Fatigue at any time feels like a weight and a burden. We can't be the energetic curious, creative people we are. Our joy also can get robbed by fatigue and the mood or attitude can sink us down. Not too many truly happy people are exhausted. How can herbs help us to renew and rebuild when we are feeling the weight of fatigue?
There are many reasons for it, in fact fatigue isn’t an “it” but a deficit. How does this happen? Overwork is big one especially in our culture and the pace at which our lives are lived is staggering. We do way too much. Staying up too late, night after night scrolling on phones or watching endless whatevers ostensibly to relax imbalances our sleep chemistry and then when we collapse sleep eludes us or wakes us in the middle of the night.
Poor nutrition is depleting and robs our bodies of what it needs to have vitality. Low level illnesses or ignored stresses, even poor posture and not enough exercise and bundle together as well to create fatigue. I don’t need to go on. Let’s talk about how herbs can help but always do check with your chosen health care provider to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical condition that needs attention.
Adrenal Fatigue is the first piece we should talk about. In subsequent blogs I’ll try to cover some of the other contributors and how herbs can help.
ADRENAL FATIGUE – There really are stages of this phenomenon from wired and tired all the way to 'I can’t get off the couch' tired. It’s a spectrum. Finding the right adrenal formula or single herb for oneself is a trial and error process, but here are some great tried and true herbs that support the adrenals to secrete their chemistry in a balanced and supportive way rather than racing us around the game board.
Rebuilding overused adrenals requires commitment, hydration, lifestyle and dietary change and most of all, time. From a few weeks after a stressful period, caregiving, or work situation up to 18 months after a long haul from illness, raising a family and working, etc. etc.
SOME HERBS TO SUPPORT OUR ENERGY STORES AND INCREASE OUR VITALITY
Eleutherococcus previously called Siberian ginseng, is a great renewer for these tiny almond sized organs that sit on top of our kidneys. It can be used as a single herb daily as a tonic or with Licorice as an afternoon pickup instead of sugar and caffeine which ultimately are depleting. Because it can increase energy most people benefit from not using it in the evening so that a natural sleep rhythm can be encouraged.
Also, taken in formulas like our Adrenal Support Formula with a few other support herbs like Ashwaganda, which supports good sleep. Ashwaganda is the ginseng of India and has so many uses and has been used for millennia. Its name means it gives strength or the strength of a horse. A gentle restorative tonic, less stimulating and slower working than Eleuthero, it also can be used as a single or in formulation. It is a slow steady renewing strengthening builder that supports all the body’s structures and functions, a true tonic herb.
Another East Indian herb that can partner with Ashwaganda in a formula is well known now as Tulsi or Holy Basil. This wonderful tea or extract, is stress relieving and is very nutritive as well and over time can improve the way we respond to the million things thrown at us in everyday life. Give this herb several months or longer to really change you.
Nettles, growing everywhere now here in the northeast is the ultimate nutrition herb to build blood and vitality with its chlorophyll, and mineral rich chemistry. Milarepa the great Tibetan master lived on Nettles in the Himalyan mountains until he started look green and fuzzy like the plant, it is said. Fresh, as a cooked potherb, deep emerald green tea and of course as an extract as a single or with these other adrenal supporting friends.
The seeds of the Nettle gathered in the Fall are a powerhouse Adrenal tonic too used in small amounts for short and longer time. They can be gathered by anyone, but if you have toughed Stinging Nettles you know that the formic acid in the hairs can bite so gloves are a help! I actually brought my stiff cold achy fingers during cold early spring gardening back to function by rubbing in the nettles. The anti-inflammatory chemistry helped me to feel better. It stung a lot but after a few spring and summers my hands never bother me anymore.
Schizandra Berry, the five taste herb, is a great supporting herb for the adrenals. Mixed in an adrenal formula or just with Licorice, it really is a moistening, harmonizing herb that always makes me smile and its so delicious.
Licorice nourishes the cortex of our adrenals, the outer part of the tiny organs and this can help when we are really low and flattened, beyond just wired and tired to exhausted. Too much Licorice can cause blood pressure to rise so if your BP is higher than it should be, only use deglycyrrhized licorice or very small doses. Otherwise this herb is safe and nutritive and has an extraordinary number of great uses.
