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.

I am going to do a 5 day “Cleanse” or Detox this next week, and I thought I would share what I personally will be doing with those who are interested.  I am not a proponent of intense cleanses, ie those that involve fasting or laxatives, although they may be appropriate for certain people.  And I also am a busy working business owner who doesn’t realistically have the time to take 2 or 3 weeks out of my life to do a more involved detox program.  So I’ve found something that works well for me, while still maintaining my other duties and without starving myself.  I do this regimen when I feel like I’m getting sluggish, whether with low energy or when my digestion is not doing well, which usually go hand in hand together for me.  My skin is not looking so good, my digestion is tending toward bloating, I am feeling down because of the gray, rainy weather…  And I know a 5-day Detox program will do me some good!
So, here it is, folks.  This is Katya’s Detox Regimen, including a day-by-day food schedule, herbal additions, and a shopping list.  The key, I’ve found, is to prepare ahead of time.  If you don’t, you’ll get hungry and cranky and eat whatever is convenient and right at hand.  So, make a plan, a shopping list, and make sure you have everything you’ll need easily on hand, and perhaps anything tempting out of the house or easy access.  This is my plan; modify it to suit your needs!  You’ll notice it avoids all of the major allergens: wheat, dairy, corn, eggs, and soy (except for tamari).  It also does not include any refined sugars.  The idea is to eat as clean and purely as possible for 5 days (or longer, if you so choose).
Please see my other post, Is a Cleanse in Your New Year’s Resolution?, for information on the Cleanse Kit and the detoxification herbs I’ve developed at Herban Wellness.
Day 1:
Upon awakening: squeeze 1/2 a lemon into warm water and sip.  Shake 1 Tbsp fiber blend (Herban Wellness Fiber Blend with Psyllium and Beet) in 1/2 cup water and drink.
Breakfast: 1/2 a grapefruit (or other fruit) and quinoa cooked in almond milk with cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Lunch: Brown rice with steamed broccoli, beets, onions, garlic, and a little tamari/soy sauce.
Mid-afternoon: Green powder blend (Herban Wellness Great Green Nutritional Powder Blend) – 1 Tbsp – shaken in 1/2 cup water or apple juice.
Dinner: Simple lentil soup with potatoes, onions, and turmeric powder in veggie broth.
Snack: raw almond butter and granny smith (or other variety) apple
Beverages through day: 1 quart of Cleanse Tea (Herban Wellness’ Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea), water with fresh lime juice, Detox Drops (liver cleanse tincture) in a little water before each meal.
Day 2:
Upon awakening: squeeze 1/2 a lemon into warm water and sip.  Shake 1 Tbsp fiber blend (Herban Wellness Fiber Blend with Psyllium and Beet) in 1/2 cup water and drink.
Breakfast: 1 grapefruit and a mango.
Lunch: Large salad with spinach, arugula, pumpkin seeds, avocado, cucumber, and marinated beets, drizzled with flax seed oil and fresh lemon juice.
Mid-afternoon: Green powder blend (Herban Wellness Great Green Nutritional Powder Blend) – 1 Tbsp – shaken in 1/2 cup water.
Dinner: Roasted vegetables (pan-roasted in olive oil with rosemary and thyme) including sweet potato, beets, jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), and onions
Snack: celery, carrot slices, sugar snap peas
Beverages through day: 12 oz fresh veggie juice, 1 quart of Cleanse Tea (Herban Wellness’ Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea), water with fresh lime juice, Detox Drops (liver cleanse tincture) in a little water before each meal.
Day 3:
Upon awakening: squeeze 1/2 a lemon into warm water and sip.
Breakfast: Fresh grapefruit juice and 1 quart water with lemon juice, maple syrup, and a pinch of cayenne pepper sipped on through the morning.
Lunch: 16 oz fresh veggie juice.
