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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.

Rhodiola rosea is a plant used for its health-giving properties.  The root is harvested from this low-growing perennial plant that grows throughout the northern hemisphere in high elevations in Asia, Europe, and North America, and is native to the Himalaya. Other common names given to this plant are Arctic Root and Golden Root.  The root has a rose-like fragrance and flavor, and is very astringent (drying) on the tongue.   References to this plant for its health benefits are found as early as 77 A.D.
Throughout Russia and Asia, Rhodiola has been traditionally used as a tonic herb that increases physical and mental stamina, performance, and strength.  It is considered an adaptogen, meaning it has the ability to help the body respond better to stress and is safe for long-term use.  It most likely acts on the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis to normalize adrenal function, improve energy, and increase overall health.
Rhodiola seems to primarily effect the nervous system, the immune system, and the HPA axis (adrenals).  Most studies have focused on the physical and mental effects of Rhodiola.  It has been studied on athletes, showing an increase in performance for most people. In one study 89% of participants showed increased speed & strength.  Students are another category of people that have seen improvement when using this herb, improving memory, retention of information, and increasing attention span.
The primary reasons people take Rhodiola are to decrease stress, increase energy, enhance athletic and physical performance, combat fatigue – whether physical or mental, increase attention and focus, combat depression, and to increase immune system function.  Rhodiola also acts as an antioxidant, anti-cancer (in animals, shown to inhibit tumor growth and decrease metastasis), and radio-protective; most of these properties having been indicated in in vitro (lab) studies.  Therefore, it is often used as an adjunct in cancer treatment, for protecting the healthy cells from the effects of chemical and radiation exposure.
Rhodiola is also an herb commonly used to prevent and combat altitude sickness.
This herb can be made into an infusion (tea) and consumed, as it is in our Mental Clarity Tea: 1 Tbsp/cup hot water (just boiled) and steeped for 20 minutes. For the root alone, use 1 Tbsp/2 cups water for 20 minutes.  As a tincture (liquid extract), the dosing is typically 2 dropperfuls (50-60 drops) 2-3 times/day.  Capsules are generally taken at 2 twice/day.
If you find it a stimulating herb, as some people do, it is best to avoid later in the day (after 4 pm) to avoid insomnia.  It may be too stimulating for certain constitutions and should be used with caution in those with high blood pressure and avoided for those with bipolar disorder.

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.

The beautiful hawthorn tree, with its leaves that look like mini oak leaves and its spiny branches, produces abundant flowers (white or pink) that later create red berries.  Crataegus oxycantha and C. monogyna are the two species used most often medicinally, and these produce dense clusters of white flowers and red edible berries that resemble small crabapples.  As a member of the apple family, this makes sense!
The berries have the longest traditional history of use.
Hawthorn is primarily known and used as a fantastic tonic for the cardiovascular system.  A safe, gentle, effective herbal remedy, this herb has been used to generally strengthen the heart muscle, lower blood pressure (by relaxing the nervous system and opening the corony circulation), normalize heart rhythms, act as an antioxidant to reduce and prevent arthrosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) and weakening of the arteries and veins, to lower blood cholesterol levels (LDL in particular) and to increase circulation to the extremities.  Many of these uses have been born out in clinical studies, where some of hawthorn’s active compounds, mainly flavonoids and oligomeric procyanidins, have strengthened contractions of the heart muscle, increased the amount of blood pumped with each contraction, and promoted a stable, rhythmic heartbeat in study participants.
Aside from being a heart remedy, hawthorn also has a calming effect on the nervous system, is used as a gentle diuretic, increasing fluid flow through the kidneys, and as a lung tonic.  It is used for allergy-related reactions such as sinusitis, bronchitis, and asthmatic conditions, for attention deficit symptoms in adults and children, for insomnia, indigestion, & nervous stomach.
Hawthorn is also used for emotional heart-related pain, such as grief and heartbreak to help protect and support the body, and in particular the heart and lungs which can be affected in times of grief and loss.
Hawthorn berries can be decocted (boiled) to produce a tea, using 1-3 teaspoons of the berries per 12 oz of water and simmering for 15-20 minutes.  The leaf & flower can be steeped in hot water for 15 minutes to make a mild tea.  Both the berry and leaf & flower combinations can be extracted into alcohol and water, or vegetable glycerine, and taken as a tincture or glycerite.  From the berries, syrups and solid extracts are often produced, which is a tasty and easy way to take this wonderful herb.

A hawthorn tree ripe with red berries


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.

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.

Rose hips

It seemed appropriate to choose an herb from the rose family, as Valentine’s Day approaches and rose has long been a symbolic plant for the heart and love.
Rose hips are the outer, fleshy portion of the seed pod (ovary) where the rose develops its seeds, at the base of where the spent rose flower.
The seeds are discarded (or perhaps are pressed to yield a delightful skin oil called rosehip seed oil) and the sweet, tart, mealy flesh can be eaten fresh, preserved in jams, jellies, honeys, and the like, or is dried, cut & sifted, and is used in teas around the world.
Its red/orange color give indication that it is high in antioxidant flavonoids, the most famous being vitamin C, of which rose hips are a rich source.   Rose hips are antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and can help strengthen and tone arteries and veins, therefore becoming useful for preventing things such as easy bruising, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids.  Due to their anti-inflammatory properties, rose hips are also used over a period of several months to help reduce symptoms of arthritis, such as pain and stiffness.  Good results have been shown, particularly in a study in Denmark where patients consumed powdered rose hips for several months and felt less stiffness and pain in their joints.

Enjoy this uplifting and aromatic blend of herbs in the morning as you get ready for a new day or sip on a cup in the afternoon for a caffeine-free pick-me-up.  Inspired by the returning light and longer days, this blend reminds me of spring in a glass, as I relish and search for its return.  It is a blend of citrus, floral, and slightly camphor notes and can provide a gentle lift without stimulants because of the enticing aroma, antioxidants, and circulatory stimulation of rosemary.  Rosemary and lavender dance together beautifully in this blend, tempered by the smoothness of marshmallow root and the tart of rose hips and orange peel.  This blend of herbs is also soothing to the nerves and stomach, and and helpful for promoting healthy digestion.  Rooibos is a lovely, honey-tinged herb from South Africa that has all the antioxidants of green tea but no caffeine.  It also has some mild stress-relieving and protective effects.
Contains: orange peel, marshmallow root, rosemary, lavender, rose hips, rooibos, and rose petals.