Your Own Herbal Expert - Part 3
an article by Susun S. Weed
medicine is the medicine of the people. It is simple,
safe, effective, and free. Our ancestors knew how
to use an enormous variety of plants for health
and well-being. Our neighbors around the world continue
to use local plants for healing and health maintenance,
and you can too.
In your first lesson, you learned how to "listen"
to the messages of plant's tastes. And you discovered
that using plants in water bases (as teas, infusions,
vinegars, and soups) - and as simples - allows you
to experiment with and explore herbal medicine safely.
In your second lesson, you learned about herbs for
teas and how to preserve and use their volatile
oils. You leaned about vitamin- and mineral-rich
herbal infusions, and how to use them to promote
health and longevity. And you continued to think
about using herbs simply.
In this lesson you will explore the differences
between nourishing, tonifying, stimulating/sedating,
and potentially-poisonous plants. You will learn
how to prepare and use them for greatest effect
and most safety.
Herbs Are Not Equal
herbs are not equal: some contain poisons, some
don't; some of the poisons are not so bad, some
can kill you dead. I divide herbs into four categories
for ease in remembering how (and how much) to use.
Some herbs nourish us, some tonify, some bring us
up or ease us down, and some are frighteningly strong.
herbs are the safest of all herbs. They contain
few or no alkaloids, glycosides, resins, or essential
herbs are eaten as foods, cooked into soups, dried
and infused, or, occasionally, made into vinegars.
They provide high-level nutrients, including vitamins,
minerals, trace minerals, proteins, phytoestrogens
and phytosterols, starches, simple and complex sugars,
bioflavonoids, carotenes, and essential fatty acids
herbs in water bases (infusions, soups, vinegars)
may generally be taken in any quantity for any period
of time. Side-effects - even from excessive use
- are quite rare. Nourishing herbs are rarely used
as tinctures (in alcohol), but when they are, their
effects may be quite different.It is generally considered
safe to use nourishing herbs in water bases with
prescription drugs. They may also be taken even
if you are using tonifying, stimulating/sedating,
or potentially poisonous herbs.
examples of nourishing herbs include:
· burdock roots
· chickweed herb; tincture dissolves cysts
· comfrey leaf
· elder blossoms and berries· fenugreek
· mallow leaves and roots
· nettle leaves and seeds
· plantain leaves and seeds
· red clover blossoms
· rose hips
· slippery elm bark
· violet leaves and blossoms.
herbs are generally considered safe when used in
moderation. They may contain alkaloids or glycosides
or essential oils, but rarely in quantities sufficient
to harm us.Tonifying herbs act slowly in the body
and have a cumulative, rather than immediate, effect.
They are most beneficial when used for extended
periods of time. Tonifying herbs may be used regularly
(but usually not daily) for decades if desired.
Tonifying herbs are prepared in water and alcohol
bases: tinctures and wines, as well as infusions,
vinegars, and soups.
The more bitter the tonic tastes, the less you need
to take of it. The more bland the tonic tastes,
the more you can use of it.
Side effects from overuse and misuse of tonics is
uncommon but quite possible. The dividing line between
what is tonifying and what is stimulating differs
from person to person. Ginseng is tonifying to my
sweetheart, but stimulating to me. Even herbal authorities
disagree on which herbs are tonifying and which
Take care to counter any tendency to overuse tonifying
herbs or you may experience unwanted side effects.It
is generally considered safe to use tonifying herbs
in water bases if you are taking prescription drugs.
You may also use tonifying herbs while using nourishing,
stimulating/sedating, and even potentially poisonous
herbs. Tonifying herbs in alcohol bases are considered
safe to use with nourishing herbs, but may produce
unexpected results if combined with drugs or strong
Some examples of tonifying herbs include:
burdock seeds, especially in an oil base
· mug/cronewort herb, especially in vinegar
· dandelion leaf, root and flowers
· echinacea root
· ginseng root
· hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers
· horsetail herb
· ladys mantle
· motherwort leaves and flowers
· sarsaparilla root
· yellow dock leaves, roots, and seeds
herbs frequently contain essential oils, alkaloids,
glycosides, or resins. Because these substances
cause strong physical reactions, stimulating/sedating
herbs are known from their rapid and pronounced
effects, some of which may be unwanted.
herbs are most often prepared as tinctures (and
wines), vinegars, teas, and infusions. Many stimulating/sedating
herbs are used as seasonings in cooking as well.
Despite my cookbook's injunction to use only a little,
I long ago learned that more aromatic herbs in my
soups gave a "livelier" result.
long-term use of stimulating/sedating herbs can
lead to dependency, dose and duration of use must
be carefully watched. A moderate to large dose,
taken infrequently will produce better results than
a small dose taken over a longer period.
Side effects from the use of stimulating/sedating
herbs in water bases are not common but possible.
Side effects from use in alcohol bases are frequent.
Whenever stimulating/sedating herbs are used regularly,
health is compromised.
