The Kidneys – We have two of these important organs, sitting up just under the rib cage in the back. They filter the blood, inorganic salts, and toxic waste products of metabolism, maintain mineral and pH balance in the blood, and help control blood pressure by regulating the volume of water in the blood. They also release hormones to control blood pressure and control the production of red blood cells. Thus, these organs play an important role in detoxification of the body among other things. In addition, the important stress-response glands, our Adrenal Glands, sit atop the kidneys.

The Urinary Tract – this system consists of the kidneys, ureters (tubes that travel to the bladder), the bladder, and the urethra (tube that moves urine out of the bladder).

Tonic Herbs for this system, include herbs that over time support the health of the urinary tract, reducing inflammation, soothing, and even helping with regeneration of cells and healing tissue. Herbs such as Nettle (leaf and seed), Pellitory-of-the-Wall, Astragalus root, Milk thistle seed, Dan Shen (Red Sage or Salvia miltiorrhiza), Goldenrod, and Couchgrass are tonic, restorative herbs for the kidneys specifically, and the urinary tract generally.

Soothing herbs such as Corn silk, Couch grass, and Marshmallow root, can be used when there is any sort of irritation of the urinary system, and to help reduce inflammation in the case of urinary stones, infection, or chemical damage (certain pharmaceutical medications or heavy metals, for example). These herbs contain compounds that get excreted via the urinary tract, soothing and healing while passing through.

Herbs to help with water retention and flow through the kidneys and urinary system are known as diuretics. One of the strongest is Dandelion leaf, which is also naturally high in potassium, so can offset excess loss of potassium as some pharmaceutical diuretics can promote. Others include Goldenrod, Hibiscus, Cleavers, Buchu, Parsley leaf and root, Celery seed, and Uva ursi. These herbs can help with lowering pressure in the blood vessels so are often included in formulas for high blood pressure.

Other herbs can help treat and prevent kidney stones, such as Hydrangea root, Gravel root, and Chanca piedra (Phyllanthus spp.). The first step in preventing kidney stones is drinking enough water preventing dehydration, particularly in hot weather where there is increased sweating. The vast majority of kidney stones contain calcium – calcium oxalate and calcium phosphate, while sometimes uric acid stones can form. For calcium-based stones, people should avoid oxalate-rich foods such as spinach, rhubarb, beets, and chocolate. Magnesium can help keep calcium soluble in the urine so it doesn’t react with oxalic acids and form stones, so taking a Magnesium supplement can be helpful. For uric acid-based stones, alkalinizing water and foods such as green vegetables need to be increased and animal protein should be minimized since protein tends to increase levels of uric acid.

There are also some effective herbs to prevent infection by preventing bacteria from adhering to the mucosal lining, such as the well-known cranberry, uva ursi leaves (in the same family), and buchu. Other herbs are effective at inhibiting bacteria and fungus and can take care of an infection if caught early on. These herbs contains compounds that are highly antimicrobial that excrete through the urinary tract. Juniper berry is one of the best in this regard, as it is also diuretic and anti-inflammatory. Buchu, uva ursi, Echinacea, and Goldenseal are others that have antimicrobial properties specific to the urinary tract and support the immune system.

The Emotion: Fear & Element: Water associated with the kidneys and bladder from the Five Element Theory in Traditional Chinese Medicine. “The Kidney is the repository of energy for the body, supplying needed Qi to all the organs when necessary. Getting enough rest is essential for helping to maintain Kidney energy balance. The Five Element emotion associated with the Kidney is fear. Fear is a deep-seated emotion, central (realized or not) to much of existence as it is dictated through thought and action. Fear, when welcomed and addressed with discernment, can become a strength in the affairs of your daily life. Be aware. Be calm. Rest.” (from the Arizona School or Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, ASAOM).

