The Healers Journal
There is great wisdom in illness and disease. When we leave behind the simplistic mainstream medical notion that our bodies are highly vulnerable to germs, bacteria and viruses and begin to understand that we only get sick when our body, mind or spirit are out of balance, we then can begin to realize the true causes of our illness and treat them appropriately. Seeing illness and disease from this perspective allows us to truly heal them at the deepest levels.
Herbs Bring the Body, Mind and Spirit Back Into Balance
Quite simply, medicinal herbs are a very powerful way to bring your mind, body and spirit back into balance.
Herbs, which have been used safely and effectively for thousands of years, aid the body in restoring balance and healing the underlying causes that lead to the imbalance and created the illness or disease we are experiencing in the first place. Pharmaceutical medicines, on the other hand, do not actually treat the cause of the disease, merely the symptoms.
The knowledge of the power of herbal medicines is just beginning to resurface in the West. There are tens of thousands of incredible plants that can help us heal literally any problem we are facing. Best of all, they do not solely work on the physical level. Herbs are truly holistic remedies that work on every level of the self.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, herbs were classified by their effects on the whole person — the mind, body, spirit, emotions and essence. In the West we have been taught to think of ourselves only in the physical sense and we approach medicine in the same way. However, a person is existing on many levels simultaneously — the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional planes — and if we are to truly treat disease, illness and imbalance, all of these levels must be considered. This is one of the biggest failings of modern invasive, pharmaceutically-based medicine — to not consider the whole person.
However, this is the incredible beauty of herbal medicine… Although we may not always be aware or sensitive enough to realize it, all herbs work on every level of our being — mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. Herbs are holistic remedies for healing and thus are able to truly treat the root cause of illness, which is frequently not purely physical.
Below, you will find a list of 10 of the most powerful herbs from both Eastern and Western medicine that have been discovered and used over thousands of years in ancient, holistic medical traditions that modern science is now verifying as incredibly wise, accurate and effective.
1. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is considered an adaptogen. This means that it has an overall balancing and tonic effect on the body while causing it no harm.
It also exerts a beneficial effect on the adrenal glands and protects the person taking it against stresses of all types. It enables one to adapt better to harsh environments and challenging circumstances.
It’s excellent for increasing physical strength and endurance. It provides protection from extreme cold or hot climates. It’s known to allow the body to use less oxygen on a cellular level, making it useful for mountain climbing.
It’s also good to prevent high altitude sickness. It enhances mental processes and improves memory.
This herb is very popular with athletes, especially the Russian Olympic athletes. They always take this herb while training and competing. They believe it gives them a physical and mental advantage over those who don’t take it.
Besides increasing strength, it dramatically cuts the recovery time needed after intense workouts. This helps the athletes train faster and with better results.
The Russians have been giving this herb to it’s cosmonauts for years for it’s strength and endurance building effects. Plus, it helps keep the mind sharp and causes the body to require less oxygen.
Rhodiola Rosea is a powerful stress reducer, helping one cope with stresses of all kinds, either mental or physical. It improves mood and decreases depression and anxiety as it boosts the beneficial neurotransmitters, norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. It can be used as a safe general tonic for overall health and wellbeing.
Some studies suggest that Rhodiola Rosea is just as effective as prescription anti-anxiety and anti-depression drugs. This herb is relaxing to the mind and doesn’t have the harmful side-effects of prescription drugs.
Besides treating anxiety, Rhodiola Rosea can also be used to treat headache, and even migraines. It works as a muscle relaxant and regulates blood flow very efficiently.
For the many people who suffer from fibromyalgia, Rhodiola Rosea may prove helpful. It has the ability to regulate the adrenal glands, helping them produce sufficient amounts of cortisol. Cortisol is needed by the body to reduce stress and pain in the muscles. Since it regulates the glands, it is also helpful to people who’s adrenals produce too much cortisol. It helps the body by encouraging a steady supply throughout the day and night.
Rhodiola helps the body maintain metabolic balance by protecting and stimulating the immune system. It increases the production of natural killer cells, helping the body to fight off illness.
Rhodiola is good for depression reduction. Research indicates that Rhodiola Rosea extract can enhance the transportation of tryptophan and 5HTP into the brain. These are important precursors of serotonin. Serotonin is an important brain neurotransmitter that performs many functions in the body and brain, such as mental state, appetite, blood pressure, respiration and pain perception.
The lack of sufficient amounts of serotonin in the brain is the cause of most cases of depression. Besides being an effective treatment for clinical depression, Rhodiola Rosea is widely used to treat SAD (seasonal affective disorder). This type of depression is brought on by lack of sunlight in the rainy and winter months.
Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum) is a medicinal mushroom that can be helpful in combating many different health conditions.
