Make Your Own Herbal First Aid Kit

I took Holistic Herbal Wellness with Savayda in 2014, and one of the most useful things we learned was how to assemble a herbal first aid kit. Because we learned how to make tinctures and infused oils in the course, I knew how to make some of these items myself after the class, and there are also some items on the list that are worth buying. They’re easy to find at most natural health stores. 

Minor injuries like cuts, bites, burns, bruises and sore muscles can happen to anyone at any time, so it’s a good idea to start assembling these items to cover all the bases. 

Start collecting these herbal remedies now so you’ll be prepared for any minor injuries or discomforts.

Rescue Remedy

A commercially available blend of Bach Flower Essences, available in dropper, spray, or lozenges. For shock, emotional and physical, and stressful situations like dentist visits. Take 4 drops immediately, followed by regular dosing until the situation has stabilized. It can be rubbed onto a person who is injured or in shock and can’t take medicines orally, and can be used topically on pets and with house plants. 

 

Arnica cream Arnica montana

An arnica cream or gel is good to have on hand for bruises, sprains, recovery from operations, dental work etc. It can also be used after mental strain and heart strain.  Can help with back pain. Take 2 tablets every two hours for shock or injury, and even after surgery.

 

You can find Arnica products that are either homeopathic or that contain extracts. I like the Weleda Arnica cream because it has a high percentage of wild-crafted Arnica, but many people also get great results with a homeopathic cream. Traumeel is a popular homeopathic brand. 

 

Tea tree oil Melaleuca alternifolia

Antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal. Use on cuts or sores, directly or diluted in a carrier oil.  Also use as a mouth rinse or gargle, douche, sitz bath. Wipe for preventing and soothing bug bites.

 

Ginger capsules or tincture Zingiber officinale

Use for nausea or motion sickness, stomach flu and morning sickness. 1-2 caps or 20 drops tincture before traveling. Valuable for cramps of any kind and indigestion. Combine with other remedies for fever, colds and flu.

 

The tincture is easy to make with the folk method. Fill a jar ¼ full of fresh ginger, fill the jar with vodka or brandy. Steep for 2 weeks. Strain out the ginger pieces. Put your tincture in a dropper bottle and keep some in the car in case of motion sickness. 

 

Echinacea tincture Echinacea angustifolia, E. purpurea

Use at first sign of cold or infection by taking 30 drops, undiluted, on the back of the throat, every hour, until symptoms subside, up to ten times a day.

Can be used topically for inflammation of the skin, skin infections, bites, stings, cuts, and infections.  Dilute 60 drops tincture in ¼ cup of water and use as a wash or compress.

 

Ear oil Verbascum, Hypericum perforatum, Allium sativum

Infused oil of mullein, St.John’s wort, and garlic.  Infuse the oils separately so you can use them for other purposes, and then combine as needed for earache. For earache warm the oil in a double boiler and use 3-5 drops in each ear.  Lie on one side and rub the area outside of the ear. It may be helpful to apply heat outside the ear.

 

Shepherd’s Purse tincture  Capsella bursa-pastoris

For minor bleeding, that is non-life threatening such as nose bleeds, minor cuts, bleeding gums. Apply the infusion as a compress.  ½ cup of the tea, or 60 drops of tincture can be taken, up to 6 times daily. 

 

Topically: To use as a wash, dilute 30 drops of tincture in ½ cup water

Internally: Take 30 drops every hour until bleeding stops. A cup of the tea is also helpful.

Honey

For burns cover area immediately and leave on until pain subsides (approx. 30 minutes)

 

Fresh Plantain   Plantago major

It’s hard to keep this one in a herbal first aid kit because it is really best used fresh as a poultice. So instead of your herbal first aid kit, keep it in your herbal first aid garden or just leave it growing in your lawn so you’ll always have some on hand. Use it on bug bites, bee stings, burns and cuts and scrapes. To make a poultice, chew a few fresh leaves into a pulp, place this moist leaf pulp directly on the injured/bitten area and wrap in gauze. Keep on the skin for a few hours, re-applying as needed. 

 

Lavender Essential Oil  Lavandula angustifolia

A versatile addition to any herbal first aid kit, lavender essential oil can be used topically to help many ailments, including burns, cuts, bruises, sunburns, itchy skin, and cold sores. It also does double-duty because of its aromatherapeutic effects. Lavender is renowned for its ability to relieve stress and anxiety, and promote relaxation. Since you may be a little stressed or irritated if you have an issue that requires a first aid kit, it’s nice to include lavender to soothe your mind. 

 

If you’d like to learn how to forage wild medicinals, infuse oils, and make tinctures, you’ll love Savayda’s 1-year Holistic Herbal Wellness course. 

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Medicinal Benefits of Culinary Herbs

medicinal culinary herbs cover

 

Did you know that most common culinary herbs also have medicinal benefits?

 

Enliven your food with easy-to-find fresh herbs this summer. Fresh herbs often have a more potent flavour than dried herbs,  and, not only do they taste great, they’re also very nutritious. They are loaded with biologically active compounds, and they’ll add a boost of vitality to your daily diet. Many are used as medicines by modern day herbalists, it makes one wonder where to draw the line between food and medicine. 

 

When cooking with fresh herbs, the leaves should be bruised by rubbing them in your hands before chopping or snipping with scissors. They are best added to the pot a few minutes before the dish is done, or sprinkled over food before it is served; fresh herbs lose their flavour if cooked too long. To store, roll the herbs in a wet paper towel inside a plastic bag, and leave in the crisper of the refrigerator for up to one week. With the herb left over from your recipes, add a handful to your teapot and become further acquainted with their unique characteristics.  

 

Medicinal Benefits of 10 Culinary Herbs

 

Thyme Thymus vulgaris

Research has determined that of the 75 known phytochemicals found in thyme, 25% are antioxidants. A valuable medicinal food, this herb contains a flavonoid that counteracts the activity of dietary carcinogens formed during cooking. Medicinally, it is used primarily to treat respiratory complaints such as bronchitis, asthma, cough due to colds, and sinus congestion. It is also used for topical bacterial and fungal skin infections. The tea makes a good mouth rinse and gargle. It is of value in gastrointestinal disorders including dyspepsia, colic, flatulence and diarrhea. Extracts of thyme have demonstrated significant inhibition of Helicobacter pylori, thus it is used in the treatment of peptic ulcers.

 

Parsley Petroselinum crispum

It is a shame to see this nutrient-dense herb regarded as a mere garnish, because parsley has many medicinal benefits. It is one of the richest food sources of vitamin C, and also exceptionally high in magnesium, calcium, iron, and chlorophyll. Parsley leaves make an excellent breath freshener, especially to combat garlic breath. It is beneficial to the urinary system, and is used for bladder and kidney complaints. Its diuretic action can be applied to conditions such as gout and rheumatism to facilitate the removal of uric acid from the joints. The leaves eaten with any meal help prevent gas. 

Safety: It is not to be used medicinally when pregnant.

