Herbal Medicine

Brewing to Heal

I met with a friend last week who I am working with to manage and grow my business more efficiently.  She constantly blesses me with words of encouragement and focus, and supports me in every way possible (everyone should have someone like her in their life).  While brainstorming about the creation of a new health-coaching program, she began to go through some of the things that I do on a daily basis, practices that I use to support my physical and emotional health.

“People want to know this stuff!  They NEED to know this stuff!

I sat, listened, and I reflected.  I thought about all of the things I do on a daily basis, all of the practices and products that I have spent years figuring out, but are now such a part of my routine that I forget my life before them.  Long story short, this thought process brought me back to my basics and got me thinking about some of the practices in my life that I should share with my readers.

So, the next obvious question, where should I start?

I thought about this for a few days, as I packed up all of my things in NY, as I rode the plane down to FL, and as I unpacked and did laundry.  It didn’t hit me until I opened one of my cabinets in the kitchen and saw all of my beautiful herbs in glass jars.  I had missed them so much while traveling, and knew that I wanted to share my love for them along with how I use them in my daily life.

Over the past few years, I have grown a real love for plants and herbs.  I have attended a few herbal conferences and workshops, grown some of my own plants, and learned about all of the wondrous ways that herbs can heal, benefit and enrich our lives.

There are herbs that I depend on when I need to strengthen my immune system, herbs that I use when I am treating a specific ailment or situation, and then there are the herbs that I use on a daily/weekly basis for general health and enjoyment.  From this group (the ones I use daily/weekly) I chose a few of my favorites to share with you.

But first, there are a few things I want you to take note of before we dive in:

  • The relationship a person has/develops with an herb may differ from one individual to the next.  Of course, there are general uses and guidelines for herbs, but sometimes 2 different people may use certain herbs for different reasons.  In this post, I share my relationship with each herb, a combination of what I have learned from books and workshops along with my own personal experiences.
  • Most, if not all of the herbs I mention below have many other medicinal uses and health benefits besides the ones listed here.  I wanted to share some of the general benefits without getting into treating specific ailments, illnesses or other situations.
  • All of the herbs listed here are considered “tonics”, which means that they are non-toxic and can be safely consumed everyday.

Ok, now that all the serious talk is out of the way, lets get to the beautiful, vivacious herbs…

herbs in my cabinet

Peppermint.  We have probably all heard of it, and most likely tasted it, but this familiar smell offers so much as a fresh or dried herb.  Peppermint is wonderful for digestion, and can be used to ease indigestion and nausea.  It helps to relive congestion during cold and allergy season and also helps reduce headaches that are associated with congestion.  It increases cognitive function by stimulating the brain, supporting mental clarity and quick thinking.  It is a wonderfully flavored herb, which makes it great to blend with other mixes.

Chamomile.  Chamomile calms the nervous system and can be used to encourage sleep.  It also supports digestion by calming a nervous stomach, decreasing anxiety and stress.  Enjoy some chamomile tea before bed and feel your body and mind relax.

Ginger.  Besides its amazing flavor, ginger has many great health benefits to offer.  It supports healthy digestion by strengthening the digestive system.  It can also be used to relieve nausea and motion sickness.  Ginger is great for our circulatory and cardiovascular systems because it gets the blood moving and also detoxifies it.  It helps to reduce inflammation in the body, which can help relieve arthritis and joint pain, and can also help prevent SO MANY of the inflammatory diseases that we see in our culture.  You can grate fresh ginger and squeeze the juices out with your fingers into a hot cup of water, or you can purchase dried ginger to brew like a tea.

Cayenne.  This is a wonderful supplemental herb because it acts as a catalyst to help our bodies absorb the benefits of other herbs (and foods) more efficiently.  Cayenne supports heart health by stimulating circulation and reducing cholesterol.  It also stimulates the digestive system.  Sprinkle some cayenne in hot water with a little lemon juice in the morning to jump-start your day.  Personally, this really gets my system moving, if you catch my drift.  Great way to start the day.

Nettle.  “When in doubt, use nettle”, something I have heard more then once at herbal conferences and workshops.  This is because it offers such a wide spectrum of healing benefits. It is a blood cleanser and blood builder, loaded with iron and calcium.  It also helps keep the immune system strong, and nourishes and tones pretty much all tissues in the body (skin, blood, muscles, arteries, etc…).  To me, the flavor is really earthy, so I usually like to combine it with peppermint or add a little honey and lemon.

Tulsi (Holy Basil).  Tulsi is an “adaptogen”, which means that it helps the body adapt to stress, both emotional and physiological.  To reap its benefits, you should incorporate Tulsi on a daily basis over an extended period of time (4-5 weeks).  It has a slightly minty and earthy flavor, making it a great addition to herbal combinations or easy to enjoy on its own.

Red Raspberry.  This herb has a very gentle and semi-sweet flavor.  Red raspberry supports and nourishes a woman’s reproductive organs, and can be especially beneficial to a pregnant women or for someone who is looking to become pregnant.  I love to incorporate this herb into my teas because it helps to keep my cycles regular with all of the traveling that I do.  Although it is usually associated with women’s health, it is also nourishing for men.

Lemon Balm.  I began adding lemon balm to my herbal combinations because of the enjoyable flavor, only to find out later that it offers many amazing benefits (I should’ve known).  Lemon balm has a calming affect on the body, soothing the heart and nerves, and can encourage a good nights sleep.  It also helps to clear the body of excess heat and improves circulation.

I order my herbs in bulk online at MountainRoseHerbs.com.  They are known for their quality and their sustainability when growing and harvesting plants.  There are tons of other goodies on their website like clays and beauty products, so definitely check it out.

And if you aren’t feeling like you want to dive right in and order a ½ pound bag of nettle just yet (why not?), your local health food store most likely carries many herbal teas and blends for you to try, so make sure to ask.  One of my favorite tea company’s is Traditional Medicinals.  They offer a larger variety of herbs and herbal combinations, and they are a beautifully run company founded by Rosemary Gladstar, one of the amazing mama’s of herbalism.brewing tea

To reap the medicinal benefits of herbs, you should let them steep for 20-30 minutes in a covered (not sealed) container.  Mason jars are perfect for this because you can measure out your herbs (1 tablespoon to 1 cup of water) and place them in the jar, cover them with boiling water, and then place the flat piece that fits across the mouth of the jar on top.  Let them steep and then strain the herbs using a fine mesh strainer.  If you are using tea bags, brew the same way but no need to measure or strain.  Feel free to add some delicious raw honey or lemon to enhance the flavor.

Enjoying a hot cup of tea is a wonderful practice to incorporate into your life.  In times when everything feels like a stressful hustle, brewing and enjoying a healing cup of tea is the perfect excuse to stop, breathe, and reflect.  Give space to all of the beauty that surrounds you, all of the beauty within you, and of course, all of the beauty in your tea cup.

with love and herbs,

Amanda

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