| HERBS have been the fundamental form of treating disease throughout the world for millennia. In the wild, plants use alkaloids and natural chemicals to protect themselves from fungus, stop animals from eating their leaves, and attract pollinators to spread their seeds through the forest. It’s now known that when a tree dies, it will send specific compounds through its roots to any of its young in the area, ensuring they have the proper defense to withstand varying factors as they age. When we harvest and dry herbs, these compounds are still available inside the leaves, stem, roots and flowers of the plants. The same elements that protect herbs from a fungus, can assist us in restoring health to our body. In the modern world, we are able to validate with precision the therapeutic benefits of herbal medicine and understand the complex structures that have beneficial effects on the body.
There is no end to what we can learn from the interaction of these complex plants with our own physiology. The compounds held in a single herb have a bounty of biochemical actions affecting the our health. Berberine, an alkaloid extracted from Goldenseal, increases up-regulation of glucose and decreases cholesterol. Lions Mane Mushroom boosts the synaptic connectivity in the brain to help with early onset dementia and increases the production of Beta cells responsible for the secretion of insulin. When properly prescribed, herbs have a transformative effect on the body, changing the underlying factors that lead to disease.
Many pharmaceuticals are built off and inspired by the primary structures of proteins found in herbs. However, because they are isolating certain molecules, they often have substantial side effects. The medicinal properties of a plant is more complex than just a single molecule. In many cases, one part of an herb can be slightly toxic, while other proteins within the same herb act as buffers to balance the more harmful alkaloids enabling it to be edible. In general, herbs are much safer and can be taken for a more extended period than that of pharmaceuticals.
Teas are a simple, easy, and delicious way to incorporate herbs into your everyday life. Below are some examples of medicinals that I love.
The general rule of thumb for steeping herbs is as follows:
Flowers: 2-3 minutes
Leaves/Stems: 3-5 minutes
Roots: 5-20 minutes
You can always steep your herbs for longer. The general idea is flowers are more delicate than that of roots, and so do not need as much time to brew. Roots, on the other hand, are thicker and dense in nature, allowing you to cook them at higher temperatures for more extended periods of time to extract the beneficial qualities. Just remember, the longer an herb cooks, the stronger the taste.
Ginger is a great way to increase digestion, warm the body, and decrease nausea or morning sickness.
Fresh ginger will be milder in nature than that of dried and is my preference of choice when making teat. To prepare, peel a piece of ginger (roughly the size of your thumb) with a spoon, removing all the skin. Next, thinly slice the ginger and place in a small pot of water, cover and bring to a simmer for 15 minutes. Strain, add honey and lemon to taste. The tea can be stored for five days and reboiled several times.
Tulsi (holy basil)
This tea is not only deliciously aromatic but yields exceptional benefits to the body. Its taste is similar to that of mint but more subtle in flavor. Tulsi is an adaptogenic herb, in that it targets and balances the central nervous system. It can be taken in the morning to get going or enjoyed at night to calm down and help with sleep. You can never have too much Tulsi.