Here’s a fresh tabouleh recipe from Cookie & Kate.

 

Sage Salvia officinalis

This herb is useful as a gargle for sore throat, laryngitis and mouth ulcers.  It provides relief to singers who have strained their voices. Digestive aid, memory aid. 

Due partially to its estrogenic properties, it is used to relieve the night sweats and hot flashes of menopause. For this it is best taken as a cold infusion. To make, steep 1 tsp. herb in one cup boiled water, covered for 10 mins. Strain and drink 1/2 cup 3 times daily, or as needed. 

Safety: It is not to be used medicinally when pregnant or in epilepsy. Reduces milk flow in nursing mothers.

 

Fennel Foeniculum vulgare

Like most of herbs with high volatile oil content, it acts as a carminative – a remedy for gas pains and flatulence. It is a treatment for upper GIT disorders with gas, nausea, belching and heartburn, and for IBS and colitis, and is an excellent remedy for babies with colic. Fennel is a galactagogue, which means it increases milk flow in nursing mothers. It is also useful for cough, and used internally and externally to improve eyesight and to treat inflammatory eye disorders such as conjunctivitis.

Instead of after-dinner mints, India has something called saunf ( fennel) or mukhwas (mouth scent), that is a mix of candied seeds, featuring fennel seeds. You’ll often see a little dish of this near the register in Indian restaurants, and it’s common to take a spoonful to freshen the breath and aid digestion after a meal. 

 

Cilantro   Coriandrum sativum

Coriander and cilantro are the same plant, but where we are, the leaves are usually called cilantro, and the seeds are known as coriander.

It is cooling in nature, thus a good summer seasoning.

Cilantro is a chelator – it binds with and removes heavy metals from the body. It is also carminative and diuretic. Add the leaves at the end of cooking, or use plenty of raw cilantro as a garnish in Latin American or Tex-Mex cooking. It’s also used in Indian cuisine as a garnish. 

This creamy sauce from Oh She Glows (my favourite cookbook, btw) made with fresh cilantro is a unique addition that goes well with Latin American dishes. 

Many people either love or hate cilantro. Did you know that genetics play a role this strong reaction to it? A particular genetic trait makes cilantro taste like soap to some people. This trait is less prevalent in people of Latin American, South-East Asian, or Middle Eastern descent, explaining its relative popularity in those cultures.*

 

Oregano Origanum vulgare

This herb originates from the Mediterranean region; it becomes more pungent with more sun, and is popular in Italian and Greek cooking. Greek cooks believe it is best used dry, and in fact is the only herb worth drying. It is used medicinally for indigestion and as an antiseptic wash, and is heating and a diaphoretic. Bees and butterflies love its flowers.

 

Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis

A powerful medicine – improves blood flow to the brain, hence its usefulness as a memory aid, it is uplifting, anti-depressant, helpful for headaches, aids liver and gallbladder  function, strengthens blood vessels and is used to treat arteriosclerosis. Use it as an infused oil as a scalp massage for hair loss and rub for sore muscles.

 

Garlic Allium sativum

It is a potent antibiotic and immune stimulant and is useful for respiratory conditions, digestive disorders, cardiovascular disease, and cancer prevention. It is my first choice as an antibiotic; bacteria do not become resistant to its powers. Not only does it destroy bacteria, but it is also anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic.   

To unlock the anti-cancer benefits,it is best crushed and let sit for 15 minutes. This causes an enzyme reaction that boosts the beneficial compounds.  It’s best eaten raw for medicinal use.

 

Turmeric Curcuma longa

Preventative and treatment for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. Anti-inflammatory for RA and OA, eczema, psoriasis, asthma. Improves gastric and liver function, hyperlipidemia.  Antioxidant. High doses not given in combination with anticoagulant drugs.

Turmeric has skyrocketed in popularity in recent years for its anti-inflammatory effect. 

If you like Indian cuisine, you probably already eat a lot of turmeric, but if you’d like to increase your intake, a popular way to take it is in a hot beverage. It is fat-soluable, so you want to take it with fat, and black pepper increases its bio-availability. 

Here’s a yummy vegan Golden Milk recipe   to get your turmeric in the most effective delivery. I use coconut oil or MCT oil in mine, and you can also add a pinch of cayenne if you like the heat.

 

Basil Ocimum basilicum

Contains high levels of vitamins A and C. Used for nervous irritability and has anti-depressant effects. It eases indigestion, stomach upset and nausea. Stimulates milk flow for nursing mothers. The fresh juice has been used to treat warts and bug stings. A pot of basil in the kitchen is known to discourage flies.

Here’s a refreshing summer recipe for Blueberry Basil Lemonade. Basil might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you want to make lemonade, but you’ll love this. 

*Source: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-09-genetic-link-cilantro-coriander.html

herbal iced teas to try

6 Herbal Iced Teas to Try This Summer, and 1 to Avoid

Summer has arrived in Halifax, and we’re making the most of it at Bloom Institute!

We iced several infusions of medicinal herbs and conducted a taste test at the office. 

We tasted each individually throughout the day, and evaluated them for flavour, as opposed to medicinal value. 

 

Here are the infusions we tried.

6. Raspberry leaves

Raspberry leaf tea is one of our most popular remedies, being great for female reproductive health, and reducing period cramps. 

It turns out it’s also pleasant as an iced tea, although it didn’t top the charts. It has a slightly fruity smell, and mineral taste that Savayda says tastes like oysters. 

 

5. Red clover blossoms

For this infusion, we used the blossoms, and only the top leaves that cup the blossom.

This is a nice iced tea that is subtly sweet, and not bitter at all. It doesn’t have a very distinctive flavour on its own, but it would be great to throw into a mixed infusion to add a bit of sweetness and because it looks great if using a clear glass vessel for steeping the infusion.

 

4. Ground ivy

Ground ivy, or Creeping Charlie makes a very fragrant, slightly peppery tea. This infusion tastes just like the plant smells – slightly minty, grassy, and a bit floral. 

 

3. Rose

I tried  a hot infusion and a cold infusion of fresh rose petals for this taste test. I didn’t find the cold infusion very flavourful, it could be steeped in hot water then iced. It adds beauty to any infusion.

2. Apple mint

Apple mint is not in the usual repertoire of medicinal herbs, but we tried it because it’s growing in my garden. It’s not as minty as peppermint or spearmint so it’s not as potent as a  flavouring in cooking; it’s not as medicinal as other mints, and it’s not that great to eat raw because it’s so fuzzy, so it seems kind of lost in the world until you realize that iced tea is apple mint’s true calling. 

It’s sweeter than peppermint, with a subtle fruit flavour. Definitely add this one to your list of iced teas to try.

Savayda said  “Refreshing and uplifting”

Benna says “Mmmmmmm”

So which herbal iced tea was our favourite?

Drumroll please……

herbal iced teaThe Winner: Sweet Woodruff

If you arrived here from our newsletter, you might have guessed it. Sweet Woodruff was the clear winner of the Bloom Herbal Iced Tea Showdown! 

