INVITING HERBS INTO YOUR DAILY ROUTINE
By Leslie Bish
The following is an excerpt from her herbal program FLOURISH; a 30 day detox, nutrition plan and herbal education program to learn how to incorporate herbs into your daily life. Check out the bottom of the post for more info and how to sign up!
Unlike vampires, herbs will not seduce you into coming over only to drink your blood. Like vampires, you must invite them in. What does that mean? When beginning an herbal practice, what we’re actually doing is forging a relationship with a plant. In our society we don’t “get to know” our prescription drugs, generally speaking we don’t meditate with a bottle of Xanax hoping it will better help us cope with our anxiety. Those pills go down the hatch, numbing the anxiety while causing an array of side effects along the way. Herbs are plants, plants are ALIVE. If you come to them with an intention, they’ll listen.
“Herbalism is based on a relationship—relationship between plant and human, plant and planet, human and planet. Using herbs in the healing process means taking part in an ecological cycle. This offers us the opportunity consciously to be present in the living, vital world of which we are part; to invite wholeness and our world into our lives through awareness of the remedies being used. The herbs can link us to a broader context of planetary wholeness, so that whilst they are doing their psychological/medical job, we can do ours and build an awareness of the links and mutual relationships.” - David Hoffman
This may feel “woo-woo”, esoteric or just plain confusing. That’s okay! All thoughts welcome. In the modern age, we as a human species are extremely removed from nature, we seem to exist as separate entities rather than one symbiotic unit. The exciting news is that herbs in your daily practice will lead you to energetically, emotionally and spiritually plug into the natural world. Woah. Do I sound insane yet? Good. Forgoing what modern society deems as “normal” is step one in creating a relationship with herbs.
So, step 1 is go insane. Are you following? Moving on to step 2: Where to begin.
Where to start? Which herbs should one begin with? Just as not all plants are food, not all herbs are going to be your specific medicine. Would you go outside and fill your salad bowl with leaves and grass clippings? (Though step 1 is “go insane” so at this point you’re ready for anything.) Have discernment when beginning your herbal venture. When a certain herbs become trendy (ashwaghanda anyone?) they take market dominance over more common-known herbs with the same properties, which can lead to overharvesting.
Another factor to consider, we are a consumer culture. We are conditioned to think more is better, we like to go to town. And most herbs are safe to take endless amounts of. But part of the beauty of herbs in that a) you don’t need to take endless amounts of them to feel results in your body & mind) you can take herbs incrementally until you feel like you’ve reached a good stasis for yourself. This is all part of getting to know the relationship between yourself and a given plant. Beginning your herbal journey, start with one or two herbs at a time, once or twice a day. This slow introduction will enable you to notice how specific herbs actually feel in your body! A noticeable effect from an herb may take some time to build, pay attention to this. Try lavender, lemon balm or holy basil tea in moments of tension. No, they won’t feel as powerful as muscle relaxers, remember subtlety? But they will indeed nourish your nervous system and come to your rescue in a subtle, purposeful way.
A general dosage for adults under 70 years old is a tbsp of dried herb 1-3 times a day or 1 dropper (30 drops) of a tincture 1-3 times a day.
Step 3: Identify your needs.
