Updated: Sep 20, 2022
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.
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
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 the throat, skin, etc.; handle with care. Friends: marshmallow, red raspberry, licorice, cinnamon How I Use Most Often: tea
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 alternative; 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
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
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 Formulations, 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.