It has a vanilla flavour that is delicate and almost creamy, without a hint of bitterness. Benna thought it was a little reminiscent of cucumbers, which are known to be great for summer drinks. To me it smells refreshing like a forest, in a good way.

 

 

 

 

sweet woordruff and apple mint herbal iced teaBonus Combo

For an exotic treat, try making an infusion of rose and sweet woodruff together. This was a delicious vanilla-rose tasting delight. It’s floral, and creamy, and feels luxurious to sip. Rosewater is popular in Middle Eastern desserts, and I think this would pair well with baklava and a vacation to Istanbul.

One herbal tea that wasn’t worth it

Wormwood

Try at your own risk! We tried wormwood just because it’s abundant in my garden, but it is extremely bitter. I mean, I knew that…..but I thought maybe it would be different iced? 

Nope. It’s still extremely bitter. 

We wouldn’t drink it on its own as an iced tea, but the bitter flavour is cooling, so if you’re serious about beating the heat, you could add a tiny sprig to your iced tea blend, or something less powerful like mugwort.

Have you tried any of these? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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how to make flower essences

How to Make Your Own Flower Essences

Summer is the time to make your own flower essences. 

Flower essences are a type of vibrational medicine, akin to homeopathy, in which the healing energy of flowers is captured in a process of dilution, and no flower parts remain in the finished remedy. 

It is easy to make flower essences and they are a wonderful complement to herbal medicine because they address the underlying emotional causes that create problems in the body. Sometimes addressing the emotions can resolve physical symptoms and ailments.

They can work quickly, or take time to clear blockages. Similar to doing a detox cleanse, it is possible that you may initially feel heightened awareness of symptoms as stagnant emotional patterns are unearthed.

Why Use Flower Essences

Flower essences offer a wonderful way to heal and grow because they affect change at a deep emotional level.

They are safe for all ages, and even pets, and the don’t interact with medications. 

There are a couple of popular brands of flower essences available at natural health stores, including Bach and Wild Rose, and Nova Scotian essences produced by Blue Fairie and Star Flower essences.  Globally you will find flower essences produced with local blooms. 

And, it is easy to make your own…

Making Flower Essences

Making the Mother

Float the flowers in pure spring or well water in sunlight for 20 minutes to 3 hours or until more than half the flowers are wilted. Remove the flowers and transfer the liquid to a clean bottle. A small tincture bottle is good, about 50 ml. A funnel would be helpful.

Mix the flower water with an equal amount of brandy or glycerine.

Succus the bottle 100 times to mix them. 

Label as “Mother.”

Notes: Flower essences made with brandy will last decades, glycerine will last about 5 years, and plain water essences will last a few days. Look for or prepare glycerine based essences if you do not consume alcohol. 

Making a Stock Remedy

Fill another small bottle with half water and half brandy. Add 5 drops of the mother. Succus 100 times. Label as “Stock Remedy.”

Making a Treatment Bottle

Combine water and 30% glycerine or brandy. Add 5 drops from the stock bottle. Succus 100 times. Label. 

Keep the Mother and the Stock, and you can make flower essences to last a lifetime (if you have used brandy). Simply make more treatment bottles with the stock, and make more stock from the mother when you run out. 

The treatment bottle is what you will use for the following methods: 

Ways to Use Flower Essences

Take 3-5 drops in the mouth or in water, 3 or more times daily.

Use as a room spray – add 3 to 5 drops to a spray bottle full of water.

Add about 20 drops to a  bath. 

Flower essences can also be added to healing creams or lotions. 

Flowers to Look For

For a brief couple of months, Halifax is bursting with flowers, so don’t delay and make your essences soon. The following flowers can be found here in Halifax, and across much of North America:

Mallow 

Althea spp.

Mallow is for people who feel cut off and isolated, and long for warmth and openness. It’s for you if you have difficulty making friends or committing to relationships. Whether it stems from insecurity, fear or lack of trust, mallow will help you overcome barriers to friendship. 

Horse Chestnut

Aesculus hippocastanum

Do you feel like nothing ever changes? Horse Chestnut helps you stop making the same mistakes over and over.  Rid yourself of unwanted, repetitive thoughts and break out of stagnant patterns.

Dill

Anethum graveolens

If you’re busy, stressed, and overwhelmed with the hustle and bustle of a full & chaotic life. Dill is particularly good if you’re suffering from overstimulation, will promote relaxation and inner nourishment. 

Daisy

Bellis perennis

Daisy is the plant for getting your #%@ together! It’s for planning and organizing. Absorb more information and organize it in a meaningful way. It also enhances concentration.

Borage

Borago officinalis

Borage is a heart remedy to ease the brokenhearted. It’s good for those suffering grief, loss, sadness, or discouragement and it lifts the spirits and prevents depression. It promotes courage and optimism.

Greater Celandine 

Chelidonium majus

Celandine flower essence enhances communication. It’s good for singers, teachers and lecturers. Celandine assists giving receiving information, and is good for people who are stubborn or opinionated, do not listen, or can’t concentrate. It also helps enhance understanding of information given in dreams. 

Hawthorn

Crataegus monogyna, C. oxycanthus

Hawthorn is a renowned heart healer. As a flower essence, it heals broken hearts, opens the heart chakra and enhances expressions of love. It also eases emotional extremes. 

Opium poppy

Papaver somniferum

Poppy flower essence is for escapists who find it hard to face up to the realities of life, and for those fearful of expressing strong emotions such as anger. It gives you the courage to assert yourself, and express your feelings. 

Linden

Tilia europea

Linden is another flower essence for the heart. It increases awareness of our connectedness to the rest of humanity, and increases feelings of peace and happiness.

Mullein

Verbascum thapsus

Mullein provides an inner light to guide us along our path. It helps us to withstand social pressure, and strengthens the moral compass for those who are weak and confused. 

 

If you’re interested in learning more about flower essences, herbal medicine, and holistic wellness, you’ll love our Holistic Herbal Wellness course. It’s a year-long, seasonal self-care course featuring herbal medicine. We meet one Saturday per month in Halifax or Moncton. 

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Deciphering Botanical Latin Names

Deciphering Botanical Latin Names

The Latin names help us to reference specific plants across languages, and fields of study, but what do they mean and where do they come from?

Plants have many names from different languages, cultures and regions. Common names refer to the vernacular name that “the locals” would call it, but then there are Latin names used by botanists, herbalists, and other scientists. Healing modalities that evolved in other cultures have their own names for the plants as well, such as Ayurvedic names from Sanskrit, and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) names from Mandarin. Even within one language or region there can be many names for one plant, such as ground ivy and creeping charlie [Glechoma hederacea] or hawthorn and thornapple [Crataegus monogyna]. It can vary from region to region or continent to continent. What we call fireweed [Chamaenerion angustofolium]  is called rosebay willowherb in England, and blooming Sally in Ireland.

It doesn’t really matter what we call them, because, we all know that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” but what does matter is that we can convey to each other exactly which plant we’re referencing.