Mid-afternoon: Green powder blend (Herban Wellness Great Green Nutritional Powder Blend) – 1 Tbsp – shaken in 1/2 cup water.
Dinner: 16 oz homemade veggie broth
Snack: veggie broth as needed.
Beverages through day: juices, broth, 1 quart of Cleanse Tea (Herban Wellness’ Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea), water with fresh lime juice, Detox Drops (liver cleanse tincture) in a little water before each meal.
Day 4:
Upon awakening: squeeze 1/2 a lemon into warm water and sip.  Shake 1 Tbsp fiber blend (Herban Wellness Fiber Blend with Psyllium and Beet) in 1/2 cup water and drink.
Breakfast: 1 grapefruit and a pear.
Lunch: Seaweed salad (rinsed seaweed mix from PCC), tossed with spring green lettuces, cucumber, bell pepper, and a drizzle of flax oil, sesame seed oil, and tamari/soy sauce and lemon juice to taste.
Mid-afternoon: Green powder blend (Herban Wellness Great Green Nutritional Powder Blend) – 1 Tbsp – shaken in 1/2 cup water.
Dinner: A baked potato with flax seed oil and spices to taste and a cucumber, tomato, onion salad with flax oil and lemon juice.
Snack: celery, carrot slices, sugar snap peas
Beverages through day: 12 oz fresh veggie juice, 1 quart of Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea (Herban Wellness cleanse tea) water with fresh lime juice, Detox Drops (liver cleanse tincture) in a little water before each meal.
Day 5:
Upon awakening: squeeze 1/2 a lemon into warm water and sip.  Shake 1 Tbsp fiber blend (Herban Wellness Fiber Blend with Psyllium and Beet) in 1/2 cup water and drink.
Breakfast: 1/2 a grapefruit (or other fruit) and quinoa cooked in almond milk with cloves, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Lunch: Nori rolls with brown rice, avocado, and cucumber wrapped in nori seaweed sheets with tamari/soy sauce and wasabi.
Mid-afternoon: Green powder blend (Herban Wellness Great Green Nutritional Powder Blend) – 1 Tbsp – shaken in 1/2 cup water.
Dinner: Simple lentil soup with potatoes, onions, and turmeric powder in veggie broth.
Snack: celery sticks with raw almond butter
Beverages through day: 1 quart of Cleanse Tea (Herban Wellness’ Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea), water with fresh lime juice, Detox Drops (liver cleanse tincture) in a little water before each meal.
Shopping List:
– Cleanse Kit from Herban Wellness with Rebalancing Cleanse Support Tea, Detox Drops, and Fiber Blend with Psyllium & Beet
– Great Green Powder Blend
– 6 lemons
– 3 limes
– 4 grapefruit
– 3 apples
– 1 pear
– 1 mango
– 3 yellow onions
– 3 red onions
– 3 heads garlic
– 1 sweet potato
– 1 bunch beets (3-4 beets)
– 3 large florets broccoli (one bunch)
– 1 head cauliflower
– 2 avocados
– 2 cucumbers
– 1 bell pepper
– 2 sunchokes
– 1 celery root
– 4 potatoes
– 1 bunch (or about 1 lb.) carrots
– 1 bunch celery
– 3 cups spinach
– 3 cups spring salad greens
– 1 cup arugula greens
– 2 cups sugar snap peas (or other edible peas)
– 2 on-the-vine tomatoes
– 1 package of edible seaweed (dry or refrigerated)
– 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
– flax seed oil
– 3 cups dry lentils (any type)
– 3 cups dry quinoa
– 3 cups brown rice
– raw almond butter
– nori seaweed sheets
– wasabi
– tamari (or soy sauce)
– maple syrup
– almond milk (or make your own with raw almonds, soaked over night, blended and strained)
– cayenne powder
– turmeric powder
– cardamom
– clove buds
– cinnamon
– rosemary
– thyme
– 1.5 quarts fresh veggie juice (either from a fresh juice bar or from your own juicer) with less of the sweet veggies (carrot and beet) and more of the greens: kale, spinach, celery, cilantro, parsley, etc.  OR as much as you’d like to drink through the duration of the cleanse!
– make up a pot of veggie broth with onions, garlic, celery root, celery stocks, carrot, beet, seaweed (kombu, kelp, etc.), cook down, and strain to have on hand
– make up a pot of lentil soup to have on hand.
– make up several cups of quinoa & brown rice to have on hand if possible.
– make up fresh almond milk to have on hand.

