Marshmallow – a plant that grows well in wet, marshy areas and is native to salt marshes along the ocean in Europe and western Asia, its Latin name is Althea officinalis and it is a member of the Malvaceae (Mallow) family.  The leaf and root are both used medicinally.  It is highly likely that the name of the store-bought marshmallows you are familiar with was derived from this plant.  The root is high in mucilaginous carbohydrates that can be soaked, whipped into a froth, and then sweetened – probably the origin of the marshmallow as we know it today.

Primary properties: demulcent, emollient, diuretic, anti-inflammatory

Based on the above primary properties of marshmallow, this plant can be used in to soothe and cool inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, including a sore throat, acid reflux, and in cases of gastritis or colitis in the stomach or intestines.  Both the root and leaf can be used for this purpose, although the root is more mucilaginous (slippery, mucus-forming) than the leaf.  The root and leaf both stimulate a reflex action whereby the lungs and urinary tract can also be soothed and cooled.  Therefore, marshmallow is useful in cases of dry coughs and to help soothe the burning pain of urinary tract infections.  Topically, the root or leaf can both act as an emollient, moisturizing and protecting the skin, as well as soothing and cooling a dry, hot skin condition such as a rash or burn.

The root can be taken in powder form, in which case you are consuming the whole root, by shaking in water or juice and swallowing, or by taking as a capsule.  Shaken in water, it will also soothe the throat and esophagus as it makes its way down. The root and leaf can also both be used in a tea.  A “cold infusion” will get more of the cooling mucilage/carbohydrate in the tea, so you can soak the root or leaf in cold water for several hours to overnight and drink the fluid.  Tincture is the least-preferred method for using this plant because you will not get as much of the soothing and coating properties, although as a diuretic and anti-inflammatory the tincture is still useful.

One of my absolute favorite herbs, this flavorful berry has been a lifesaver for me personally, as it excellent for the adrenal glands and the stress response, helping to increase resiliency and stabilizing energy levels. As an herbal “adaptogen,” schisandra berry is in a category dominated mostly by the roots of plants, such as ginseng, rhodiola, and ashwagandha. It is a berry that possesses all five flavors – sour, sweet, salty, pungent, and bitter. I like to describe biting into one of the dried berries as a “party in your mouth.” I often encourage people to try it in my classes, as it’s interesting to see who wants to spit it out immediately, who finds it complex and interesting but scrunch up their faces anyway, and who actually really likes the taste! In Chinese medicine, there is a lot of significance to the flavor/taste profile of an herb. Because schisandra berry has all the tastes, it is considered beneficial to the five yin organs: the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, and spleen, as well as activating all the meridians.

Schisandra is used as a balancing adaptogen, helping the body adapt better to stress via its effect on the HPA axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal axis). Taken morning and evening, this herb can help balance the daytime flow of energy in the body, helping to increase energy through the day and helping to calm down the body for restful sleep at night. If this rhythm is out of whack, then this herb can be your ally when taken morning and evening consistently for 2-3 months. If you’re a fan of the dried berries, a small palmful (about 1 tsp) of the berries can be chewed. But, for those of us who are not so tough, I recommend the tincture (alcohol extract) or the glycerite (vegetable glycerin extract) which is my personal favorite. I can take this directly in my mouth or in some water and enjoy the sweet-sour flavor. We have also made tea formulations with the dried berry, but it is really best when crushed and simmered to extract the most medicine, so can be blended with herbs like ginger, licorice, and/or cinnamon to improve the sour-bitter flavor.

Schisandra berries are also hepatoprotective, showing protective effects on liver cells and even regenerative benefits as an effective antioxidant. This is partially due to constituents of schisandra extracts stimulating liver cells to make the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, helping deactivate several kinds of free radicals. This and other actions make this herbal medicine beneficial for protecting the liver in cases of chemical exposure, drug/pharmaceutical use, and certain infections that can harm the liver, as well as helping to restore healthy liver function after damage. Since we live in a world where we have much for our liver’s to process and contend with, this herb can be so beneficial.

