Spring is a fantastic season for starting or continuing your journey with herbal medicines.  Before diving in, it is a great idea to understand how herbs can be categorized and which herbs are safe to experiment with on your own.

A Note on Commercially Available Herbs vs Wild Harvesting or Cultivation:

I encourage everyone to try out herbal medicine recipes and make their own home remedies as possible.  For some, this may seem intimidating, but with a little guidance and encouragement, anyone can tap into the healing found in forging a closer relationship with your medicine.

There are also many herbal formulas available for purchase at your local health food store, and many can be found in a well-stocked alternative medicine aisle at your local grocery store.  Be sure you know a bit about the manufacturer you are considering purchasing herbal remedies from.  Where do they get their plant materials, how are they processed, and how are they tested.  I also encourage people to buy from local companies and start with dried or fresh herbs as additions to your food or as medicinal teas.  Avoid capsules of herbal products unless specifically recommended by a medical practitioner who knows your medical history and current issues very well.

My favorite companies to purchase herbs from are: Mountain Mel’s, Herb Pharm, Eclectic Institute, Mountain Rose Herbs, and Gaia Herbs.

Classification of Herbs

I like to divide herbs into four categories based on how I use them for treatment.

Nourishing

These are herbs that can be used safely and ongoing without interfering with any medications you may be on.  Additionally, many of these herbs are used nutritionally as food.  Some great examples from this category that you can find on a walk around your neighborhood are:

  • Nettle leaf
  • Chickweed
  • Dandelion leaf
  • Mullein
  • Plantain
  • Self-heal
Tonifying

Tonifying herbs are used to strengthen or support a weakened or stressed body system.  They can be used ongoing for months or even years and have a low risk of interacting with medications.

Soothing tonics:

  • Astragalus
  • Burdock root
  • Calendula
  • Cleavers
  • Passion Flower

Bitter tonics:

  • Dandelion root
  • Mugwort
  • Fennel seed
  • Milk Thistle
  • Yellow Dock
  • Black, green, or white tea

Astringent (drying) tonics:

  • Oregon grape
  • Witch Hazel (never use commercially available witch hazel internally)

Food tonics:

  • Turmeric
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Mushrooms
  • Pomegranate
  • Seaweed

Stimulating & Sedating Herbs

When using stimulating and sedating herbs, they must be used under the guidance of a trained herbalist to reduce your risk of causing yourself further health issues.  This is because these herbs also have a higher risk of interfering with medications.  However, occasional use of the below-listed herbs is safe, but if you are using them as a treatment or regularly, you will want to check in with an herbalist/Naturopathic Doctor.

Stimulating:

  • Cayenne
  • Cinnamon
  • Licorice
  • St John’s wort
  • Sage
  • Wild Ginger

Sedating:

  • Catnip
  • Kava Kava
  • Lavender
  • Skullcap
  • Lemon balm

If you are new to herbal medicines or have yet to make any of your own medicines, I highly encourage you to start playing with the herbs in the nourishing category.  If you are currently taking herbs in the stimulating or sedating category, I also highly recommend you speak with your doctor or a trained herbalist to determine if they are safe and effective treatments for you and your health goals.

So, would you like to learn more?  Sign up for one of my upcoming herbal medicine classes.  This month on March 22nd, I will be speaking about creating your own safe and effective spring detox using herbs, nutrition, and lifestyle interventions to move into the renewed energy of Spring.

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