Subscribe


Friday, February 27, 2015

It's one thing to get caught up in the physiological, phytochemical, and biological side of herbal medicines. If you work with herbs long enough and study hard enough, all of those things are eventually very tangible, trackable and predictable. Western medicine really likes trackable and predictable medicines, as do most people; it gives a sense of security and comfort to know how and why something works because, obviously, when you're ill and want to feel better, you want to know what you're taking actually works. 

But there's more to the body than just health or illness, and more to the person than just physiology. With every person comes a health story, and often deeply engrained in ones health story (not to mention every day life) there is quite a bit of emotional ups and downs. Every day we have an underlying sense of emotion - for our jobs, families, partners, seasons, friends, hobbies, diet, circumstances and even body image. Quite often, we get stuck in a rut with our lives, and emotional habits are hard to break. Now granted, some emotions that are considered "unpleasant" like guilt, depression, grief or anger can be a perfectly natural reaction to a particular life circumstance and not something that really needs to be "fixed", but rather just allowed to let it pass. Once we acknowledge what emotion is lingering, (and if we even want to adjust it at all), that's when herbs can play a supportive role in being strong allies for our emotional health. 

Along with their therapeutic role in supporting overall health and disease imbalance, herbs have this awesome underlying "energetic" aspect that touches on emotional states that is much less tangible than, say, xyz herb's effect on hypothyroidism. This is something that you get to know in a plant after you've been friends/allies for a while. Or have a close relationship with while growing up. Or have sat with in their natural habitat for some time. Or, in my case, used in a clinical capacity with lots of people over time. I've noticed that several herbs have a profound ability to not only be supportive for an imbalance, but affect the person's emotional health so positively that it is a clear factor in helping them overcome an illness completely. Here are a few of my favorites:

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): Yarrow derives it's name from the Greek hero, Achilles. Legend has it that when Achilles was a baby, his mother bathed him in yarrow bath water to cover him in strength, however she missed his ankles (where she was holding him) and thus his heel was his weakness forever. True to the legend, Yarrow has always been an herb that instills strength and vibrancy, and when used daily as a tea or tincture (and even still, if you like to believe, as part of a bath ritual) it instills a sense of physical and emotional strength to the consumer. I often use this if someone is presenting as hopeless, desperate or depleted in physical and emotional vigor.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca): This is typically an herb that is used for issues surrounding the nervous system or the uterus, however as its botanical name (cardiaca) suggests, it also has affinity for the heart space. It's a perfect remedy for people who get really really nervous before performing or speaking in public (when the heart starts racing so fast you feel like people can see it bouncing out of your chest). Or for people who carry a general sense of anxiety or nervousness that presents as a fluttery or skipped heart beat. I've also seen it work it's heart magic on people who carry a lot of grief or sadness (for family or loved ones, specifically) in their heart to lighten the load. 

Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum): This is like my ultimate Hug-In-A-Cup. Holy Basil is naturally uplifting, moving and warm, and ideal for when I feel my inner Eeyore raging. Holy Basil (also knows as Tulsi) is perfect for celebratory occasions as it is so uplifting to the spirit, as well as being adaptogenic (and a gentle energy tonic). The entire plant is highly honored in India and used in countless rituals and ceremonies. This is my ideal herb for despondent folks who just can't get motivated into things that make them happy (like Eeyore, remember that 'ol grump?) Feeling spiritually murky, lost and disconnected? Try Tulsi! Perfect for the lingering winter blues, too. And tea, I think, is the best way to take this spiritual herb (I love the Tulsi from Organic India).

Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora): I may talk about Skullcap with the same affection that I talk about my puppy. Or my partner. Or my mom. I love Skullcap. I think it saved my life in grad school. Originally I started taking it for debilitating anxiety induced IBS symptoms (which it's also amazingly effective for), but I found that it not only provided an anxiolytic effect on the gastrointestinal tract, it also was an emotional lifesaver for when I was feeling overwhelmed, overworked and just plain unhappy and scared. I've used it dozens of times with people in similar situations, and most especially for people who feel overexposed in a big and busy world - like the world is too bright, too loud and too busy for them and they're feeling very vulnerable. This is especially useful for the person with sensitive skin and is hypersensitive to pain/physical stimuli on the surface and sensitive to the emotions of their environment. If you're seeking a warm, dark hideaway, skullcap is for you (and while you're at it, grab your mom and a teddy bear, too). 