To solve this problem, many scientists have endeavoured to come up with a universal system of names to describe the natural world. The names are derived in part from how the plant is classified.

What is taxonomy?

Taxonomy is the branch of science concerned with classification, especially of organisms. Taxonomists define and name groups of biological organisms on the basis of shared characteristics.

The Linnaean System & The Origin of Latin Names

Living organisms are categorized into increasingly specific groups. The first major division is Kingdoms, of which the Plant Kingdom is one of six. The other kingdoms are Animals, Protists, Fungi, Archaebacteria, and Eubacteria.

A kingdom is further divided into a hierarchy of groups and subgroups called Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

Anatomy & Usage of Latin Botanical Names

Herbalists are mostly concerned with Family, Genus, and Species. 

Experienced herbalists become familiar with shared characteristics of major plant families. Sometimes plants in the same family will share some medicinal properties. Knowing some characteristics of a plant family can also help with identification. 

Plant families have Latin names ending in “-aceae,” meaning “resembling” but some also have common names. For example, vegetables in the family Brassicaceae are collectively referred to as “cruciferous” vegetables, and members of the parsley family, Apiaceae, are commonly called “umbellifers.”

Binomials

Latin botanical names are also referred to as “binomials” because they have two parts. The first part is the genus, and is capitalized, and the second word is the species, which is not capitalized. Latin names are usually written in italics.

When making a list of botanical names in the same genus, you can abbreviate the genus.

Example: Artemesia absinthium, A. vulgaris, A. dracunculus, A. annua

If you are referring to several species and don’t need to specify which species, you can use the abbreviation spp. after the genus.

Example: Artemesia spp.

Here’s an interesting list of some of the Latin words used in plant names.

Author Citations

Finally, you may also see a name or an abbreviated capital letter at the end of a Latin name. This is the author citation, and it refers to the person or group of people who first published the name while fulfilling the formal requirements as specified by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN), the set of rules and recommendations dealing with the formal botanical names that are given to plants, fungi and a few other groups of organisms, all those “traditionally treated as algae, fungi, or plants”.

The most common author citation seen after binomial Latin names is L. which stands for Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist, physician, and zoologist who formalised binomial nomenclature. He is considered the father of modern taxonomy, and we still use his basic system of classification today.

Plant Parts

On tincture or dried herb labels, you might also see the words radix, fruc or flos in the names. These stand for the parts of the plants used in the medicine. Radix means root, flos means flower, and fruc is short for fructus, which means fruit.

Other Naming Conventions

There are other naming conventions to get even more specific when referencing plants, but many of these are to do with cultivation.  There are subspecies, hybrids, varieties, and cultivars. A subspecies (preceded by the abbreviation “subsp.”) is a geographically separate population within a species that is almost, but not quite, a separate species. A variety (preceded by “var.”) is a distinct variant occurring in the same populations as ordinary examples of a species. A cultivar is defined as a plant whose origin or selection is primarily due to intentional human activity.

Cultivars

Herbalists are less likely to encounter any of these except for cultivars (CULTivated VARiety) because you will find cultivar names at typical garden centres. Cultivated plants have their own International Code

If you encounter a third word in single quotes after a Latin name, that is a cultivar. A cultivar is a cultivated variety of a species that is selectively bred for desirable characteristics that are maintained during propagation. More generally, a cultivar is the most basic classification category of cultivated plants.

Example: Rosa canina ‘Assisiensis’ a cultivar of Dog Rose that is selectively cultivated without prickles.

Herbal references generally don’t include cultivar names. Although many medicinal plants are sold at garden centres as ornamentals, they are often a named cultivar. Sambucus nigra, for example comes in many cultivars such as ‘Scotia’ and ‘Black Beauty.’  Bloom Institute’s founder, Savayda Jarone, suggests sourcing plants from dealers who specialize in medicinal or indigenous plants that don’t have cultivar names, to ensure the integrity of the medicinal properties. Most plant breeders are developing qualities such as disease-resistance, showier blossoms, size of plant, etc. and are not concerned about the medicinal properties. For example, there is an elderberry cultivar called ‘Laced Up’ that is bred to grow more tall and narrow than typical elderberry shrubs. This is great for saving space in the garden, but the medicinal potency of ‘Laced Up’ versus an uncultivated variety is unknown.

Other names

If you’re interested in how other cultural traditions have used plants as medicine, you’ve probably come across TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) or Ayurvedic names for plants. 

All these names can get pretty confusing, but I’ve done some research for you. On the Bloom Institute Pinterest profile, you’ll find a board called References, where I’ve pinned some databases of plant names of Ayurveda and TCM. You can use these to search in Chinese, Hindi, or English and find a translation and Latin name of the plant you want to reference. 

Resources Pinterest Board

 

PS In researching this post, I also discovered that many of Carl LInnaeus’ books are available online at Open Library. Here’s one on plants. https://archive.org/stream/b28777372_0001?ref=ol#page/n93/mode/2up

holistic herbal summer skin care

Herbal Summer Skin Care Inside & Out

It’s finally looking a bit like summer here in Halifax, and especially after a long winter indoors, our skin is more susceptible to sun damage. Incorporate these herbal remedies into your summer skin care routine for healthy, happy skin.

In this post we’ll share some practical ways to reduce sun exposure, herbs that have healing benefits for different skin conditions, and ways to use those herbs in skin care recipes to nourish and protect your skin. We’ll also talk about healing your skin from the inside with nutritive teas and a healthy diet.

PRACTICAL SUN CARE

The best way to reduce sun damage is to reduce exposure during peak sun hours. I know you probably want to run outside and soak up every drop of sun while it lasts, but it’s best to start gradually in early summer so you don’t burn. It’s ok to get some sun exposure, but the most critical risk factor is burns. It’s most important to avoid sun burns to prevent disease. Avoid getting burnt with these practical tips. 

  • Gradual exposure in early summer
  • Avoid peak sun exposure during the summer, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Cover up with light clothing
  • Seek shade during peak hours
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Avoid burns
  • Get enough sun exposure – small, frequent doses

Sunscreen is not a failsafe method of avoiding burns, so it’s important that you don’t fall into a sense of false security, thinking that because you used sunscreen, you’ll be fine. Sunscreen wears off over time, and in water and sweat, and can’t be relied upon for complete protection from the sun.

Topical Summer Skin Care

Our skin is sensitive and absorbent to what is applied to it. Chemicals found in skin care products will soak through to deeper tissues of the body, which can then make their way to urine, blood and breast milk.  There are short and long term cautions and potential harm stemming from the use of certain chemicals found in sunscreens and other skin care products.

Read the ingredients when choosing a sunscreen and look for ingredients that are effective and not harmful.

Choosing a Sunscreen

A great resource for helping you choose a sunscreen is this website.

Environmental Working Group – 13th Annual Guide to Sunscreens

https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/

Types of Sunscreen to Avoid

Skin is not an impermeable barrier, and many harmful chemicals that can be absorbed into the skin. Some chemicals in sunscreen are potentially toxic, and hormone disrupting. Avoid sunscreens with oxybenzone, PABA and trolamine salicylate, vitamin A.