Schisandra has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-asthmatic effects also, helping with lung health and asthma that includes wheezing and a wet cough. It is also a useful remedy for balancing the nervous system, helping with stress-induced heart palpitations, anxiety, and insomnia, while also helping with alertness and mental focus/performance. It is also one of the herbs used to address attention deficit disorders, especially when combined with other nervine stimulants, like bacopa and rhodiola.

As an endocrine-balancing herb, with some drying effects, it is useful for decreasing hot flashes, night sweats, and heart palpitations in menopausal women. It is also thought to regulate ovarian and testicular function based on animal studies, so may be helpful for fertility for both males and females. Schisandra is also used to nourish and balance the thyroid gland, so can be useful for someone with a low-functioning thyroid and/or experiencing symptoms such as low energy and hair loss.

Schisandra berry is also an immune amphoteric, meaning it can help regulate the immune response, whether immune depletion (low-functioning immune system, cancer) or hyperactive immune response (such as allergies or allergic asthma).

In summary, this herb has a broad spectrum of actions that are incredibly beneficial for the human body, and is a classic example of an adaptogenic herb. In general, you want to use this herb over a period of time to achieve beneficial results, especially for chronic conditions and stress states. Cycling off of it every 3-6 months for a couple of months is a good idea also simply because the body may stop responding as well over time, but it can be used safely long-term.

Cardamom – this herb is possibly a familiar flavor, due to its use as a spice in Indian chai as well as pastries, particularly from Sweden where this herb is used a lot.  This herb grows well in tropical regions, and it is grown most intensively in southern Indian and Guatamala.  A member of the Zingiberacea family that turmeric and ginger both also belong to, its Latin name is Elettaria cardamomum and the part that is used is the seed, either in the pod or removed from the pod.  This herb is a warming digestive aid with aromatic properties.

Primary properties: carminative, expectorant, lung tonic, circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, antimicrobial (particularly the essential oil).

Cardamom is indicated for the digestive, respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems.  For the digestive tract, this herb can help promote healthy digestion, help ease the discomfort of indigestion, and help dispel gas and bloating.  It is also useful if someone has a cool/damp digestive tract and excess mucus for its warming, drying effects.  If you don’t do well digesting raw vegetables or cold foods, chances are you have a cool/damp digestive system that thrives better on warm, soft foods.

For the lungs, cardamom can be useful for helping to relax coughs, to thin mucus, and for bronchitis for its drying, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory effects.  The essential oils has antimicrobial effects and is a strong antispasmodic.  It is also useful as a diaphoretic to help break fevers/chills during a cold/flu.As an aphrodisiac, it may be because of its warming, circulatory stimulating effects, and the euphoric effect some people (including myself) get just by inhaling its aromatic scent.

Recipe idea: poach or back a pear, sliced in half and cored, with cardamom seeds stuck in the pear skin throughout.  Pears are a lung tonic, and can help soothe a cough and break up mucus in the lungs, so paired with cardamom, they enhance each other’s actions.  Or just eat this for dessert – yummy!

We sell cardamom in the seed and powder forms in bulk.  We use it in our Herbal Chai Immuni-Tea, Feelin’ the Love Tea, and Holiday Joy Tea, as well as our Turmeric Golden Milk powder blend. 

Cardamom plant

Cardamom plant

Cinnamon is a very familiar spice/herb to most people.  Often, I find that people are surprised to see it in cut bark form for use in a tea, however, as it is most familiar in powder form.  It has a long history of medicinal use and was shipped from the Spice Islands to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India, and China in earlier times as part of the spice trade.  The inner bark of the Cinnamomum spp. is used and is transported in rolls.

A sweet, spicy, warming herb, I often use the bark in tea blends for its flavor and also because of its beneficial effect on inflammation and blood sugar.  It increases insulin sensitivity of cells and can help decrease blood sugar spikes after a meal.