The Adrenal Glands and the Kidneys – How you care for yourself, and manage stress and fear, have an impact on both the kidneys (nourishment, water, rest) and your adrenal glands (the stress response, fight or flight). Some herbs and mushrooms support both, and the HPA Axis (Hypothalamus-Pituitary Gland-Adrenal Gland Axis), such as Astragalus root and Cordyceps mushroom. Other adaptogens (herbs that support the HPA Axis and adrenal glands) can be combined with kidney tonic herbs for helping the body respond differently to life and fear, including Codonopsis, American ginseng, and Eleuthero.

It’s that time of year, when the flowers are opening all around us, spring greens sprout up in our woods and gardens, the weather gets more mild, and for some, the allergy symptoms begin, or come on full force. Fortunately there are some great tools in the natural world for helping alleviate these uncomfortable symptoms so you can enjoy springtime more. Below, you’ll find my recipe for a ginger-nettle-lemon spring tonic that can be made hot, or cold with sparkling water.

Ginger tea or fresh juice – approximately 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger (or 1 heaping tsp dry) or approximately 1 Tbsp of fresh juice.
Lemon juice, preferably freshly-squeezed – approximately 1/2 lemon or more to taste.

Raw local honey – approx 1-2 tsp to taste
Nettle Glycerite – 2 dropperfuls (approximately 50 drops)
Oregon grape Glycerite – 1 dropperful (approximately 25 drops)

If making tea, gently simmer fresh or dry ginger root in 2 cups of water with lid on for 10 mins, then strain. Add honey, lemon juice, and herbal glycerites to a mug of the ginger tea and drink warm. Or, the tea can be cooled to room temperature and other ingredients added. A large batch can be made and stored in the refrigerator for daily consumption also.

If using ginger juice, you can add all ingredients to 8-12 oz of hot or sparkling water and mix well.

Drink 2-3 cups daily to help stave off allergy symptoms.

Helpful benefits of these ingredients:

Ginger root – anti-inflammatory and supportive for the immune system as the oils in the root contain some antimicrobial benefits. Also a wonderful digestive system support herb.

Raw local honey – high in minerals and some flower pollens that can help the body not be so reactive to pollen that is inhaled.

Lemon juice – high in vitamin C, flavonoids, and supports gentle liver detoxifcation.

Nettle leaf – alkaline, high in minerals, and has antihistamine properties that can help prevent and ease allergy symptoms.

Oregon grape root – bitter digestive aid, containing berberine that can help reduce inflammation and swelling in the sinuses and mucosal membranes.

Liquid extracts, often called “tinctures,” are a convenient and effective way to take herbal remedies.

Alcohol is the most oft-used medium to extract, as it is effective in various percentages in pulling out a variety of water-soluble and fat-soluble constituents from the plant, as well as being a powerful preservative. However, there are instances where alcohol is not desirable, either because of its pungent taste or not being appropriate for a certain population. For that, we do have the option for some herbs to be consumed as a “glycerite,” a vegetable-glycerine extracted tincture.

Vegetable glycerine is the clear, sweet, viscous liquid that is a bi-product of the soap-making industry, and due to its chemical make-up does extract an array of water-soluble constituents, and some fat-soluble constituents as well. Because of their sweet taste, these glycerites can be administered straight to pets by squeezing into their mouth, or given to children either straight or in a bit of liquid. It is often a way to add sweetness to an herbal blend, and some herbs taste quite delicious as a glycerite.

For example, in the pictures above, the pink liquid is Rose Glycerite, and it captures the floral nature of rose petals perfectly. Mixed in blends to add a floral note, or for supporting the emotional heart in times of grief or sadness, this glycerite is a favorite of our herbalists here at Herban Wellness. The bottle with the dark red liquid contains Schisandra Glycerite, which is one of my absolute favorite herbs in this form. Schisandra berry is called the “five flavor fruit” because of its complex flavor profile of sour, pungent, bitter, salty, and sweet, and it has an adaptogenic effect on the adrenal glands and the stress response, making it a valuable ally for stress relief, recovery, and for energy levels. The sweetness of the vegetable glycerine makes this berry much more palatable, and downright tasty, even when consumed by itself directly in the mouth.

