Medicinal Herb Exploration
Herbal remedies are categorized by application. Here are a few of the most common categories and some examples of herbs that fit them!
This group is comprised of plants that release soothing compounds into the body to reduce inflammation. Examples include circumen (found in turmeric), zingerone (ginger), flavonoids (tea, chili peppers), cinnamaldehyde (cinnamon), eugenol (clove) and so on. While some compounds reduce inflammation by breaking down free radicals (which cause tiny-scale inflammation in the body that can accumulate to a big problem), others inhibit enzymes that cause inflammatory response in the body. More examples of anti-inflammatory plants are peppercorn, sage, rosemary, and spirulina.
Expectorants loosen congestion and cause all that gnarly mucus to work its way out of the body. We most frequently see expectorant properties in roots and resins, though many seeds also help with congestion! Some examples of expectorant herbs are anise seed, bloodroot, camphor, cedar, slippery elm, eucalyptus, fennel and garlic.
These herbs take a different approach to congestion. While expectorants loosen and move mucus, astringents dry the mucus membranes. Due to their drying nature, be careful when working with these herbs. They are super-effective diuretics and can cause dehydration when overused. Try topical application for toning skin and pulling splinters and internal application for drying out the body. Examples of astringent herbs include rose, tea, witch hazel (do not take internally!), blackberry leaf, plantain, horsetail and yarrow.
Plants can be a very powerful and quickly effective way of managing digestive issues. Whether it's a mildly upset tummy or serious GI distress, there are a number of options. Dandelion root, peppermint, chamomile and milk thistle are great for minor upsets, while ginger, artichoke and slippery elm can tackle the more serious cases. Try marshmallow (no, not the candy) and licorice root to assist with constipation, and don't forget cinnamon for loss of appetite and bloating.
Antiviral herbs are key in preventing cold and flu season from taking you down. These plants fight back by inhibiting development of viruses, treating infections with little-to-no side effects (depending of course on your allergies...), and shoring up your existing immunity. Antivirals are also great support for cardiovascular and inflammatory issues. Bonus! Give your immune system some help by stocking up on elderberry and garlic (both also great anti-fungal plants), astragalus, ginger, echinacea (one of the most potent!), olive leaf and oregano.
These badasses balance out the body's response to stressors (both physical and mental) and can help with many difficulties from fatigue to metabolism, blood pressure and sex drive. Whoa. We call this effect the “promotion of homeostasis” and they work especially well when taken cumulatively. The most common adaptogens on the market are ashwaganda, rhodiola, tulsi, ginseng, turmeric and reishi mushroom.