The newest Adrenal supporting herb in the repertoire is Rhodiola. It can be perfect for some people and too stimulating for others so try it on and see how it works for you. I like to use it best as a part of a formula so that it is harmonized by the actions of the other herbs.
We will be posting a new Adrenal Support formula very soon that we are excited about. (It will be called Adrenal 2.) Look for it and try it and do let us know what you think. We are always happy to hear from you. After all, you are why we do this!
Next month we will continue the discussion of Fatigue and talk about some other causes so look for our next blog post. Be Well and don’t let the madness get to you. Be more loving, more kind, especially to yourself.
For me Spring is the ultimate reminder of cycles, the energy of birth and rebirth, and renewal. Nina Simone’s song Another Spring is the epitome.
Spring is the resurrection, as everything comes into being once again after the deep internal sleep of winter. My spirit lifts and energy rises like the sap in the trees. The cold nights tried to kill my onion and artichoke seedlings but the next day's warmth gave them a second chance.
Herbs can help us navigate this time of change
Are you edgy or irritable or anxious and depressed, plagued by allergy symptoms every spring? Now that we are outside and the ticks are looking for blood are you nervous or afraid of getting bitten, do you need to clear out meat and salt and sedentary living from a winter by the wood stove. Let's take a look at each of these situations and how herbs can support us.
FRUSTRATED, STIFF, IRRITABLE, ANXIOUS AND DEPRESSED, bothered by little things?
If so these typical liverish symptoms are exacerbated in the Spring. A few small food, herb and lifestyle changes can support us now.
The simplest is lemon juice in your water bottle or even some warm or hot lemonade with fresh lemon juice and a little maple syrup. This moves the stagnation in the liver and gall bladder and soothes the stuck mood the organs produce when they are not working well. Herbs like Dandelion root, Burdock root, Yellow Dock root, are all helpful. In fact, that was the motivation behind drinking traditional root beers at the end of winter with these early dug roots. Schizandra can lighten the mood as well with its sour taste just like lemons.
A lighter diet with less meat, eggs, and salt, include fresh spring greens like dandelion greens, Chickweed and steamed nettles when they emerge are helpful. Eat lighter, feel lighter. Try our LIVER SUPPORT FORMULA on its own or as an adjunct to the rest of your plan.
Prepare for tick season with permethrin dipped clothing and cedar sprays like Cedarcide brand Tick Shield. I've tested it on live ticks and they are repelled by it. Rose Geranium is expensive and much less effective. Deet works but smells vile and is relatively toxic in my thinking.
Also, Blue Crow Botanicals' TICK BITE FORMULA can support your body against the pathogens that ticks may carry. So if you are bitten your immune system is ready and waiting to thwart illness. Take at least 4-6 droppers a day as prevention. Take 9-15 droppers if bitten and DO keep the tick. Resist the urge to throw it in the toilet. Just put it in a zip lock if you find it and send to UMASS Tick Report Lab and they can tell you exactly what diseases the tick is carrying and also if it has fed on you making it more likely there was transmission. Remember that even if a tick is infected that does not mean they have transferred the pathogens to you. But treat anyway!
There are potent herbs for working with allergies. Reishi is the King of herbs here in that one of its many healing properties is to lower histamine surges. It also is a powerhouse for immune support. Nettles are very helpful anti-inflammatory that lessens allergy reactions and Goldenrod is high in quercitin, Horehound thins mucous and helps eliminate it. Our ALLEREZE Formula contains them all. Start using before spring with its pollen is fully emergent and continue through the season. Consistent use from season to season may lessen reactivity.
Springtime is a popular season for detox, cleanse and renewal. There are many styles of detoxing and it is important to find the best for your constitution and condition. Consulting with someone who is versed can alleviate you having a strong kick back into a chocolate cake from being too extreme or to make sure you are effective, if you think you need that. You can just eat a clean diet, do some sweating and deep breathing and use our very strong tasting DETOX FORMULA. It is a good lymph drainer, eliminator, and all systems cleanser. Try to use for 5-10 days, take a break and do again if you feel there’s more.
