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Reishi mushroom – although not technically an “herb”, we use that term loosely in herbal medicine, reishi is certainly a fantastic medicinal mushroom that I use regularly to support a healthy immune system, for its antiviral properties, and its anticancer properties.  Its Latin name is Ganoderma lucidum and various species grow in Asia, Europe, and North America, although now it is primarily cultivated.  It is a prominent mushroom with a glossy, hard red-brown surface (when dry), and a bitter, earthy taste.
Primary properties: anti-inflammatory, immune modulating, hepatoprotective, antiviral, antioxidant, adaptogen, heart tonic, cardiovascular protective.
Based on these properties, reishi mushroom is used to strengthen the immune system, enhancing immune cell activity and helping to down-regulate an autoimmune type response.  It is helpful for people with autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and allergies, or for people with a weak immune system that tend to get sick frequently or cannot seem to recover from an illness.  It is also used for keeping the immune system strong during times of stress or when exposed to a virus.  I often put reishi tincture in formulas for preventing illness during the cold and flu season because of its antiviral and immune supportive effects.
It is also often used for cancer treatment and prevention, as it has antitumor properties and stimulates immune cells that fight cancer and acts as an antioxidant.  Because of its liver and heart protective/strengthening effects, reishi is also a good adjunct in cancer treatment to help the body recover when undergoing chemotherapy.
As a cardiovascular support herb, this herb can help lower LDL cholesterol, triglyceride levels, and help prevent arteriosclerosis.  Therefore, it is useful for someone who has high cholesterol/triglyceride levels and would pair well with hawthorne berry because both can help to lower blood pressure and prevent or help treat arteriosclerosis.
A mild adaptogen, this fungus can help to prevent potential symptoms of stress and help to restore vitality to the adrenal glands after periods of stress.
I carry reishi mushroom in bulk powder for adding to foods or smoothies, mushroom slices to add to soups, stews, crockpot meals, and to make decoctions (simmered in water to make a “tea”), liquid extract/tincture form and in capsules at Herban Wellness.
Also, because of its taste, reishi mushroom works well added to chocolate sauces or hot cocoa or sometimes used in place of chocolate in healthy confections, brewed with coffee, and simmered with spices like cardamom and cinnamon for a health “chai” blend.

