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You want to know what I love and find unique about herbs and herbal medicine?

What I find unique about herbal medicine is that herbs can be used for both symptom management and for helping to restore the health of an organ or system. For example, milk thistle can be protective to liver cells and help restore and promote regeneration of healthy cells. Hawthorn can be strengthening to the heart and circulatory system and help prevent heart-related issues. Marshmallow root is healing and soothing to the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract and can help with recovery after an inflammatory issue, such as heartburn, gastritis, or leaky gut. Ashwaganda can help us feel more calm and get more restful sleep. Cherry bark can calm a cough and thin mucus.

Within this topic, I also find it important for people to understand the difference between taking an herb for a certain symptom (or symptoms) and taking an herb to support the underlying system. For example, when someone is dealing with a viral infection, such as the flu, there are certainly herbs that might be able to make you more comfortable. Where herbs really stand out, however, is how they can help support your immune system in combating the virus. I think of it as the herbs mobilizing the immune system to keep fighting the invaders or infection. Many of the herbs commonly used to stimulate the immune system have been shown to help shorten the duration and severity of a cold or flu virus. Think: elderberry, olive leaf, oregano. This means you have to keep taking them, even once the symptoms are in full force, and they can really shorten how long you are sick.

Another thing people may not understand, is that you need to take these herbs in copious amounts, frequently, to really have a notable effect for an acute situation such as this. These same herbs are often very effective at keeping you from getting sick in the first place, if you take them frequently when you first feel any sign you might be getting something.

Then there are other immune support herbs that can help you from getting sick in the first place, by taking them on a daily basis or taking them several times a day when around people who are sick. Think: astragalus root, certain medicinal mushrooms such as reishi and shiitake, olive leaf, elderberry. These are used more as preventive medicine (notice there is some overlap) and can help someone get sick less frequently and recover more quickly when they do.

I view herbal medicine as a “tool in the toolkit” of health, and it exists best in a holistic lifestyle of health. This holistic lifestyle includes the things most of us know we “should” be doing, including beneficial nutrition/diet, pure water, sufficient sleep, and exercise, which are essential for care of the body. And yet, there is much more that contributes to a healthy life, including our mental and emotional health, our stress management techniques, the health and quality of our relationships, time in nature, and our general sense of our purpose and place in our communities and in the world. Then there are the various healing modalities we can choose from to help support our health, including massage, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, nutrition consults, life coaching, therapy, energy work, chiropractic, etc.

Taking herbs alone is not going to solve all of our health problems. But, let me tell you, I am grateful for their many benefits and the healing they have supported in my body and in countless others I have had the pleasure of guiding in their selection and use of herbs for their own healing.

I love to travel. I consider it a necessity for my quality of life to go somewhere internationally at least every other year, if not yearly. Getting out of my comfort zone, experiencing different cultures, seeing Earth’s natural wonders, stepping out of my daily life routines, feeds my spirit in a way nothing else seems to. Now, I am realizing a long-held dream of mine, to travel to “meet” the many plants and herbs I use in my craft, products, and shop, as well as to meet the farmers, distillers, and the many people who are responsible for planting, cultivating, harvesting, drying, extracting, distilling, pressing, and providing this precious plant material for us to use. This trip is meant to help create new connections and sources for plant material that is of the highest quality, sustainably grown and harvested, and helps promote the sustainable economies of the people and countries they are sourced from. That is ultimately the goal.
I thought I would share what I have used and would never travel without, to help you develop your own herbal travel kit, for your travels locally, domestically, or abroad. Over decades of travel, I have learned what I need to bring with me to make my travels as successful and easy on my body as possible. I have certainly had my share of intestinal upsets in my traveling life, and since this is a point of weakness for my body, I stock a lot of things to help prevent contracting intestinal parasites or bacteria, and to help my body digest food it is unaccustomed to.
My kit contains herbs to support:

