Aligning Our Core Pillars with Herbalism

Using herbs to enhance our mind, body, and spirit.

By: rē•spin
Aligning Our Core Pillars with Herbalism

We’ve delved into the intersection of herbalism with modern medicine, the traditions of herbalism, and the connections between plants and people. But when it comes to employing these practices in our daily routines, it can be hard to see outside of the physical and tangible benefits that herbalism provides.  

“One of the foundational concepts in herbalism is that health is more than the absence of illness; it is a person’s overall wellbeing, including not only physical health but also that of the mind and spirit,” says Jane Metzger, who serves as co-director of online school Herbal Academy with Amber Meyers. Through a pinpointed focus on herbs, diet, and lifestyle practices, holistic herbalism helps create and maintain a balance between our bodily systems and the various aspects that make up our being. 

Some people opt to work directly with herbal practitioners for personalized suggestions and regimens to achieve their personal health goals. Others prefer a self-educational route on how to safely use everyday herbs and fold them into their routines. There are several ways to begin integrating herbalism into your regimens or to add new modalities into the mix. Meyers notes that both growing herbs and using them while cooking are simple ways to ease into herbalism. Tea also comes in blends that can align with every mood or need. Brewing loose-leaf herbs individually allow you to better understand their flavors and benefits. 

Deepening Connections

Various herbs offer us the chance to enhance connections, both with others and ourselves. Cacao and linden, for example, can help facilitate connections. They keep us grounded and feeling more at peace with our surroundings.

“On a physical level, cacao strengthens the cardiovascular system, whereas emotionally, it opens the heart and enhances feelings of connection,” says Metzger. “Its stimulating and mood-elevating properties can help spur great conversations, and it’s a lovely ally for enhancing physical activities like yoga and dance.” Cacao can also help us get in touch with ourselves and broaden our connection to nature. Metzger suggests brewing a cup of hot cacao (raw, unprocessed is the best option for optimal benefits) before a hike or self-care session to experience the strengthened connection firsthand. 

One of the best ways that we can connect with ourselves and others is to ensure that we are relaxed; both nervine and linden can help promote a calm state of mind. 

Nourishing the Body 

On an herbal level, nourishment comes in the form of nutritive herbs rich in vitamins and minerals. These include nettle, raspberry leaf, and chickweed, says Metzger. She notes that these herbs can be consumed as food, or imbibed daily as simples or blends in long-steeped herbal infusions. Nettle and chickweed can also be used in soups, stir-fries, pestos, and smoothies.

Digestive health is also essential for our overall well-being, allowing us to better absorb nutrients and flush toxins from our bodies. Metzger suggests digestive tonics like bitter or carminatives to aid in this process. “Bitter herbs have — you guessed it — a bitter flavor, and simply tasting the bitter flavor is known to improve secretion of digestive juices, enhancing digestion and assimilation. Bitters are often taken 5-15 minutes before meals for this effect,” she says. “Carminatives, on the other hand, are rich in aromatic volatile oils that help to soothe tension, cramping, and discomfort in the digestive system, allowing for better digestion of nutrients.”

Herbs can also play an important role in supporting breast health. Dandelion flowers and calendula flowers can help support our lymphatic system. They are often included in topical breast oils. Violet has similar properties with additional benefits, too.

“Violet is an herb that’s commonly used to stimulate movement of the lymph, address issues related to lymphatic stagnation such as cysts and fibrocystic breast tissue, and promote overall breast health,” says Metzger. “The leaves and flowers are edible and can be included in salads, smoothies, and other foods, as well as herbal preparations such as teas and tinctures. Violet also makes a wonderful infused oil that can be used for gentle breast massage — another way to promote lymphatic flow.”

Embracing Spirituality

When looking to awaken our subconscious and consciousness and explore new depths of what spirituality means to us, meditation is a powerful medium for experiencing this connection and embracing mindfulness.

“Herbs such as lemon balm, passionflower, skullcap, or mugwort can help relax your body and mind, which makes it easier to leave behind the stresses of the day and enter into communion with the natural world,” says Metzger. “All of these herbs can be enjoyed in the form of a simple tea or tincture. Mugwort can also be included in a smoking blend or burned as an aromatic herb — and speaking of accessing the unconscious mind, it’s known to promote vivid and lucid dreams.”

“On a physical level, cacao strengthens the cardiovascular system, whereas emotionally, it opens the heart and enhances feelings of connection,” she explains. “Its stimulating and mood-elevating properties can help spur great conversations, and it’s a lovely ally for enhancing physical activities like yoga and dance.”

We’re familiar with chocolate being associated with romance and a fixture of Valentine’s Day, but it’s not just because it’s a delectable sweet treat. She adds, “Cacao is an aphrodisiac that stimulates blood flow throughout the body and can enhance sensual experiences and intimacy.”

Cacao aids in connecting with others just as much as it helps to get in touch with ourselves, too, and our innermost intimate thoughts and feelings, as well as deepening our connection with nature. She suggests brewing a cup of hot cacao (raw, unprocessed is the best option for optimal benefits) before a hike or self-care session to experience the strengthened connection firsthand.

If you prefer a non-stimulating herb, Metzger points out that one of the best ways that we can connect with ourselves and others is to ensure that we are relaxed. She says, “Nervine herbs can help ease social anxiety and quiet the mind to enhance connection. Linden is one lovely option for promoting a calm and relaxed state of mind. In fact, historically linden trees were a gathering place for communities to find resolution and peace and were often planted at the center of a village.”

Prioritizing nourishment on a holistic level

To nourish ourselves is to feed both our mind, body, and soul. Herbalism can take on a more literal sense when it comes to nourishment, as we look for ways to support these aspects of our being. Metzger even emphasizes how important nourishment is to a holistic wellness approach.

“On an herbal level, nourishment can look like nutritive herbs that are rich in vitamins and minerals such as nettle, raspberry leaf, and chickweed,” she says. “These vitamin- and mineral-rich herbs can be used as foods or drunk daily as simples or blends in long-steeped herbal infusions brimming with the nutrition-rich boost our bodies crave! Nettle and chickweed can also be consumed in soups, stir-fries, pestos, and smoothies, to name a few culinary options.”

Our digestive health is also essential for maintaining our overall well-being. If we can aid in our body’s digestive process, we can not only better absorb the nutrients from our food, but it will also help flush out the toxins from our bodies, too. Metzger suggests digestive tonics like bitter or carminatives to aid in this process. She explains, “Bitter herbs have—you guessed it—a bitter flavor, and simply tasting the bitter flavor is known to improve secretion of digestive juices, enhancing digestion and assimilation. Bitters are often taken 5-15 minutes before meals for this effect. Carminatives, on the other hand, are rich in aromatic volatile oils that help to soothe tension, cramping, and discomfort in the digestive system, allowing for better digestion of nutrients.”

While it’s common to only think of Breast Cancer Awareness during October, Metzger also shared herbs that can help us support our breast health all-year-round. Violet, dandelion, and calendula are three that can be used to bring forth healing properties to what should be an essential aspect of our regular routines. While dandelion flower and calendula flower are two herbs that can help support our lymphatic system and are often included in topical breast oils, violet has similar properties with additional benefits, too.

“Violet is an herb that’s commonly used to stimulate movement of the lymph, address issues related to lymphatic stagnation such as cysts and fibrocystic breast tissue, and promote overall breast health,” she says. “The leaves and flowers are edible and can be included in salads, smoothies, and other foods, as well as herbal preparations such as teas and tinctures. Violet also makes a wonderful infused oil that can be used for gentle breast massage—another way to promote lymphatic flow!”

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