Turmeric root – A medicinal and culinary plant that comes to us from Southeast Asia, its Latin name is Curcuma longa and it is a member of the Zingiberaceae family, the same family as ginger and cardamom.  The root is a striking orange/yellow color, and it is the pigment responsible for this color that gives turmeric many of its prized properties, including its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  Attention on turmeric really began when epidemiological studies showed lower rates of inflammatory chronic illnesses and cancer in India, where turmeric is consumed on a daily basis in their foods, but in generally small amounts.  In addition, most anti-inflammatory drugs have unfavorable side effects, and the search is on for compounds in nature that have powerful anti-inflammatory effects without the unpleasant side effects.
Curcuma_longa_roots
Turmeric’s primary actions in the body are: inflammation modulator (anti-inflammatory), antioxidant, antitumor, digestive tonic, carminative, stimulant, cholagogue (stimulates gallbladder to contract and release bile), choleretic (increases bile output from the liver), hepatoprotective (liver protectant), hypolipidemic, hypotensive, antiartherosclerotic, vulnerary (wound healer), anticoagulant, antiplatelet, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal (topically), tumor-preventive.
Based on the above actions, the use of turmeric as a medicine is indicated for prevention of inflammatory conditions and as an antioxidant to prevent cancer and oxidative stress.  It is also indicated preventively for helping to keep a healthy lipid and cholesterol balance, for protecting the liver, and for thinning the blood.
It is also indicated for cases of weak digestion, flatulence, dyspepsia (indigestion or digestive sluggishness), and peptic ulcers due to its tissue-healing and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as its ability to stimulate bile flow and increase digestive function.
As an anti-inflammatory and liver detoxifier, turmeric is useful for skin diseases such as eczema and inflammation of the skin (taken internally and applied externally, although it will stain the skin externally).
As an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and cholagogue, turmeric is used to treat gallstones (although not if there is any chance of obstruction), acute/chronic inflammation of the gallbladder, and inflammation of the bile duct.
For rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, turmeric taken over time has proven effective due to its ability to modulate the inflammatory response.
As an anticancer herb, Curcuma longa acts against several chemical carcinogens, so can be used in adjunct with other cancer therapies.  As an antioxidant it is also useful for precancerous and cancerous conditions, particularly cancers of the colon because of the direct contact some constituents have with the cells of the colon.
As a hepatoprotective herb, turmeric is useful for someone exposed to hepatotoxic chemicals and for liver dysfunction, such as jaundice or hepatitis, where its inflammation modulating effects are useful as well.
As a hypolipidemic, turmeric is used for high cholesterol.  Curcumin has been shown to decrease total serum cholesterol, to increase HDL cholesterol, and to decrease serum lipid peroxides.
Curcumin and the class of compounds in turmeric called “curcuminoids” are the most studied compounds in the root.  These appear to exert the majority of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant/anticancer effects.  Use of just this compound in capsule form may sometimes be indicated for acute inflammation or widespread inflammatory conditions.  However, it is often important to consume the whole herb as well, as there are 100’s of compounds in an herb that can exert their own helpful effects and may prevent side effects.  Many products will be whole-root extracts that concentrate the curcuminoids in a capsule form, and generally that is my preferred method of consumption.
Turmeric appears to be safe in most situations and even in large doses. The most common “side effect” is mild gastrointestinal irritation. Usually this is mitigated by taking turmeric in the middle of a meal, but if someone has a sensitive stomach, they may not be able to consume turmeric in large, medicinal quantities. Turmeric is contraindicated if there is a bile duct obstruction due to the cholagogue (gallbladder stimulating) activity of turmeric.  Caution should also be exercised when taking turmeric concurrently with antiplatelet or anticoagulant drugs since it has these actions itself.  Some researchers advise caution during pregnancy because turmeric may stimulate the uterus; this is mostly likely because of its bitter and carminative effects, which stimulate the gastrointestinal tract, and may also have an emmenagogue effect (stimulating the uterus).
Turmeric root is traditionally used as a powder in curry and other foods.  In India and the Ayurvedic system of medicine, the root is often simmered with milk and slightly sweetened with honey for colds and coughs, and for digestion.  This makes sense, as turmeric is best metabolized when consumed with fat, and with black pepper.
A beverage coined as “Golden Milk” can be made by mixing about 1 heaping teaspoon of the powdered herb with a 1/2 tsp each of cinnamon and cardamom, 1/4 tsp of ginger powder, a small quantity of black pepper, then adding to 12-16 oz of milk or milk alternative of your choice, heating on the stove, and adding raw honey at the end as desired. Drinking this daily is a good way to consume turmeric as a preventative health ally, as well as to help address inflammatory concerns.
At Herban Wellness, we sell the powder, capsules (either of the powder or of the concentrated extract), and the liquid extract (tincture) of this useful plant.  The root can also be purchased fresh at some natural health food stores or Asian markets and added to food or juiced.  The root has a strong taste, with a pungent, bitter flavor; which is why most people prefer capsules or tincture.
I usually encourage people to find a way to incorporate the powder or capsules on a daily basis for prevention and health maintenance. Adding 1/2-1 tsp to smoothies, making Golden Milk, or taking 2 capsules/day is a good way to consume it. For more acute or widespread inflammation, the concentrated extract capsules, such as Gaia Herbs Turmeric Supreme (which also contains black pepper), or the tincture, is recommended, at a higher dosing. Typically 2 capsules or 2 milliliters of tincture  2-3 times/day is recommended for more acute situations or for widespread or severe inflammation. Sometimes it can take 2-3 weeks of taking this dosing to notice effects, so it is generally not a short-term fix.


When I say the name of this tea, I have had most people respond “I could use some of that!”  Apparently, most of us could use a bit of mental focus and clarity of thought, and why not an improved memory to boot?  Well, I can’t promise or guarantee that this particular blend of herbs will do these things for you, but it can certainly help improve those parameters you’re looking to improve.
By increasing circulation throughout the body, but particularly to the head and brain, and improving energy in a sustainable way, this blend of herbs can help increase “mental clarity” over time, or perhaps immediately when you need a boost during a long or stressful day, or just need to “clear your head”.
Gotu kola is often used to improve mental function, which is does perhaps primarily by increasing circulation.  It also acts as an anti-inflammatory and helps with all types of connective tissue repair and function.  Ginkgo may be the most-recognized herb for memory and focus, and although results are mixed in studies, there is no doubt that it increases circulation and is a powerful antioxidant.  Rhodiola is an adaptogenic root that can help normalize body functions and is best known for increasing energy levels and helping improve recall and retention of information.  As an adaptogen, it somehow acts on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis to balance the body and increase energy and mental function.  Rosemary is another potent antioxidant, cell protective, that increases circulation and is uplifting in its action.  Hawthorn leaf & flower helps improve cardiovascular function and circulation and is antioxidant.  You may notice a theme here.  Finally, peppermint and spearmint add their invigorating scent and taste to open the sinuses and clear the head to complement actions of the other herbs in this mix.
Contains: Gotu kola, ginkgo, rhodiola, rosemary, hawthorn leaf & flower, peppermint, & spearmint.