  • The Immune System
    • Herbs to take daily while traveling (especially by plane) to keep your immune system strong. I like our Immune Builder Drops from Herban Wellness or Astragalus Supreme capsules from Gaia Herbs.
    • Herbs to take if you feel like you have contracted something. I like our Cold & Flu Away Drops from Herban Wellness or Anti-V Formula capsules by Natural Factors. The Anti-V Formula can also be taken daily while traveling to prevent, and more frequently if you feel you have contracted something.
    • Essential oils to inhale regularly when exposed to recirculated indoor air, such as in an airplane cabin, or in large crowds of people coughing and sneezing. I swear by our Be Well Blend that contains Eucalyptus, Lemon, Oregano, Myrrh, Clove and other essential oils that are antiviral, antibacterial, and help keep your lungs and sinuses clear. This also makes a good hand and surface sanitizer!
  • The Digestive System
    • I always travel with Ginger root – in “chews” or crystalized ginger, such as those found by Reed’s Ginger Company to help calm my stomach if it gets queasy, motion sickness, or if my stomach feels in any other way upset. You can also take Ginger root capsules, such as those by Gaia Herbs or New Chapter, daily to prevent parasites and to help improve digestion.
    • If you’re prone to parasites or simply want to ensure you don’t get them, you can take Black Walnut hull capsules or Wormwood capsules as a preventative. Oregano leaf capsules (not the Oregano oil) can also be taken preventively. 1-2 capsules per day should do it. If you do get exposed to something, you can take Oregano Oil capsules, 1 capsule several times/day to treat, but Oregano Oil can disrupt your own healthy flora so should only be taken in acute situation and for a limited period of time, such as 2 weeks at the most unless you know you are treating an active parasitic or bacterial infection.
    • Digestive Enzymes are something I personally take with me to take with meals to help me better digest different foods, especially since I eat very differently when I’m traveling then when I’m at home. For example, this trip I am eating way more cheese and bread than I ever normally eat! I like Digest Gold enzyme capsules by Enzymedica, because it is a very broad-spectrum and powerful digestive enzyme and Enzymedica only focuses on digestive enzymes and enzyme research. I have had a lot of success with them.
  • The Nervous System and Endocrine System (specifically the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal, aka HPA, Axis)
    • If you need help getting in sync with a new time zone, it is helpful to have an herbal sleep aid on hand, like our Sleep Well Drops to help promote rest and sleep if your body is not responding to the dark in the new locale. You can also take a capsule such as Valerian root or a blend such as Sound Sleep by Gaia Herbs. All of these promote sleepiness and relaxation and can help promote deeper sleep.
    • Melatonin can also be utilized when adjusting to a new time zone by taking 3-5 mg an hour before your intended sleep time at your destination (you can take it enroute) or your intended bedtime when at your destination.
    • Adaptogenic herbs that help with energy levels and cortisol balance can be useful for taking in the morning at your location, especially for the first few days when you may wake up not feeling fully rested. Licorice root and Rhodiola root are both used in the morning to help boost energy levels. I prefer tinctures, where you can take 15-30 drops when you wake up. We also make Energy & Metabolism Drops from Herban Wellness that would accomplish the same thing, plus it contains a seaweed extract, Bladderwrack, to help support the thyroid gland and metabolism. Or Adrenal Health from Gaia Herbs is a good capsule blend.
  • Essential Oil singles I bring with me:
    • Tea tree – for any cut, wound, or pimple you might want to dab this onto for its antimicrobial benefits.
    • Lavender – for burns, wounds, or for relaxation and anxiety this can be applied to wrists and temples.
    • Peppermint – for headaches on the temples, for stomach upset if applied to the area around the belly button, for cooling you by applying some to your feet or temples.
    • *Please dilute appropriately and know the limits of these very strong aromatic extracts!
  • Essential Oil Towelettes by Herban Essentials (I know, they have Herban in their name, too!) are my new favorite travel kit item because they use 100% pure essential oils such as Orange, Lemon, Eucalyptus, Lavender, & Peppermint on towelettes that are individually wrapped (I don’t love that part but it’s handy). You can open one and wipe down things around you on the plane, as well as cleaning your hands when you don’t have access to a sink and soap. And they smell awesome too! We now carry them at Herban Wellness.

Modify according to your travel needs and the time you’ll be away, of course.
Let me know if there’s anything herbal you won’t leave home without!
Happy and safe travels to you!
 