It is not safe to take prescription drugs with stimulating/sedating
herbs, but they may be taken even if you are using
nourishing and/or tonifying herbs.
examples of stimulating/sedating herbs include:
· leaves of aromatic mints such as catnip,
lemon balm, lavender, sage, skullcap
· cinnamon bark
· coffee beans
· ginger root
· kava kava root
· licorice root
· passion flower
· tobacco leaves
· uva ursi leaves
· valerian root
· willow bark and leaves
poisonous herbs always contain alkaloids, glycosides,
resins, or essential oils. And they contain large
quantities of those poisons, or in very potent forms.
Potentially poisonous plants can cause death directly,
through the actions of their poisons on their targets
(such as cardiac glycosides which stop the heart)
or indirectly, by causing the liver and/or the kidneys
to fail (as they attempt to cope with and clear
the poison from the system).
Potentially poisonous herbs are usually extracted
into alcohol (tinctures) and used in minute doses
safety sake use potentially poisonous herbs as infrequently
as possible and for the shortest possible time.
Powdering and encapsulating increases the risk of
side effects from any herb, but when we take stimulating/sedating
and potentially poisonous herbs in capsules, the
side effects can be deadly.
Homeopathic pharmacy uses many potentially poisonous
plants, but in such dilute doses that death is impossible.
Side effects can occur, even with homeopathically
tiny doses, however.
Potentially poisonous herbs activate intense effort
on the part of the body and spirit and may cause
nausea, visual disturbances, digestive woes, and
allergic reactions even when used correctly.
Always be extremely cautious when using potentially
poisonous herbs. Consult with at least three other
knowledgeable herbalists who have used the plant
in question before proceeding.
general it is not considered safe to take potentially
poisonous herbs while taking prescription drugs,
other potentially poisonous herbs, or stimulating/sedating
herbs. It is generally safe to use potentially poisonous
herbs while using nourishing and tonifying herbs.
Some examples of potentially poisonous herbs:
· castor beans
· cotton root
· poke root
· rue leaves and flowers
· tansy leaves and flowers
some time alone quietly breathing. Tune into your
body piece by piece (toes, feet, calves, knees,
thighs, and so on). Use colors to draw yourself.
Don't worry about making art.
For the next month include some nourishing herb
in your diet. Example: on Monday include seaweed
as a vegetable for dinner, on Tuesday drink a quart
of nettle infusion, on Wednesday make a soup with
burdock and other roots, on Thursday drink a quart
of red clover infusion, on Friday make garlic bread
with at least one clove of freshly chopped garlic
per slice, on Saturday drink a quart of oatstraw
infusion, on Sunday drink a quart of comfrey/mint
infusion. And so on.
One month later, sit alone and breathe quietly.
Tune into your body piece by piece. Use colors to
draw yourself. Has anything changed? You can continue
this experiment for as long as you like.
experiment number one, but instead use any one tonic
(preferably one that lives where you do) at least
four times a week for one month. Again, note any
changes in how you feel, how much energy and stamina
you have, how much curiosity and delight you experience
in life. You can continue this experiment for as
long as you like also.
Experiment Number Three
stimulants and sedatives do you use regularly? What
happens if you give up one or more of them for a
week? For a month? Try - on different days - at
least one herbal stimulant and one herbal sedative
and keep notes of your reactions.experiment number
Choose one potentially poisonous plant that grows
near you and cultivate a relationship with it. Read
about it. Talk about it with others who have a relationship
with it. Keep a special book for writing about your
1. Name five more nourishing herbs. Specify part
used, preparation, and dosage.
2. Name five more tonifying herbs. Specify part
used, preparation, and dosage.
3. Name five more stimulating/sedating herbs. Specify
part used, preparation, and dosage.
4. Name five more potentially poisonous herbs. Specify
part used, preparation, and dosage. In what case
and how would you use each?
the botanical name (genus and species) for each
List five nourishing herbs commonly sold in tincture
form and describe what they are used for in that
Learn more about homeopathy.5. What is the difference
between a tonic and a stimulant?
you want to be your own herbal expert then you may
want to start a correspondence course! See www.susunweed.com for information on courses available.
This is part 3 in an 8 part series by Susun S. Weed. Part 1 | Part 2 | Part
3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part
6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | *
Disclaimer: This content is not intended
to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions
made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose,
treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or
symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided
by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare
practitioner with a specific formula for you. All
material on this website/email is provided for general
information purposes only and should not be considered
medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable
healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical
care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second
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Susun Weed at: www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com
For permission to reprint this article, contact
and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international
reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings,
and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges
conventional medical approaches with humor, insight,
and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine.
Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic
lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative.
Susun is one
of America's best-known authorities on herbal medicine
and natural approaches to women's health. Her four
best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists
and well-known physicians and are used and cherished
by millions of women around the world. Learn more
article is © copyright Susun
S. Weed 2006 - Republished here with kind permission.