When it comes to seasonal health, we immediately think of herbs that can help us cope with acute situations. When something hits us, we just want to get rid of it as quickly as possible, and there are a number of herbal remedies that can help us through those acute situations.
But, what if we thought of herbs as the building blocks of optimal, seasonal health and well-being? If we give our bodies the support they need moving into the changing seasons, we may find we are healthier, more energetic, less stressed, and less likely to experience the full-blown effects of seasonal change.
So, what are some of the herbs that we can take on a daily basis to achieve this feeling of overall well-being? Herbalists and naturopathic doctors will often suggest tonic and adaptogenic herbs. These can be important building blocks to help support our bodies as we shift seasons and to use throughout the season ahead.
Tonic herbs are herbs that can be used on a daily basis to help restore, tone, and invigorate systems in the body or to promote general health and well-being. An herbal tonic is a solution or preparation made from a specially selected assortment of herbs, either in combination or as a single herb extract.
Five of our favorite tonic herbs are:
Nettle: This mineral-rich herb is a staple in any herbalist's cupboard. This nutritive herb is high in iron and calcium and makes a delicious tea or springtime Italian favorite, malfatti. Stinging Nettle increases energy levels, strengthens the immune, musculoskeletal, and lymphatic systems support the upper respiratory tract (especially during pollen season), promotes kidney health, and enhances a feeling of overall well-being and vitality.
Hawthorn: Praised for centuries, Hawthorn leaf, flower, and berry are believed to uplift and strengthen both the physical and emotional heart. This special blend of hawthorn flowers, leaves, and berries, gathered by hand on Avena’s farm, supports the health of the cardiovascular system, stimulates healthy circulation, and balances a person who feels agitated and restless.
Milky Oats: During the height of summer, the tops of the Avena sativa are flush with a beautiful white, milky substance. This is the exact moment, right after the flowering stage- that lasts for only a week, when we harvest over 200 pounds of the oat tops. High in calcium, the bioavailable nutrients in Milky Oats help build healthy blood, supporting our nervous and endocrine systems, creating an overall feeling of calmness.
Milk Thistle: Native to the Mediterranean, the tops of this purple flowering thistle give way to hundreds of seeds. While there are beneficial properties of the whole plant, the seeds are highly revered to support healthy liver function. Milk Thistle's high antioxidant properties help the body rid itself of free radicals by supporting healthy liver and kidney function.
Skullcap: This very special herb nourishes and strengthens the nervous system, relaxes the musculoskeletal system and digestive system, eases menstrual and menopausal stress, and promotes restful sleep. It is named for the flower's shape, which resembles the helmets worn by early European settlers, and ranges in color from brilliant blues to whites to pinks. This plant thrives in swampy and woodland areas of eastern North America.
Adaptogenic herbs are those herbs that, when used daily, can help our bodies return back to a natural state of homeostasis. Many adaptogenic herbs have qualities to help support our immune systems, build resilience against stress, and enhance our vitality.
Five adaptogenic herbs we love are:
- Ashwaghanda: Ashwagandha is a highly-renowned restorative herb that has been used in Ayurvedic Medicine for hundreds of years. This nourishing and calming root restores health to the nervous and immune systems by strengthening overall immune function and energy levels, relaxing the nervous system, supporting restful sleep, and balancing mood swings. One of our favorite ways to take this beneficial adaptogenic herb is by making our Ashwagandha Golden Milk.
Holy Basil: Also known as Sacred Basil or Tulsi, this herb calms and opens the heart and mind, engenders a sense of compassion and devotion, strengthens the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems, uplifts the spirit, and brings balance and peace to one’s heart and home. Throughout the summer, we hand-gather the fresh flowering tops for our Holy Basil (Sacred Basil) tincture, glycerite, and teas... amidst happy bees and while enjoying its intoxicating fragrance!
Eleuthero: Eleuthero is revered by many herbalists. This sweet-tasting adaptogenic herb strengthens the body’s ability to adapt to a range of stressors -- physical, emotional, and environmental. It balances the endocrine system, enhances energy levels, promotes mental clarity, and normalizes stress hormone levels. You may feel like you are standing on solid ground in the midst of a crazy world when taking Eleuthero over a period of time.
Shatavari: This root is highly revered in the Ayurvedic Tradition as a women's herb to help support a healthy reproductive system and temper menopausal symptoms. A half teaspoon of the root powder added to warm water, cereal or oats helps to nourish our adrenal system. As with most adaptogens, Shatavari helps to modulate our response to stress and support our endocrine, immune, and nervous systems.
Schisandra: The red berries that dangle from lush, green vines support healthy function of the liver and kidneys and strengthen the cardiovascular, nervous, and respiratory systems. The Heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine is said to house the Spirit, Shen, one’s Divine nature. Schisandra holds the Heart steady so one’s inner light can truly shine.
When it comes to seasonal support:
- In Spring, one of the most nutritive herbs known to herbalists is Stinging Nettle.
- Throughout the Summer, use beautiful cooling and calming fresh herbs like Rose, Holy Basil, and Lemon Balm in herbal infused waters and teas, topical spritzers, or tossed on top of salads and sorbets.
- As Fall settles in, we gravitate towards using pungent and warming herbs to help the transition towards the colder months ahead. Herbs like Ginger, Schisandra, and Elderberry help support our body's immune system.
- When the snows come and the chill of Winter is upon us, a delicious tonic chai that incorporates Astragalus, Codonopsis, Cinnamon, Ginger, and Licorice can help warm and support us throughout the season. Adding a few drops of these tinctures or, in some instances, fresh plant into your water bottle is a beautiful way to honor and nourish your body.
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