Written by guest writer and herbalist Taylor Jeffers for Herban Wellness.
We are taught in grade school the basics of health – nutrition, exercise, and hygiene, but what about having health goals specific to the world we live in? Nowadays we are exposed to more toxins on a daily basis, have high-stress lifestyles, and are overfed yet undernourished. Shifting our focus to creating optimal health now is investing in tomorrow.
It’s important to acknowledge the basics of the body’s needs and support the foundations of health. We can do this by providing the body with essential nutrients, ensuring proper organ function, removing things that directly impede optimal health, and supporting a balanced microbiome. The following are primary factors to address when building optimal health.
Deficiency:
Despite the fact that we are a well-fed nation, nutrient deficiency is still a common issue. Nutrient deficiency is not only caused by a poor diet but also by farming practices that deplete the soil, overconsumption of nutrient depleting substances like sugar, consumption of processed foods that are lacking in vital nutrients, and long-term use of medications.
Toxicity:
As a growing concern in our highly developed and ever expanding world, reducing our exposure and ensuring our bodies’ capability to release toxins is crucial. Exposure to toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, medications in our water supply, volatile organic compounds like flame-retardants found in furniture, petroleum-derived ingredients in topical products, and much more are all linked to various issues from allergies to cancer.
Stressors:
The effects of stress are far-reaching. Stress is not just a conversation of mental health but of the entire body. Prolonged stress affects every single organ system and is linked to decreased immunity, digestive issues, cardiovascular disease and so on.
Pathogens:
Like the Earth, our bodies are an ecosystem. This delicate ecosystem may become disrupted through exposure to pathogens and by overuse or misuse of antibiotics. Maintaining a healthy ecosystem requires a healthy gut flora through the use of fermented foods or probiotics, preventing spread of pathogens, and supporting the immune system when necessary.
Creating a plan that is as unique as you:
A truly holistic approach requires a look at our family history, lifestyle, and constitution.
While genetics are not a death-sentence, it is important to know what runs in your family to know where your predispositions may lie. Taking account of your genetic background along with your constitution and lifestyle can provide clues that support your plan. It can be hard to know where to start, but focusing on the basics of nutrition, exercise, and stress reduction are all great places to begin. Once that has been established, herbal medicine can provide extra support.
Using herbs as tools to optimize health:
The most favored herbs amongst herbalist are generally those that tonify the body. These herbs are given the name tonics as the generally support the overall function of an organ or organ system by nourishing and strengthening. True tonics are herbs that walk the line between food or herb but are generally more medicinal or nutrient dense than most foods. By supplying essential nutrients to a particular organ or organ system, the organ may resume proper vital functioning. A well documented example is the balancing nature of red raspberry leaf on the female reproductive tract. Other tonic herbs include nettle, oats, dandelion, milk thistle and hawthorn.
Many herbs are incredibly helpful at nourishing the body as they provide nutrients in a highly bioavailable form. These include herbs such as nettle, oatstraw, horsetail, chickweed and so on. You can add these herbs to your food by sprinkling them in as powders, adding them to smoothies, infusing your oils and vinegars, or infusing in broths. Most commonly they are taken as a long-infusion where they will be steeped in cold water overnight (this maximizes extraction of minerals) and drunk freely everyday.
Herbs such as ashwagandha, astragalus, or one of the many ginsengs are given the title ‘adaptogens’. Adaptogens help the entire body adapt to stressors by modulating the stress response mechanisms. Where there is deficit or excess these herbs will bring back into homeostasis. They strengthen the entire body and are safe to use long-term. While in order to be a true adaptogen they must be non-specific in their action on the body, some herbs will have higher affinities to certain organs or slightly different energetics. For some examples, reishi mushroom strengthens the cardiovascular system, while astragalus is king at strengthening the immune system, and ashwagandha is calming whereas rhodiola is stimulating for most people.
Herbs that are considered cleansing are herbs that promote optimal function and generally stimulate the organs of elimination. It’s easy to overlook this step and sometimes we take this step too far by making detoxification a race to be won. For some, targeted detoxification programs are necessary and should be overseen by a professional. For the rest of us it’s crucial to recognize what can support optimal function of our emunctory organs: the intestines, liver, kidneys, skin and lungs. Some herbs that are helpful here include dandelion leaf and root, burdock root, yellow dock root, cleavers, and milk thistle. Using these herbs periodically to open elimination channels can relieve the toxic burden on those organs and revitalize the body.
Creating a healthy gut microbiome is often considered to be the route to optimal health, as it is commonly where many ailments start. Including bitter herbs with our meals supports our digestive processes and consuming plenty of pre- and probiotics are essential to a thriving gut flora. Some herbs like burdock or dandelion root provide inulin, a fiber that acts as a prebiotic, and are also bitter which can improve digestion. They are optimally consumed as a powder or other whole-root form to provide inulin, and can also be consumed as teas, capsules or even taken as a tincture before meals to prepare the body for digestion and for their other benefits. Other herbs in this category may include specific antimicrobials that can balance out a disrupted flora or fight chronic viral or bacterial infections. Our favorites at Herban Wellness include olive leaf, berberine-rich herbs such as oregon grape root or goldenseal, lemon balm, thyme, and yarrow.
Reducing oxidative stress on the body takes high precedence in the modern world. Incorporating antioxidant rich herbs in your cooking or supplements can dramatically change the way your body is recuperating from the damaging chemical warfare it encounters daily. This ultimately leads to less chronic inflammation in the body. Herbs in this category include the well-known turmeric, ginger and rosemary and lesser acknowledged olive leaf, artichoke leaf, and clove. Essentially colorful foods are the richest sources, so don’t forget your herbs such as elderberry, schisandra, hawthorn berry, rose hips and goji berry! The cell protective capabilities of milk thistle, schisandra berries, and astragalus are an important consideration where any damage is suspected or to be expected with certain types of ongoing medical treatment.
As you work towards supporting your body’s needs from the ground up, you may discover that radiant health was always within reach. The recommendations are intended to spark a desire to focus on the building blocks of health in a holistic way by using what nature offers us. For centuries we have evolved with plants as food and medicine, and this unique relationship can be re-established to create vibrant health for today and tomorrow.