Although Vitamin A is beneficial when ingested, it is harmful when applied topically and combined with sun exposure. Vitamin A might be listed under other names such as Retinol, Retinals, provitamin A, or beta-carotene.

Avoid artificial fragrances, and choose sunscreens with pure essential oils instead.

Spray sunscreens may seem convenient, but they are a respiratory irritant and potentially toxic. It’s best to smear on sunscreen the old fashioned way.

Higher SPF (sun protection factory)  is not necessarily better. There is also debate about whether or not the really high spf sunscreens (40, 50+) offer any more benefit than SPF 30. The SPF scale is not linear, and although SPF 30 sounds like twice as much protection as SPF 15, that’s not actually the case. In reality, SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays and SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays, so it’s better to focus on getting a high quality sunscreen rather than a really high SPF.

Ingredients to Look For in Sunscreen

Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide, which are safe, effective sunblocks.

Even though you’re choosing a safe, effective sunscreen that meets all the right criteria, it’s not a foolproof solution.

  • Sunscreen alone is not enough protection.
  • Melanoma on the rise, despite the increased use of sunscreen.
  • Sunscreens are designed to prevent sunburn but don’t necessarily offer protection against UV damage to DNA and skin cells.

Don’t forget to wash off your sunscreen at the end of the day.

Uses for herbal summer skin care: after sun care, heat rash, treatment of burns, protection from skin damage, bug bites, wounds, infections

Herbs for Summer Skin Care

Medicinal herbs can also benefit your skin. Some nourish your skin from the inside, and some can be used in luxurious recipes to pamper your skin, or soothe it after sun exposure.

There are several herbs that are especially beneficial to the skin, for a wide variety of ailments, including summer sun care.

Calendula is easy to grow, and it has anti-inflammatory and soothing properties when applied to the skin. It’s not too late to grow right now. You can still plant it in Halifax and get a late summer harvest.

Wild rose petals are fabulous for skin care. You can get rose water from most Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocery stores, and you can use it as a nice cooling spritzer in the summer.

Lavender flower, like rose and calendula, is soothing, especially if you’ve had a burn. Lavender essential oil is a great thing to be included in a skin care recipe.

Violet grows wild all over Nova Scotia. It has a heart-shaped leaf, and white or purple flowers. The heart shaped leaves have both tannins and mucilage, which makes them both toning and soothing. 

herbs for summer skin careRose water is also astringent, tones and tightens the pores. If you’re in Halifax, you can get rose water at Mid East Food Centre

Plantain is a common weed that is abundant in lawns. Like violet, it’s both mucilaginous and astringent. It can be used the same as violet, and it’s also good for stings, and mosquito and black fly bites. Chew it up in your mouth until it gets pulpy, and apply it to your sting or bite. Leave it on for about 10 minutes. It will alleviate the pain and itching.

Chickweed is a common weed that is specific for itchy skin. After mosquito bites, you can chew it into a pulp and apply it like plantain, or use it in a cream or lotion. Chickweed is also a good addition to a herbal tea mixture, because it’s cooling and refreshing, and can soothe you from the inside out. Chickweed is also helpful for moving lymph, so if you’re one who gets really swollen from bites, chickweed will help reduce the swelling.

Chamomile is another cooling, anti-inflammatory herb that is good for topical care. Chamomile and lavender are a great combination if you’ve got a bit of a glow from too much sun.

St. John’s wort is not a herbal sunscreen, as some believe, but it is good for after-sun care. It’s particularly helpful for inflamed skin and burns. It would be a good addition to a herbal oil, lotion or cream.

One thing to note is that taking St. John’s wort internally makes us photosensitive, so if you know you’re going to be in the sun a lot, it’s a good idea to avoid taking St. John’s wort internally, either in tincture or tea form.

Oats are great for itch and inflammation. If your whole body is itchy or needs some cooling after-sun TLC, take a bath in coconut milk and oats. Bree Hyland of Barre Studio recommends pouring a can of coconut milk into your bath and add a sock full of oats. When the oats are good and steeped in the bath water, squeeze the milk out of the sock.

If you want to go out foraging for these herbal treasures, we’ve got some wildcrafting tips for you.

Summer Skin Care Preparations

Baths

Baths are great for full coverage, when your whole body needs attention.

Make a really strong tea with calendula, rose, lavender. Double or triple the proportions that you would for drinking tea.

To make 2 L of tea, steep a full cup of dried herbs or 2 cups of fresh herbs in 2L of boiled water, then add it to the bath.

Lotions, oils, salves.

Oils infused with herbs are excellent for after sun care.

Oils are herbal infusions in an oil such as olive, almond, sunflower, or grapeseed. The oils have the ability to extract the plant chemical into the oil. You can use the oil directly on your skin, or you could prepare an oil and then convert that into a salve.

Salves or ointments. A salve is an oil-based preparation mixed with beeswax to make it solid so it’s a bit easier to apply.

Lotions are water based. You would mix a herbal water or tea with oil and emulsify it.

Compresses & Poultices

Compresses & poultices are local remedies involving wrapping up the skin with herbal medicines. A compress refers to making a strong herbal brew, soaking a cotton cloth in the tea. and wrapping up the area.

A poultice is similar to a compress, but instead of making a tea, you actually make pulp with the whole plant material and put it in direct contact with your skin.

Spritzers

Spritzers are great for cooling relief after too much sun exposure. Rose and orange flower water are available at most middle Eastern food stores. If you can find chamomile or lavender floral waters, they are also excellent for skin.

Herbal summer skin care from the inside

In addition to after sun care, and remedies for bug bites, it’s also important to get the right nutrients to keep our skin healthy. We can get nutrients from plants in herbal teas, herbal vinegars, and eating a healthy diet.

Herbal Teas

Herbal teas offer antioxidants, which are important for protecting your cells. Calendula, thyme, rosemary fresh from the garden make a yummy and uplifting tea that is rich in antioxidants. Some other high-antioxidant teas are green tea, dandelion leaves, parsley, and watercress.  

Herbal Vinegars  

Nutrition is another important element of healthy skin, and herbal vinegars are a great source of minerals, especially calcium and magnesium,

Making herbal vinegar is a great thing to do with spring greens. Chop up some greens and steep them in apple cider vinegar for a couple of weeks. Strain the vinegar, and then you can use it in salad dressings. There are LOTS of types of greens you can do this with, including horsetail, dandelion, evergreen tips, stinging nettles and more.

Sour Food & Drink

In Ayurveda, the ancient science of healthy lifestyle, the six tastes are associated with the increase or decrease of specific energetic properties. The sour taste is cooling, so it’s great to sip on a sour drink in summer. You can make a delicious, refreshing iced tea with hibiscus, rosehip, and hawthorn berries. Add the herbs and let them simmer for about 15 minutes, then cool it with ice and float some orange slices in it.

