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Herbal actions are the effect that each herb has in the human body. Herbal actions are also known as herbal energetics, which refers to the energy that the herb has. When herbal actions are understood, they can help us discover what the best medicine is for the particular ailment we are trying to treat. There are many, many herbal actions, but some are more common than others.
Herbal actions are part of the herbs’ language. They help communicate the herbs’ efficacy to us. Experienced herbalists learn how to read the herbs to determine the correct usage of them. Let’s talk a little about the more common herbal actions, so we can learn how to use them efficiently.
Adaptogens help our bodies handle and deal with stress. They help your body adapt. They don’t have a specific action, but rather rely on multiple actions to help the body to restore balance and health. Adaptogens can be stimulating or relaxing, depending on what the body needs. Some adaptogens also boost immune health, combat fatigue, or ease depression and anxiety.
Adaptogens are herbs that you would take on a daily basis, to help your body fight off everyday stress.
Examples of adaptogens:
Alterative herbs help support the general healthy functions of the body. This herbal action is usually a secondary energy to a more prominent herbal action. An alterative herb gradually restores the proper functions of the body and helps to restore health and vitality. This quality is one of the more misunderstood herbal actions.
Rosemary Gladstar, superstar in the herbal world, refers to alteratives in this way:
“Commonly referred to as Blood Purifiers.” These are agents that gradually and favorably alter the condition of the blood. They aid the body in assimilating nutrients and eliminating metabolic waste products: Neutralizes acidic conditions in the body: Aids in protein assimilation. Generally extremely high in minerals and some vitamins.”
Alterative herbs are herbs that should be taken as more of a tonic, for a short time, to bring back balance and health to the body.
Examples of alteratives:
- Red clover
- Yellow dock
Analgesic herbs help to manage pain, without the undesirable effects of pharmaceutical pain relievers. Analgesic herbs are typically anti-inflammatory, and thus are very valuable in controlling pain in the body. They are much safer than pharmaceuticals, yet can still provide powerful pain relief. These are wonderful herbs to keep in your home apothecary.
Analgesics should only be taken when there is pain and inflammation present.
Examples of analgesics:
- White willow bark
- St. John’s Wort
- Devil’s Claw
Antimicrobial herbs interfere with the normal growth and reproduction of various microbes within the body. They are beneficial for warding off harmful bacteria and fungi. These herbs are sometimes used as natural antibiotics, as they fight off bacterial infections.
Antimicrobial herbs should be taken at the first sign of bacterial overgrowth or infection. They can also be used in treating yeast infections such as candida.
Examples of antimicrobials:
- Oregon grape root
- Black walnut
Antioxidants are herbs that can help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that our bodies produce in response to normal metabolism and environmental stresses. Antioxidants help to fight the aging process, and can alleviate fatigue and slowed immunity.
Scientists believe that antioxidants are key in preventing heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes.
Antioxidants can generally be taken for long periods of time, especially when the body is feeling stressed and weak.
Examples of antioxidants:
Carminative herbs help dispel gas from the digestive system. They are aromatic herbs, and are used to treat bloating, cramping, nausea, and indigestion.
Carminative herbs are normally only taken when there is indigestion and gas.
Examples of carminatives:
Demulcent herbs are high in mucilage, which is a slippery, gelatinous substance. These herbs help to soothe and protect irritated and inflamed tissue, especially mucus membranes. They are helpful for digestive system complaints and respiratory inflammation, as well as urinary system inflammation. Demulcents can also be used on irritated skin.
Demulcent herbs can be used frequently to help calm irritated tissues.
Examples of demulcents:
- Common mallow
- Slippery elm
- Fenugreek seed
- Irish moss
Bitter herbs are helpful in digestion. The bitterness of these herbs help stimulate saliva and increase digestive fluids. They have been taken for ages after a large meal, to help alleviate gas and bloating as well as indigestion. Bitters have also been used to treat constipation.
Bitters are best taken with every meal.
Examples of bitters:
- Gentian root
Diaphoretic herbs stimulate sweating. While most people don’t think of this as a good thing, it really can be beneficial to your health. Sweating expels toxins from the skin, increases circulation, and can even help improve kidney function. Sweating is also imperative in reducing fevers.
Diaphoretics should be taken on a fairly regular basis, especially when fever is present.
Examples of diaphoretics:
- Blessed thistle
- Juniper berries
Diuretic herbs help to increase urination. This helps the body eliminate excess fluid, and also stimulates the kidneys to release more sodium into the urine. Doctors and herbalists prescribe diuretics to help treat symptoms of high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, and and liver disease. These diseases cause excess fluid buildup in the body.
Diuretics should be used when the body is retaining too much fluid or too much sodium.
Examples of diuretics:
Expectorant herbs help loosen congestion by thinning and expelling mucus. They make coughs more productive and help clear the lungs. Expectorants are especially helpful in treating coughs and bronchitis.
Expectorant herbs should be used for colds, sinus infections, flu, coughs, and bronchitis.
Examples of expectorants:
Nervine herbs help support a healthy nervous system. These herbs are especially good for anxiety, stress, insomnia, and restlessness. They are commonly known as nerve tonics, and are very helpful for relaxation.
Nervines can be taken on a longer-term basis, but especially during times of high stress and anxiety.
Examples of nervines:
- Lemon balm
- California poppy
- Linden flowers
- St. John’s Wort
- Kava root
Astringent herbs help dry, tighten, and tone our bodies. These herbs typically have a high amount of tannins in them. Astringent herbs are good for wounds, ulcers, hemorrhoids, bleeding, ulcerative colitis, and diarrhea.
Astringent herbs should generally not be taken for long periods of time.
Examples of astringents:
- Witch hazel
- Blackberry root
- White oak
- Green tea
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These are just a few of the most common herbal actions. The beautiful thing is, once you understand the basic herbal actions, you can learn how to use herbs effectively for your own health needs. Having a few key herbs in your arsenal is imperative in taking control of your own health care. If you want to know more about using herbs and essential oils effectively, you should check out the Herbs and Essential Oils Super Bundle from Ultimate Bundles.
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