A general pain-relieving and antispasmodic blend of herbs, this tea is designed to help relieve mild inflammation and cramping or spasm of muscles and/or nerves.  Headaches have complex origins and can be a symptom of a larger problem, but occasional headaches from being tired, sick, stressed, tense, etc. can be helped with remedies other than the over-the-counter pain medications.  Chronic headaches may also be helped, although deeper causes need to be sought as well.
Meadowsweet is described in greater depth in another blog entry, so please refer there for more information, but suffice it to say here that it is in this tea blend as an anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving herb.  Two other herbs, feverfew and motherwort, have a long history of being used for headache relief, and in the case of feverfew in particular, migraine relief.  This effect on migraines is most noted when feverfew is consumed daily for a period of weeks (6 or more), when the severity and frequency of migraine headaches often decreases.  Some, however, notice its effects pretty immediately upon consuming this herb.  Peppermint is vasodilating and antispasmodic, both of which can relieve the spasm around blood vessels in the brain or vasoconstriction which can cause/contribute to headaches.  Licorice is antiinflammatory and has a sweet, harmonizing taste in the tea, helping to offset the bitter taste of feverfew and motherwort.  Lemon balm relaxes the nervous system, helping to relieve anxiety and tension.  Black haw is a great antispasmodic for smooth muscle cramping, such as in the case of menstrual cramps or  intestinal cramping.
Contains: Meadowsweet, Peppermint, Licorice, Feverfew, Lemon balm, and Motherwort.

A classic and familiar herb in many culinary and medicinal traditions, ginger is a good example of the confluence of medicine and food.  The benefits of ginger have long been known in Indian and Chinese systems of medicine.  In India, it was even known as a “universal medicine”.  A digestive aid that calms nausea, warms, and promotes digestion, ginger is also known for its overall anti-inflammatory effects.  Ginger root acts as an anti-inflammatory (or, more appropriately, an inflammation regulator) partly by to normalizing prostaglandin action, and therefore helping to regulate the inflammatory cascades of the body.  It also acts to inhibit the enzyme COX-2 (cycloxygenase-2) which when overactive/overstimulated in people can lead to multiple inflammatory issues including arthritis.  Ginger root also has compounds that inhibit the formation of thromboxanes and therefore can reduce platelet formation helping to keep a healthy blood viscosity.  Ginger can also reduce pain by reducing prostaglandins that sensitize pain receptors.
Therefore, ginger root taken in therapeutic doses, can be a useful alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and acetaminophen, without the side effects such as gastritis/ulcers.  In fact, ginger root contains at least 17 compounds that have an anti-ulcer action.
Of the 477 compounds that have so far been identified in ginger root, many have varied desirable effects on inflammation.  It is the whole root that seems to work, as much as some would like to find the “active compounds”.
Primary actions of ginger: anti-inflammatory, anti-nausea, circulatory stimulant, warming, digestive, blood thinner (inhibits platelet aggregation), diaphoretic
Primary uses: sluggish or weak digestion, nausea, motion sickness, joint inflammation, arthritis, head aches, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, colds & flu to help break a fever and induce sweating

This tea is the original Herban Wellness store blend, combining the healing properties of gunpowder green tea with two stand-out herbs from Ayurveda (an ancient Indian system of medicine) – holy basil and gotu kola.  The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of green tea are combined with the stress-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and nervine properties of holy basil and gotu kola.  Holy basil is said to be both uplifting and calming, while the mild caffeine in green tea gives an energizing lift.  Lemon verbena adds its digestive and nervous system support with its lovely lemon flavor complemented by lemon peel to round out the tea.  Ginger warms, stimulates circulation, and adds  digestive calming and anti-inflammatory effects.
Holy basil (aka Tulsi) is a revered herb in the Hindu religion and is placed on altars as a plant that helps bridge between the mind & spirit.  Taken as a tea or tincture, this herb has many benefits as a digestive and nervous system support tonic, as well as acting as an “adaptogen”, acting on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis as a stress-relieving and protective herb.
Gotu kola is another powerful herb from India that helps with circulation throughout the body and to the brain, acts to help repair connective tissue including joints & tendons, is anti-inflammatory, and helps lower the stress response.  It is used for chronic venous insufficiency, circulatory issues, chronic injuries, to help with mental focus and nervous system weakness, and in combination with other herbs for stress and anxiety relief.
This tea blend is a great morning or afternoon tea and tastes excellent served hot or iced.
Contains: Green tea, holy basil, gotu kola, lemon verbena, lemon peel, & ginger root.