Written by guest writer and herbalist Taylor Jeffers for Herban Wellness.
Edited by Katya Difani.
Part of the human experience is to bear witness to our own grief and loss. Grieving is such a personalized experience and can leave us sorting through many emotions, often all at once. The goal is not to use herbs in a way that numbs this process, but to provide clarity, tranquility, and hope.
Herbs
Herbs are heart-centered in their approach. They can soften the blow by soothing the nervous system, especially when we feel overwhelmed and unable to go on. Rose is particular for comforting the heart, allowing it to remain open while suffering from loss of a relationship, job, or the death of a loved one. Feeling disheartened and weighed down by this kind of pain can be alleviated with borage; a plant known for encouraging resilience. When stress and tension creeps in linden, skullcap, kava root, and oats will ease you back into a more peaceful rested state.
Self-care during times of grief are essential. Find solace in brewing a cup of any of the herbs listed above, or our Chill Out Tea, which features many herbs that relax the mind and body. An herbal tincture (liquid extract) of any of the above herbs can be added to water or juice as well. Or draw yourself a bath that infuses any one of the plants mentioned above. You can also have fresh rose flowers in your space.
Herbal Bath Blend for Heartache:

  • 2 parts linden
  • 1 part rose
  • 1 part lavender
  • ½ part borage & sage

Add ¼ cup of herbs to a cotton muslin bag to infuse in the bath water. Or add 1/4 cup of herbs to a quart of just-boiled water and steep 15-20 mins. Strain and pour into bath water. 
For those who are overcome by the sometimes intense waves of emotions, finding energy to brew tea or a take a bath may prove to be too difficult. Having an herbal tincture on hand such as our Chill Out Drops or Heart Mender Drops will simplify the healing process. The herbs featured in these formulas are intended to calm, soothe, protect, and uplift. Reach for our Chill Out Drops when you feel frazzled, shaken up or overwhelmed or reach for our Heart Mender Drops when heavy heartedness or trauma has overcome you. These can be added to a little water or juice.
Flower essences
Flower essences are unique extractions of the spiritual wisdom flowers embody. These are not herbal tinctures working directly on the physical body nor are they a part of the aromatherapy world. They are very specific medicines that work directly with specific mental, emotional, and spiritual states we encounter in our lives and can be of great support in any emotional challenge. We have found when a person feels stuck or has not been able to move forward, flower essences excel at breaking this pattern.
A few key flower essences for grief include Bleeding Heart, Star of Bethlehem, Borage, and Gorse.
Bleeding Heart is employed to strengthen the heart so that painful emotional attachments may be released. Star of Bethlehem is one to always have nearby, as it is an incredible support for the nerve jangling, heart-wrenching, emotionally paralyzing states that ensue when we are delivered bad news. This essence will help us to shed tears in acceptance of what has happened. Again, for those who feel weighed down and unable to go on, borage will lift you up. And for those times when pain seems never-ending and that life can’t possibly get better, gorse will dissolve pessimism and restore hope.
We carry many individual flower essences but because grief often carries many emotions to sort through it can be even more helpful to try a blend. Products that feature these essences and more include Grief Relief Flower Essence Spray & Five Flower Formula. Grief Relief is a blend of flower essences and essential oils that can be misted around the body or sprayed into the mouth to support your grieving process. Five Flower Formula is a famous blend of five flower essences that assist with stress and trauma of any degree. All flower essences are safe for any age and even animals in need. With flower essences, simply place a drop or two under your tongue or add to your water bottle and sip throughout the day. For animals, these essences can be squirted in their mouths, added to their food, or even rubbed into their ears or bellies externally.
Essential Oils
An often overlooked therapeutic remedy is the use of aromatherapy. This rather versatile realm of healing essential oils can provide a level of comfort and grace you didn’t know you were missing. Turn on that diffuser with a few drops of lavender essential oil, steam a few drops of grapefruit or eucalyptus essential oil in the shower, or apply a soothing blend of your choice throughout the day to help you get by. It’s important to note that while there are many oils that can, for example, provide a calming effect, it is truly about which one you connect with and enjoy. One is not necessarily better than another, so try a few to find the ones that put a smile on your face.
Floral essential oils such as lavender, rose, jasmine, or neroli are all comforting oils that are as sweet as a mother’s touch. Others such as cedarwood, pine, or frankincense are useful for quieting the mind that’s consumed with thoughts of “I should have” or “what could have been.” And for when you just need a dose of sunshine, any of the citrus oils are available to give you a boost. Our line of essential oils from Snow Lotus provide an array of single oils as well as many blends that encourage and foster a calm and healing atmosphere. Some blends to check out are Calm Spirit (which can be purchased pure or diluted in a roll-on bottle), Citrus Bliss, Inner Balance, and Spirit Lift.
Kate’s Magik is a line of intention-based aromatherapy products that are intelligently formulated to enrich our experiences. Their anointing oils are yet another way to use essential oils for healing. Anointing our bodies with these oils are literal prayers sent from our own intentions, with the help of plants, into the points of our bodies that need it most. There are many to choose from however Peace & Purification may be helpful when anxiety, stress, or depression hits or Healing may be chosen to relieve shame or guilt which may be blocking our ability to move forward.
Mother Nature provides us with all of the tools necessary to walk through this life feeling supported and loved. Although loss is inevitable, herbalists are here to offer support during challenging transitions. We hope that this information finds you when you need it most and encourages you to sit with your pain; but never alone.
 

