Natural and Organic Skin Care

Herbs Can Do That?! Part 1

Support the nervous system, improve our stress response, alter the metabolic process, decrease inflammation.  Who knew herbs could do so many things?!  Well, as it turns out, this used to be common knowledge.  Prior to the 1900’s, plants were the conventional medicine of the time and were used in every country throughout the world.  It wasn’t until modern medicine as we know it took center stage and pushed all other modalities of health care into the “alternative” sector that we started to lose this knowledge on a wide scale.  That being said, there are still many cultures throughout the world in which plant medicine continues to be a primary approach to healthcare and wellness.  In the US, while not used main stream by conventional doctors (for the most part), more and more people are coming back to the ancient wisdom found throughout herbal medicine, and are beginning to incorporate them into their lives on a more regular basis.

So how do herbs do what they do?  Well, it depends on the plant profile which is determined by the various constituents contained within.  Based on these constituents and their synergy with one another, herbs elicit observable clinical effects on the body that we call Herbal Actions.  Below we cover a few of the more commonly sought after herbal actions.  However, there are many to cover so this will be a mult-part series.  Be on the lookout for more coming soon!

Adaptogens – herbs that help improve the bodies’ response to stress. Adaptogens can be used for nervous exhaustion, chronic infection and deficiency states. They help to increase vitality, concentration, and work capacity. In today’s fast-paced life, more often than not, we are under considerable stress on a regular basis. Adaptogens can be used to help the body adapt to, and defend against, various stressors encountered in our busy lives. They can be taken on a consistent basis to help lessen overall response to stress, or during peak stressful times/events as a preventative measure.

  • Examples include
    • Holy Basil
    • Korean Ginseng
    • Nettle
    • Eleuthero

Nervines are herbs that promote relaxation and restoration of the nervous system. They piggyback on the effects of adaptogens, in terms of their role in regards to stress. Used in a broad holistic way, nervines promote calm and rest at lower doses, and sleep at higher doses. They help to strengthen and nourish the nervous system, and are often prescribed in cases of emotional or mental stress or nervious debility.

  • Examples include
    • Milky Oats
    • Hops
    • Ashwagandha
    • Lavender

Alteratives are those herbs that “alter” the body’s metabolic processes, helping to restore the body to a state of health through eliminative and detoxifying functions. They have an affinity for the lymph system, kidneys, liver and skin. Alteratives should be used for skin infections or disease, allergies and inflammatory joint conditions when combined with other herbs.

  • Examples Include
    • Burdock
    • Red Clover
    • Garlic
    • Oregon Grape

 Anti-inflammatory Herbs

  • Saponin-rich anti-inflammatory herbs contain sterioid-like and triterpenoid compounds that resemble endogenous cortisol.   They not only bind weakly with our cortisol receptors, but enhance our receptivity to our own cortisol, adding their activity to our own.
    • Examples include:
      • Wild Yam
      • Yucca spp
  • Salicylate containing anti-inflammatory herbs convert arachadonic acid into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins by interacting with the enzymes cyclo-oxygenase and lipooxygenase. It is also possible that they might support the conversion of EPA into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins as well. Through their influence on the pain perception centers of the brain, they also have analgesic properties. However, because they also stimulate the thermogenic centers of the brain, they also work to turn protein into fuel, leading to calorie loss and acidity, so should be watched carefully in those being treated for chronic pain and inflammation.
    • Examples
      • Meadowsweet
      • Weeping Willow
      • Birch
      • Black Haw
  • Volatile oil containing anti-inflammatory herbs are usually applied topically as liniments, massage oils, or compresses; however, they can be used internally as well. When applied topically, some of the volatile oils can cause skin irritation.
    • Examples
      • German Chamomile
      • Ginger
      • Rosemary
  • Essential fatty-acid containing anti-inflammatory herbs allows the body to form anti-inflammatory compounds by entering the reaction chain that limits prostaglandin synthesis.
    • Examples
      • Evening Primrose
      • Borage

Spasmolytics are anti-spasmodic herbs that relieve muscle tension and spasm, both in the muscuoskeletal system and the smooth muscle below the hollow organs.   They usually have peripheral action and generally are not sedating.

  • Examples
    • Mugwort
    • Lavender

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