Pu-erh (pronounced poo-air) is a uniquely fermented tea, made using an old, broad-leafed variety of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis), withered and then pan-fried to remove excess moisture like the processing of green tea.  Unlike green tea, however, the heat processing part is shortened so oxidation can occur to the tea leaves.  The tea is allowed to ferment using methods meant to mimic the way it originally was discovered while tea leaves were traveling on the backs of horse or yaks on the Silk Road from Yunnan to the Tibetan Plateau for trade.  The flavor, caffeine, nutrients, & probiotic characteristics of this unique tea made it an indispensible beverage for many in China and in many indigenous communities throughout the Upper Mekong River Region of China, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, and India.
Modern-day pu-erh tea is either fermented packed in clay jars, baskets, or buried in the floor of caves and allowed to oxidize and age, some for as long as 60 years. Like fine wine, certain pu-erh are considered more valuable and the flavor more desirable than others. Another method used to make pu-erh is to heap-ferment the loose tea leaves for hours to days to allow interaction with fungi, yeast, and bacteria that ferment the tea.  Some pu-erh is also intentionally inoculated with desirable microorganisms.
Pu-erh tea has many reported health benefits, including acting as an antioxidant, helping to stimulate metabolic processes (thereby increasing calories used), helping with fat digestion (therefore beneficial taken with a fatty meal), increasing mental clarity & energy, improving lipid profiles, & reducing cholesterol levels.  It is a source of polyphenols, like other teas, which are phytochemicals that can protect the body from free radical damage and degenerative processes & diseases.  Other compounds include: caffeine-producing methylxanthines (theobromine & theophylline), amino acids, & amino acid-derivatives including theanine, proanthocyanadins, gallic acid, coumaric & caffeic acids.  Theanine has been shown to help reduce mental and physical stress and improve mental function.
The fat metabolism, and general metabolism-boosting properties, have been the primary focuses of its use in the West, as well as its cholesterol-lowering effect, which has largely been explained by the discovery that pu-erh tea contains natural statins produced by the probiotic activity.  Polyphenols in the tea leaves are oxidized to create fermentation-derived compounds known as statins (a group of hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors), which have been shown to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels & prevent cardiovascular disease.
Generally speaking, you’d need to brew this tea at about 1 tsp/cup hot water for 5 minutes and drink 3 cups/day to achieve some of these desired effects.
There is a lot of interesting information out there on the internet about tea in general, and some on pu-erh.  I learned a lot about pu-erh and its ethnobotanical origins and use from an article in Herbal Gram, published by the American Botanical Council, entitled “Pu-erh Tea and the Southwest Silk Road” by Selena Ahmed, PhD and Michael Freeman.  There are also some research studies that are summarized on Pub Med, a database part of the National Institutes of Health (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/).

Slim Down Tea contains: Pu-erh tea, Cinnamon bark, Cleavers, Eleuthero, and Stevia leaves.
Ah, weight loss.  It’s one of the biggest issues people face that has no easy answer.  Once you’ve put on weight, it takes awhile to get it off, and there’s no way around dietary adjustments and exercise (calories in need to be less than calories out).  However, if you are focusing on these things, and preferably getting some guidance (afterall, most people I talk to think they eat and exercise JUST FINE, thank you very much), then there are things that can help support a person in their weight-loss goals.  Namely, herbs and nutrients that can support healthy metabolism and encourage fat burning.  There’s that word – metabolism.  What does it mean anyway?
Metabolism means change or transformation, and in the way we talk about it here, is referring to the processes in our body that convert food and other substances into energy and other metabolites used by the body.  Metabolism aids in digestive function as well as absorption of nutrients.  It is most affected by nutrition, hydration and physical activity, but is also regulated by the thyroid hormones and is affected by the adrenal and reproductive hormones systems as well.  Metabolism in the sense we refer to in weight control, is the regulator of our body’s fuel, in the form of calories derived from fat & carbohydrates primarily.  Therefore, when I refer to herbs that “increase metabolism”, these are herbs that are known to help speed up the rate at which you burn calories.
I know I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but I felt it was important to explain metabolism before I talked about TEA and how it can help with speeding up your metabolism and therefore help you get that edge over more calories out than are going in, so fat can be burned.  Green tea has had its praises sung for this effect, as has oolong tea, and now I will talk about pu-erh tea – another of the tea-plant forms of tea that is in my own Slim Down Tea blend.
Look at my article/post on pu-erh tea for more information, but suffice it to say that this herb is the foundation of this particular tea blend, designed to help increase metabolism (& therefore fat reduction), improve digestion & nutrient absorption, reduce fluid retention by increasing the flow of fluid through the kidneys (due to Cleavers), support the adrenal glands & their function and generally increase energy levels (due to Eleuthero) and help balance blood sugar (Eleuthero & Cinnamon bark both help here).  An excellent “side effect” of this tea?  It could help you lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and help you better digest fats, primarily due to the fermented pu-erh tea.

