Are you wondering where to begin with healing herbs? Do you get confused on what herbs work best for specific issues?
Wonderful! I was right there too. Working with herbs is essentially a whole new world filled with organic goodies that you have no idea how to put to use. For that reason, I picked up one of the best books on herbalism” The Modern Herbal Dispensatory” by Steve Horne, who explains in detail, exactly where to begin. He explains the basic herbal categories, their compounds and uses, and pretty much makes everything start to make sense.
What Are Healing Herbs?
Healing herbs are essential plants that come from Mother Earth’s plant kingdom. The earliest recorded physician, Imhotep “The Father of Medicine” from early Egypt, reportedly diagnosed and healed over 200 diseases such as gout, gallstones, arthritis and more with the works of natural herbs. Over the centuries, herbs have been used among many cultures and nations, and was a legacy left to us for modern practice.
It is recommended that we all become familiar with natural ways of healing ourselves and our children, and live as nature intended.
With that being said, the basics outlines below are derived from the framework of Steven Horne, who breaks down the basics in a manner that is easy for a beginner to comprehend.
The 12 Basic Herbal Categories
Pungent herbs are intense in taste (flavor), and smell. Very spicy, or hot to taste.
Uses: These herbs are used to move the blood circulation, induce perspiration, drain sinuses, eliminate mucus and cough up phlegm. The spicy intensity of their properties work great for colds and flu. It is best to drink lots of water while taking these with food or alone to avoid dehydration. The initial effect is hot and the after effect is cooling. Do not use them on a person who is already hot, flushed, or irritated as this well have a negative effect on their nervous system.
Synergy Plant Vibe: Warming and drying
Example of Pungent Herbs
- Cayenne Pepper
- Capsicum (chili peppers
- Black Pepper
Aromatic herbs are usually high in flavor and have a satisfying smell (hence the name aroma). These lovely herbs are usually in your kitchen cabinet; generally used as seasoning to add flavor to food
Uses: Induces sweating, has strong effects on the nervous system, aids in digestion, enhances energy, destroy bad bacteria in the gut, can calm or stimulate the nerves, relieves and expels gas.
Synergy Plant Vibe: Mildly warm and dry
Examples of Aromatic Herbs:
Simple Bitter Herbs
Simple bitter herbs are simply just bitter to taste and smell.
Uses: Move energy inward and downward, stimulates proper digestion, works as a stimulant laxative, aids in detoxifying the liver, reduces tissue irritation, calming or relaxing sedative effects. These herbs have a warming effect and then later cool the body.
Synergy Plant Vibe: Warming and drying
Examples of Simple Bitter Herbs
- Wild Lettuce Leaf
- Kale or dark greens
- Turkey Rhubarb
Alkaloid Bitter Herbs
Alkaloid bitter herbs are bitter to taste, and are natural stimulants (sometimes from smell)
Uses: Stimulate digestion, detoxify the liver, sedatives on the nerves and glands
Synergy Plant Vibe: Cooling and drying
Examples of Alkaloidal Bitter Herbs
- Oregon Grape
- California Poppy
- Chinese Ephedra
Fragrant Bitter Herbs
Fragrant bitter herbs have an intensely strong, unpleasant odor and are bitter to taste
Uses: stimulate digestion, eliminate parasites; although should not be used long term
Examples of Fragrant Bitter Herbs
- Black Walnut Hulls
Acrid herbs are strong in taste, bitter, nasty and burn the tongue
Plant Synergy Vibe: Relaxing; cooling and drying
Uses: Relaxes muscle spasms and cramps, soothes energetic imbalance, emotional imbalance and psychiatric conditions (depression, anxiety, spiritual depletion); should not be taken long term, as this could have negative effects on the nervous system
Examples of Acrid Herbs:
- Black Cohosh
- Kava Kava
- Blue Vervain
Astringent herbs are very earthly and mellow. Slightly bitter to taste and have a drying effect. Very soothing
Uses: These herbs work best for toning the skin or wounds , as they tighten loose skin, stop bleeding, neutralize venom from other animals when applied topically and help blood coagulate. They have a gentle drying effect.
Examples of Astringent Herbs
- Green tea
- White oak bark
- Witch Hazel
- Wild Geranium
- Willow Bark
Sour herbs have a sour taste, and are usually compounded in fruity acids and antioxidants
Uses: Tone and tighten the skin, help with liver function, stimulate digestion, heals free radical damage, works as an antioxidant. No major effects for long term use
Examples of Sour Herbs
- Bilberry, Blueberry
Salty herbs tend to have a more “green” flavor like grass or dark greens (not like salt from your kitchen). These herbs are high in magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium
Synergy Plant Vibe: balances and nourishes tissues (may moisten or dry)
Uses: Full of healthy minerals, support kidney function (potassium) , relieves lymphatic congestion, loosens phlegm and other mucus, alkalizes body pH levels.
Examples of Salty Herbs
- Dandelion leaf
- Red Clover
Sweet herbs have a bitter sweet flavor that is not sugary or starchy
Synergy Plant Vibe: Moist and neutral; slightly cooling and warm
Uses: Nutritious, builds up and tones weakened conditions, strengthens glands, restores energy, improves stress levels, restructures the immune system, works great for people of older age to regain optimized overall health. The downside is they can encourage weight gain if not taken in moderation. Also the ginsengs should not be abused, they tend to affect the nervous system and cause long term damage
Examples of Sweet Herbs
- American ginseng
- Korean ginseng
- Eleuthro root
- Bee pollen
Mucilant herbs are slippery to touch, and sweet to taste. They shield the mucous membranes , coating them with protection
Uses: coughs, cold, throat irritations, increase immune levels, heal injured tissue wounds, reduces cholesterol, relieves GI tract pain, promote intestinal health. Excessive use can cause constipation. To counteract this, combine with aromatic and pungent herbs
Examples of Mucilant Herbs:
- Aloe Vera
- Irish Moss
- Slippery Elm
- Chia Seeds
Oily herbs have an oily taste and texture, and generally full of healthy fats and amino acids
Uses: Helps reduce irritation, heals scars and open wounds, provide nutrition from fatty acids and glandular functions, loosens stools for easier elimination, promotes moisture in the system
Synergy Plant Vibe: Moist, cooling and nourishing
Examples of Oily Herbs
- Black Seed (black current seed)
- Pumpkin Seed
- Evening primrose seed
- Borage seeds
- Hemp Seeds
- Sunflower seeds
There are hundreds of plants and herbs to become familiar with, and it is best not to overwhelm yourself trying to memorize them all. No doctor received his/her training overnight, and no healer has healed the world in one night. It takes practice and ample amount of study.
Each plant has it sole, unique purpose, and some can be used for multiple reasons. Some healing herbs work better combined with other herbs, so most recommend starting with one plant. Hands on experience is a great way to explore the energy of the plants, and build your own healing chemistry with Divine Mother Nature.
Enjoy the journey!