Other herbs pictured in their glycerite form above are Lemon balm, which makes a sweet, slightly lemony, slightly herbaceous liquid for calming the nervous system and is often used in formulas for children to help calm or relax. Nettle Glycerite is a green, herbaceous extract that can help soothe allergy symptoms due to its anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effects. So this glycerite is nice added to tea, juice, a tonic, or smoothie for its effects. Ginger Glycerite is the golden-yellow liquid above, and is delicious added to sparkling water or lemon water while on the go for its anti-nausea, stomach calming, and anti-inflammatory properties.

We have created a couple glycerite blends that are entirely alcohol-free for children, that can also be used by adults that don’t want to take alcohol. We can also customize fully alcohol-free blends, even though our selection of glycerites is lower than that of alcohol-tinctures. The reason for this is that many plants do not extract as well in vegetable glycerine. However, we can work with you to find what will work best if it is your desire to avoid alcohol entirely. We also regularly create herbal blends for a specific reason using a combination of glycerites and tinctures, for flavor and potency.

Abby the Shop Dog at Herban Wellness

Many of you know my dog Abby or have seen her when you’ve come into Herban Wellness. I have taken her to a holistic/natural veterinarian since day one, because I apply the same principles to my animal companion as I do to myself. Start with the foundations: healthy diet, exercise, minimal exposure to toxins. Then I move to support from nutritional and herbal additions when needed. Finally, I only use pharmaceutical or surgical interventions when absolutely necessary.

I have incorporated herbal remedies into Abby’s routine as needed for flea treatment and prevention, for minerals and skin health, for calming her (or attempting to) when she’s anxious during a storm or fireworks, and in the last few years, anti-inflammatory and joint support as she gets up in years. I have also helped other dog and cat parents (and horse caregivers also!) find appropriate herbal remedies for supporting organs such as the liver, kidneys, and adrenal glands. Herbs can help greatly with seasonal and skin allergies, skin inflammation and irritations, and other chronic issues you may find your pet facing.

Now, I often do say how I am more comfortable in using herbs with dogs because they have less sensitive systems overall than cats, and also they are easier in general to administer natural remedies to. I have no qualms forcing a couple of milliliters of herbal tincture/glycerite into Abby’s mouth for acute situation, like when she somehow contracted kennel cough one winter. She was completely healthy in one week, which even her holistic vet was quite impressed with. I gave her lung, cough, and immune herbs that I would use for humans, and I got them in her several times a day. I also can easily disguise herbal and nutritional powders and tinctures in her food.

When choosing herbs for dogs, cats, and horses, I always check my herbal pet resources to make sure the herbs I’m considering can be safely used. My favorite quick-reference guides are by a holistic veterinarian who practiced for decades and wrote two books: Herbal Cat Care and Herbal Dog Care, respectively, by Dr. Randy Kidd, and The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care by CJ Puotinen. These generally give guidance on dosing as well, since that’s important and is generally determined by the weight of the animal when it comes to dogs and cats. Liquid extracts are easy to dose by the drop, where powders can be added by the part of a teaspoon. Some people also make herbal teas and mix them with the food.

Some of my favorite herbs for pets:

Turmeric – yep, a good anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant, just like for humans. Quantity ranges from 1/8 – 1 tsp per day for the powder and 10-30 drops for the tincture.

Kelp – mineral-rich and nutritive, this sea plant is beneficial for skin and fur health, and is generally added to food anywhere from 1/8 – ½ tsp of powder.

Alfalfa – high in minerals and chlorophyll, this herb is also used for reducing overall inflammation in dogs and cats, 1/8 – 1 tsp/day of powder.

Nettle leaf – high in minerals and chlorophyll and supportive to kidney and urinary tract health, ¼-1 tsp/day or 5-30 drops for the tincture or glycerite.

Chamomile – calming and soothing to the nervous system, while anti-inflammatory to the GI. Give 5-30 drops of the tincture or glycerite. Or ¼-1/2 cup chamomile tea.

