How Herbal Actions Support Our Gut Microbiome
The microflorae in our gut is in a symbiotic relationship with us. Many recent studies have found that they directly influence our health either positively or negatively, like our digestion, immune functions, nervous system and more. This means, that what we eat is much more important than we’ve thought before.
Crystal Dawn Silas puts it this way in her awesome article: „When we choose to eat an organic plant-based diet high in phytonutrients, antioxidants, and dietary fiber, we attract a much more diverse, healthy, and resilient microbiome, which in turn strengthens our defenses against illness and unhealthy aging.”
What actions and what herbs?
Herbal actions refer to certain properties of individual herbs. To positively influence your microflorae, you should look for herbs that are carminative, nervine, bitter and/or demulcent.
- Carminatives: These herbs contain volatile oils, they help the digestive process to function smoothly and with ease. Like chamomile, sage, peppermint, lemon balm, oregano, or rosemary.
- Nervines: These herbs are often tonic and support the nervous system as they ease stress and relax the nerves. And they do that in your digestive system too. Herbs like lavender, valerian, hawthorn, hyssop are some of the nervines.
- Bitters: These herbs increase your ability to digest and assimilate food by stimulating the secretions of digestive fluids in your stomach, pancreas, and liver. Some bitter herbs that you can use are motherwort, turmeric, blue vervain, or skullcap
- Demulcents: These herbs are able to absorb water which makes them swell and become soft. With this they reinforce and sooth the mucous layer in your intestines that is both food and home for beneficial microflora. Herbs such as chia seed, flax seed, psyllium husk, or oats are great demulcents.
The best way to use them.
This doesn’t mean you should exclusively eat these kinds of herbs. Though you should include more and more of them in your everyday meals. Or you can try teas from some of them, maybe treats of some kind.
Another important thing to consider is not to overwhelm your body. Introduce new things in steps. See how your body reacts and continue accordingly. In the end your microbiome and with it your mental and physical health will flourish.
The heat persists, just like our recipes to make it more bearable.
And Paula Saalfeld from The Herbal Academy totally nailed it. Her holy-basil peach drink is a saviour on a searing afternoon, especially if you love fruity flavors.
Holy-basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) a.k.a Tulsi is a plant native to India and has a very special place in Ayurveda. Being a mild relaxing nervine, it has an uplifting effect if you suffer from chronic stress or depression, while it is also an adaptogenic.
And what makes it great for hot summer days is its cooling effect. “Though the herb is considered energetically warming, as an alterative, tulsi has a cooling effect on the liver, bloodstream, and intestines due to its ability to remove excess heat and toxins (Wood, 2008).”
Holy-basil peach drink
1 cup water
1 tablespoon dried holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum (synonym O. sanctum), O. gratissimum) leaves
1 cup ripe peaches (peeled)
2 tablespoons honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup
½ cup ice
- Bring the water to a boil and pour over the holy basil, letting it steep for 5-7 minutes.
- Allow to cool to room temperature and strain.
- In a blender, combine the holy basil infusion, peeled & pitted peaches, sweetener, lime juice, and ice.
- Blend until smooth.
- Taste and adjust sweetener and lime juice according to your taste.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
Why Moistening Herbs Are So Important?
The short answer is that because most herbs are drying. Though the long answer will tell you how to incorporate this knowledge and become a better herbalist.
The state of dryness is characterized by withering, malnourished tissues that slowly lose function in your body. Traditional Chinese Medicine calls this state Yin Deficiency, while in Ayurveda dryness is governed by the Vata Dosha
The dry state makes all herbal remedies less effective
Sajah Popham of The Evolutionary Herbalism said that „yin deficiency is very common with high vata, stress, nervous, tense, anxious, not enough sleep, drinking too much coffee, eating processed foods, not drinking enough water, not eating adequate oils.”
This makes the cells in your body more rigid, thus less effective in expelling waste material and receive beneficial compounds. Such as constituents of other herbs, or nutrition. And with this the mucous membranes in your lungs, digestive tract and urinary tract will lose immunity over time.
Oil and water deficiency also affects the endocrine system in your body. It lowers the endocrine function, while it causes stress and nervousness as the nervous system will suffer from the lack of oils too.
So the reason why some herbal remedies won’t work on certain problems for you? It is that there might be a state of dryness that you should treat first.
How to remedy the situation
In general, all demulcent herbs are there to moisten tissues. There are general demulcents, while some have affinities with certain organs. Sajah’s number one demulcent is marshmallow root. It’s got affinity for the lungs, gut and the urinary tract.
Licorice root is another great demulcent, that harmonizes formulas not just with her taste, but with moistening as well. But plantain, mullein, pleurisy root, corn silk, or milky oat are great demulcents as well.
Astringent herbs also help the situation indirectly, by stopping fluid loss from our bodies.
This is a thing that you should always remember when you are making a formula or trying to remedy a certain problem. Try and balance your remedies with moistening herbs, because a hidden dry state might undermine you chances.
A very special list for you this week, and it is about salts… herbal salts.
9 herbs that you can make the best herbal salts from
Kami McBride brought this idea forth this week and it refreshed my memories why eating good salts is so important.
These herbs aren’t just simple culinary herbs, they all have carminative actions too, and with that they support and aid our whole digestive system.
- Lemon peel
- Orange peel
„When you make your herbal salt, you want to use dried and finely powdered herbs. Some herbs, like basil, oregano, and thyme, are easy to powder yourself in a blender. Making herbal salt is very simple. Simply mix your powdered herbs together with salt and store it in a saltshaker. (This also makes an incredible gift!)” Thanks Kami !
Kami’s favourite blends are:
- Rosemary Salt:½ part powdered rosemary + ½ part salt (also check out my recipe for Rosemary Thyme Salt)
- Coriander Salt:½ part powdered coriander + ½ part salt
- Ginger Salt:¼ part powdered ginger + ¾ part salt; we put this blend on our popcorn
- Citrus Salt:½ part powdered orange or lemon peel + ½ part salt; delicious in marinades and on chicken, tuna, vegetables, and all kinds of grains
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