A well known benefit of consuming Reishi is it’s beneficial effect on the immune system. It promotes a strong immunity to disease. While some pharmaceutical medicines lose their effectiveness after a time, Reishi does not. It can be taken daily with no build-up of tolerance.
Reishi enhances the immune system, helping the body fend off sickness. This alone makes this mushroom very valuable as a health tonic. It’s also known to normalize the organs of the body, as it’s classified as an adaptogen. It improves the functioning of the body in many ways. It is a great stress reducer, possessing the ability to help boost energy or help one get to sleep depending on the needs of the body.
Reishi fights fatigue and restores the body’s natural energy levels while reducing high blood pressure and lowering triglycerides. It is very beneficial to the respiratory system and helps a person suffering from colds and coughs. It is probably best knows for it’s ability to help the liver function properly and is used by patients undergoing cancer treatment like chemotherapy.
A recent study of Reishi extract showed that 92% of 355 patients with hepatitis showed great health improvements after treatment with this mushroom.
Cancer patients often take an extract of Reishi mushroom while undergoing chemotherapy. It reduced the side effects of the treatment, such as hair loss and fatigue. Reishi is also taken as a preventive and a treatment for cancerous tumors.
This herb has been taken by people after transplant surgery to reduce the risk of organ rejection. There is a special protein called Ling Zhi-8 in the mushroom that is believed to be responsible for this effect.
Taking Reishi mushroom is believed to lower your bad cholesterol (LDL). It helps to keep it from building up on the walls of the arteries. This may also prove helpful in reducing the risk of heart attacks.
Besides just treating many health problems, Reishi is also used as an effective preventive to disease. It is said to prevent most common diseases. While more research needs to be done, it does seem to keep people healthier when taken on a regular basis.
Schizandra (sometimes spelled Schisandra) berries are a powerful adaptogen. This means that they will help you adapt to your environment allowing you to better handle stress, whether mental or physical.
An adaptogen is used as an overall wellness tonic. It is beneficial to the whole body. Like any adaptogen, Schizandra exerts a normalizing effect on the entire body. It will take you from any extreme back to a balanced state. In China, it is said to be the most protective of all herbs and plants.
Schizandra can have a very beneficial impact on your health. It can increase capacity for physical and mental exercise and protect you from environmental stress.
This herb can increase your energy by stimulating the central nervous system without making you nervous like caffeine would. But since it’s an adaptogen, it can also calm the nervous system when facing stress.
Many people take this herb to increase energy. It is especially popular with athletes as it boosts nitric oxide levels in the body. It fights fatigue as well, making it even more beneficial. Schizandra increases energy at the cellular level.
The Health Sciences Institute states that schizandra berry can raise the body’s enzyme, glutathione. This enzyme detoxifies the body in a way that improves mental clarity. It is widely taken by students in China for this reason.
Probably its best known property is as a protector of the liver, due to the lignans it contains. It helps maintain its proper functioning and regeneration and is also used to prevent liver damage. Schizandra uses its fat soluble compounds found in the core of its seed to protect the liver from toxins.
Schizandra is often used in the treatment of hepatitis C. Besides its liver protecting properties, it is also beneficial to the kidneys as it helps balances the fluid in the body.
This amazing herb also contains antioxidants, such as gomisin A and Wuweizisu C, to protect your cells from free radicals and prevent oxidation. This is why it’s often used in longevity formulas in Chinese medicine.
Schizandra is very popular among woman for its ability to make the skin soft, smooth and beautiful. It has been taken for many hundreds of years in China for this purpose. It is believed to work by balancing the fluids of the skin.
This herb is popular with people who suffer from mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and mood swings. Though it’s unknown how it works for these symptoms, Schizandra has been used for these ailments for many hundreds of years with much success.
Though not enough research has been done in this area, there is some preliminary evidence that Schizandra my inhibit cancer cell growth for some types of cancers, such as leukemia. Much more research needs to be done before this will be considered a truly effective treatment.
For men, this herb may be beneficial for impotence and erectile dysfunction since it has the ability to dilate the blood vessels, helping men achieve erection.
As far as heart health goes, this herb’s blood vessel dilating properties are also good for lowering blood pressure, improving circulation and improving heart function in general.
Schizandra is beneficial to the respiratory system too. It rids the body of lung mucus by acting as expectorant. It is also used to treat coughs.
4. Gotu Kola
Gotu Kola has been used historically for wound healing and to relieve congestion from upper respiratory infections and colds.
It is also known for it’s ability to reduce fever too. Applied externally, people used it to treat herpes, sprains, fractures and snakebite.
Before the time of prescription medicine, it was widely used by women as a form of birth control. Women who took the herb on a regular basis seemed to not get pregnant. This is one reason why women who are trying to get pregnant should never take this herb.