Written by guest writer and herbalist Taylor Jeffers for Herban Wellness.
Edited and contributed to by Katya Difani.
Just as we are multi-dimensional beings, plants have been layers to their beings. One of the elements that is not as often talked about is the use of plants as spiritual and emotional allies on our healing journeys. Many plants have been used throughout time for their nonphysical benefits. The development and use of Flower Essences is one such way in the modern world that we use plants more for their energetic properties, but essential oils, resins, woods, and leaves, can be utilized this way as well, by burning for incense or smudging, or by placing certain plants on our being as annointing oils or in pouches. Just as easily, however, many of these plants can be utilized as teas or put into baths to call upon these comforting and healing properties. Here are a few plants that can be utilized in such a way, with purpose and intention.
Devil’s Club – The Fiercely Armored Warrior
IMG_3686This plants’ latin name is Oplopanax horridus which translates to Fiercely Armored Warrior and that kind of spirit is what herbalists love to use Devil’s Club for. When someone is in need of the energy to fight or help strengthen “the backbone” of a person, we call upon Devil’s Club. This may show up in your life during chronic illness when your vitality is lying low or when going through an emotional battle that requires a strong stance and healthy boundaries. This native adaptogen grows as a strong colony that networks its roots together to keep all members of the family healthy and with the help of large thorns encasing all parts of the plant (yes, even the leaves!), no one would dare to get too close. Harvesting this plant is done with great respect and care. One can gain Devil’s Club’s unique energetic medicine by taking a few drops of tincture as needed, simmering into water to drink as a tea, carrying a few pieces of the root bark with you in a pouch, or by meditatively engaging with the plants’ spirit.
Rose – A Soft Opening to the Heart
RoseOh, rose! Such sweetness comes from this plant. Its link to love, romance, and the heart is well-known. Rose speaks of grace, softness, and reassurance when dealing with matters of the emotional heart. Nerves that are frazzled by trauma or a heart that is weighed down by grief or loss would find comfort in Rose. Rose softens the edges around the pain of our past hurts allowing us to feel uplifted, cared for, and open to new possibilities. A rose glycerite or infused honey is a lovely way to engage with this energy. Or maybe you prefer the aroma of rose essential oil on your heart chakra or around you. You can find a wide variety of rose preparations in our store.
Yarrow – The Protector
Yarrow is a plant with historical notations dating back to when Greek mythology was in full force.   The lore associated with this plant tells uYarrows that protection is what Yarrow stands for. This humble woundwort is capable of sewing up the ‘holes’ in your energy field so that you may safely interface with the energetic world without consuming the sorrows of others or be drained by remaining in a porous state. Yarrow offers us protection in any vulnerable state we may find ourselves in. These qualities are best utilized by bathing in Yarrow (add some fresh or dried plant material to your bath), drinking the tea, or taking a few drops of the tincture or flower essence. You may find placing Yarrow around your home or on your altar helps maintain a space you desire.
 