It is also a drying herb, so it can help decrease diarrhea and the associated fluid loss, as well as helping to slow or stop bleeding, and to help lessen mucus congestion of the lungs and sinuses.  A tincture (liquid extract) can be used to slow or stop postpartum hemorrhage, dosed frequently.  It can also help with sluggish or weak digestion, especially when the gastrointestinal tract tends to be more “cold and damp”.  One way to tell if someone has more of a “cold” digestive system is if they have a harder time digesting cold foods, such as raw vegetables versus cooked and warmed vegetables.

For these effects, Cinnamon can be taken in tea, tincture, capsule, or powder form, with dosing information ranging from 1 tsp in tea, to a 1/2-1 tsp powder, and 15-30 drops tincture.

The tincture and essential oil of Cinnamon are both very antimicrobial and antiparasitic. Cinnamon essential oil is only for external use in an essential oil diffuser or diluted a lot in an oil carrier for topical use, as it can cause damage to the skin and mucus membranes when used straight (neet), in a bath, or ingested. The tincture is safer for internal use, and is often best as a small part of a blend.

Cinnamon bark is in quite a few of our herbal preparations, including our Blood Sugar Balance Tea, Herbal Chai Immuni-Tea, Holiday Joy Tea, Tummy Tea, Sinus Support Drops, Blood Sugar Balance Drops, and our Stress Drops.

Astragalus root

A medicinal plant whose use comes to us from Chinese medicine, its Latin name is Astragalus membranaceus and it is a member of the Fabaceae family, also known as the legume/pea family.  The root is the part that is used, and it is considered a quintessential immune tonic or immune modulator.  This means it can help with immune system weakness, when someone regularly gets sick with viral or bacterial infections or takes a long time to recover, or immune hyperactivity, when someone has an autoimmune illness such as rheumatoid arthritis.  In Chinese medicine, it is considered a tonic herb that can increase vitality and longevity.
Its primary actions that have been borne out in traditional use, clinical practice, and/or laboratory research are that astragalus is: immune modulating, adaptogenic, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, cardiotonic, diuretic, hypotensive, antioxidant, hepatoprotective, cancer preventive, tissue regenerative, and protective against drops in white blood cell count during chemotherapy or radiation.

Based on the above actions, this herb is used in cases of immune weakness due to chronic stress, because it has a protective effect on the adrenal glands, heart, liver, and kidneys and can help decrease chances of immune weakness when under stress.  It can act as a prophylactic against the common cold, upper respiratory tract infections, and other viral infections.  It is also potentially protective against a compromised immune system during cancer treatment, and because of its antitumor, heart & liver protective effects, and its antioxidant properties, astragalus is often useful for someone diagnosed with or at risk for cancer, improving chances for recovery and longevity.  Astragalus may also be useful as a hypotensive, because of its heart tonic and diuretic actions.

Astragalus is used medicinally in a decoction, meaning that the root is cooked/simmered in water or broth for a certain length of time, usually a minimum of 20 minutes; as a tincture, or powdered in capsules.  Traditionally, the root slices were added to soups/stews in fall and winter and cooked in the broth, then removed and the soup and broth consumed.  This is a great way to get the health benefits of astragalus root into your diet.  At Herban Wellness, I sell astragalus root in small cut-root form for decoctions/teas and the root slices (they look like tongue depressors) for decocting or adding to soups/stews.  I also sell the powder that can be added to food.  Generally speaking, you need to consume this herb regularly for several weeks to help strengthen a weak or debilitated immune system.  The general dose for prevention is 1 Tbsp of herb/16 oz or so of water, simmer for 20-30 minutes, strain, and drink in a day.  Add 3-4 root slices to a pot of soup, beans, or rice, and pull out of the food before consuming. For healing and more acute situations, double or triple the dose, taking 3 Tbsp per day, simmered in 24 ounces of water.

Because this herb seems to strengthen and tonify the immune system over time, it is generally not taken or recommended for acute infections.  It is mostly used for chronic immune and adrenal weakness and to strengthen and protect organ systems over time.

