Using Tonic Herbs for Health and Vitality


| 5/15/2015 10:49:00 AM


Tags: tonic herbs, Herbal Academy of New England, Jane Metzger,

Herbs can be powerful allies for our health and wellness. Many of us are familiar with Echinacea and yarrow as antimicrobials, wild cherry bark for a cough, ginger for nausea, and a host of other herbs used in acute situations to restore health. Herbs can be very effective used in this manner, but herbs also shine when used as daily building and strengthening tonics.

What are Tonic Herbs?

In a previous article I discussed nourishing herbal infusions, which are made from nutrient-rich herbs that are safe to consume on a daily basis, as we do food. In this article I delve into tonic herbs – those herbs which can be consumed daily to enhance vitality, longevity, and energy. We may be familiar with the concept of tonics from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), wherein they are used “to supplement deficiencies and enhance energy and well-being” [1].

Using Tonic Herbs for Health

Tonic herbs slowly build and strengthen, restoring our body systems to a balanced state, thus supporting optimum function of our physical bodies as well as enhancing our emotional well-being. They reflect the essence of herbalism, which we emphasize in our online herbalism classes – integrating plants into our diets on a daily basis as supportive, building, strengthening allies used as preventative medicine or to heal chronic disease. Hippocrates hit the nail on the head with his oft-cited declaration, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food.” In recent years as we have linked the sad state of the Standard American Diet to our health struggles, there has fortunately been an increased emphasis on letting food be our medicine. We can focus on the second half of Hippocrates’ mandate and let medicine be our food by supplementing our diets and nourishing our bodies with tonic herbs.

Is important to note that the definition of tonic is somewhat different in TCM and Western Herbalism. In general, eastern tonics are used in the case of deficiency to build or nourish the body, while western tonics are used to improve organ or system function, often through clearing and cleansing [2]. Western tonics do include nurturing, building tonics such as adaptogens (which increase the body’s ability to resist and adapt to stress, be it physical, mental, or emotional) and trophorestoratives (which build strength and function of organs or body systems); but they also include normalizing tonics (which improve organ or system by stimulating function) and blood tonics (which cleanse and detoxify the blood) [2]. This article focuses on the building tonics which treat deficiency and restore function by restoring strength, generating warmth, providing nutrition, and providing moisture [3].

The Herb Safety Scale

One important criteria for tonics is that they have no negative side effects if used appropriately. In terms of safety, it is helpful to consider where various types of herbs fall on a safety continuum scale of 1 to 5 [4].


peppinbright
6/19/2015 3:05:24 AM

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