Diet

Increase your intake of antioxidant nutrients that offer protection from free radical damage from the sun.  These include vitamins A, C and E, and zinc and selenium. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables (5-9 servings per day), whole grains, nuts and seeds will supply these and other important nutrients for protection at the cellular level. In the spring and summer, it should be easy to get all your veggies.

Nuts and seeds have Vitamin E and Zinc. A great way to add these to your diet is adding walnuts or sunflower seeds to pesto. You can even add some other spring greens in there besides basil, and you’ll be getting a variety of minerals, too.

The skin is nourished and hydrated by adding essential fatty acids to the diet – fish, flax and hemp seed oils can be used in salad dressings and smoothies. If you eat fish, go for mackerel, sardines, wild salmon if you can get it.

Vitamin D: the “sunshine vitamin”

Vitamin D is another important consideration when it comes to summer skin care. We need sun exposure on our skin to activate the synthesis of Vitamin D in our bodies. Vitamin D is linked to the prevention of colon cancer and other cancers, diabetes, allergies, and many other ailments, and it’s known to improve bone health. Vitamin D production may be inhibited by sunscreen. It’s important, especially in northern climates to make sure we get enough sun exposure. This is a great reason to enjoy the sun, and to not approach the sun with fear.

With all these ways to take care of your skin with herbal remedies and nutritive herbs in your diet, there’s no reason not to get out there and enjoy the sun!
Have a great summer!

How to Create Your Own Herbal Materia Medica

The term “materia medica” is latin for “healing materials.” In herbal medicine it refers to the body of knowledge that describes how plants can be used for healing purposes. The term dates back to Roman times when Greek physician and botanist Dioscorides published a five-volume work called De Materia Medica. De Materia Medica was a widely used resource for 1500 years, until updated herbals were written in the Renaissance, one of which is Carl Linnaeus’ Materia Medica. (Linnaeus is the father of modern taxonomy, and the reason why we have standard, international botanical names.)

Carl Linnaeus' Materia Medica

Monographs for your Materia Medica

 

A materia medica includes a collection of herbal monographs. A monograph is an organized set of information about a specific plant, collected into a report. A monograph can be a brief description of only a page, or it can be many pages. They often have the same key sections of information about the plant, including description, medicinal actions, growing habitat, and more.

It’s great to have a library of herbal reference books, but it’s even better to collect information about plants that you already have experience with, and grow your own personal materia medica as you gain first-hand experience with more and more plants. Reference books will have many plants that you haven’t used or don’t have access to, so I recommend collecting information about each plant that you do use, and have space in your materia medica to record your own observations as you meet the plant. Your senses can tell you a lot about the plant, so make room to record tastes, observations and experiences.

 

Herbal materia medica books at Bloom

As you embark on a journey of herbal learning, it’s a good idea to start collecting monographs and expand your notes as you learn.

Here’s a long list of possible sections to consider including in your monographs, depending on your interests. Look through the list and make a template for yourself of the information that’s important to you. 

General

Name
Latin Name
Family
Safety
Description
Habitat
Harvest Month
Related Species
Geographic Range
Sustainability Issues
Harvesting Guidelines

Medical

Parts Used
Actions
Preparations
Uses
Doses
Tastes
Energetics
Key Constituents
References & Research

Cultivation

Zones
Soil
Size
Propagation
Siting
Problem Insects and Diseases

Other Information

Culinary Uses
Folklore
Magical Uses

Materia Medica Formats

So how should you collect all of this information?

The first decision is whether you want to collect the information in hard copy, or digitally.

A paper method is easy and versatile in that you can make it like a scrap-book. You can easily include , and The advantage of digital methods is that they are searchable and expandable. The downside is that it is not as tactile or accessible. It might be easier and more enjoyable for some people to simply keep a binder of monographs, and then easily add more pages. 

Paper Methods

Binder

A binder is a cheap and easy way to collect pages, and you can easily expand your materia medica as your knowledge grows. Another pro is that there are page protectors and clear sleeves that you can use to keep recipe cards, magazine clippings or even pressed herbs.

Disc-Bound Notebook

A step up from a binder, which I prefer, is a notebook with disc binding. Setting up a disc-bound system is more expensive than just getting a binder because you need a special hole punch, but once you have the punch, you can add any page to a disc-bound notebook, just like you could to a binder.

The main advantage is that the cover can fold back on itself so it’s much easier to carry around and take notes. The other potential advantage is that there are many accessories available, if you like to customize your notebook. You can get rulers, pouches, dividers, sticky-notes and all sorts of things that snap into the special discs. There’s also a wide variety of covers available.

Disc-bound systems are available at Staples (called the Arc system) and at Michael’s (called Happy Planner). The Arc system is a good way to start; it’s simple and utilitarian.

Index Cards

Correne at Spirea Herbs loves her index card system. She uses a card per plant and keeps them all in a a box, like recipe cards. This method is great if know you’re only collecting notes, but it obviously can’t accommodate add-ons, like pressed flowers or large images.

Digital Methods

Word Processor

If you want your herbal monographs to be searchable, but you would also like to print them so you can flip through them easily, you can keep them all in one document. In Google Docs, you can have one long document with all your plant information, and if you use the built-in hierarchy of header formats (H1, H2, H3, etc) you can auto-generate a table of contents at the beginning that will automatically update when you add new plants and sections. Instead of scrolling, you can jump to the right section by clicking in the table of contents.

Google doc with table of contents for materia medica

Database

I like disc-bound notebooks, but my absolute favourite method of collecting information is in a database.

If you’re a little bit tech savvy, you can collect your information in a database to make it easily searchable. Technically, the information in a database wouldn’t be a “monograph” because it’s a collection of information about several herbs, but the information in one record could be re-formatted into a monograph.

Database Terminology

A database is simply a structured method of organizing information on a computer.

A record is the collected information about one subject. The record contains fields, which are the categories of information about that record.

For example, you would have a record for each plant, and that record could contain fields of information such as Latin Name, Actions, Contraindications, Growing Habitat, etc.

The magic of a database is the versatility of organization. You can search for exactly what you’re looking for, and can arrange and visualize your records of plants in any way you want. You could search for a specific action or use, or for example, if you have a field for “Flower Colour” you could group your plants by flower colour, or if you have a field for “Harvest Month” you could arrange them by month.

My favourite database software is AirTable.  It’s an easy, free, online database software. It looks similar to a spreadsheet, but has many options for field types and displaying your data. You can even insert images and view your database like a gallery.

Just to give you some inspiration of how you can organize information with AirTable, I found this Base of someone’s garden almanac and this one with someone’s seed records. You can easily create your own custom database for organizing your plant knowledge. You can even make a table to keep track of inventory or medicines you’ve made, all in one place.

To help get you started, I’ve made this Google Doc Materia Medica template for you. If you choose Google Docs as your method for your materia medica, you can just copy and paste the template over and over to add more plants to your list. Make sure to keep a blank template to copy at th ebottom of the document before you start filling it in. And you can, of course, delete any fields you don’t want to fill in.