Essential oils are useful and beneficial for mixing into skincare oils, creams, or salves because of their high absorbency and many benefits for the skin that can amplify the benefits of the fatty carrier oil. Generally speaking, you would use these very potent essential oil concentrates diluted in a carrier oil such as jojoba, evening primrose, argan, or rosehip seed (as you can read about in our article on Carrier Oils for Healthy Skin), in a skin cream base mixed in, or mixed into a balm or salve. The reason is that essential oils are drying and can be irritating when applied directly, and because they absorb into the bloodstream at varying rates through the skin, the internal effects can be strong if not properly diluted. Therefore, it is generally recommended that you dilute essential oils to 0.5-3% dilution for applying to larger areas of the skin, like in a massage or body oil, for example. This means that you would would use approximately 5-25 drops/fluid ounce of carrier. Use the lower amount if someone has particularly sensitive skin, or you are applying to a baby’s skin. For smaller surface areas, like treating acne on the face, or treating a rash or infection in a particular area, you can go up to a 5-10% dilution, which means you would use approximately 45 – 75 drops/fluid ounce.

Here are some of the most useful essential oils for applying to the skin.

Blue tansy – anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cooling, soothing, antipruretic (anti-itch)

Cedarwood – balances oil production from the skin and scalp, astringent, tonifying (normalizing)

Frankincense – considered a good oil for dry/mature skin types, it is used to help reduce wrinkles & promote tissue repair.

Geranium (rose geranium)   astringent & tonifying, anti-inflammatory, oil-reducing and balancing, insect-repellent  – good for skin inflammation, bruising, broken/weak capillaries

German chamomile – anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, analgesic (pain reducing) – good for generally irritated or sensitive skin, inflamed skin conditions.

Helichrysum – vulnerary (wound healing), tissue regenerative, anti-inflammatory – good for any number of inflamed skin conditions and scarring, as well as muscular aches/pains, strains, & rheumatic pains.

Lavender – anti-inflammatory, vulnerary (wound-healing), antimicrobial, antispasmodic –  a good general skin-healing herb for all skin types and inflamed skin conditions.

Lemon – astringent, acid-mantle balancing, oil balancing, antimicrobial

Melissa (Lemon balm)  – antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, insect-repellent

Palmarosa – soothing to all skin types; detoxifying and regenerating; useful for dry, irritated, or lifeless skin

Rose – astringent, soothing, anti-inflammatory – good for tonifying skin and strengthening capillaries; good for mature skin.

Tea tree – one of the best broad-spectrum antimicrobial and antifungal essential oils, as well as having healing benefits for the skin.  Great for acne, fungal infections (athlete’s foot, ringworm), head lice, etc.

Ylang ylang – oil-balancing, antimicrobial, promotes healthy hair growth, general skincare

Here I list some of the most common carrier oils or base oils. These are the fats pressed from nuts and seeds of plants that provide fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that are useful for nourishing the skin and/or hair. These oils are often used alone or in combination to apply to the skin as body oils, massage oils, and facial oils, and are also used to make skin creams, salves, and balms. Essential oils are diluted into these oils to be safely applied to the skin, which is why they are often referred to as “carrier oils” to distinguish them from essential oils which have a very different chemical make-up.

Most oils should be stored out of heat and light and should ideally be used within 6-8 months, as the shelf life can be hard to determine. If you store these oils in the refrigerator, you will get a longer shelf life.

Almond (sweet almond) oil – expeller-pressed & unrefined with a shelf-life of 12-14 months out of heat & light. One of the most useful, practical, and commonly used oils for massage oils and body oils. 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. Good for all skin types, but not typically used on acne-prone skin.

Apricot kernel oil – expeller-pressed & unrefined with a shelf-life of about 12 months out of heat & light. Similar in its properties to sweet almond oil, but more suitable for sensitive and prematurely aged skin. Used regularly for facial oils and skincare products.

Argan oil – cold-pressed from the Moroccan Argan tree kernels with a shelf-life of 12 months, this oil is high in tocopherols (vitamin E), carotenes, squalene, and fatty acids beneficial to the skin.  It is a well-absorbed, light oil that is useful for “normal,” dry, and oily skin types, as well as for smoothing and treating hair.