Lavender (Lavandula spp): Sweet and aromatic, lavender. These light and colorful little buds are just so joyful and, like Motherwort, have a special affinity for the heart, but for different reasons. There's loads of things that go on with the heart - jealousy, love, longing, fear of abandonment and, most notably for lavender: Grief. Grief is usually an emotion that our culture does not allow time to explore and sit with. And some people I've seen have been literally grieving for years. Lavender is the perfect remedy for those who grieve the loss of something: the death of a loved one, a child going off to college, a relationship that has ended, a house that is being left behind. This supports the process of the loss and softens the grief without getting rid of it. 

It's best, I think, to find your herbal allies for emotional health by just trying things over and over again and getting a sense for how they sit in your body. And, as an extra jolt of excitement, I will be adding some speciality tea blends to my online shop here very soon which utilize most of these herbs! Be sure to check back in a few days when they make their online debut!

I would love to hear your experience with emotional support using herbs. What have you used that I didn't mention?

...
Comment  /  Share This  /  Tweet This
Sunday, February 08, 2015


Valerian is an herb that's close to my heart. It's usually always the magical sounding herbal remedy tossed around in medieval stories for "sleeping draughts" that folks randomly pick along the roadsides while in transit with their gypsy caravans. It's developed a reputation for inducing deep, dreamy slumber, and with good reason. It's one of the oldest herbal remedies with documented medicinal use, spanning hundreds of years and countless generations. It's a tried and true ally for me, because sleeping is probably one of my favorite things to do, and on the random night when I can't sleep, my whole life seems unbearable. 

So here's the lowdown on Valerian (Valeriana officinalis):

Major constituents include essential oils, iridoid esters and valerenic acids (a non volatile sesquiterpene derivative).The valerenic acids are what you'll find to be "standardized" with some supplements to enhance potency.) 

Parts used include the rhizome with the rootlets. Yep - you'll know right away it's valerian root with that classic stinky gym sock smell. When purchasing, aim for the coarsely chopped roots/cut and sift that are a light tan colored. The roots are heat sensitive, so the lighter the color, the better they were processed and dried and not exposed to high heat. 

Primary Actions: Valerian primarily influences the nervous system (AKA a nervine) and has a remarkably calming and relaxing effect. It has an affinity for GABA and adenosine receptors which will help lull you off to sleep and relax you (alternately, coffee blocks these receptors, get it?). At higher doses, it's relaxing effect is ideal for people with sleep onset insomnia (in combination with behavior modifications) or who have a heightened sense of anxiety in the evening. However, tricky this little plant is because at low doses, it's actually stimulating. You'll need to take valerian for a couple of days to really see a solid effect, and you'll know within 7 days if this is the right herb for you or not. Aim to start at about 500mg and work up from there, paying close attention to how it is affecting you at different doses. 

When I'm recommending valerian, I'm either giving a tincture (hydroalcoholic extract), or mixing the chopped root in with a sleepy herbal tea combination, or sending folks away with a capsule if that's they're preferred method of taking it (like I said, it's got a pretty funky taste...). For capsules, I really like Gaia, Oregon's Wild Harvest, or Mountain Rose Herbs - all amazing quality products. There's also some other unique and delicious way to take valerian...and those recipes you'll be privy to with later posts :)

So lets paint a picture of the classic Valerian person: A generally robust, pale and sluggish person who is routinely exhausted with anxiety and stress on a daily basis. Generally they may run cold with slower circulation and difficulty making quick decisions. They may present an able-and-willing persona, but underneath they're significantly fatigued and possibly emotionally distraught. They're usually the people that are asked to do more than they can handle...and they're likely to say yes, even if they know it will deplete them. They may often get a dull, persistent afternoon headache and be cold to the touch. Sometimes they may literally feel too tired to sleep, and need the gentle nudge of valerian to hold their hand into their slumber land. 

Have you ever taken valerian and noticed a change? I'd love to hear from you about your experience!

...
Comment  /  Share This  /  Tweet This
Thursday, January 01, 2015


The beginning of this year feels so exciting for me. I've established this year as "The Year of Improvement", and my mind is abuzz with new and exciting projects, collaborations and goals. One of the (many) things that keeps me continually inspired and on track with my business vision and daily practice is filling my shelves with amazing books that feed my body, mind and soul. Every month I add new ones and sometimes come back to the old tried and true ones. Here's what's in my book nook this month:

For the Body:
A Life of Balance by Maya Tiwari | Maya and her books are always on my radar and I always go back to them when I need some grounding in my nutrition and Ayurvedic practice. Her recipes are amazingly therapeutic and refreshing in their simplicity. This particular book is the ultimate reference for following an Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle practice that's ideal for the novice to the seasoned practitioner. I often utilize her recipes and dosha menus for my own patients in their treatment plans and haven't had a single person yet dislike any of the recommendations.

