by Tess Wood | Instagram
I have been an active herbalist for almost four years now, using herbs in my daily life as a way to better my health and mental state. It has become a huge part of who I am – a constant, everyday, trial-and-error process that requires incredible patience at the same time. Herbal medicine has been a massive, fulfilling, (sometimes) stressful, spiritual journey. It’s hard work, but the results you see while living a more holistic lifestyle are worth all the energy you put into it – that’s what I love most about it. You never stop learning, and that’s the exciting part!
While herbal medicine has been the foundation of healing and wellness from the very beginning of civilization, from cultivation to agriculture, the use of herbs all started from what was found and grown around us. It seems strange that we have almost forgotten our humble beginnings and instincts, but modern herbalism gives us back the power to create a pathway to our roots. I get so much joy from knowing that what I do brings me closer to the past and not only benefits myself, but can benefit others around me. Herbalism gives a sense of healing and connection to the earth, and grounds me in a way nothing else can. It gives me the tools to find balance and wholeness inside and out. Herbal wellness, really, is the process of becoming aware of healthy and fulfilling life choices – a chosen process of mental and physical growth and change, with the support of natural herbs and their counterparts.
Photo: Tess Wood
Now I know herbalism can be incredibly complex, and can be hard to know where to start, so here I have broken down some easy-to-use, safe herbs that you can start incorporating into your everyday life. Before we get started though, it’s important to remember that the use of herbs is not a cure or magical quick-fix for any illness or ailment you or someone else may be suffering from – whether acute or chronic. The use of herbs is also not as effective if proper nutrition and physical exercise is not incorporated into your daily life and taken into account. Please also make sure to read the precautions at the end of this post to ensure you are taking the utmost care and safety when using herbs, externally or internally, in any form.
Herbs for your Wellness Journey
My first contender as you start your journey into herbal wellness is something you probably already know: Lavender; Lavendula angustifolia / Lavendula latifolia. This flower has been used for centuries to purify both body and spirit. Medicinally, It is used to help ease and treat a range of different ailments, from fatigue and insomnia to anxiety and depression. It does this by reducing the heart rate and providing a calming effect. I find Lavender to be a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to my overall mental and physical well-being. You can administer and use it in so many different ways, from a herbal infusion or tincture, a balm, or even in food. Lavender is easily acquired and is incredibly simple to use. You don’t have to be an expert to enjoy a lavender tea before bed for extra comfort and a good night’s sleep.
The next item on our list of herbs is actually used mainly as a spice: the lovely spicy herb Zingiber officinale, or Ginger Root to be exact. This aromatic food is used in most cooking to add flavour, but its power goes far beyond what the taste. Ginger is packed full of antioxidants! These are compounds that fight against free radicals in the body, which can potentially cause harm in large amounts. Ginger is comforting and warming, helping fight inflammation, which can additionally help ease headaches. It can also aid in treating chronic indigestion issues and nausea. I absolutely love a ginger infusion in the morning after breakfast to help me internally prepare for the day ahead of me. I always keep it around in several forms, as It can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil or juice. I definitely recommend its use!
Now, when I think of herbs that help support my immune system to prevent and fight flus and colds throughout the year, my mind immediately gravitates towards Echinacea; Echinacea purpurea / Echinacea angustifolia. Similar to ginger, the root of the plant itself is what is primarily used. Often referred to as a coneflower, this herb is a powerhouse all by itself, calming anxiety and reducing blood sugar. Although echinacea should only be taken in small doses over a limited period of time, its main objective is to help you maintain good health. There are a few ways to take echinacea, but the easiest are as a tincture or dried tablet. These methods allow for immediate digestion and quick entry into the bloodstream, increasing the number of killer cells sent out to clean and support the immune system. Echinacea each day can keep the doctor away! This herb can be found in most health food shops, is readily available online, and is used throughout the world.
Last, but certainly not least, and actually my favourite go-to herb is Peppermint; Mentha × piperita. We see this everywhere, we use it in everything. Peppermint is such a beneficial ally in wellness. Mainly used in teas and as a flavouring, peppermint helps with a lot of things, including indigestion, and as a digestive aid after a meal. It can ease sinus issues because of the active menthol, by opening up airways and reducing inflammation caused by irritation. Peppermint can also be used externally and internally for muscle aches and pains throughout the body because of its cooling and stimulating properties. Never underestimate the usage of peppermint, as it can really give a boost to your overall health!
I truly hope this guide helps you on your herbal wellness journey, and that you can start incorporating herbs into your life bit by bit. I could honestly go on forever about all the herbs I love and use, but it’s your turn now! Use Google, grab a book, or take a class, and remember that your wellness journey can start with just a simple cup of tea.
Precautions Before Using any Herbs
Using herbs can be great for our health, but we need to be aware of some of the potential dangers of their use. You want to make sure your health and safety is your immediate priority.
- Avoid use of herbs in any form if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Avoid use for children and pets, unless you are a professional.
- Do not use any form of herbal medicine if you are prescribed medications without consulting your doctor or healthcare professional first.
- If a reaction occurs after use of any herb, stop use immediately and consult your doctor.
About the Author: Tess is a Canadian herbalist living in the UK, and has been for the past four years. She started working with herbs as a way to change her and her families’ lifestyle and help with her overall health. She is currently working on extending her qualifications and becoming a herbalist full-time in the future. You can find out more about her and working with holistic medicine on her Instagram page @theobscurawitch, where she posts frequently about her herbalism journey