Springtime gives us a great opportunity to work with ourselves and prepare for the most active times of year. Plan your renewal, from mini to grande and reap the fruits of a reboot.
There are many herbs that alter our state or mood. They can be used by themselves as singles in either a tea or extract or in a group as a formula. Because every one of us is unique physically and mentally and emotionally, It takes a bit of trial and error sometimes to find the herbs that are our allies, tried and true.
Also, the most harmonizing and balancing herbs for each of us or that will work for a particular purpose like sleep, or soothing anxiety or to generate more physical energy or to brighten our spirit. So, what works best for me may or may not be one that works for that purpose for you. But there are guidelines or common effects that herbs have for us. And they are easy to play with, to try, to experiment with until you find your best friends, your herbal tribe for balancing your mood states. Then they will be there for you when you need them, consistently and reliably.
Below are a few of my favorite herbal mood changers. I have relied on them for many years and they have always helped me navigate my journey.
Chamomile, Skullcap, Kava Kava, Passionflower, Hops, Valerian, St. Johnswort, Damiana
Chamomile - Matricaria recutita Chamomile, though gentle is a reliable and strong calming herb that is soothing for the stomach and the whole digestive system. In some people it could make them relaxed enough to feel a bit sleepy but for me it is just calming and soothing and helps me relax my mind and body. I haven’t found any contraindications for using it. It is easy to grow in the garden or even a pot and will come again and again after clipping the leaf and flowers and even reseed itself easily. Can be used well with children for calming and for sensitive tummy.
Skullcap - Scutellaria laterifolia Skullcap is a great friend for someone with a very busy mind from overwork or excess responsibility or just have a very active mind. Skullcap is a nerve tonic with a specific affinity to the mind. If one cant sleep due to overactivity of the mind Skullcap can be helpful. Its use is cumulative and may help one shift their habit of over thinking. It is best used recently harvested or an extract made from only fresh plant material. The compounds that are therapeutic breakdown somewhat quickly when the plant is dried. This also is a wonderful semi shade garden plant that will come back on its own by spreading its roots.
Kava Kava - Piper Methysticum Kava is an effective sedative even with a numbing effect on the mouth and lips. It is a traditional plant from the south Sea Islands. It doesn't taste good to me so I reserve it for its use as a muscle relaxant especially with skeletal muscles of our backs. It also can relax smooth muscle both in our limbs and organs. So handy for a bladder infection or an exercise injury.
It is a bit dulling to the mind though some say the different cultivars may have more or less of this quality. It does temporarily relax anxiety so it can be used in a pinch, especially mixed with St. Johnswort because its energy is bright and sunny so it balancing the dulling effect of Kava. This is definitely one to try out and see if its for you and can be used mixed with other plants to broaden its profile of effects. It does shift mood but has a temporary effect rather than creating long lasting change in habitual moods. There are many pharmaceuticals that may conflict so check if applicable.
Passionflower - Passiflora incarnata Passion Flower is like a good friend that supports, and calms us in stressful situations. It is a broad acting herb that is not sleep inducing but takes away the edginess nervousness that naturally can arise. It is pleasant and relaxing without being heavy or sedating. Can be used freely. The flower of Passionflower is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Just seeing it lifts the spirit.
Hops - Humulus lupulus Hops is a strongly sedative herb and can be used to encourage sleep, so not the best for daytime use. It is a wonderful bitter that supports relaxation, and lowers nervousness.
Valerian - Valeriana officinalis Valerian is for the high energy person that needs to settle down and get grounded in the body and in the earth. Valerian is a very earthy plant. It certainly supports sleep for some but not everyone. I can use it all day long without becoming sleepy, it just gives me a wonderful feeling of embodiment and relaxing my energy both in my muscular body and my nervous system and well as quieting my mind. Also, easy to grow and will self seed and always be there for you in the garden.