And if you decide to make your materia medica in another medium, you can always use this as a reference for the kinds of information you might want to include.

The sooner you start collecting and organizing your plant data, the better! Your collection will grow and grow as you become familiar with more herbs, so it’s best to build a good foundation.

If you’re interested in building your herbal medicine knowledge, and developing a relationship for each of the plants that you study, consider enrolling in Holistic Herbal Wellness. The course is one day a month throughout a whole year so you’ll get dozens of monographs to build your collection, but more importantly, you’ll get out in the forests and fields to meet each plant in season.

The class starts in September. Register now if you’re planning on going, because you can get the early bird price until June 15th.

common myths about herbal medicine

Common Myths About Herbal Medicine

There are many myths and misconceptions about herbal medicine. Some have a bit of truth to them, but many are preventing people from trying a very effective healing modality. Here’s the truth about the most common myths we encounter.

#1   Herbal medicine is not supported by research.

There is a growing body of research related to herbal medicine. Many healing properties of herbs have been known for generations, and every year, more healing plants are being “discovered” by science.

Scientific evidence is important, but there is also a lot you can determine about a plant by using your senses. The taste, smell and colour of a plant can tell you a lot about the plant’s properties, as can the sensations you experience when you pay close attention to your body’s reaction to it.

 

#2  I can’t take herbal medicine if I’m taking allopathic medications.

It’s true that some herbs do interact with allopathic medications, but that doesn’t mean the two are mutually exclusive.

A qualified herbal practitioner will know which herbs interact with which medications, and there are many herbs that can be taken along with medication to support the immune system and general health. Many herbs are gentle and nutritive, giving the body the vitamins and minerals it needs to repair itself without interacting with other medications.

It is always important to check for contra-indications before taking any new medicine, allopathic or herbal. Inform your herbal practitioner about all medications you are taking, and inform your doctor about the herbs you are taking.

 

#4 Herbal medicine is natural, so it’s always safe.

Herbs are safe, when used properly at the recommended dose, but natural doesn’t always mean safe. Some herbal medicines are very potent, and care must be taken to use the correct dose, for the proper length of time.

There are many gentle tonic herbs that are generally safe and non-toxic. These are safe for most people, barring any contraindications.

Herbs and herbal preparations vary in potency, and many plants are toxic in high doses, but when given in the appropriate dose by a trained herbalist, even some toxic plants can be effective treatment for certain conditions.

 

#5 Herbs must be taken for weeks or months before they work.

This is not always true. All herbs work differently depending on what they’re being used for. They may be needed for a long time to treat chronic conditions and bring the body back into balance, however some treatments can take effect after just one dose, or even a taste. The pungent herbs such as cayenne pepper, ginger and horseradish can stimulate the sinuses within minutes.  Plantain poultice applied to a bee sting will take away the pain and draw out the stinger within 10 minutes. The bitter taste, found in herbs such as dandelion root, will stimulate digestion immediately.

 

#6 Herbal medicine is expensive.

Not all forms of herbal preparation are expensive. Herbal remedies in pill and tincture form tend to be most expensive when purchasing from a retail shop.  Herbal teas are relatively inexpensive, costing as little as $5 for a bulk herbal tea to last 4 weeks.

Many herbal preparations such as tinctures, syrups and salves can be made at home, from herbs grown in your garden or sustainably harvested in the wild, which significantly reduces costs.

 

#7 Herbal medicine is the same as homeopathy.

Herbal medicine and homeopathy are two completely different therapies.

Homeopathy is a form of energy healing, in which the essence of a plant, animal or mineral. The substance is diluted to such a degree that there are no molecules left of the original substance in the final product.

Herbal medicine uses medicine from plants – either using the whole plant, or parts of the plant, and a variety of extraction methods, to make the active constituents available.

 

How to Safely Reap the Benefits of Herbal Medicine

#1 Positively identify plants

Going for a herb walk is a great way to get introduced to plants in their habitats. If there are no herb walks happening around you, get a good field guide and use it to familiarize yourself with the plants in your area. Our favourite field guide is the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. 

#2 Consult with a professional herbalist

Find more information about our clinic here.

#3 Disclose any medications you are taking to your herbal practitioner & disclose any herbs you are taking to your medical doctor

If you plan to take both pharmaceuticals and herbal medicines, both your doctor and herbal practitioner should be know what you’re already taking to avoid prescribing conflicting remedies.

 

My Herbal Medicine Healing Story

Years ago, at the onset of my studies in herbal medicine, I was struggling with a lingering illness.  I consulted with a herbalist and the results boosted my confidence in the career path I had chosen.

 

When I was in my early twenties, travelling in India, I got dysentery, which is a debilitating infection of the intestinal system. I’ve never been more ill  and miserable, I thought I would die. I was in bed for three days with fever, delirium, diarrhea, and vomiting, followed by another three days in bed, too weak to get up.

 

The only thing I could consume was peppermint tea. I was unwell for many days after and never fully recovered from the infection. I continued to experience diarrhea, bloating, gas and digestive pain for the duration of my travels and my eventual return to Canada.  

 

By the time I arrived in Vancouver to begin my herbal studies I had been living with a chronic bowel condition for six months.

Healed by Herbal Medicine

Thankfully, I found my way to Gaia Garden Herbals and attended their student training clinic (much like ours at Bloom). I consulted with a herbal practitioner and several herbal medicine students, who created a herbal and dietary protocol to address my digestive health. I took a herbal tea three times daily, a tincture and a paste made from marshmallow root powder.

marshmallow blossomOnce I started taking herbal medicine, my recovery was rapid.

 

Within about one week I had noticeable improvements. By the time I returned for my first follow-up session a month later I was feeling 50% better. After three months following this program I was 95% better, and my condition continued to improve as long as I ate a healthy diet.

 

This was my first personal experience of herbal healing and the launch into my career as a herbal practitioner. It was a truly inspirational start to a twenty-year path of herbal healing.

Holistic Herbal Wellness Course

Discovering herbal medicine has changed my life in a profound way, and I’ve made it my life’s work to share this knowledge with others. That’s why I created the Holistic Herbal Healing course 15 years ago. In this course you’ll learn the value of the healing plants all around you. We’ll go outside and meet the plants in their habitats, learn how to harvest them and make medicines with them. You’ll learn about the systems of your body and how using whole-plant medicines can support your general health year-round, and treat specific conditions when needed.

 

There are healing plants all around you, just waiting to be discovered.

 

Learn more about Holistic Herbal Wellness program here.

Herbal Tonics for Optimal Health

You can What is a tonic?  Is it the same as a remedy? Read on to learn the difference between a herbal tonic and a remedy, and find Savayda’s favourite tonics for each body system for optimal health. 

