Herbal Medicine 101

Herbs made easy!

The world of herbal medicine can seem both easily accessible and endlessly complicated for anyone attempting to dip their toes in. Herbs can be grown or purchased by just about anyone, but confusion over how they work stops many would-be herbal enthusiasts from using them.

A few weeks ago, on a trip to an Oregon farm, I met a hobby herbalist named Michelle. As we sat on her back porch, she taught me a few of the basics, and gave me a homemade ginger-filled tincture that helped heal a brutal cold I was fighting. (She also recommended this book.) When I arrived back in New York, I still had more questions, so I consulted Jovial King, founder of herbal medicine company Urban Moonshine.

King’s products are created to assist in many everyday dilemmas, like digestive issues, brief anxiety, a weak immune system, lack of energy, or even a need for some extra romance in your life. If you’re looking to delve into herbs yourself, here are a few facts to get you started!

There are lots of things you can make with herbs.
Some of the most popular are tea, bitters (which stimulate the digestive system), and tinctures.

Tinctures aren’t as complicated as they sound.
According to King, “Herbal tinctures are used in a similar way to tea but instead of using water you use alcohol to extract and preserve the medicinal value of plants.” This can easily be done in your own kitchen: “It’s kind of like what canning is to a vegetable farmer — in the bounty of the harvest you can’t eat it all so better preserve it for the winter. I have been drinking all the Chamomile tea I can this summer but there are still so many flowers on those plants — not to worry, just grab a bottle of vodka or brandy, fill a mason jar with chamomile flowers, and cover with alcohol.” That way, you’ll have preserved the medicinal value of the plants through the winter!

Herbs can be taken regularly for strongest results.
Many herbalists like to take them daily. As King puts it, “I don’t necessarily have time to stop and keep brewing tea for every issue I face, but I can bust out my different herbal blends at any point and take a little of this or that to get me through the day feeling healthy and happy. Anxiety eased, energy levels supported, belly fine.”

Herbs can foster a deeper connection with the earth.
“Herbal medicine is more than using plants for medicine,” King says. “It’s a mindset, it’s a lifestyle and it embodies many of my deeply-held beliefs about our connection to nature and the health of the whole person and their environment. We greatly underestimate our deep link to the natural world. It’s all very fascinating to me.”

Certain herbs work best for certain ailments or moods.
For illness:

For stress:

  • Try burning sage in the house
  • Try a bath with rose petals

To stimulate digestions:

  • Try bitters before a meal

Beginners can get started with herbs in their own home.
Many herbs can be grown on a windowsill or in the backyard. According to King, “a nice digestive bitters formula is an easy first start – dandelion root, burdock root, or ginger root.  Use it before meals to spark digestive fire and optimize digestive function.” Another easy first step is to grow mint for inclusion in tea!

Herbs can take you much further into wellness than simply treating a cold.
At Urban Moonshine, great digestion is prioritized as a big aspect of good health, as is using herbal tonics to treat one’s overall wellness instead of just treating outermost symptoms. Herbs can be an enriching part of everyday life. As Michelle told me back on her farm, “plants are living things that collect energy like people or animals,” and the energy we put into our bodies just may make a difference in our health.

If you’re pregnant or taking any other medications or supplements (including hormonal birth control), please consult your doctor and/or local holistic practitioner before introducing new herbal supplements into your routine.

READ MORE: How To Make Your Own Herbal Bath Tea

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