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Learning Herbs 101: Herbs That Support Other Herbs or Solve Special Problems

Posted Aug 20 2011 3:09pm

You’ve met the herbs that are affined with our body’s eleven organ systems already in my first two Learning Herbs posts: Herbs that love our Urinary, Digestive, Reproductive, Respiratory, and Circulatory systems , and Herbs that are useful for our Nervous, Integumentary, Lymphatic, Endocrine, and Musculoskeletal systems . But there are 3 more groups of herbs you haven’t met, and trust me, you’ll want to, because they’re particularly valuable to the Holistic Mommy: Diaphoretics, Anthelmintics, and Stimulants.

Diaphoretics: These herbs are like the sauna technicians of the herbal world. They’ll make you sweat. And why is that useful? Because sometimes you want to sweat, like when you want to reduce a fever, or eliminate extra toxins from your system, or just plain get over a cold/flu. Diaphoretic herbs include the Chamomiles (both Roman – Anthemis nobilis – and German – Matricaria recutita), Sage (Salvia officinalis), Spearmint (Mentha spicata), Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), among many, many others.

Anthelmintics: Since we’re giving herbs job descriptions, I’ll call these herbs, “pest control.” What kind of pests? Yucky intestinal worms: roundworms, hookworms, pinworms, and tapeworms are all KAKA, in my opinion (or, at least, they should be passed out with the kaka). Anthelmintic (anti = against + helminths = intestinal parasites or worms) herbs are particularly helpful for destroying or expelling intestinal parasites. Another word you might see used to describe this same action is vermifuge, which comes from the Latin “vermis” for worm. These are very powerful herbs with strong properties, so they need to be used with care (they’re hard on worms, and therefore hard on the body, too). Anthelmintic herbs include Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), Pumpkin seed (Cucurbita pepo), and Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) is also a good anthelmintic (its primary action is antiseptic, and is affined with our lymphatic/immune system).

Stimulants: As long as we’re likening herbs to jobs in the real world, we can call stimulant herbs, “traffic cops.” That’s right, these herbs tell others where to go, or “direct them to the right places,” thereby empowering and strengthening the action of other herbs. Kind of like a supporting cast, if you will. This is why herbalists typically combine stimulants with other herbs when making herbal formulas for clients. Stimulant herbs include Cayenne (Capsicum annuum), Ginger (Zingiber officinale), and Horseradish (Cochlearia armoracia).

And now, having met these last three groups of herbs, you really do have the tools for creating your own herbal formulas for yourself and your family. In my next post, I’ll share some tips on how to choose herbs to make formulas for tisanes, infusions, and decoctions – or, which herbs to put together and which ones don’t play so nicely in the sandbox. ‘Til next time!

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