Avocado oil – expeller-pressed & unrefined with a shelf-life of about 12 months.  A relatively unstable oil that is best kept out of heat and light and refrigeration is recommended but not required.  An ultra rich oil containing high amounts of Vitamin A, B1, B2, D, and E. It also contains amino acids, sterols, pantothenic acid, lecithin, and other essential fatty acids. Highly prized to those with skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions, as well as those with sensitive skin and other irritations that require vitamin rich oil.  Can be poorly absorbed, so leaving an oily texture, but is very good for conditioning the skin and hair and great in combination.

Castor oil – expeller-pressed & refined with a shelf life of 2 years. A viscous, shiny oil found used in cosmetics that act as barrier agents and protect against harsh conditions and extremes. It is soothing and anti-inflammatory to the skin.  Is considered detoxifying and can be mildly drying. It is used on the scalp, eyebrows, and eyelashes to stimulate hair growth. It is also one of the components of oil blends designed for “oil cleansing,” where oils are massaged into the face and neck and then wiped off with warm wash cloth.

Coconut oil – cold-pressed & unrefined (higher fatty acid content) or expeller-pressed & refined with a shelf-life of 2 years. This is a good oil for general moisturizing that acts as a protective layer, helping to retain the moisture in your skin. It is a mild oil for those with inflamed and irritated skin, and those with skin sensitivities. Contains caprylic & lauric acids that can inhibit fungus and yeasts. Coconut oil is the number one lather-producing agent used in soaps.

Evening Primrose Oil –  Cold pressed from seeds of the yellow-flowering Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis; Onagraceae) and partially refined with a shelf life of 10-12 months (refrigeration recommended). Evening primrose oil is rich in the essential fatty acid gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which constitutes an average of 8-10% of Evening primrose oil. Evening primrose oil can be therapeutically utilized for internal and external applications. It is a light, normalizing oil to the skin with little to no scent. It is useful for those who need a light oil, or have combination and/or acne-prone skin.

Grapeseed oil – expeller-pressed & partially refined with a shelf life of 12-14 months. A high antioxidant oil with a light, silken texture and great absorption rate.  Grapeseed is especially useful for skin types that do not absorb oils well or who already have oily skin but need some moisture.  It is also good for those with skin sensitivities because of its natural non-allergenic properties.

Jojoba oil – cold-pressed & unrefined with a shelf life of 2-3 years. 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, as well as the fact that it has no scent.  Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax and has properties similar to our own sebum, as has been traditionally used as a scalp cleanser and a general moisturizer for all skin types.

Olive (extra virgin) oil – cold-pressed & unrefined with a shelf life of 10-12 months.
By far the most universal oil used for a multitude of purposes including cosmetics, as a carrier oil, for hair care solutions, and in cooking.  It is a great moisturizing oil, but can be too heavy for many facial products and can clog pores.  Commonly used to infuse herbs into because of its availability, universal application, and its generally good shelf life.

Pomegranate Seed Oil – cold-pressed and unrefined with a shelf life of about 6 months, this oil is high in flavonoids and punicic acid, which has numerous health benefits for the skin.  This oil nourished the outer epidermal layer and acts as an antioxidant, for anti-aging, skin conditions such as eczema and psoriaris, protecting the skin from damage, & helping to reduce signs of aging and wrinkling. It is great as an eye oil for the delicate tissue around the eyes, as well as a healing oil for really dry facial skin.

Rosehip seed oil – cold-pressed & winterized with a shelf life of 8-12 months. This unique oil is high in essential fatty acids and is generally considered to be great for dry, weathered, and dehydrated skin, although it absorbs into the skin quickly as well.  It works wonders on scars and is a predominant oil used for treating wrinkles and premature aging. Rosehip seed oil contains Vitamin A, which helps to delay the effects of skin aging, assists with cell regeneration, and promotes collagen and elastin levels to increase  It also contains a high amount of essential fatty acid, in particular linoleic & linolenic acids, and Vitamin E, which further promotes healthy skin. 