An effective way to prepare herbs for topical use is to infuse herbs in oil so that the properties of the plant can be extracted into the oil.  Basically this means covering fresh or dried herbs with oil and allowing them to sit in the oil for a length of time and then pressing out the plant material.  The oil then can be used directly on the skin, or used in a lotion or salve.
Below are a couple of different methods for making an infused oils.  Some common plants used to make these oils are calendula, comfrey, plantain, St. John’s wort, cottonwood (poplar) buds, arnica, rosemary, chamomile, and lavender.

Although I am focusing in this article on herbs for topical use, you can use this same recipe to infuse herbs in oil for cooking with, such as rosemary, basil, garlic, and lavender.

Stovetop (Quick) Method:
Use a double boiler or a metal bowl sitting over a pot of water or a heat-tolerant measuring cup partially submerged in water in a pot.
Cover herb of choice with just enough oil to cover and bring the water beneath the container to a hot temperature, below a simmer.  Heat the oil for 60 minutes or more, stirring often and not allowing the oil to bubble/boil.

Slow Macerating Method:

Add ~ 1 – 2 ounces (30 – 60 grams) of dry herb (ideally ground or chopped into smaller pieces) in each cup of fixed/carrier oil in an uncovered container or in a crockpot/slower cooker at its lowest setting, a dehydrator, a yogurt-maker, etc. finding a temperature of 115-120 degrees.  You can also try placing in the oven on the “warm” setting – very low heat.  You may need to leave the door of the oven open.  Using a cooking thermometer, check that the oil heats to between 115-120 degrees (F).  Allow to macerate for at least 3 hours and up to 14 days at this low heat, checking the temperature and stirring frequently.  For fresh herbs, the heating method works great to evaporate off the water and discourage spoiling. 

You can also macerate the herbs in oil in the Sun.  For fresh herbs, you must allow for evaporation of water, so cover with a screen or cheesecloth in a jar in the sun.

In order to use and store the oils, carefully press out the plant material and preserve the oil.  Allow to sit and separate from any water that may still be in it and pour the oil off into a bottle, being careful to allow no water into the bottle.  Store away from heat and light.

Calendula flowers infusing in Apricot Kernel Oil

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.
    • Our Tummy Drops I personally don’t like to leave home without! Any digestive upset or feeling overly full after eating is typically relieved with this blend of Peppermint, Wild Yam, and Fennel.
  • 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 tincture 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!