St. Johnswort - Hypericum perforatum Over many years St. Johnswort has been one of my favorite nerve tonics. It is an example of an herb that perfectly suits me, so I always have it around. It is sunny and bright and vibrant while also being soothing to nerves. St. Johnswort truly lifts the spirit as well as calming rather than stimulating. It enhances the reuptake of serotonin so it can lift mood. We take only the top few inches of the flowering plant for the highest concentrations of active chemistry but any part of the aerial parts are effective to varying degrees. It will happily live in your garden year to year. It is a delicious tea similar to black tea in taste (due maybe to tannins) and as an extract more like wine.
Damiana - Turnera diffusa Damiana is a southwestern plant, often coming from Mexico, so not a garden plant for the Northeast. It has a very expansive and relaxing effect. It lessens mental tension and loosens things up. It had been known as an aphrodisiac but that isn’t accurate for this herb more than the others that lift our spirits and relax us. Those qualities enhance libido in themselves rather than being chemically arousing. I think of Damiana as giving me more space, for my thoughts, and for my energy. It's great at the end of the day when finishing work and transitioning to relaxation. It's wonderful to drink with a friend.. It has a very mild version of the kind of expansiveness that Cannabis can produce.
Blue Crow Botanicals has all of these herbs as singles for you to play with as well as some formulas that contain some of them often mixed with other plants. A few of those formulas are People Calmer, Calm Focus, Belly Soothe, Nerve Tonic, and Sweet Dreams.
We can formulate a formula just for you once you find which herbs best support you or of course help you figure that out.
Be Well and Be Happy.
*The information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat or cure illness or to be used to replace professional medical attention. Because some herbs may interact with certain medications, please consult a qualified herbalist or medical professional before using.
In the same way that we all naturally gravitate to certain styles, colors, combinations in fashion AND we have certain needs whether we are a dancer in a city, a farmer in the country, a grandmother or a lawyer, the same can be said of herbs as we bring them more into our daily lives. They can act as powerful supports for a calm mind and a strong body. Herbs can be good, reliable, supportive friends.
On your own or with the help of an herbalist or naturopath honestly answer these questions and then design your “capsule” for your particular goals, a particular season, or to create a change in your body or in your life.
Then, decide how to incorporate using the herbs in your day.
Be realistic and have a plan, so you can be successful!
We do not have to be ill to incorporate herbs in our lives. They are like foods, especially tonifying strengthening herbs, and help prevent us getting sick or just increase our longevity and well-being. Start with one herb or formula, incorporate it into your life and see how it goes. Then you can add to that but herbs like true change often takes time and too many can be confusing.
It always helps to read and research about anything you are introducing into your life including herbs. The more knowledge you have the better able you are to do good care. Be sure to check for contraindications like pregnancy or nursing or if you are taking any pharmaceutical medications.
Remember herbs can be taken as tea or tinctures, as infused oils, or essential oils. We have many options to bring plant medicine into our lives. Even just a lavender plant in your bedroom, or a rosemary in the kitchen or rose or sandalwood essential oil in water on a woodstove, a drop or two on a light bulb or 10-15 in a bath are wonderful herbal additions.
If you would like some help designing an herbal support program, you can request a consult here.
simple ways to stay healthy in winter.
In the era of climate change we have more erratic weather so one day it is freezing or icy and the next day 40 sunny and melting. We need our core immune system to be strong as well as our ability to thermoregulate.
A well hydrated and RESTED body and mind is the most simple way to do this. Sleep is a natural medicine always but especially in the extremes of winter. Water makes our cells more able to move nutrients in and discharge toxins out.
There are so many views on diet I wont reiterate and we know fresh food is best. All I want to say is regardless of what ingredients you choose making at least 50-60 percent of them fruits and vegetables is a guarantee that you are getting well fed.
As for herbs if I had to pick say three herbs for winter health I might pick Astragalus as a deep immune tonic literally building the cells we need to circulate to fight pathogens and it is also warming and promotes interferon which fights viruses. I do love elderberry extract of syrups made with honey also especially because hildren and elderly people will take it readily as it is delicious. perhaps a third could be rosehips because of its high content of Vitamin C. OK maybe four as deep immune health is so well supported with medicinal mushrooms like Reishi, Chaga, Turkey Tail Maitake etc. Start to take them in the fall so your immunity is strong and solid before the cold season begins.