Seabuckthorn seed oil – cold-pressed and unrefined, with a shelf life of 8-10 months, this rich, orange oil is high in nourishing fatty acids (including Omega-7, which is specific for skin health), beta carotenes, vitamin E, and other antioxidant compounds that give it its highly protective, skin rejuvenating properties. Used mainly diluted into other oils or creams for the delicate eye tissue, for areas that re sun-damaged, and for preventing and treating wrinkle-prone areas of the face and body.

Sesame oil – expeller-pressed & unrefined with a shelf life of 12 months out of heat & light.  Naturally active in vitamins A and E and essential proteins, this oil is used in skincare and as a massage oil.  It is softening and nourishing to the skin and is often used in Ayurvedic formulas for skin and hair. It is a good base oil with a relatively long shelf life, but does have a scent that can be more difficult to hide with essential oils.

Tamanu oil – cold-pressed & unrefined with a shelf life of 10-12 months out of heat & light. From the whole organic nuts of the Polynesian Tamanu tree, this 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, acne, minor cuts and abrasions, rashes, sores and much more.  It is also antineuralgic (helps with nerve pain), anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant.  Tamanu oil has a rich, deep scent with a bold dark color and because of this it may alter the color and aroma of your cosmetic creations. 

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.

Being an herbalist and owning an herbal apothecary for seven years, I have spent a lot of time educating people about the different forms herbs come in and helping them decide which form might be best for them based on the herb(s), their preference, and their budget.  I wish I could tell you that all plants and plant products (or extracts) you buy in a store are safe for you to consume however and whenever you would like, and that anyone selling you a plant-based product is telling you accurate information on what are effective and safe amounts to consume. Since this is not the case, and there have been a lot of indications that people are confused or misinformed about this topic, I am writing this article to bring some understanding to people who may want to be better educated, especially in regard to the appropriate use of essential oils. I also understand it might be helpful for people to have outlined the many forms herbal medicines come in, and for what and when might they be best utilized.
The Many Forms of Herbal Medicines
Plants used for therapeutic purposes are often referred to as “herbs” or “herbal medicines”, regardless of if this description is botanically accurate or not. I will outline the major differences in herbal preparations here, utilized for internal consumption: loose, dry plant material (leaves, flowers, upper parts) prepared by infusing in hot water (referred to as a tisane or a “tea”), or (bark, berries, roots) simmered in water (a decoction); powdered plant material that you then mix into any liquid or food and consume or you encapsulate for your own use; capsules which are made of powdered herb or an herbal extract that has had the liquid evaporated off and concentrated in a capsule, or an essential oil in a base oil such as olive oil or other fat-based carrier; tinctures, which are liquid extracts of an herb (any part of the plant that is used) prepared by infusing the plant part in a solution of alcohol, water, and often vegetable glycerine, or glycerites, which are prepared similarly but only using vegetable glycerine and water. There are other herbal extracts, such as solid extracts, which are very concentrated extracts preserved in glycerine or honey that have a thick, molasses-like consistency; vinegar infusions referred to as acetracts; honey and vinegar infusions which are referred to as oxymels; syrups which are typically concentrated water preparations then preserved and sweetened with sugar, honey, or vegetable glycerine. There are others, but these are the most commonly utilized and available on the market for internal consumption.
Now, let me discuss another major category of herbal medicine, a specialized extract from aromatic plants commonly referred to as essential oils. I do not put these in the above category for reasons I will outline below, but namely because they are highly concentrated extracts that should be used with great care internally, if at all.
Essential oils are volatile compounds that are generally steam-extracted from highly aromatic plant parts such as Eucalyptus leaves, Cardamom seeds, and Lavender flowers. Fresh plant material, such as the leaves, seeds, flowers, bark, or roots of a plant, are harvested, and shortly thereafter this material is put into a metal still (often stainless steel, sometimes pounded copper, or other such metals). The plant material sits upon a screen over a vat of hot water. Because the volatile components in the plants are so small, they rise up in the steam, which condenses into water droplets as it travels quickly through cooling ducts, and then drips into a collecting vessel. As the water accumulates, a thin layer of this volatile substance (what we refer to as an essential oil) forms on the top of the water. Eventually this will be decanted off, and this is a true, steam-distilled, pure essential oil. It takes pounds and pounds of plant material to make a small amount of this very concentrated volatile extract, so they are meant to be utilized in small amounts.
Primarily, essential oils are best utilized for their desirable properties through inhalation, either by inhaling directly from the bottle, from a tissue or handkerchief with a few drops of essential oil dropped on it, adding to a diffuser and inhaling from there, or doing steam inhalations over a bath of hot water.
