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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.

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

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.

This tea is a blend of flavors many people associate with the holidays, or this time of year anyway…  Cinnamon, orange, clove… and a hint of sweet with stevia leaves mixed in there.  Inspired by a wonderful customer of mine at Herban Wellness, she wanted to gift a small amount of this blend to her clients this month.  Everyone knows I can’t simply write about a tea for taste, can I?  So, what can one expect to feel from this tea?  Or what are some of the potential benefits from the herbs in this blend?
Orange peel, clove, cinnamon, and cardamom all have a beneficial effect on digestion, but helping to relax, promote the flow of digestive juices in the gastrointestinal tract, and to dispel gas.  They all, but particularly clove, also have antibacterial effects.  Orange peel and cardamom also have an effect on the nervous system, helping to both uplift and invigorate, while promoting calm.  Hibiscus flowers, another addition to this tea blend, not only adds its signature rich pink color, but it has a very beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system, helping to lower blood pressure and strengthen arteries and veins.  Also, interestingly enough, hibiscus is sometimes referred to as a refrigerant, meaning it has a cooling effect on the body, which is in contrast to the spices in this blend which tend to warm.
See my write-up on Cinnamon bark to understand its beneficial medicinal effects.
Stevia, other than being a hundred times sweeter than sugar without any sugars, also has been studied for its medicinal effects and seems to have a beneficial effect on blood sugar balance.  I love to blend a few stevia leaves into my teas for a subtle, completely natural, no-calorie sweetness.
Contains: orange peel, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, hibiscus, and stevia
A perfect blend for the holidays, no?  Sip while baking cookies or serve warm or cold at your holiday party in a glass pitcher.  Serve to family members when things start to get a bit snarly to soothe and brighten.

The beautiful hawthorn tree, with its leaves that look like mini oak leaves and its spiny branches, is in flower right now, from snowy white to a medium pink depending on the species.  They produce prolific flowers, and later red berries, that are both used medicinally.  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,  normalize heart rhythms, act as an antioxidant to reduce and prevent arthrosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries), 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 is also used as a gentle diuretic, increasing fluid flow through the kidneys, as a nervous system and lung tonic, and to promote restful sleep and healthy digestion.  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.
It 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.