Remedies and tonics are two different uses of herbal medicines. Some plants are both remedies and tonics, depending on how they’re being used and what they’re combined with. A qualified herbalist can determine how best to use a herb to either boost a bodily system or to treat a specific condition. For example, Hawthorn is a gentle tonic for the cardiovascular system, but can also be used to treat hypertension. Elecampane boosts lung health, but is also an expectorant and can be used to treat bronchitis.

 

Each herb has many phytochemical constituents, which means it has many potential uses, and many could be either a tonic, remedy or both. This whole-herb approach is very different than the allopathic approach, which separates and reduces the plants to single molecules, and aims to match each ailment with a specific constituent.

 

Herbalists are more comfortable with the complexity of both plants and people, and knowing which herbs to use and when, is the art and science of herb combining.

 

Tonics Optimize Health

 

A tonic is a mild approach that is used to restore and strengthen a system of the body or to promote optimal health and well-being. One way that tonics differ from remedies is that a tonic will give improvement even in a healthy state, whereas a remedy is aimed at treating a problem, but doesn’t alter an already-healthy system.

I like to compare herbal tonics to plant foods, we eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to supply us with the nutrients we need for basic healthy function.

 

A herbal tonic is generally thought of as a herb or combination of herbs that are gentle and nourishing, either to the whole body or to specific organs or systems. The mild herbs are used to promote a tonic action, often spread over many weeks or months to restore or support general health. They are used to bring balance to chronic conditions or to support general wellness and prevention of dis-ease.  

 

Herbal tonics can be taken periodically, rotating through different tonics for different systems. You could focus on a different system every month or every season.

 

A tonic may come in the form of a tincture, tea or herbal vinegar.

 

Tinctures are sometimes referred to as a tonic, which they may be in action, but tincture specifically refers to the preparation method of extracting the medicinal properties from herbs using alcohol. The terms tonic and tincture are not interchangeable.

 

Remedies Treat Ailments

 

Herbal tonics complement remedies. They help keep a healthy person healthy and offer support for the body’s systems, while remedies work to correct an imbalance or treat a specific ailment.

 

Like tonics , remedies come in different forms – teas, tinctures, syrups, etc, but the difference is that remedies offer a more direct input to the body’s healing processes.

 

Examples: St. John’s wort is a remedy for depression, calendula is a remedy for wounds, elderberry is a remedy for viral infections, turmeric is a remedy for inflammation.

 

Tonics as Remedies

In some cases, tonics can be an integral part of a remedy, and tonics can also supply a remedial action over the long them. Sometimes the use of general tonics can correct underlying problems, and long term use of tonics is one healing strategy.

 

This gentle strategy of long-term tonic use is ideal for people in weakened states, such as recovering from a major illness or surgery, children or the elderly. In these cases, the herbalist wouldn’t want to over-activate their system with strong herbs, so gentle remedies are better tolerated.

 

As an example, a herbalist might use tonics to support the immune and nervous systems of a patient undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, when their system couldn’t handle the addition of stronger treatments.

 

Savayda’s Favourite Tonics for Optimal Health for Each System

Hawthorn [Crataegus spp.] for the Cardiovascular System

Hawthorn is Savayda’s favourite tree. Named for its intimidating thorns, hawthorn is a very useful plant for heart health. It helps correct both high and low blood pressure, and strengthens veins and arteries. It’s a core herb to use for any cardiovascular conditions.

In addition to the physical heart, hawthorn also offers support for the emotional heart. It is good for protection and resilience when going through emotional difficulty.

Oatseed [Avena sativa] for the Nervous System

 

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Oatseed comes from the same plant as the oats commonly used for food in oatcakes and granola, but oatseed refers to the immature green, milky seed, before it matures into cereal oats. Oatseed balances the nervous system from the extremes of anxiety or depression and restores strength and energy to the nervous system when exhausted.

Raspberry Leaf [Rubus ideaus] for the Uterus

Good as a tea or herbal vinegar, raspberry leaf is used as a tonic post-partum or in late pregnancy. It’s also beneficial for women who are having some menstrual difficulties. It gives strength to the uterus so it functions better, and results in fewer menstrual cramps, and faster recovery, restoring tone to the uterus.

Partridge Berry [Mitchella repens] as a Fertility Tonic for Both Men and Women

Traditionally used to improve fertility due to its influence on normalizing endocrine hormones in both males and females.

Damiana [Turnera diffusa] for Prostate Function

Damiana is a mild hormone normalizer and general restorative for men.

Horsetail [Equisetum arvense] for Skin, Hair & Nails

High in silica and other minerals, horsetail is the best tonic for strengthening brittle nails and fine hair. It delivers required nutrients, acting like a food that encourages growth and strength.

Elecampane [Inula helenium] for the Respiratory System

A warming herb that soothes bronchial tube linings and acts as an expectorant for lung cleansing, and has a relaxing effect on smooth tracheal muscle.

Gotu Kola [Centella asiatica] for the Brain

Gingko biloba is often championed as an exceptional herb for the brain, but it is actually more of a remedy than a tonic. While Gingko biloba has direct action by improving blood flow for focus & memory, it is usually taken when there’s a deficit. In contrast, Gotu Kola can be taken in a healthy state, and also improves mental functioning. Gotu Kola is not too stimulating, and is more stabilizing and good for overactive or underactive brains.

Dandelion [Taraxacum officinalis]  for Digestion

Its bitter taste signifies its effect on the digestive system. Bitters tune up and gently stimulate the whole digestive system.

Astragulus [Astragalus propinquus] for Immunity

Astragulus helps to ensure that the body’s white blood cell count is where it should be. Produced in bone marrow, white blood cells are a critical part of the body’s defense system and should be ready to be called into action when needed.

Milk Thistle [Silybum marianum] for the Liver


Milk thistle is like nutritive food for the liver, helping to restore liver cells and protect them from damage.

Blueberry [Vaccinium] for the Eyes

You’re probably aware that blueberries are a powerhouse of antioxidants but did you know they’re also good for your eyes? They contain anthocyanadins that strengthen the blood vessels in the eyes, and can reduce the risk of cataracts and glaucoma.

Nutritive Herbs for the Musculoskeletal System

The best tonic for the musculoskeletal system is proper nutrition, and there are many herbs that can help you make sure you get your vitamins and minerals. Nettle, dandelion leaf, horsetail, and plantain are great spring greens that can be eaten whole, or made into mineral-rich vinegars. You can forage lots of nutritive herbs. Check out our Foraging Guide.

Adaptogens for Your Whole Being

Adaptogens behave like tonics, helping the whole body to resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, chemical or biological. These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions to promote optimize health, and are having a renaissance today. Common adaptogens include eleuthero, withania and schizandra.

 

Conclusion

Tonics are a wonderful first foray into the world of herbal medicine, and a great way to optimize your health. 

Remedies and tonics are not the same thing, but they can complement each other or be used for different purposes. Tonics are more nutritive and balancing, remedies treat specific conditions. Tonic herbs are generally safe for use for self care, but make sure you check for contraindications before taking any new herb. Although they are generally gentle for healthy bodies, the plants can still have strong effects that may interact with other medications or conditions.