Burdock root – helps gently detoxify the system and is particularly useful for skin issues and for healthy digestive and liver function. 1/8 – 1/2 tsp of the powder or 5-30 drops of the tincture.

Neem leaf – excellent for the health of the skin, as well as being an antifungal and antibacterial, and a flea preventive internally as well as topically. 1/8 – 1/2 tsp of the powder twice/day.

Sustainable. Sustainability. These words have become synonymous with a descriptor for someone (a person) or something (a business) that is actively striving to be sensitive to the needs of the environment, although the word is clearly used in other contexts as well. Dictionary.com defines the word as an adjective in its secondary definition as: “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.” Sustainability, as an adverb, is defined the same.

Personally, the concept of environmental stewardship and striving to incorporate environmentally sustainable practices into my life and business is an important value and action in my life. Professionally, as an Herbalist and someone who uses herbal medicine and healthful food to support my body’s health, sustainable farming practices and sustainable harvesting of wild plants, is of critical importance. In fact, I was originally drawn to herbal medicine, because of my deep love and respect for this planet Earth and her wondrous and abundant plant life and landscapes. Much of this has arisen from the feeling I get when I am immersed in nature, and how much joy and calm I experience when in nature, whether it be a city park, sitting in my yard, or deep in the wilderness where not a human-made sound can be heard. Inherently, by consuming plants for their healing properties, we are connecting to the Earth herself.

Many people do not consider how trends and popularity of certain herbs and plants can dramatically effect the harvesting of them in the wild, potentially wiping out native populations, or dramatically reducing their numbers. Examples include Echinacea, which is a prairie plant and whose population has been dramatically reduced in the wild. Goldenseal root is a major one, because it is more difficult to grow in cultivation, and its price as a result is quite high. Many herbs are also not grown in an environmentally aware manner, and just like food crops, can be grown in poor or contaminated soils, watered with contaminated water (heavy metals and the like), and grown using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. These practices are not sustainable, because the soil and chemicals can be drawn up into the plant and taken up by the consumer’s body, not to mention further adding to the chemical load in ground water and streams.

As a result of my commitment to sustainability in my own life and in my business, I choose to only purchase “organically-grown” or “sustainably wild-harvested” dried whole and powdered herbs, tinctured herbs, essential oils, hydrosols, and carrier oils from my vendors. It goes beyond that, of course, because quality of the plant material matters significantly as well, but that is for another article. I am working on buying more of my herbs from growers/farmers I personally know and can see for myself the practices they are using, and of course, I see the quality of the dried herb material that I receive.

In other vendor practices, I choose to purchase from suppliers that are local (less shipping) as much as I can, use sustainable and/or organic growing or sourcing practices themselves, and I have brought in products that promote re-use and can replace disposable products, like sustainably-grown bamboo utensils, stainless steel tea ware (to promote loose-leaf instead of tea bags and boxes which are just that much extra packaging), glass smoothie jars, to-go tea mugs, and bamboo essential oil wipes that are not individually wrapped.

In addition, I also package our tea blends in cellophane bags made from plant cellulose rather than plastic, and tie them with raffia ribbon, both of which will break down when composted in a city compost and will eventually break down (hopefully) in a landfill. We offer paper bags for packaging up your bulk herbs, and are happy to fill your own glass or metal containers that you bring in with you. I choose to use natural cleaners in my shop and home, those that will not negatively impact my health or my dog’s (many of you know Abby!), my staff, and of course my customers when they breathe the air. These products are safe to rinse down the drain and also do not do harm when inhaled, or when absorbed through Abby’s paws or human bare feet at home. I also purchase paper products that are made from post-consumer recycled paper (including our printing paper, paper towels, and even toilet paper). I use long-lasted LED light bulbs at Herban Wellness to reduce power use, and recycle these light bulbs and any batteries we use. We almost exclusively re-use packaging for our own direct shipments to customers, pass on our packing peanuts to other shipping businesses so they get used at least once more, and most of our vendors use the corn-derived packing peanuts that will dissolve when exposed to water. We also collect any used and clean plastic bags, plastic packing bubble mailers, and styrofoam packaging we receive and take it every other month to a special recycling event in Kirkland (“Styrofest”).