Of course if we get sick or just a bit rundown there are many to choose from.
At the earliest stages of a cold use Yin Qiao a chinese formula or frequent doses of Echinacea, and/or Andrographis (I love these two together).
Take advantage of the quieter shorter days to go inside and then of course get outside into nature. Nothing renews like a snowy walk or seeing an owl or mooseprints on the trail.
Gratitude is great medicine
Why Herbs Dont Work
Sometimes herbs work quickly and effectively and sometimes they don't. This can be confusing especially for people just starting to use herbal medicine.
I want to discuss some of the reasons that herbs may not work and how we can change that.
The first reason is that one is using the wrong herb or a poorly contructed or inappropriate formula. There are many herbs for most situations and people have different resonances with them. this is true for diets, for pharmaceuticals and styles of excercise. If you aren't trained or experienced it may be better to work with someone rather than scout the internet or a book for what to do to treat your situation. Of course trial and error is a great way to learn if you aren't in a hurry like if you have a flu.
Reason number two is that the dosage may be inadequate or too high. Taking too little of anti-microbials for instance won't fight a pathogen effectively. Or if you are using herbs for anxiety and you only take 1-2 droppers 1 time per day it probably isn't enough to make a difference. On the other hand, if you are taking herbs you don't need or taking too many different herbs or formulas you may be flooding and confusing your body so it can get overwhelmed and shut down.
Reason three has to do with what else is happening in your life. For instance are you trying to build your adrenals but continue to drink a lot of coffee or work too much or go without eating or only sleeping 5-6 hours per night, no matter how good the herbs in the formula or appropriate the dosage you are asking too much. We have to do our part with diet and and life style to support the action of the herbs.
The last reason I'll talk about in this post is quality. Herb quality is difficult to assure so use respected companies for both dried, fresh and extracted herbs or capsules and tablets. Check in at your local natural food store, herbal groups or practitioners and use your senses. This is called organoleptics, using your sight, smell and taste to feel if there is vitality in what you are using. We all know when we buy fresh food if it seems old or weak. We know a fresh garden tomato from a wimpy, mealy one from the supermarket in January.
Herbs have a lot to offer us for our health and well being but we must learn how to support them and use them well.
As the famous educator John Dewey said "Learning by doing".
Recently there have been a number of new moms who have had trouble with milk supply. For busy modern working women the stress and activity of life can severely impact supply. Lactation consultants have become an essential part of post partum care more and more frequently and they can really help zero in on the particulars. If supply is truly the issue, then herbs make an effective and easy addition to the mom's self care as long as one also is hydrating daily and resting and relaxing whenever possible (really important for supply). So, what herbs really work and do so within say 2 weeks at most.
The herb most commonly used these days is Fenugreek which will build milk in most women within a few days up to 2 weeks. It should not be used during pregancy, taking blood thinners, or with hypothyroid. That aside it is generally safe. Fenugreek has been used historically to treat Diabetes (which should only be done under a doctors care).
The herb I have had the most success with is Shatavari which is from India and is known as she who has a 100 husbands because it is so mourishing to woman in numerous ways, fertility, alleviating vaginal dryness, increasing libido and generally moistening and juicing up the tissues. It is a major part of our formula.
Vitex is another important herb for building milk supply and also balancing post partum hormones.
Blessed Thistle supports milk supply and has a positive effect on the liver, though should not be taken if pregnant or one has low stomache acid.
Fennel Seed supports the let down reflex so can be useful for working moms who find stress of work has made that difficult. Never use Fennel also when pregnant.
The last herb in our formula is Nettle leaf. Nettle is the queen of nutrition for women, so rich in minerals, vitamins, chlorphyll. It is the mother's milk of the plant world and can be considered an herbal food. it is milkdly diuretic.
Reflecting on the last several years wild crafting and growing medicinals, I can safely say things are changing and a greater rate than in the previous 15 years that I have done this work. Firstly, I have noticed as you have too i am sure that the weather is somewhat more erratic and growing moreso every year. There are many more insects in the garden, though this is more prevalent amongst the vegetables than the medicinals it is still noticeable.