It has been successfully used in the past to treat epilepsy, mental illness, rheumatism and syphilis. It can stimulate urination and prevent and treat diarrhea. It’s good for asthma, high blood pressure, inflammation, liver disease and urinary tract infections. Many people with psoriasis and eczema used Gotu Kola to reduce inflammation and swelling.
This plant is history’s first memory enhancing herb. Ancient healers prescribed it for improving memory and enhancing brain function and attention. It’s also considered a longevity herb, helping people reach ages past 90. Gotu Kola is commonly used to treat anxiety and mental upset and to help the body overcome fatigue and stress.
It’s anxiety reducing effect most likely comes from it’s Triterpenoid content. Some studies have shown that people taking this herb are much less likely to be startled by loud noises. The startle response in a good indication of anxiety levels.
Gotu Kola is often used to treat varicose veins. It is believed to help this condition by it’s ability to stimulate circulation.
Many people use this herb to treat varicose veins and hemorrhoids. It is believed to strengthen the connective tissue and improve elasticity in the blood vessels. It also helps produce collagen which helps to thicken the skin.
Astragalus root increases energy in the body and fights against lack of appetite, colds, ulcers, diabetes and general weakness. It boosts the immune system and has anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibacterial properties. It increases blood circulation too.
Astragalus is famous for it’s immune boosting properties. Though this isn’t the main use of this herb in Chinese traditional medicine, Western doctors have found out that astragalus produces interferon in the body, as well as boosts red blood cells.
Interferon helps destroy microbes and viruses. It is anti viral in it’s function. It is often recommended for people with compromised immune systems, like HIV or chronic colds or infection of the respiratory system. Anyone who is fighting off a serious disease such as cancer can benefit from astragalus.
Astragalus get it’s immunity boosting action from it’s high content of polysaccharides and flavonoids. These are very potent antioxidants. Flavonoids protect cells from dangerous free radicals. The Polysaccharides boost the production of white blood cells and activate killer T cells to protect your body against disease. It also increases production of interferon, a potent antiviral chemical.
Astragalus has long been used for heart problems. It is believed to strengthen the heart and protect the blood vessels. The saponins it contains prevents plaque from collecting in the arteries. This helps increase the flow of blood to the heart. People with weak hearts often take this herb to relieve breathlessness and distress in the chest area. Astragalus is also taken to lower high cholesterol and blood pressure.
Astragalus is a protector of the adrenal glands which produce stress reducing hormones. It is often used to fight the effects of stress and anxiety.
Athletes take this herb for it’s strength and endurance promoting action. It is said to increase stamina and vitality.
Astragalus tea is great a great aid for the digestion. It helps the body process food more efficiently, reduce gastric acid and inhibits gastric secretions. It is often used to treat stomach ulcers.
One of the many benefits of Cordyceps is the fact that it dilates the lung’s airways, providing more oxygen to the blood.
Every cell is enriched by this process, enhancing energy levels and causing the body’s cells to work better.
It has been shown to improve the functioning of the respiratory system and is beneficial for people suffering from cough, asthma and bronchitis due to it’s anti-inflammatory properties and it’s action of relaxing the bronchial walls.
It has been used in the past to strengthen the immune system by increasing the amount of the body’s natural killer cells. These defend the body against bacteria and viruses. It benefits the entire vascular system by regulating blood pressure, strengthening the muscles of the heart and improving circulation.
It protects the kidney and liver by improving blood flow to these two organs and others. This helps them to better defend against diseases such as Hepatitis.
This herb is very popular with athletes as it can help build muscle and improve performance. The Chinese Olympic athletes are known to consume it while training and competing. It is said to noticeably increase the physical strength and stamina of anyone who consumes it.
Since this herb contains powerful antioxidants, it is often taken for it’s anti-aging properties. It also has sedative properties and can help promote deeper sleep.
Gynostema or “Jiaogulan” is an adaptogenic herb. An adatpogen is a substance that brings you whole body back into balance.
It also increases strength and stamina and protects the body and mind against stress, either mental or physical.
It is especially helpful for the immune, digestive, nervous, reproductive and cardiovascular systems. It is a very potent health tonic.
Saponins are what gives this powerful herb it’s ability as anadaptogen. It has the largest amount of saponins of any natural plant. There are over 80 of them contained in Gynostema. This is over four time the amount found in ginseng The saponins in Gynostemma are called “gypenosides”.
These are similar to the ginsenosides in ginseng. Some of these saponins actually convert to ginsenosides when ingested.
When you take Gynostemma, you get the benefits of saponins and ginsenosides. Gynostemma is also much cheaper than ginseng, making it a very popular health supplement.
Gynostemma is very popular all over the world for it’s ability to control weight. If you are too skinny, it can help you gain weight. If you are too heavy, it can help you lose weight. This is the balancing action of this adaptogen. It brings the body back to it’s normal weight.
