes, the diagnosis comes years later, while the true underlying root issues have been silently speaking to them for ages. Therefore, the herb or medicine we *think* we need (based on the condition that took years to manifest) may completely ignore the less obvious factors that contributed to the illness developing.

It’s sort of like a stock broker taking antacid drugs to treat the ulcer he got from the stress of his job, rather than removing or managing that stress in the first place. The original issue that created the ulcer is still there (stress), yet the stomach is treated as the “problem” and gets coated with a substance that temporarily silences the symptoms. While the root issue can no longer express itself in the stomach, it still has to go somewhere. That means it will migrate and manifest once again, rearing its head even louder this time.

So which is more effective? Should you pour water on the fire day after day, or figure out how it’s starting?

To give you an example, let’s say someone comes to me with asthma. Of course I can give them a list of herbs from my textbooks and protocols, however that would be treating the diagnosis rather than investigating and correcting the imbalances causing their symptoms. Asthma is drastically different from person to person, and can have countless individual triggers and causes. Therefore, I need to be asking: What type of cough do you experience? Is it dry or phlegmy? Does it worsen at night or at certain points of your menstrual cycle? Does your breathing get better or worse when it’s cold out? What about when it rains? Are your symptoms chronic and consistent, or fleeting and cyclical?

Going deeper still, I need to understand the baseline of their health: their immune function and basic nutrition. Their sleep schedule and exercise habits. If this person has a dry cough that worsens at night, are they even getting real sleep in the first place? What is now manifesting as chronic asthma may be partially rooted in exhaustion that led to a vicious cycle of poor sleep + an environmental trigger –> asthma symptoms –> even poorer sleep –> even worse asthma symptoms. This means stress & adrenal health must addressed before the body can even THINK about delegating energy to healing the lungs.

This is exactly what happened when my friends came to me for help. Each had completely different diagnoses, yet underneath the surface, ALL of them were exhausted, depleted, not sleeping well, and certainly not receiving enough nourishment. If the body is lacking basic building blocks, any imbalance one is prone to will be fueled and exacerbated. That is where we work first & foremost with nourishing herbs that rebuild and restore your basic vitality, so that your body can focus on healing itself.

WHAT ARE NOURISHING, RESTORATIVE HERBS?

Nourishing herbs are the forgotten herbs. They are the underutilized, mineral-rich, “multi-vitamin” plants that build health and prevent disease before it even begins. They are substances that everyone should be using in their daily lives, as ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.’

We are so accustomed to only reaching for remedies when we’re sick, that we’ve forgotten about inviting these plants into our daily lives. We’re not going for these herbs because they’re not the herbs that treat us – they’re the quiet ones that require habit and consistency to slowly build us up.

The top 6 nourishing herbs include Red Clover (blossoms), Stinging Nettle (leaves), Linden (leaves & flowers), Oatstraw, Comfrey (leaves), and Raspberry (leaves).

Here are the benefits of each plant in the words of herbalist Susun Weed:

1. RED CLOVER (Trifolium pratense) “is a superb anti-cancer and cancer-preventative herb. I think of it as the herb of fertility, and I rely on it exclusively when students want help with conceiving. An infusion (not tea, not tincture, not capsules) of red clover blossoms, leaves, and stems is not only very high in protein, macro- and trace-minerals, and vitamins (except B12), it is an excellent source of phytosterols. Phytosterols are hormone-like substances found in many plants that can be bio-converted in the human gut into active anti-cancer estrogens and other helpful anti-stress hormones. improves the memory, cleans & purifies the blood, lowers cholesterol, and enhances blood circulation.” (Susun Weed)

2. STINGING NETTLE (Urtica dioica) “builds energy, strengthens the adrenals, and is said to restore youthful flexibility to blood vessels. A cup of nettle infusion contains 500 milligrams of calcium plus generous amounts of bone-building magnesium, potassium, silicon, boron, and zinc. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E, and K. For flexible bones, a healthy heart, thick hair, beautiful skin, and lots of energy, make friends with sister stinging nettle. It may make you feel so good you’ll jump up and exercise.” (Weed)

3. LINDEN (Tilia) “is the world’s leading anti-cold and anti-flu herb. It prevents and heals respiratory distresses (but is not an anti-infective). It is a cooling and strengthening herb that quells inflammation and soothes the gut and lungs. On an emotional level, Linden heals and opens the heart, aids with heartbreak, and calms a nervous stomach. As a nervine, linden helps with anxiety, depression, pain, and sleep.” (Weed)

4. OATSTRAW (Avena sativa) “reduces high cholesterol, increases libido, and strengthens the nerves. A cup of oatstraw infusion contains more than 300 milligrams of calcium plus generous amounts of many other minerals. Its steroidal saponins nourish the pancreas and liver, improving digestion and stabilizing moods. Oatstraw is best known however for its ability to enhance libido and mellow the mood. Do be careful whom you share it with, or you may find yourself sowing some wild oats. In Auryuvedic medicine, oatstraw is considered the finest of all longevity tonics.” (Weed)

5. COMFREY (Symphytum) leaf “is free of any toxic compounds (PAs) found in the root that can damage the liver. It is known as “knitbone,” and no better ally for the woman with thin bones can be found. Comfrey also contains special proteins used in the formation of short-term memory cells. Its soothing mucilage adds flexibility to joints, eyes, vagina, and lungs.” (Weed)

6. RASPBERRY (Rubus idaeus) leaf “is the best known, most widely used, and safest of all uterine and pregnancy tonic herbs. It contains fragrine, an alkaloid which gives tone to the muscles of the pelvic region, including the uterus itself. Raspberry leaf tones the uterus and helps prevent miscarriage and postpartum hemorrhage from a relaxed or atonic uterus.” (Weed)

WHO SHOULD USE NOURISHING HERBS?

Nourishing herbs are extremely non-toxic and don’t have any instant, curative effects (which is why they’re so often ignored). They take time to restore and rebuild the body (because they are working on a cellular level), however you will feel an improvement in your overall well-being in the first few weeks. They are considered the “people’s herbs” because they are safe for anyone to use for any reason.

HOW SHOULD WE CONSUME NOURISHING HERBS?

Some herbs we use for their active plant compounds (especially in acute situations such as infection), so we must extract them into a solvent such as alcohol for maximum ‘chemical’ potency. (Remember, pharmaceutical drugs are modeled after chemical compounds in herbs!) With these herbs, we’re not interested in their mineral content or nourishment. We use them during a specific time period to correct a specific issue. This is where tinctures and capsules serve a very important purpose.

With nourishing herbs, on the other hand, we do want their mineral content and micronutrients. They are as important as your daily vegetables and should be consumed in the same quantity AND manner.

For example, you wouldn’t eat just a teaspoon of carrots a day… nor would you take a capsule or two of these herbs. In fact, taking any mineral-rich herb in capsule or tincture form would be ineffective, because we don’t just want their plant chemicals – we want the nutrients too! Once again in the words of Susun Weed, “Because minerals are rock-like, we need to break open cell walls to get at them. To extract minerals, we need heat, time, and generous quantities of plant material.” For this reason, I prefer to extract mineral-rich plants into water in the form of “nourishing infusions” that steep in a tightly lidded jar overnight.

Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll give you step-by-step directions on how to make your own daily nourishing infusions like the one above! They are delicious and I know you’ll benefit from their consistent use. Hope you all had a wonderful weekend!

XOXO, Organic Olivia

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