In the wild the plants are coming earlier or the length of time of their availability for harvest may have changed duration. For instance, here in the northeast the Fall is much warmer. The killing frost comes later most autumns which means we can have more picking and digging time. The erratic weather means that though there is a longer season in general the weather shorten the window, destroy a crop or just generally mean you must pick while you can and not put it off. the extreme heat or excessive rain and the fact that it tends to come in deluges greatly influence harvest timing. We are so blessed to have so many healing plants here and we have to live in synchronicity with them in these new conditions. In the 20 years I have been following the plants around the seasons I have seen a perceptible and definitive shift that is not just random weather. Nature is always talking to us. Take care of it and we all will live better.
Winter is soon to come. The roots have been dug, garlic planted, wood stacked and ready. this is the "going within" time of year at least after the holiday season. I love to research and study and play with make new formulas.
But it is a time of stillness. And there are plants that specific nourish that quiet inner strength in us, that gives us the ability to stand on our own feet while still staying in relationship. this is a good time of year to gather strength and cultivate ourselves, just like the seeds waiting in the earth for spring's emergence.
Here are a few of my favorite go to plants in my winter. Not so much for just staying immune strong but as also to keep me calm and truly well in body, heart and mind.
Ashwaganda because it is strenthening but calming and tension relieving. it aids sleep which I think is so important in this season of renewal.
Reishi mushrooms ( and the other medicinals also ) are useful for calming the spirit and bringing it home to the heart.
Chaga is a great immune strengthening plant, particularly keeps me warm outside. I feel stronger when I drink it.
Maybe that is because of its association with Russia where it is a common winter tea at least in rural areas.
Nettles are my first wild plant in spring but I drink it all winter like it was a nourishing, chlorophyll rich nutrient concentrate. I feel like it builds blood which wupports healthy energy.
Shatavari and Marshmallow are also nourishing kidney nourishing herbs that help keep us juicy inside and lubricate. sometimes I add Oats, a wonderful nerve tonic.
Cinnamon, Ginger, Turmeric, Cardamom and Licorice keep us warm but also spark our senses with their aroma and taste. Too much time indoors can slow me down and make me tight. these herbs lift the spirit because they are spicy, colorful and tasty and they certainly help keep things loose and lively.
if you have other herbs you love for winter, please email and share your thoughts.
If rather than stuck or heavy you just feel tired or played out from illness or hard winter work, with the snow and woodstove maintenace,you might want to recharge the body and mind with vitality soup.
Get some marrow bones and a crock pot and add some Astragalus, eleuthero, medicinal mushrooms like Reishi or Maitake, Burdock, Codonopsis, etc. (see the premixed herb packet offered from Blue Crow Botanicals)
Add water and cook for 3 days. then you can freeze some and have 1/2 vup to 1 cup warmed up every day like a vitalizing soup. Gently and firmly boosts the immunity and energy.
This is a great time to also include warm lemonade, or turmeric drinks to move the liver energy and lighten things up. A freshsqueezed vegetable or some fruit juice or a green drink will help us adjust and expand into the emergent energy of spring. Also, including some sprouts in a salad! Beets are my favorite way to get things moving, grated raw on a salad or boiled plain or with a dressing, or roasted. Beets definitely get sluggish bowels to move.
If allergies arise for you in the springtime, support the immune system with the vitality soup or use Reishi in particular. Reishi is quite woody and bitter so it does not make lovely tea but as an extract it is reliable and also has a calming effect on the spirit. Extra Vitamin C and using some supplements like quercitin and freeze dried nettles also support our ability to stem the histamine response that substances we are allergic to create.
spring is a great time for a tune -up, short fast, a cleanse, a lighter diet, herbal support, get more exercise out doors and let the rising energy of spring enter and fill you up. Pretty soon, the nettles will be up to eat along with the dandelion greens, Keep your eyes out for them. next post will talk about how to cook and eat them.
My name is Bonnie Bloom and I am a clinical herbalist. Plants give us clothing, shelter, food and medicine. They are an intrinsic part of our earth ecology, diverse and essential. They breathe our carbon dioxide and generously give us oxygen. Where would we be without them.