GATHER Journal (fall/winter 2015) | I was introduced to this journal over the holiday and it's so adorably perfect I can't stop looking at it. Filled with "seasonal recipes and exceptional ideas" (and beautiful photos), it's bountiful with new food ideas for January that I'm already drooling over, like Magical Mushroom Risotto and Smoky Lentil Soup with Pumpkin. Yes. 

For the Mind:
Sacred Commerce by Matthew & Terces Engelhart | This book was recommended to me by a friend a couple of months ago and over the holidays was gifted to me (thank you, Universe) by my Mom. I read through it in a single day, and will continue to read it over and over to let all of the gems sink in as I start this new year for my business and personal growth. It feels so right to embark on a business venture with a foundation based in gratitude and open communication - two principles that made into into my yearly ideal wheel for my daily living. 

For the Soul:
Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince | Because I hopped on the Harry Potter fan wagon way late...and was apparently too busy being a die hard Lord of the Rings fan. I tore through the first five HP books in the past three months and....this one is nearly done already. Not that I imagine any of you have neglected to read these in the past 10 years, but if you haven't, just mosey on down to the bookstore and seriously get started. So much adventuring. 

What's in your book nook this month that's keeping you inspired?
...
Comment  /  Share This  /  Tweet This
Thursday, December 04, 2014

I am often instinctively called Ginger when people don’t know or don’t remember my name. Either it’s a subconscious nod at my gingery red hair, or I just have a face that subtly hints, “Ginger!”. Either way, it’s been years and years since my friendship with ginger began, and this delicious, warming, cozy herb and I are tight allies for life.

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is ideal for those folks who run cold at the core. Who dread the colder winter months because even their bones feel cold, and they cringe at the thought of stepping outside in the blistery snow storms. Their hands and feet are always on the “Jack Frost” side, and their digestion may run a little slow. Ginger is also fantastic for those, in Ayurvedic philosophy, who are considered to be of a Vata constitution and could use some grounding and warmth. Ginger has a naturally pungent and almost spicy taste that is absolutely revitalizing to your entire body, getting things moving and circulating both deep in your core, and also to your peripheral hands and feet.

Herbs, like people, have a strong personality and should ideally be used where they are most efficient and most needed. Ginger is hot - pungent and hot - and works best for people who are cold in order to bring about that balance. (Hint: I wouldn't recommend using ginger if you have active inflammation happening somewhere in the body, as this excess heat can exacerbate ulcerations or bowel disorders). So, do you run cold at the core, or cold in your periphery (like cold hands and feet)?



Dried ginger, taken as a tincture or tea, is best for warming and nurturing the core of the body (especially for digestion). Fresh ginger, taken as tea, is best for warming the extremities and awesome for that first stage of a cold where you need to push those pathogens out of the body by producing a superficial sweat (this is call a diaphoretic action). Fresh ginger can also be taken daily as a tonic herb to not only keep you warm and grounded, but also to modulate and enhance your digestion by relaxing the smooth muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. It is also a broad spectrum anti-inflammatory for the musculoskeletal system, supporting the muscles, joints and ligaments. (As a side note, Vata’s tend to run a little dry and…brittle, if you will. They may often be susceptible to arthritic conditions or tight muscles, hence why ginger is a great ally for them).

My favorite way to take ginger is as a fresh tea.

Take about 1 inch fresh ginger, peel and coarsely chop. Place in 2 cups of water in a saucepan on the stove and let simmer (with a covered lid) for 15 minutes. This is called a decoction, and is ideal for those tough portions of an herb like stems, roots, rhizomes or bark. Strain and put in your favorite mug to sip on those chillier days.

I also LOVE taking crystalized ginger with me when I travel. Traveling is one of the very few things that really puts me on edge and just gloriously unravels my otherwise calm and collected persona. Flying especially is the worst. Oh my gosh I hate flying. Putting a piece of crystalized ginger in some hot water and sipping on that brings me right back into my peaceful aura and helps put me at ease again. Like I said - we’re tight allies. 

What’s your favorite way to take (or eat!) ginger?

...
Comment  /  Share This  /  Tweet This

HELLO, I'M LINDSAY.
Herbal medicine and nutrition is my expertise. Understanding plants, their properties, and their powers is my passion.

Subscribe

Subscribe for exclusive discounts & newsletters

The Book Bindery Building
2201 West Broad Street. Suite 107
Richmond, VA 23220
(804) 977-2634

LINDSAY(at)GINGERTONICBOTANICALS.COM
 2014-2018© GINGER TONIC BOTANICALS  |  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WEBSITE DESIGN BY INDIE SHOPOGRAPHY