Essential oils are also well-absorbed by the skin making their way into the bloodstream and carried throughout the body.  The absorption rate varies widely due to many factors, such as the density of the tissue to which the essential oil is applied, the substance it is mixed with, and the essential oil itself. When applied to the skin, these volatile oils should be diluted in a carrier oil (olive oil, jojoba oil, a skin cream, etc.) before applying directly to the skin.  
Lastly, essential oils are utilized in internal preparations for treating various conditions. This is not advised unless you have been properly trained and know how to administer them safely, in a carrier substance to protect your mucus membranes, and for a limited amount of time. This is because essential oils are highly concentrated and very well absorbed into the body. Due to their chemical composition, they can be irritating to the sensitive membranes of the mouth, esophagus, or stomach if not diluted properly. Furthemore, essential oils are processed through the liver and kidneys, and these oils can be taxing to them as they are excreted and eliminated out of the body if taken internally or inhaled in excess.
When and Why
When would you use which form? In broad terms, tinctures, capsules, teas, and powders are used for internal consumption and are best for long term use of herbs, such as the use of astragalus root to strengthen and build your immune system, turmeric for its anti-inflammatory & antioxidant effects, and milk thistle for its liver restorative effects.  
Tinctures and capsules are generally also used for acute situations, such as an impending cold, anxiety, or a headache, because of their ease of use. Tinctures have the advantage of already being in liquid form, so are readily and quickly absorbed by the body so can have their effect quicker by taking them straight or in a little fluid. The tea form of herbs can also be utilized for acute situations, but obviously the tea must be prepared and consumed by the cupful multiple times/day.  If you are at home or work where tea brewing equipment is readily available, or you brew the tea ahead of time in larger quantities and bring it with you, tea is also a water extract, so is readily absorbed by the body.
Another thing to consider with different herb forms is what is the best extraction method for a particular plant. Some herbs have desirable constituents that are more water soluble so come out well in a tea (marshmallow root and nettle leaf are two good examples). Some herbs contain constituents that are more fat soluble, so are best extracted in alcohol or in some cases vegetable glycerin (osha root and milk thistle are two examples). The powder or capsule form would work for either water-soluble or fat-soluble constituents, depending on the body’s ability to break down the herb and extract what it can use. This brings me to an important assessment for deciding which form of herb for people: how strong (or weak) is their digestion? If it’s not strong or poorly functioning (i.e. with chronic constipation, a lot of indigestion or gas and bloating), the body may not be able to break down and absorb the desirable constituents in the capsule or powder form. Presumably, then, a tincture/glycerite or tea form would be best.
Essential oils can also be used in acute situations by inhaling them deeply for such things as wheezing or shortness of breath, anxiety, and trouble falling asleep. They are best applied topically to local areas of pain, such as for muscle stiffness or spasm, inflammation of the joints, or for bacterial/viral/fungal infections (or to prevent them). Essential oils can also have effects internally by applying topically, such as applying to the temples and base of the neck for headaches, relaxation, and for immune system stimulation. They can also be applied to the arch of the foot, which is a common place to massage diluted essential oils for systemic effects. In the air, essential oils can be diffused or spritzed to have a relaxing, focusing, respiratory clearing, or immune stimulating effects, where they exert their effects by activating the nasal receptors and binding to or killing viruses, bacteria, mold, or fungus in the surrounding environment preventing the spread of these potential invaders.
As for their internal use, my training suggests that essential oils are best used for short-term, acute situations involving bacteria, parasites, viruses, or other pathogens. In this case, you would dilute in an oil such as coconut oil and apply locally to areas in the mouth or gums, apply as a suppository in cocoa butter for vaginal or rectal infections or even for effects on the local organs surrounding that tissue, like the colon or urinary tract, or consume in a olive oil-filled capsule with 2 drops of essential oil several times/day to act on intestinal pathogens, to balance hormones, or other systemic effects. I was trained to take no more than 3-5 drops of the essential oil per day and to limit internal use to 2-4 weeks, maximum, depending on what you’re treating. Ideally, you’d be under a health professional’s care when taking these internally for these acute situations. Again, this is because these are very concentrated plant extracts that can be damaging to mucus membranes and can be hard for the kidneys and liver to metabolise and excrete it used in excess.
The Take Away
In short, for acute situations, I recommend tinctures primarily for internal use and inhalation and/or topical application of essential oils for acute situations and/or short-term use. For long-term use, tinctures, teas, capsules, and powders can be used, but knowing about the plant constituents and their solubility and having a sense of the persons absorptive ability due to their digestive function are important considerations when choosing the form of herb.
I hope you, dear reader, have found some of this information helpful, useful, and/or clarifying.  