The general herbal approach to maladies of the skin, such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne,  is to detoxify the other primary organs of detoxification – the liver, kidneys, and colon – along with the lymphatic system, so that the skin can function better.  The idea is that the skin manifests imbalances from within the body and is not acting on its own but rather as part of a system.  Other herbs are used to help reduce inflammation, since many skin disorders are inflammation-based.
The herbs in the Healthy Skin Tea are herbs that detoxify, reduce inflammation, and also help support healthy skin in general by adding minerals and other nutrients that help support the function of the skin and the body in general, while promoting repair and regeneration.
The primary liver herbs in this formula are burdock root, yellow dock root, and Oregon grape root.  These herbs all help detoxify the liver, while the Oregon grape root also helps reduce inflammation and has some antibacterial actions.  Yellow dock also is a mild laxative and can help support healthy colon function.  Detoxifying the liver can also help balance hormones, as the liver metabolizes many of the hormones in our body.
Red clover blossoms act as an alterative, or blood purifier, helping to “open the channels of elimination” and clear the skin through doing so.  They act as a mild lymphagogue (lymph mover) as well as adding minerals and nutrients that nourish skin.
Calendula flowers act as an anti-inflammatory and lymphagogue, making them very beneficial for skin health.
Nettle leaf is mineral-rich, a mild kidney tonic and detoxifier, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine.
Horsetail adds minerals, such as silica, that nourish skin, hair, and nails.
Gotu kola is very mineral-rich as well, while adding anti-inflammatory properties and supporting collagen synthesis and skin repair.
Contains: red clover blossoms, Oregon grape root, burdock root, yellow dock root, nettle leaf, calendula flowers, horsetail, and gotu kola.

Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is a member of the legume family and the seed Trigonella foenum-graecumand leaves have long been used in food and medicine.  Fenugreek seed powder is a component of curry powder and is used to flavor marinades, chutney, and pickles.  The sprouted seeds are a nourishing food and a good way to get some of the therapeutic actions from this herb as well.  Fenugreek has also been used in agriculture as a feed for animals, to increase egg & milk production, and to help animals gain weight.
Medicinally, fenugreek has been used throughout history by various cultures for many things, including as an anti-inflammatory for the digestive tract, for helping heal peptic ulcers and colitis for example, and the skin, for helping heal abscesses for example, due to its healing mucilaginous components.  It is also helpful for thinning mucus in the lungs and helping to clear congestion and can be useful for sore throats, bronchitis, and allergies.  Fenugreek is also considered a digestive aid, helping to increase appetite, better digest fats, and generally help purify stagnant digestion with bloating and gas, bad breath, etc.
Fenugreek may be best known by customers coming into my shop, Herban Wellness, as a galactagogue.  It is known to promote milk production in lactating women and is known for its maple syrup-like odor which when taken in adequate amounts can produce that odor in those taking it in large enough quantities.
Fenugreek has been studied mostly for its ability to help better regulate blood sugar levels in those with insulin and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.  It appears to help increase insulin sensitivity of the cells, therefore decreasing glucose levels in the blood.  The fiber content of the seed, when consumed as a powder or extracted in water for the mucilaginous/carbohydrate components, may be responsible for the improved glucose tolerance in those taking Fenugreek seed.
Fenugreek also has been shown to decrease cholesterol levels and to help prevent atherosclerosis (plaque formation and hardening in the arteries).  This hypocholesterolemic activity has been primarily attributed to saponins and the mucilage (gum fiber/carbohydrates) in the fenugreek seed, and is mainly attributed to a reduction in the reabsorption of cholesterol and bile acids in the intestines.
Fenugreek is known as a nutritive and anabolic food, promoting hair growth, semen production, and milk production.
Primary therapeutic actions: hypoglycemic, galactagogue, anti-inflammatory, hypocholesterolemic, demulcent, appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and diaphoretic.
Check out this link for information on sprouting and eating the Fenugreek seeds:
http://www.herbsarespecial.com.au/free-sprout-information/fenugreek.html