Tonic - an herb used to strengthen certain organs or body systems over time.
Chronic stress and long-term illness puts a heavy toll on the body. Once the cause of dis-ease has been found and addressed through lifestyle, supplements, and/or dietary changes it is a good idea to use tonics to reach the ideal state of optimum health. Tonic herbs can be used to replace lost nutrients and strengthen any weak areas.
Here is a list of twelve tonifying herbs and how to use them.
Alfalfa contains many vitamins, minerals, enzymes and trace minerals and is therefore useful for vitamin/mineral deficiency. It is a general tonic and may be used to support healing for the whole system. Alfalfa nourishes the pituitary gland. Alfalfa is recommended for peptic ulcers, as a blood purifier, anemia and fatigue.
Astragalus (Chinese Milkvetch) is an important strengthener of the immune-system best used before illness occurs rather than during. It is also a tonic for the heart, the spleen, circulation, kidneys, liver, endocrine system, adrenal system, and lowers blood sugar and blood pressure.
Borage is called the 'Herb of Gladness.' It is a general tonic for the heart, the lungs, the nerves, the mucous membranes, the glands and the intestines. The seeds contain the same Gammalinoleic acid (GLA) found in Evening Primrose, which produces Prostaglandin E1 and helps to combat aging, PMS and strengthens the immune-system and vessels. Borage is also good for reducing fever and to restore strength.
Burdock root is classified as one of the best blood and gland purifiers, and belongs to the most basic of healing herbs. It is used for eczema and for balancing hormones in the body as it is said to effect the hypothalamus and the pituitary, called the master gland. Burdock root is one of the four herbs used in the well-known anti-cancer remedy 'Essiac.'
Dong Quai, also known as Chinese Angelica is one of the main tonics for women in regulating menstrual cycles and providing relief from menopause symptoms. However, it should be avoided by pregnant women and diabetics.
Gentian has some anti-fungal properties and is used for thrush. It is best known for its ability to strengthen and stimulate the digestive system and organs. Gentian is good for the circulation, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, kidneys and intestines. Some of its useful properties also give it a bitter taste.
Hyssop is useful for all kinds of lung problems (it soothes the bronchial tubes and works as an expectorant). It improves digestion and is a good tonic for the liver, spleen, kidneys and intestines. It is also used for gas, scrofula, dropsy, jaundice, bronchitis, coughs, colds, chills, catarrhs, hysteria, anxiety and petit mal (epilepsy). Externally, Hyssop is used for eczema and bruises. As a gargle, Hyssop can be used for a sore throat.
Irish Moss is an excellent tonic. It is especially useful for an underproductive thyroid (hypothyroid). It is good for all lung problems, and said to be very good for tuberculosis and bronchitis. It is also used for intestinal problems.
Licorice Root is an excellent tonic and one of the most basic tools of any herbalist. It soothes the stomach, the inflammed gallbladder and its duct and heals gastric and duodenal ulcers. It is used for overworked adrenals and also stimulates other glands, helps to expel phlegm, and is a source of Phyto-Estrogen.
Sarsaparilla is a good tonic and strengthener for the thyroid and the whole body. It assists in healing of any kind and is useful as a blood purifier. It is also used for skin diseases and psoriasis.
Yarrow has a positive influence on the liver, stomach and intestines. Yarrow can be used to stop any kind of bleeding and has great value as a general tonic. It is also used for dyspepsia, loss of appetite, gastro-intestinal discomfort, spasms and cramps. Yarrow also stimulates the glands and the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow. It is used to build and clean the blood.
Yellow Dock is a great general tonic, particularly good for the liver. It is high in iron and is used for anemia where iron deficiency is the cause. Yellow Dock is also used to clean the gallbladder, the lymph system and the blood.
Using the herbs - Any of these herbs work well as a tea, capsule, or as a tincture. Because they build strength over time I like to use combinations of them in soup stock (roots) or sprinkled over meals (leaves) as you would seasoning. Let your food be your medicine! You'll find certain herbs taste better in one form versus another. All of these herbs are available in bulk here at Elder & Sage.
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.