NMW Day 4: The "magic" of herbal medicine

As naturopathic doctors we are very lucky to be trained in multiple methods of physical (and emotional support). One of these is herbal medicine, and herbal medicine is a discipline that can help with so many conditions… it makes me very excited to be able to use and treat with herbs every day.

The neat thing about herbs is that because they are living things (or are at the time of processing), their chemical structures are diverse and mimic the diversity of our bodies for a multitude of conditions. For most, this means an easier acceptance of herbal medicine by the body and an ability to move it on multiple levels. To help with your understanding, let’s use the adrenal gland as an example.

Energy support with herbal medicine

The adrenal glands are very important glands. Not sure what they are? These little glands on top of both kidneys are major hormone centres, and are a part of the endocrine system.

When the body or mind have been under stress for long periods of time, the adrenal gland needs help to produce hormones to allow our body to sustain its activity in the face of stress. Herbal medicine is the one intervention that can actually rehabilitate that gland and make you feel like yourself again when the gland is tired and has been going for far too long. The exciting thing is that when some individuals are stressed, they exhibit multiple symptoms (ie. tired and wired, tired and anxious, tired and depressed, crushingly fatigued and mentally exhausted) and each individual herb can respond uniquely to these properties. See below for a list of popular herbs and their unique purposes:

Ginseng root and berries

Panax ginseng (Chinese and Korean) — Stimulating and gives the adrenals a good kick-​start! Not great for anxious and tired types.

Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng) — Long-​term support of the adrenals and immune system, a better herb for long-​term adrenal support.

Holy basil — Tired and wired? Holy basil is holy indeed.

Rhodiola rosea — Anxious and exhausted? Great herb for women who experience adrenal fatigue and anxiety with instability of their menstrual cycles.

Astragalus membranaceous — Truly balances the aspects of adrenal stress support with the ability to support the immune system and prevent frequent colds and flu that can happen in long-​term adrenal stress.

Withania somnifera or Ashwagandha — For a truly withered individual who feels like they must be scraped off the ground with fatigue, but who also may experience anxiety from time to time.

Scutellaria laterifolia — The mentally exhausted — this herb gives your brain and body the nourishment they need to feel less overwhelmed.

This list is not exhaustive — there are so many more herbs, that are used alone or in combination formulas to safely get you out of the doldrums and feeling your best. As you can see, herbs are very unique and have the deep capacity to move and heal. As naturopathic doctors are trained in herbal medicine as well as pharmacology, we know which herbs to use and in which combinations that will not interact with your medications but get you back to the life you need to live!

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