Happy Pay a Compliment Day!

Hand-drawn assortment of herbs

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Today is Pay a Compliment Day which seems like a perfect time to talk about what I like to refer to as complementary herbs or tonic herbs.  According to Traditional Medicinals, “A tonic herb is an herb that is meant to be used regularly over a long period of time, in order to support the body to stay in balance.”

Most herbs that are referred to as tonic herbs “fall under the 1-3 safety rating on the Herb Safety Continuum Scale and are considered to be quite safe, with little to no side effects when used appropriately, and can be used for an extended period of time. “- Herbal Academy.  Make sure to pay attention to the caution lines below.

Please remember if you’re going to use herbs every day to make sure you balance them with your constitution or in general.  We want to support our systems not push them farther out of balance.  Arizkatt’s Herbs Members, if you need help with this, please let me know and I will assist you in finding your constitution. As always, it is best to consult your healthcare professional before starting any health regimen.

Ok, let’s look at the complementary or tonic herbs I use, many of these you have seen talked about on this site before since I tend to use them a lot.

Hand-drawn Hawthorn featuring the bark, flowers, and berries.
Drawing by Debora J. Brown

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)

Family: Rosaceae
Energetics: cool, dry, tonifying
Taste: sweet, sour, astringent
Medicinal parts: berries, leaves, flowers
Actions: cardiac tonic, circulatory relaxant, hypotensive, cardiac trophorestorative, diuretic, nervine, digestive, vulnerary
Affinities: cardiovascular system
Cautions: Hawthorn can interact with some cardiac medications, though use in tea formula is usually very safe.
Friends: linden, rose, motherwort, ginger, damiana, tulsi
How I Use Most Often: tea

Nettle (Urtica dioica)

Family: Urticaceae
Energetics: cool, dry, tonifying
Taste: earthy, salty, umami
Medicinal parts: leaves, roots, seeds
Actions: diuretic, nutritive, alterative, adaptogen (seeds)
Affinities: kidneys, adrenals
Cautions: Nettle is quite drying on its own, so formulate it with a moistening plant; licorice, linden, violet, and marshmallow are the ones I tend to use.  
Friends: dandelion, goldenrod, red clover, licorice, marshmallow, violet
How I Use Most Often: tea, seasoning

Hand-drawn Nettle by Debora J. Brown
Drawing by Debora J. Brown
Hand-drawn astragalus flowers, leaves, and roots by Debora J. Brown
Drawing by Debora J. Brown

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)

Family: Fabaceae
Energetics: warm, moist, tonifying
Taste: sweet, mild, slightly salty
Medicinal parts: root
Actions: immune trophorestorative, nutritive, mucilaginous expectorant, hepatic, cardiovascular tonic, alterative, adrenal tonic, adaptogen, hypoglycemic
Affinities: immune & endocrine systems
Cautions: Traditional use of astragalus discourages taking this herb when acutely ill; wait until the recuperation phase to reintroduce it. Astragalus will reduce the effectiveness of immune-suppressing medications and should not be taken concurrently with these drugs.
Friends: licorice, ashwagandha, schisandra, elder
How I Use Most Often: chew stick, tea, soups

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Family: Scrophulariaceae
Energetics: cool, dry, tonifying* (moistening & relaxant to respiratory system)
Taste: salty, mucilaginous
Medicinal parts: leaves, flowers, roots
Actions: moistening expectorant, respiratory relaxant, nervous sedative, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anodyne, urinary & connective tissue tonic
Affinities: respiratory system
Cautions: Mullein is covered in tiny hairs, which can irritate throat, skin, etc.; handle with care.
Friends: marshmallow, red raspberry, licorice, cinnamon
How I Use Most Often: tea

Hand-drawn Mullein by Debora J. Brown
Drawing by Debora J. Brown
Hand-drawn Burdock by Debora J. Brown
Drawing by Debora J. Brown

Burdock (Arctium lappa)