When I first began pursuing my interest in herbalism, it was because I was frustrated with symptoms I had been suffering from for years without any real relief from doctors or prescription medication. Think about what lead you to read this blog, what are your needs? I had been suffering from insomnia for years. I learned about the herb skullcap—a “nervine”, an herb that nourishes and rebuilds the nervous system and is specifically indicated for circular thoughts (the exact form of anxiety I could not shake at night while trying to go to sleep!). I had dabbled with prescription sleep medication for years: Lunesta, Ambien, etc. When I began taking skullcap, I noticed clarity rather the brain fog I had become so accustomed as a side effect of my sleeping pills. I also stopped seeing shadow people with top hats in my room before I fell asleep, a REAL side effect I experienced from Ambien. It’s not that skullcap was a magic bullet for sleep, instantly lulling me into slumber. Instead I noticed something subtle but revolutionary—I was not laying in my bed awake at night, a prisoner to circular thought. As my body relaxed in my bed, I realized my thoughts and anxieties were not as dire as they had felt fifteen minutes prior. Herbs are often subtle. Unlike prescription medication, acting quick, fast and full of side effects, a mask for symptoms while the real problem lies underneath. Herbs actually heal the body, provide true restoration. As skullcap calms circular thoughts, it also nourishes and rebuilds the nervous system, meaning the more frequently you take skullcap before bed, the stronger your nervous system grows to combat generalized anxiety as a whole. The key to figuring out where to begin your herbal journey is to get quiet with yourself and listen to the needs of your body. Go from there. If you discover you do not have a specific ailment to attend to, wonderful! Herbs can act as amazing preventative allies when there is a tendency towards disease with no disease overtly present or there is a desire to strengthen and tone specific organs or systems of the body. While herbs are subtle, they can also be POWERFUL. Yes, dangerous herbs do exist. No, not all herbs are meant to be taken in willy-nilly doses over long periods of time. So what herbs are safe to start with?
Step 4, give tonic herbs a try.
What is a “tonic herb”? Tonic herbs are generally very safe, nourishing and tonifying to the body, they can generally be taken over a long period of time without negative consequences. Some examples of these herbs are holy basil (amazing and restorative for the nervous system, reishi and chaga (both fungi, extremely beneficial to the immune system) and nettles. One of my greatest herbal allies is nettles.
As a jumping off point, nettles are the herb to invite to the party. You can take nettles for a few weeks, months or… forever. Chalk full of minerals, this herb is nutritive and nourishing—you’ll notice stronger hair and nails and brighter skin within a few weeks. Nettles support full system functioning, great for supporting the adrenals, nervous system and reproductive system. Nettles are blood and bone building, while energizing to the body. DAMN. The beauty of nettles is that she teaches both the amazing benefits of herb, but also demonstrates the slow subtly of her power. It takes a few days or even weeks weeks to truly begin to notice the benefits of this herb. When I began drinking nettles everyday, I cherished the savory, light flavor in my mouth as a new relationship was slowly developing under the surface, a connection to the natural word. As I began to feel better and more supported, my interest in herbalism grew and my care for the natural world flourished. It has truly been the greatest walk I have been lucky enough to find. Nettles should be drank as a cold infusion, left to brew in room temperature water overnight. To make nettles for a few days time, take a gallon sized mason jar, toss in a fistfull of nettles (this is the dose size you need!) and fill the jar with water. Leave for 8 hours, strain and refrigerate. Drink a cup or two a day!
Step 5: Explore!
Through the desire to address specific needs in your body and a desire to connect with plants, you will discover your own herbal allies. Here is a starter list of herbs and their specified systems deemed safe to take over a long period of time:
Circulatory System: Hawthorne Berries
Respiratory System: Mullein
Digestive System: Meadowsweet
Nervous System: Skullcap
Muscular and skeletal system: Celery Seed
Reproductive System: Raspberry Leaves
Urinary System: Buchu
(source David Hoffman)
Some herbal guides to check out:
The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman
The Book of Herbal Wisdom by Matthew Wood
The Gift of Healing Herbs by Robin Rose Bennett
The Herbalist’s Way by Nancy and Michael Phillips
An Herbalist’s Guide to Formulary by Holly Bellebuono
You can’t do herbalism wrong. With that said, there is such thing as trial and error. Notice what herbs work for you and which do not. If you detest the flavor of a certain herb, it may not be the herb for you. Notice the connection these plants offer you, you are making the beautiful return to the natural world, reestablishing an innate connection.
Learn the art of subtlety. Pay attention and slow down.
If nothing else, invite herbs into your life for these lessons alone—they are some of the most vital lessons we can learn.
If you’re interested in a more in-depth guide to learn how to incorporate herbs into your life, I have created the 30 day herbal detox program FLOURISH aimed at detoxing and supporting the liver, kidneys, adrenals and digestion, with herbal education modules and weekly rituals to learn in depth about and connect with each herb used to support our body. The program includes an organic and eco-responsible, trash-free herbal kit delivered straight to your door full of all the herbs necessary for 30 days. Sign up through my instagram account: Leslie_Bish