5 Indispensable Herbs to Rock Your Wellness Routine
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Sadly, there is no single herb that will provide the elixir of life and prevent the aging process. But, the consistent use of herbs—along with improved nutrition, exercise, and relaxation—can rejuvenate the body and maximize wellness. That’s good news, right?
Ideally, the use of herbs should be a daily habit, as they supply extra nutrients and trace elements in addition to their specific healing properties.
The following botanicals are some of our favorite herbal products to include in a holistic, nutritionally balanced daily routine. They’re all-natural products stocked with nutrients and active constituents that can help rejuvenate and tone the body’s organs if used consistently over time. Make your own herbal teas or try them as sprouts, in salads, or steamed with vegetables: Alfalfa Medicago sativa (L.), cayenne Capsicum annuum (L.), chickweed Stellaria media (L.) Vill., cleavers Galium aparine (L.), dandelion Taraxacum officinale (F. H. Wigg.), dong quai Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels, elder Sambucus nigra (L.) flowers and berries, garlic Allium sativum (L.), ginger Zingiber officinale (Roscoe), ginkgo Ginkgo biloba (L.), ginseng Panax ginseng (C.A. Mey.), licorice Glycyrrhiza glabra (L), parsley Petroselinum crispum (Mill.) Fuss, peppermint Mentha xpiperita (L.), sarsaparilla Similax spp., saw palmetto Serenoa repens (W. Bartram), St. John’s wort Hypericum perforatum (L.), vitex Vitex agnus-castus (L.), and watercress Nasturtium officinale (W. T. Aiton).
Ready to get started adding botanical bliss into your wellness routine? Here is a deep dive into five of our favorite herbs from the list above that you can easily find in your local apothecary or natural health and wellness store.
Ginkgo Ginkgo biloba (L.) is a fairly well-known herb that has been shown to improve blood flow to the brain. Studies have also shown it may be useful with memory loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears), but since tinnitus can have many different causes, it’s important to tailor gingko remedies on a case-by-case basis. It’s best to consult with a naturopathic physician or herbalist before using gingko for tinnitus relief.
Be patient though … it may take up to six weeks to see results.
For the most wellness benefit, try to obtain the standardized dry extract taken from the leaves.
Also, ginkgo may interact with some prescription medications, especially blood thinners and digoxin; so, if you are on medications, check with your healthcare provider before taking ginkgo.
The typical suggested use is 120 to 240 milligrams daily.
Saw palmetto berry is a great herbal product for men!
Clinical trials have shown saw palmetto Serenoa repens (W. Bartram) Small can help support enlarged prostates with few side effects. How? The herb helps to decrease the need to urinate frequently, rather than reducing the size of the prostate itself.
The typical suggested use is ½ to 1 gram of dried berry (or 0.6 to 1.5 milliliters of extract) daily.
St. John’s wort Hypericum perforatum (L.) has medicinally been used for emotional states since Hippocrates’ time.
Today, it is a well-known herb in the media, with research articles claiming that it is both an effective and ineffective support for healthy mood. It’s confusing, we know!
In truth, St. John’s wort’s usefulness as an herbal solution for what’s commonly called “depression” is not completely understood. Multiple studies have investigated the herb’s ability to inhibit monoamine oxidase (MAO), as well as to reduce serotonin reuptake by neurons.
Many antidepressant medications are based on MAO and serotonin reuptake inhibitors, but they are usually in stronger amounts than those typically found in St. John’s wort. And, they tend to have an increased chance of side effects. So, how does St. John’s wort work? Earlier researchers determined a constituent found in St. John’s wort called hypericin was responsible for the antidepressant action; however, later research demonstrated hypericin by itself does not completely account for the antidepressant action. Other research focused on hyperforin as the antidepressant agent.
Hypericin or hyperforin? Bottom line: we know MAO inhibitors are present in St. John’s wort, but there is no clear evidence of what specific constituents are responsible. The latest research results suggest that other mechanisms of action or a synergistic action of all constituents contribute to the antidepressant activity of the herb.
Research continues on the effectiveness of St. John’s wort, with several large-scale clinical trials currently in progress in the United States.
But, it is also prudent to mention that in other parts of the world, St. John’s wort has seen a huge increase in popularity. A German brand of the herb outsells Prozac seven to one.
So, while clinical trials with participants with severe depression, for example, have been inconclusive, anyone with questions about healthy mood may want to ask their physician or naturopathic doctor if St. John’s wort is an herbal remedy that can safely be tried in conjunction with any other medications or interventions currently being used.
Herbal Supplement for Wellness #4: Vitex
Just to clarify, vitex Vitex agnus-castus (L.) is also commonly called chaste tree. So, if you’ve seen it referred to that way during your research or while perusing the aisles at your local wellness store, both are correct.
Vitex has a long history of use, particularly in Europe, to help relieve the monthlies (aka, PMS). Several studies have also looked into its use as a support for breast tenderness and menstrual irregularities.
Why? This herb contains a mixture of iridoids and flavonoids. Some researchers suggest its effectiveness works by reducing stress-induced prolactin secretion and by binding to opioid receptors.
But, keep in mind …. because vitex may modulate prolactin levels, it should not be taken during pregnancy or lactation, or with hormone therapy and drugs that act on the pituitary.
The typical suggested use is 20 to 40 milligrams daily up to 240 milligrams daily for PMS support.
Herbal Supplement for Wellness #5: Peppermint
Most of us know peppermint Mentha xpiperita (L.) as a flavoring or a rescue for tummy aches. But, research also shows it may be able to help out those experiencing pain related to acute phases of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
It can also be really handy in your herbal medicine cabinet if the hair loss blues have gotten the better of you. Here, you’ll want to have the essential oil on hand, though. Peppermint has been traditionally used by herbalists and herbal enthusiasts in scalp rehab blends for its stimulating characteristics. But more recent results of an animal study with mice showed that the animals that received 3% peppermint essential oil topically experienced more hair growth than the group that received 3% Minoxidil (a common pharmaceutical product for hair growth) had the most growth. Meaning, they had the greatest increase in dermal, thickness, follicle number, and follicle depth.
But, just be aware that if you decide to give this Rapunzel-ready remedy a try, you’ll want to be gentle with your scalp. It’s its own fragile ecosystem. Try a diluted, soothing herbal dry hair rub like the recipe in this post. You can substitute peppermint for either the lavender or rosemary oils recommended. Start with one-quarter teaspoon and see how your scalp tolerates the oil; it can be rather tingly for some people.
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 Mahmoudian-Sani, MR., Hashemzadeh-Chaleshtori, M., Asadi-Samani, M., & Yang, Q. (2017). Ginkgo biloba in the treatment of tinnitus: An updated literature review. Int Tinnitus J, 21(1), 58-62. doi: 10.5935/0946-5448.20170011.
 Saidi, S., Stavridis, S., Stankov, O., Dohcev, S., & Panov, S. (2017). Effects of Serenoa repens alcohol extract on benign prostate hyperplasia. Pril (Makedon Akad Nauk Umet Odd Med Nauki), 38(2), 123-129. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28991765
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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.