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We tend to think of using herbs when we are ill, afraid of becoming ill (as in a pandemic or wintertime or when exposed to germs). When we think of a long, healthy, vibrantly energetic life, we think of luck, genetics or advantageous external circumstances. BUT this is also a good opportunity for using herbs but with different herbs and/or in a different way.
These herbs are mostly what we call Tonic Herbs. They are herbs that improve the structure and function of our bodily systems. They can be nutritious, strengthening, and restorative.
We dose them differently. Compared to herbs taken in acute situations which are usually taken in higher doses and more frequently, tonic herbs are usually taken only once or twice a day in lower doses for longer periods of time.
For example: There was a time in my life when I was under a lot of stress, had just moved, separated from my partner, was working a lot and I knew that I was feeling anything but energetic or vibrant. To give myself support and to return to my best self, I started to take an Immune Tonic and an Adrenal Tonic, both taken 1 time per day in the morning. I did this for about 1 year.
By then I felt that I was really doing well and had energy to do what I wanted and loved, fully and with enjoyment. The return to vitality was gradual, I certainly didn’t feel it in just a few weeks, but I knew I was on the right track and persevered. At the same time, I took other herbs here and there to treat immediate issues or weaknesses. There wasn’t a conflict in doing this, but you can allows check in with an herbalist or naturopath or other practitioner with herbal experience to see if what you are doing is right for you.
The two formulas that I mentioned have herbs that restored me like Astragalus, Eleuthero, Holy Basil, medicinal mushrooms and Ashwaganda. They gave me support and I could feel them strengthening me but when I began to feel better, I also knew I needed to persevere until I felt that I didn’t need them at all anymore. As my strength and mood stabilized and I felt enthusiastic about my life again I tapered by taking them even less frequently and then stopped.
Another situation where one might use a tonic herb of formula is if you have a tendency towards weakness in a certain area or you have a history of certain issues. Then you can use herbs that will help to make that system stronger and function more efficiently so that you aren’t as easily or likely to fall into challenges there.
Perhaps you are a farmer working hard every day, and your back tends to easily feel the stresses and strains of that very physical life. Or you are a singer living a city with less than mountain or sea fresh air and being indoors late at night working. Then, in either case you can use tonifying herbs to strengthen your muscles, ligaments or joints for the farmer or strengthen your respiratory system in the case of the singer.
In the first case, Solomon's Seal, Gotu Kola, Saw Palmetto, Valerian, Crampbark as well as some fish oil and magnesium and hydrating well every day might keep those tissues healthier and less likely to tighten up and strain. For the singer, Cordyceps might be very important. Also, Codonopsis, American Ginseng, Elecampane, Mullien are herbs that can support the lungs well and keep you in the game. Blue Crow Botanicals has a Lung Tonic formula that a man from New York took once a day almost everyday as he navigated his in New York as well as being a singer.
There are so many herbs and each one has chemistry and energy to help us. It takes some time to find out which single herbs or formulas are your personal allies at any given time or your friends for life. When you do find what can be helpful, remember to take them even a few days per week or in the particular season or situation that you need them. Increase or decrease dosage and frequency as you move through your life.
The plants are here for us like good friends. Try them and see which ones you really benefit from over time or return when you need 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.