I am always looking for more ways to contribute less to waste, especially of plastic. Recently, I saw Office Depot was offering Scotch tape rolls that were made partially from post-consumer plastic. Hey, that’s a small step, but appreciated! We also use any scrap paper exclusively to take notes, outside of our own personal notebooks for formulas or communication between staff members, instead of sticky notes or other “new” paper products. And of course, we separate and clean our recycling, and I also personally take buckets of composted food and tea waste home to put in my Yard Waste bin. I have requested a compost bin at my commercial building, and the city of Kirkland complied for free, but people kept putting trash in it, so it ended up not working well.

Hopefully this list will help you better understand how we strive to be environmentally sustainable in our practices at Herban Wellness. I am always striving to do more! If you have any suggestions, please do let me know and if it is feasible, I would love to uplevel our practices. I also hope that perhaps you will be inspired by this list of our practices, that occur behind the scene, but are a small part of the way we contribute to a healthier planet, that at this point, needs every little bit it can get.

Looking up at Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir trees.

I’m sure we’ve all felt the power of trees. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are surrounded by an abundance of them. Sometimes we are in awe of their sheer size and height, other times it’s the sound of the wind through their leaves or needles, or the scent of their resins or aromatic terpenes released from their needles, the grounding smell of earth and woods amidst the forests.

Knowing that trees essentially inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen is a benefit of sharing space around trees and plants of all kinds as well. We breathe in as they breathe out, and our lungs and bodies benefit. In addition, if you’ve ever stood or sat at the base of a tree, most people feel the grounding and calming effects of this. Rooted into the earth, and reaching toward the sky and sunlight, trees emit a calming presence.

Medicinally and ceremonially, trees have wonderful benefits as well. As I was considering this article and began listing all the trees I know of that are used for their healing benefits, I was impressed by how long the list was getting, and I definitely did not even get close to completing it! Here are a few to remind you, also: Ponderosa Pine (and other pine trees), Fir, Larch, Spruce, Cottonwood/Poplar, Willow, Slippery elm, Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Western Red Cedar (Thuja), Eucalyptus, Tea tree, Palo santo, Copal, Frankincense, Ginkgo, White Oak, etc.

There are a few we use the bark of as a tea or tincture (liquid extract) preparation (such as willow bark and slippery elm inner bark), several where the wood is distilled for essential oil (cedarwood, sandalwood, palo santo), several where the needles are distilled for essential oil (all the conifers – fir, spruce, pine), and several where the leaves are distilled (eucalyptus, tea tree). Cottonwood is used for the both the bark occasionally and for the resinous buds as a tincture or infused oil for topical application. Some the resin is used, such as the conifers, frankincense, copal, etc. to burn, powder, or distill into essential oil.

There are many trees that have been used in a more sacred and ceremonial way, by burning their wood, leaves, or resins, which may be in addition to their uses as physical medicine. These include Palo santo wood which has become very popular for its grounding, centering, and protective properties when burned like an incense, Western red cedar, whose leaves are bundled and burned to clear energy and spaces, and Copal resin which is burned ceremonially for spiritual cleansing and healing and is a popular incense.

When it comes to the conifer (evergreen) tree needles distilled into essential oils or hydrosols, these can be used in a diffuser or in topical applications for several purposes. By inhaling these oils, there are many positive effects on the respiratory tract, helping to open the lungs and sinuses, thinning and drying up excess mucus, and reducing inflammation of the mucosal membranes. These oils, such as Black Spruce, Grand Fir, Scotch Pine, are used for acute and chronic lung and sinus issues, so are great for wintertime health by diffusing in your living spaces, or applying in an oil or cream to the chest and neck. This is also true because compounds in these conifer needle essential oils stimulate the immune system and help ward off airborne viruses and bacteria. They are also useful for chronic lung issues, such as asthma and weak lung capacity, as well as recovery from bronchitis and sinusitis, and smoke exposure (think of cigarette smoke or smoke from wildfires) when inhaled directly or via steam inhalation.