Nervines are a category of herbs that act on the nervous system, helping to soothe, restore, and sedate the Central Nervous System (CNS) or the nerves of the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS).  Herbs in this category exist on a continuum, from herbs that calm but don’t affect alertness (good for those who feel “stressed” and tense, and who may experience symptoms of anxiety during the day) to those that sedate and promote sleep (good for those with insomnia, trouble falling or staying asleep, a busy mind and tense body when laying in bed).  Many herbs can do both. When taken in small amounts, these help relax and calm anxiety (valerian is a good example) but when taken in larger amounts, they make you sleepy and very relaxed.
Some nervines include: Lemon balm, Oat pods, Chamomile, Passionflower, California poppy, Valerian, Hops, St. John’s wort, Linden flowers, Skullcap, and Kava root.
Many others abound, since herbs do seem to have a particular affinity for the human nervous system.  Since many people suffer from issues such as insomnia, anxiety, muscle tension, and stress (an all-encompassing word), these herbs can come in very handy.  For other nerve-related issues such as tingling or numbess of the skin, damaged nerves from car accidents or other tissue trauma, and digestive irritability, nervine herbs can also help restore nerve tissue, reduce nerve tingling, pain, or itching, and calm and soothe stomach or head aches.
Nervines most commonly used for their sedative and sleep-promoting properties: Valerian, Wild lettuce, Jamaican dogwood, Hops, and Nutmeg (fresh grated). 
Antispasmodic herbs for muscle tension, cramping, and overall pain during the day or night may benefit from Wild lettuce, Jamaican dogwood, Crampbark, Skullcap, Betony (aka Wood betony), and Kava root, and dosing is individualized.
Antidepressants (mood stabilizing and elevating) herbs include: St. John’s wort, Damiana, Holy basil, Rhodiola, Ginseng, Vervain, Mimosa, and Lemon balm (mild). Many of these are also useful for nerve healing and nerve pain. 
Sleep can be a challenging activity to pin down for some people, as critical as it is for so many functions in the body. The reason for this is that many systems in the body, when out of balance, can cause sleep disturbance. The endocrine system is particularly important, and when hormonal changes such as menopause occur, this can interfere with sleep. Adrenal health can also play a big role, as the constant state of fight or flight many people operate from, can make it hard to calm down and find a relaxed state when sleep is in order. If cortisol levels get thrown off, this can also impact sleep. In addition, melatonin levels can be affected by light exposure into the evening hours, especially now that so many people are looking at their computer or phone screens right up until sleep time. Blood sugar imbalance can also affect sleep, so what you eat at night and when you eat, can also affect sleep quality. Liver health can also be a contributor, as the liver does a lot of its “dumping” at night and if it’s not functioning properly because of numerous factors, this can lead to sleep disturbance. As you can see, there is a lot of troubleshooting and balancing needed in order to support healthful, restful sleep for some people,
Adaptogens help with adrenal health and regulating the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis (HPA Axis) and help with long term stress support: Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng), Schisandra, American Ginseng, Holy Basil, Ashwaganda, Devil’s club, Rhodiola. Most of these should not be taken at bedtime, with the exception of Ashwaganda and possibly Holy basil, but should be taken in the morning and early afternoon. 
Some of our products to support sleep and relaxation: 
Get Sleepy Tea is formulated to help relax the body and tense muscles, calm the mind, and promote sleepiness and the body’s ability to drop into deep, restorative sleep.  A tea can be a relaxing ritual to get into before bedtime, comforting and warm. This is best for trouble falling asleep and calming a busy mind at night.
Contains: Lemon balm, Skullcap, Chamomile, Orange peel, California poppy, Passionflower, and Valerian.
Sleep Well Drops is a tincture blend (extract in alcohol and water) of Passionflower, Hops, Valerian, and Skullcap.  These herbs in particular can help you get a more consistent, restful sleep.  A tincture can be ideal for those to whom tea doesn’t appeal, or who do not wish to consume a cup of fluids before bed, which can interfere with sleep.
Chill Out Tea is a relaxing blend of herbs formulated for daytime or evening use because they don’t necessarily make you tired or reduce mental alertness.  This blend is great for anxiety, stress, tension, and to help the body relax and reduce muscle pain and spasm.  It also contains herbs that help restore and soothe the nervous system and can help reduce mental chatter and an overactive mind. Some customers drink it for a similar feeling to having a glass of wine to relax in the evening.
Contains:  Lemon balm, Oat pods, Kava root, Lemon verbena, Linden, Skullcap, and Rose petals.
Sleep Thru is a capsule blend made by Gaia Herbs that helps lower cortisol production at night, while supporting overall adrenal health, and calming the nervous system. This should be taken for at least a month, an hour before bed every night.
Contains: Ashwaganda, Magnolia bark, Passionflower, and Jujube date.
As you know, we can customize herbal formulations in tea, tincture, and powder form. There are also options in the essential oil realm, using the benefits of aromatherapy for your nervous system, endocrine system, and grounding.
In summary, herbal nervines are very effect for falling asleep. With issues of staying asleep, it could also be an adrenal imbalance (cortisol spike) – think of Ashwaganda at night, or other adaptogens during the day to regulate;  liver stagnation – think of artichoke leaf, dandelion root, milk thistle morning and night for a month; blood sugar balance (eat protein and vegetables with evening meal; inadequate nutrients (especially minerals such as Magnesium, B- vitamins, and Calcium). 
Here’s to restful, restorative sleep!

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.