Mugwort – The Guide to Wisdom

MugwortGiven many names, this plant that is highly regarded and upheld in the herbal community. Mugwort is well known for invoking a strong connection to Spirit by engaging the intuitive and creative forces of the mind. Use her wisely and with intention to tap into your subconscious for answers to your waking life questions. Adding Mugwort to your nightly tea or dream pillow is helpful to induce dreams that are vivid so that you may unravel the wisdom they contain more readily. The infused oil that we carry at Herban Wellness can be used before bed, meditation, or during a woman’s moontime (menstrual cycle) to relax the body and enhance psychic forces. Smudging can also help to purify the energy of your space.
 

Vervain – The Enchanters Herb

Vervain 2Across time, Vervain has been revered for its’ magical properties well documented by Druid priests and witches. In Western Europe, the protective nature of this plant was called upon by placing around the home or carried by anyone seeking protection from evils, especially the ill will of another. Today we look to Vervain when we feel overwhelmed by the pressures in life, leading us to a constant state of frustration. This plant is paramount to lessening the physical burden of high ideals and mental tension. Consumed most often as a tincture or flower essence, the tea is also beneficial, although bitter in taste.
 

Frankincense – The Purifier

FrankincenseFrankincense has been used to restore connection to Spirit, while instilling a sense of faith and trust in the inner workings of life. We have all been through stressful times that can provoke a state of mind that is weary, pessimistic, and always on guard. Frankincense is here to deeply center the mind and open us back up to the wisdom of the universe. Aromatherapy is a fantastic tool to utilize Frankincense best; look for the essential oil or real hand-rolled resin incense in our shop.
 
 

Agrimony – The Revealer

Agrimony2Unabiding truth and authenticity is the medicine that Agrimony carries. When we are unable to share our feelings or even acknowledge them, we are in need of Agrimony. Masking our emotions only worsens our pain and ultimately stems from the fear of vulnerability. Agrimony is historically used to redirect energy that is impeding our life force back to its’ original source by serving as a protective barrier between self and non-self energy. This protective barrier serves as an opportunity to tend to our true feelings rather than the feelings of others.
 

Calendula– The Empowerer

CalendulaThe bright and sunny flowers of Calendula bestow optimism in anyone who encounters it. This cheerful little plant is traditionally used to heal wounds of all kinds. Whether the skin or GI is inflamed, such as with ulcers or eczema, Calendula will soothe and heal. Calendula has an affinity for healing the solar plexus chakra, which is the energy center directly connected to digestion and our will power. To immerse yourself in the strengthening and cheerful energies of Calendula, utilize a daily cup of tea, a dose of tincture or the flower essence. Even putting the flowers in a bath can lift the mood.
 

Ocotillo – Realigning Purpose

OcotilloStagnation of our vital force often arises from a disconnect from Earth energies. Encouraging our lower chakras to remain open and in harmonious flow helps us to feel rooted in the Earth and grounded in our bodies. When blockages occur here we may feel unsafe and insecure resulting in overwhelming fear, which may also affect our sexual and creative energy. Ocotillo is the perfect ally to connect us to our core self, our basic needs, and our purpose and passions in life. Most often consumed as a tincture, taken in drop doses. 
 
All of life is waiting to connect with us on a deeper level. Rather than viewing herbs as obsolete medicines, or only as physical medicines, try engaging with them in other ways that are meaningful. Ask our herbalists how else plants may serve you… you may be surprised to find out all that they have to offer.