Family: Compositae (Asteraceae)
Energetics: cool, dry, relaxant
Taste: bitter, sweet, oily
Medicinal parts: seeds, leaves, roots
Actions: alterative, hepatic, diuretic, diffusive, diaphoretic
Affinities: integumentary system, liver, gut flora
Cautions: Some people experience a rash or skin irritation that could be caused by taking too much or failing to eliminate a source of irritation in the diet or environment.
Friends: nettle, dandelion, red clover, licorice
How I Use Most Often: tea

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Family: Compositae (Asteraceae)
Energetics: cold, dry, tonifying
Taste: bitter, earthy, sweet, salty  
Medicinal parts: root, leaves, flowers
Actions: stimulating, draining, drying alterative; digestive, nutritive, diuretic (leaves); cholagogue, choleretic, mild laxative (roots); exhilarant (flowers)
Affinities: liver and kidneys; urinary system
Cautions: Dandelion should be paired with moistening herbs when used in people with very dry constitutions.
Friends: burdock, nettle
How I Use Most Often: tea, oils

Hand-drawn Dandelion by Debora J. Brown
Drawing by Debora J. Brown
Hand-drawn Chamomile by Debora J. Brown
Drawing by Debora J. Brown

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita, M. chamomilla)

Family: Compositae (Asteraceae)
Energetics: warm, neutral, relaxant
Taste: bitter, aromatic, sweet
Medicinal part: flowers
Actions: stomachic, carminative, soothing nervine, sedative, antispasmodic, vulnerary
Affinities: digestive, nervous, and reproductive systems
Cautions: a very safe herb that is particularly nice for children.
How I Use Most Often: tea, lotions, syrups, hydrosol

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Family: Labiatae (Lamiaceae)
Energetics: cool, dry, relaxant
Taste: aromatic, sweet
Medicinal parts: aerial parts –flowers & leaves  
Actions: initially warming, ultimately cooling; relaxant, sedative, nervine, diaphoretic, antiviral, anodyne
Affinities: digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems
Cautions: safe for children and elders.
How I Use Most Often: tea, cooking especially in pasta sauce

Hand-drawn lemon balm by Debora J. Brown
Drawing by Debora J. Brown

Linden (Tilia americana & cordata var.)

Family: Malvaceae
Energetics: cool, moist, relaxant
Taste: sweet, mildly salty, musty
Medicinal parts: flowers, leaves, bark
Actions: demulcent, nervine, anti-inflammatory, sedative, hypotensive, anodyne, relaxant diaphoretic
Affinities: cardiovascular and nervous systems
Cautions: leaves and flowers are safe for children, elders, and pregnant individuals. The bark should not be given to people on blood thinners.
How I Use Most Often: tea, cooking especially in pasta sauce

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

Family: Fabaceae
Energetics: warm, moist, relaxant
Taste: sweet
Medicinal parts: roots
Actions: demulcent, expectorant, antitussive, emollient, adaptogen, cortisol fixative, stomachic, digestive, harmonizer
Affinities: gastrointestinal system, liver, adrenals
Cautions: Licorice can raise blood pressure; not recommended as a simple, or in high doses, for those with high blood pressure. DGL (de-glycyrrhizinated licorice) products sidestep this concern.
Friends: cinnamon, calendula, plantain
How I Use Most Often: tea, capsules

In the posts, Maybe sunny… and Life Break, you will find recipes for the Vitamin/Mineral Tea and Allergy Tea I make and drink every day. These two teas have many of the herbs above in them.  If you are like me and run on the dry side, I would suggest adding a moistening herb to them; I normally add linden.

The complementary or tonic herb I want to learn next is Saw Palmetto, it grows all around me and this year I’m trying to work more with the native plants in my area.  While listening to a podcast by CommonWealth Herbs they said this plant is warming and moistening tonic with an affinity for urinary and reproductive systems.

What complementary/tonic herb is your favorite? Which one would you like to try?

Post your responses in the comments below.

Sources
https://www.traditionalmedicinals.com/articles/plants/the-basics-herbal-tonics/
https://theherbalacademy.com/herbal-tonics-101/ GREAT ARTICLE
https://commonwealthherbs.com/podcast-158-saw-palmetto-doesnt-discriminate-on-gender/
https://theherbalacademy.com/the-herb-safety-continuum-scale/

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