Everyone wants healthy skin.  Everyone wants to look and feel good.  The skin is our body’s largest organ and it is intimately and inextricably linked to every other organ and system in the body, which makes sense when we view the body in a holistic sense.  Because it is the most visible organ, skin issues can be very troublesome (and bothersome) to people when they arise. This is true not only when skin looks dull and lifeless, but when there is a inflammatory flare-up, such as a rash, acne pimple, fungal infection, or dry, flaky skin.

Because the skin is not separate from other body systems, and because it is a detoxification and sensory organ that engages with the outside world, stress, nerves, sluggish or inflamed intestines, a low-functioning liver, etc. can show up in the skin.  One of the primary ways to keep the skin healthy and happy is therefore to manage stress levels better with things like exercise, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, baths, spending time in nature; as well as eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, and good-quality proteins.

Supporting detoxification of the other organs of elimination such as the colon, liver, kidneys, and lymphatics can also have a big impact on skin health.  This can be accomplished with food and herbs, such as lemon juice and bitter leafy greens (think arugula, dandelion greens) for the liver, milk thistle seeds (liver), dandelion root (kidneys and digestion), cleavers (kidneys and lymphatics), red clover blossoms (skin and blood).  Natural anti-inflammatories such as seeds and oils high in essential fatty acids (flax & hemp seeds, fish oils, etc.), berries and dark leafy greens, turmeric and ginger roots, aloe vera inner fillet, etc., can also be important dietary components for healthy skin (and a healthy body in general).  Minerals are also crucial, from sea vegetables (kelp, kombu, arame, nori, etc.), dark leafy greens (kale, chard, nettle, spinach, dandelion leaves, alfalfa, etc.), vegetables (broccoli, cucumber, bell peppers, carrots, beets, etc.), nuts and seeds (brazil nuts, almonds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, etc.) are all very good sources of minerals, including trace minerals that are needed in tiny amounts but are crucial for certain body processes.

One way I like to encourage skin health and increase mineral intake in the body is to make herbal overnight infusions using herbs such as nettle leaf, alfalfa, oat straw, raspberry leaf, red clover, chickweed, lemon balm, and peppermint and allowing them to steep in water overnight. I pour just-boiled water over the combination of herbs, using approximately 1 Tablespoon herbs/cup water, then let these soak overnight on my counter top.  This allows maximum mineral quantities to extract into the water.  Then I strain them in the morning and stick the batch in the fridge to consume 1-4 cups throughout the day, usually at room temperature by adding hot water to the cold herbal infusion, but you could reheat to hot if desired as well. A great combination for healthy skin includes nettle leaf, alfalfa, red clover blossoms, oat straw, and lemon balm.  Drink 1-3 cups/day on a consistent basis to see results.

Adding herbs such as yellow dock root (colon and liver), calendula flowers (lymph, anti-inflammatory, skin), and burdock root (blood, liver, skin) will increase detoxification and are commonly used to address skin issues such as acne, eczema, & psoriasis.

My Mineralizing Tea and Healthy Skin Tea are two examples of combinations of some of the above herbs to support skin health from the inside out.

These are foundational ways to help strengthen the skin naturally, but also to address chronic inflammatory conditions, and for addressing overly dry skin as well.