What is a Cleanse? This is the time of year many people think of as an opportunity to start anew.  A cleanse or detox can mean many things and can be strong or gentle in its action and can involve dietary changes or not.  Primarily, a cleanse involves targeting the primary elimination organs or channels through which our body gets rid of excess nutrients, toxins, or other waste products.  It can involve removing solid foods from the diet, or eating only unprocessed, easy to digest foods for a period of time, and usually involves supplementing fiber to help “sweep” the intestines, some liver and kidney stimulating herbs, and possibly plant-based laxatives. Most people hear the word “cleanse,” and think “run to the bathroom,” but that does not have to be the case and, in fact, I prefer not to have a cleanse involve intense laxatives or overly strong diuretics, so you can actually function in your day to day life. This is also easier on your body!
Why Cleanse? Often, people experience increased energy, better digestion, and perhaps better sleep and mental clarity after doing a cleanse for a week to a month.  So, if you’re feeling sluggish, tired, have slow digestion, etc., or even if you just feel like you have over-indulged lately and would like to start fresh, a cleanse can be a great way to begin a new routine.
Where’s My Liver? Most people have at least a vague idea that they have a liver, kidneys, and a colon; some know where they are and what they do.  When we get to talking about things like the “lymphatics” and the gallbladder and spleen, few people know their function or location.  So, just in case you really wanted to know, your liver is located just over and to the right of your midline, tucked partially under your right rib cage.  It is involved in too many processes to mention here, but is the primary filter in the body, so that means it packages, metabolizes, and neutralizes many things we intake and produce.  It helps filter the blood, removing bacteria and old red blood cells from the blood as it passes through the liver, it metabolizes many hormones including insulin, it detoxifies harmful chemicals, alcohol, and pharmaceutical or other drugs, and much more.
How Can I Support My Liver? Stress, inflammation, and exposure to chemicals and taking many recreational or pharmaceutical medicines all take their toll on the liver.  Sometimes avoiding all of the above can be hard to do, so in lieu of that, many medicinal herbs are excellent for the liver.  Eating bitter salad greens (such as dandelion leaves and arugula), taking herbs in capsule, tea, or liquid extract form such as burdock root, artichoke leaf, milk thistle seed, and dandelion root, are great ways to stimulate the liver to release toxins and many also act as gentle diuretics by stimulating the kidneys, while promoting the flow of digestive juices.  Also, eating a diet high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods and herbs, as well as avoiding processed food, excess alcohol, and food additives, pesticides, etc. can help make the liver’s daily job a little easier.
Herban Wellness Cleanse Kit:  I have formulated and a packaged a gentle cleanse kit that is designed to last 5-7 days, and will work best when combined with dietary changes.  Below is a copy of the information I include in my “Cleanse Guide”
The main organs you want to target during a cleanse are the liver, kidneys, colon, skin, lungs, and lymphatic system.  Herbs and foods can do that, including fiber blends, liver & kidney herbs such as dandelion root and artichoke leaf, spleen and lymph tonics such as red root and calendula, and fresh lemon juice for the liver. Drinking lots of water/fluids is essential.
Our Cleanse Kit at Herban Wellness contains:
Our Fiber Blend for moving “debris” through the intestines, along with the liver protective and detoxifying effects of powders of milk thistle, burdock root, and beet root.
Our Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea for encouraging movement and gentle detoxification of the liver, kidneys, skin, and lungs, while aiding in healthy circulation.
Our Detox Drops tincture blend is for more targeted detoxification of the liver, kidneys, skin, spleen, & lymphatics.
Modifying your diet in a variety of ways depending on your desired results or the intensity you’re after gives your body more of a chance to repair and restore. Use with the herbal support for optimal results.  Follow for 1-2 weeks.
Options for dietary cleansing:

  • Eliminate processed & packaged foods from your diet, along with fried foods, processed sugar, alcohol, all meat except cold-water fish, dairy, soy, and eggs – all of which are more difficult to digest and are some of the most common sources of allergens.
  • Eat only whole grains, some nuts & seeds, vegetables, and some fruit.  For example, eat only cooked brown rice, quinoa, or oats, freshly steamed vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, zucchini, etc., along with optional fresh veggies or fruit juices and fruit smoothies and some low-sugar fruits such as grapefruit, lemons, and pears.
  • Eat only raw or lightly cooked fruits and vegetables, including fresh juices, smoothies, salads, lightly sautéed veggies, etc. for several days to a week or two.
  • Do a liquid diet, where you only consume fresh vegetable and fruit juices, herbal teas, vegetable broths (preferably home-made), and fresh lemon or lime juice in water, etc. for two or more days.

Other beneficial cleanse practices:

  • Steam saunas and/or hot baths to aid in detoxification through the skin.  Essential oils can be inhaled or bathed in to enhance detoxification, including juniper berry, rosemary, grapefruit, and eucalyptus.
  • Dry skin brushing, using a natural-bristle brush for exfoliating the skin, increasing circulation and lymphatic movement.
  • Mild to moderate exercise that includes deep breathing to aid in healthy elimination through the lungs, including yoga or running/walking briskly outside in clean air.
  • Herbal teas, tinctures, or capsules for a laxative effect if you want more movement through the colon

Please read about my own Short 5-day Cleanse in my blog article here that gives a complete menu and routine for a 5-day cleanse, which you could easily modify and add to for a longer cleanse. 
What do I Eat?
Some menu ideas for a clean diet during a 1-2 week cleanse

Breakfast:

  • Smoothie with almond/rice milk, flaxseed oil, ground flax seeds, fresh/frozen berries (blueberries, raspberries, black berries), green powder (chlorella, spirulina, etc.)
  • Sprouted-grain, wheat-free toast or rice cake with raw almond butter
  • Hot cereal (multi-grain, steel-cut oats, quinoa, or amaranth) cooked in almond/rice milk with sunflower, sesame, or flax seeds sprinkled on top.  Use a small amount of honey, stevia, or fruit to sweeten
  • Granola (low sugar) soaked in almond/rice milk for a few minutes to make it more digestible