In addition to their respiratory effects, conifer tree essential oils are known for their restoring, energizing, and stabilizing effects on the body. They can be inhaled for helping with burnout, fatigue, chronic or acute stress, recovery from physical illness, during a workout or run, etc. They also can help with muscle soreness by massaging on topically (diluted of course). Black spruce is also used for helping balance emotions, by inhaling for its grounding and centering effects, or massaging on the body and inhaling.

There is so much more I could say about trees and their medicine, but I will leave more for another day. Enjoy, appreciate, and utilize trees for their many positive effects on the body, mind, and spirit, and always be aware of sustainability practices with these precious plants.

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.

Almond (sweet almond) oil –
One of the most useful, practical, and commonly used oils. This natural expeller pressed oil from raw almond kernels is exceptionally rich in fatty acids. It is great for all skin types as an emollient and is best known for its ability to soften, soothe, and re-condition the skin. It is commonly used as a body oil and massage oil. Good for normal to dry skin types.
Apricot kernel oil – Similar in its properties to sweet almond oil, but more suitable for sensitive and prematurely aged skin, as it is reconditioning, nourishing, and gentle to the skin. Used regularly for facial oils and products. Good for all skin types.
Argan oil – pressed from the Moroccan Argan tree kernels, this oil is high in tocopherols (vitamin E), carotenes, squalene, and fatty acids beneficial to the health of the skin. Squalene is a fat-soluble antioxidant that is well-absorbed into the skin and therefore is cell protective and helps heal damaged skin. Argan oil is a well-absorbed, antioxidant, light oil that is useful for all skin types, including aging skin, as well as for smoothing and treating hair.
Jojoba oil – comes from the beans of a shrub-like plant and is considered the most favored carrier oil family because of its molecular stability and low rancidity.  Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax and has properties similar to our own sebum, and as a result has been traditionally used in hair and skin products and is a general gentle moisturizer for all skin types. Good for oily, acne prone, and combination skin.
Rosehip seed oil – This unique oil is extremely high in essential fatty acids, and Vitamins A and E. It is generally considered to be best for dry, weathered, and dehydrated skin, although it absorbs into the skin quickly as well. It works well on scars and is the predominant oil used for treating wrinkles and premature aging. Vitamin A, which helps to delay the effects of skin aging, assists with cell regeneration, and promotes collagen and elastin levels to increase.
Tamanu oil – From the whole organic nuts of the Polynesian Tamanu tree, this rich, aromatic oil is famed (and backed by research) for its ability to heal damaged skin. Its benefits are notable for the treatment for scarring, stretch marks, minor cuts and abrasions, rashes, acne and more.  It is also reputed to be useful for nerve pain, inflammation, and has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.

What can you do to support your body’s natural healing process after an injury, whether minor or major? You sprain your ankle, step down off the stairs and land in a way that “tweaks” your knee, you have some muscle strain or joint pain after an intense workout. Instead of simply waiting for the injury to heal on its own, which most likely it will do eventually, particularly with the right nutrition and rest, you can be proactive and address the damage using herbs and other nutritional supplementation.

Ligaments and tendons can be slow to heal and repair because of the lack of rich blood flow to these elements of connective tissue. By strengthening and tonifying the tissue, though, it can be quicker to heal then you might expect.

Let’s start by talking about your options for ligament and tendon damage, fractured bone, and joint pain and/or swelling. First, you want to make sure you eat a mineral and vitamin-rich diet, adding herbs that are rich in these healing minerals include nettle leaf (high in calcium, magnesium, and iron), alfalfa leaf, horsetail (high in silica for strengthening tissue), oat straw (high in calcium), which can all be consumed by making an infusion (ideally steeped overnight), straining, and drinking at any temperature you desire. Or, take the powdered herbs and add them to smoothies, juice, broth, or other food. Another healing food is bone broth (purchased or homemade) that is rich in tissue-healing minerals and compounds like collagen and glucosamine.