The root of this European-sourced herb is primarily used in medicine, although the leaf is also used.  Its Latin name is Petasites hybridus and is a shrubby plant in the Asteraceae family found throughout Europe, parts of Asia, and North America, and grows in damp, marshy areas.  It is closely related to the Tussilago genus, commonly called Coltsfoot, which is also used medicinally.  Butterbur has traditionally been used to treat headaches, ulcers, urinary tract issues, and colic.
This plant seems to act primarily as an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory and shows some pretty impressive results as an antihistamine for allergy sufferers and as a preventive and potential treatment for migraine sufferers in clinical trials.  It is not clear exactly how this herb works for allergies, but compounds in it appear to block the action of histamine and leukotrienes, inflammatory chemicals involved in allergic reactions, reducing symptoms of allergic rhinitis.  It was shown to be as effective as pharmaceutical antihistamines but without the side effects, namely drowsiness, which is obviously desirable for daytime use.
For migraine headaches, regular use can reduce the frequency by half, and decrease the severity of the symptoms as well.  This is likely due to Butterbur’s antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effects.
The sticking point for the use of this herb is that it contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids which can harm the liver.  Obviously, as overloaded and worked as our liver is, this is not a good thing.  Therefore, it is best to take this herb in capsule form where the alkaloids have been removed.  50 mg 3-4 times/day is the recommended dose to have effective antihistamine effects, and anywhere from 50 – 75 mg 2-3 times/day for preventing migraines.

The vine of passionflower is used for its sedative, antispasmodic, and muscle-relaxing properties.  Passionflower is often used in tea blends, tinctures, or capsules for anxiety, nervous tension, insomnia, heart palpitations and high blood pressure (especially when related to stress and anxiety), and painful menstruation.  For promoting deep sleep, this herb is often combined with Valerian or Hops, because these are both more sedative, while Passionflower can help with insomnia that is anxiety or stress related.
One of the advantages of using Passionflower or a variety of other herbs for anxiety or sleep is that they don’t tend to produce a sense of dullness, grogginess, or otherwise impair mental function.  In research on the anti-anxiety effects of Passionflower, it was as effective as anti-anxiety medication, including benzodiazepine drugs, plus it had the added benefit of not impairing daytime performance and is not habit-forming.
Passionflower is in our Get Sleepy Tea (a great bedtime tea to send you off to a restful slumber) and in our Sleep Well Drops, a tincture blend of herbs including Passionflower, Hops, and Valerian.  We also have numerous capsule combinations for sleep and anxiety that contain Passionflower and often include it in our custom blends for stress, sleep, nervousness, restlessness, and pain.

A general pain-relieving and antispasmodic blend of herbs, this tea is designed to help relieve mild inflammation and cramping or spasm of muscles and/or nerves.  Headaches have complex origins and can be a symptom of a larger problem, but occasional headaches from being tired, sick, stressed, tense, etc. can be helped with remedies other than the over-the-counter pain medications.  Chronic headaches may also be helped, although deeper causes need to be sought as well.
Meadowsweet is described in greater depth in another blog entry, so please refer there for more information, but suffice it to say here that it is in this tea blend as an anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving herb.  Two other herbs, feverfew and motherwort, have a long history of being used for headache relief, and in the case of feverfew in particular, migraine relief.  This effect on migraines is most noted when feverfew is consumed daily for a period of weeks (6 or more), when the severity and frequency of migraine headaches often decreases.  Some, however, notice its effects pretty immediately upon consuming this herb.  Peppermint is vasodilating and antispasmodic, both of which can relieve the spasm around blood vessels in the brain or vasoconstriction which can cause/contribute to headaches.  Licorice is antiinflammatory and has a sweet, harmonizing taste in the tea, helping to offset the bitter taste of feverfew and motherwort.  Lemon balm relaxes the nervous system, helping to relieve anxiety and tension.  Black haw is a great antispasmodic for smooth muscle cramping, such as in the case of menstrual cramps or  intestinal cramping.
Contains: Meadowsweet, Peppermint, Licorice, Feverfew, Lemon balm, and Motherwort.