Lunch & Dinner:

  • Salad with spinach/lettuce topped with bell peppers, cucumber, avocado, beets, walnuts, carrots (whatever vegetables you desire), optional  grilled salmon/chicken, etc. and drizzled with flax seed oil & fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
  • Soup with carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, sweet potato, onions, garlic, barley, lentils… etc. in a vegetable soup base
  • Lightly stir-fried vegetables (broccoli, peas, bell peppers, onions, etc.) and tempeh/fish/chicken in olive oil & a little soy sauce (wheat free) served over quinoa or brown rice
  • Coconut milk curry (unsweetened) with vegetables and brown rice/quinoa
  • Corn tortillas (lightly heated, organic) served with black beans, fresh salsa, lettuce, avocado
  • Nori rolls with brown rice, cucumber, carrot, avocado, bell peppers, etc., served with ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce (wheat free) & miso soup
  • Salad/fresh rolls with rice paper wraps, lettuce, carrots, beets, etc.
  • Cucumber, tomato, onion salad tossed with flax oil, lemon juice, and kalamata olives
  • Home-made nut burger/nut loaf grilled and served with a slice or tomato and avocado on top

Digestion is so critically important to how to we break down and assimilate nutrients. There are a variety of things that can happen to disrupt digestive balance, including stress, inflammatory or allergenic foods, toxins we knowingly or unknowingly ingest, acidic foods or drinks, and much more. There are many herbs that can help offset digestive symptoms that arise, as well to help heal damaged tissue, reduce inflammation, increase production or release of important digestive compounds (such as digestive enzymes and bile), help feed the beneficial flora, and reduce pathogens (such as excess yeast growth and parasites).
Herbs such as Slippery elm bark and Marshmallow root are useful for coating and soothing the digestive tract starting with the throat and esophagus, the lining of the stomach, and on into the intestinal tract.  Therefore, they are useful for acid reflux and any kind of gastritis. They both absorb excess fluid, and provide a mucilaginous moistening property as well, so therefore can be useful for chronic diarrhea and for constipation.  They are also both useful for cooling and healing the mucosal lining after food poisoning, food allergies, or other inflamed digestive issues.
Other herbs are what herbalists call “carminatives,” helping to relax the nerves of the digestive tract, act as local antispasmodics for intestinal muscle spasms and pain, and help relieve gas and bloating. Herbs like Fennel seed and Peppermint are two of the most commonly known in this category.  Catnip as a tea or tincture is another good herb to use, but most people will be surprised by this one! Catnip also is helpful if the indigestion is stress-related, as it helps relax the nervous system as well. These herbs are also great for consuming post-meals to promote better digestion.
Herbal anti-inflammatories for the digestive tract include YarrowMeadowsweet, and Ginger. These herbs can be employed when there is known inflammation and for generally supporting the health of the digestive tract when there is inherent weakness present and food intolerance or sensitivities. Meadowsweet is also beneficial for acid reflux and inflammation of the stomach lining in general.
In addition, a category called herbal “bitters” includes herbs that contain principles that taste bitter on the tongue and, as a result, stimulate the Vagus Nerve which in part activates digestive function including the release of gastric fluids, bile, enzymatic release by the pancreas, and generally stimulates movement of the digestive tract.  Taken 10-15 minutes before eating, these herbs, such as Gentian rootArtichoke leaf, Wormwood, and Oregon grape root, can overall improve digestive function and therefore the assimilation of food, especially when taken on a consistent basis.  These herbs can also be used when you have occasional digestive stagnation, such as a feeling that food is not moving well out of the stomach. These herbs are also useful for stimulating bile production and flow from the liver and bile release from the gallbladder, therefore helping with fat digestion and assimilation. Interestingly, these are the herbs to be employed also if someone no longer has a gallbladder, as they can help stimulate the liver to produce more bile, now that its holding vessel (the gallbladder) is no longer there to store bile.
Finally, there are herbs that contains antibacterial, anti yeast/fungal, and anti-parasitic compounds, helping to prevent and treat these infections. These herbs include Goldenseal rootYarrowBlack Walnut hulls, and Wormwood, to name a few. Wormwood, as its name implies, is very specific for intestinal worms, but can help with dispelling other parasites as well. Black walnut hulls are a broad-spectrum anti-parasitic herb, as well as helping reduce yeast and fungus. Goldenseal and Yarrow are more specific for fungus and bacteria imbalance. Oregano leaf extract and the essential oil diluted in oil in capsule can also be very effective against a wide range of intestinal pathogens.

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.