Second, other herbs/foods such as marshmallow root, soloman’s seal, and okra, which are all high in mucilaginous compounds, can help lubricate dry tissues including painful joints by stimulating a reflex action in the body. These can be eaten (in the case of okra), added to foods as the powdered herb (in the case of marshmallow root), and simmered to make a tea (in the case of soloman’s seal).

If you have damaged or injured tissue and inflammation has increased significantly, you can also add anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric root, ginger root (which is also good for circulation), and white willow bark (can help with inflammation and relieve mild pain). Capsules, tincture, or simmered decoctions of these can all be helpful.

The following three herbs can also be really helpful for helping heal damaged tissue. Read all about them and ask us to help you formulate a healing blend if you so desire!

Mullein root (Verbascus thapsus)

The leaf and flower of this wonderful, prolific plant are most commonly used in herbal medicine, for lung conditions and healing lung tissue (the leaf) to soothing ear pain (the flower). Only in recent years have I heard of the root’s use, specifically for spinal misalignment due to overuse, sleeping funny, car accidents, and the like. It is also considered helpful for increasing lubrication of the joints and spinal vertebrae, helping with slipped discs and other back pain. Several traditional, talented, clinical herbalists have used mullein root in this way with great success, including Jim McDonald, Matthew Wood (he uses leaf for the same action), and David Winston. We generally recommend taking it in tincture form, 1-2 dropperfuls (approximately 1-2 ml) in a little water or juice, 3 times/day.

Soloman’s Seal root (Polygonatum biflorum)

Herbalist Jim McDonald writes that “Without doubt, Solomon’s Seal is the most useful remedy I know of for treating injuries to the musculoskeletal system. I’ve used it to treat broken bones, sprains, injured tendons and ligaments, tendonitis, arthritis, dryness in joints and “slipped”/herniated discs (including mine – that sure did hurt…). Solomon’s Seal has the remarkable ability to restore the proper tension to ligaments, regardless of whether they need to be tightened or loosened.” Not a commonly-known herb, it grows abundantly throughout the midwest and parts of the Eastern and southern U.S. Several well-known and respected clinically-practicing Herbalists, including David Winston and Matthew Wood, use this herb with great success for helping the body heal. At Herban Wellness, we currently sell the cut root and the tincture for easy incorporation into formulas. The root can be simmered, 1 heaping Tablespoon per 4 cups water and simmered down until reduced in half, to 2 cups, then drank in 1/2 cup increments 3-4 times/day. The tincture is dosed at 1-2 dropperfuls (approximately 1-2 ml) 3x/day for healing acute injuries.

Gotu kola herb (Centella asiatica)

A plant that grows weed-like in parts of Indian and SE Asia, gotu kola is a useful herb for healing tissue, including skin, tendons and ligaments, as well as increasing venous circulation. One of gotu kola’s constituents, asiaticoside, seems to increase wound healing and scar reduction, so it is used for wound-healing topically and internally for healing of gastrointestinal wounds, such as ulcers. Gotu kola has also been shown to increase the synthesis of collagen, which leads to its use topically in skin care.  Other effects, including its anti-inflammatory properties, seem to indicate an increase of connective tissue repair in general, so gotu kola is used to aid in healing of tendon, ligament, and muscle injuries and joint inflammation. It is also considered to be a “rasayana” herb, helping to restore health to the nervous system and helping to promote a feeling of well-being over time. At Herban Wellness, we include it in our Recover & Repair Tea for post-workout recovery, post-surgery recovery, and as an anti-inflammatory support. We also include it in our Balanced Energy and Mental Clarity Tea blends, as well as our Stress Drops and Mental Clarity Drops tincture blends, as it is used for increasing circulation to the brain and synergizes well with other herbs for helping with the stress response and for focus of the brain.

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!