It can also help maintain normal blood sugar levels and remove harmful blood fat. This causes your metabolic system to function better. It’s also able to maintain healthy bowel function by it’s cleansing action on the intestines and stomach. It eliminates toxins from the body too.
Gynostemma helps the immune system with it’s powerful antioxidant content. It increases white blood cells and assists the liver. It relieves stress and relaxes the nervous system. If you’re depressed, it’ll lift you up. If you’re too excited, it’s calm you down. It is often used by people suffering from depression, stress and anxiety.
This herb is believed to have anti-cancer activity in the body. More scientific study is necessary to confirm this though.
In China, Gynostemma is used to reduce fatigue, treat bronchitis, improve sexual function and to strengthen the body in general. It is considered a very powerful tonic for wellbeing.
Gynostemma is also capable of lowering serum cholesterol, bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides, and at the same time increasing good cholesterol (HDL). It can lower high blood pressure and improve the function of the cardiovascular health by increasing coronary blood flow and decreasing vascular resistance. It has the ability of releasing nitric oxide which relaxes the blood vessels.
As far as anti-aging goes, Gynostemma’s ability to increase the antioxidant, superoxide dismutase (SOD) is believed to be what gives this herb it’s longevity enhancing properties. SOD is very helpful in preventing oxidation damage from harmful free radicals. This could allow a person to remain healthy, long into old age.
This herb is very popular with athletes and bodybuilders because of it’s strength and endurance enhancing properties. It can actually help build lean muscle and reduce fatigue.
Gynostemma also contains many important mineral, trace minerals, amino acids and vitamins that are helpful to the body in general. It really is a powerful herb.
In India, Ashwagandha is considered a powerful adaptogen. This means that is has a beneficial normalizing effect on the entire body.
Ashwagandha is often used as a rejuvenator. It can also be used as a sedative, anti inflammatory, diuretic and to increase physical energy and endurance. It’s beneficial for colds and coughs, diabetes, ulcers, insomnia and Parkinson’s disease. It also protects the nervous system in a beneficial way.
Ashwaganda is rich in antioxidants, such as catalase, glutathione and superoxide dismutase. These are all powerful free radical fighters and help protect against oxidation of the cells. These antioxidants may explain the wide use of this herb for anti-aging.
In India, Ashwaganda is often prescribed to elderly patients for the treatment of cerebral disorders, such as memory loss. Some research suggests that this herb can increase acetylcholine receptor activity, partially explaining it’s benefit to the brain. It has been used historically for increasing cognitive ability also.
Researchers at the University of Texas found that extracts of Ashwaganda had similar effects on the brain as the nutrient GABA. This may be why it is good for reducing anxiety.
Taking Ashwagandha can calm the mind, promoting better more restful sleep. It does this by calming the nerves and improving a person’s ability to handle physical and emotional stress.
Ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory action and is often taken to treat rheumatoid arthritis. There is a naturally occurring steroid in the herb that is similar to hydrocortisone. It’s pain relieving action is as effective as aspirin.
Ashwagandha is popular with athletes too. It can promote better oxygen flow to the cells in the muscles, helping to increase strength and endurance during exercise. This would enable the athlete to gain more lean muscle than normally possible. It can also reduce the effect of stress hormones and reduce lactic acid build-up.
9. Cat’s Claw
Cat’s Claw is a woody vine that grows in the rain forests of Peru and is often called “Miracle Herb of the Rain Forest” by the Peruvian natives.
This herb has undergone quite a bit of medical research since the 1970′s. This research has shown that Cat’s claw may be helpful in treating a variety of conditions, such as bursitis, arthritis, lupus, Lyme disease, diabetes, cancer and various stomach problems.
This herb is well known for it’s ability to protect and strengthen the immune system. It contains alkaloids that exhibit anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well.
Cat’s Claw seems to have the ability to detoxify the intestinal Tract. This is most likely why it’s so good for treating problems such as IBS and a host of other bowel disorders.
The herb Cat’s Claw is also a potent antioxidant. It can protect the body’s cells from free radicals. Its ability to rid the body of toxins also make this a great herb to maintain good health.
10. Fo-Ti (He Shou Wu)
Fo-Ti or He Shou Wu is considered a powerful longevity herb in the system of Chinese Medicine.
It has been used for thousands of years to promote long life, nourish blood, strengthen bones, tendons and muscles as well as many other purposes.
Fo-Ti is widely used to strengthen the lower back and knees. This is especially helpful to older people. It is probably best known for it’s ability to turn grey hair dark again.
Fo-Ti is believed to also help reverse hair loss and is most often found as an principle ingredient in hair loss products.
Historically, Fo-Ti has also been used for treating nerve damage, eczema, goiter, sores, hardening of the arteries, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and as a powerful immune system booster.
In China, Fo-Ti is often called the “Elixir of Life”. The roots should be at least four years old to be medicinally effective. The older the better.