A great deal of pharmaceutical research has gone into analyzing the active ingredients in herbs to find out how and why they work. In some cases, the action is due to a specific chemical present in the herb or it may be due to a complex synergistic interaction among various constituents of the plant. Check out these categories of herbs, and how they are beneficial in treating the human body.
1. Adaptogenic: Adaptogenic herbs increase resistance and resilience to stress, enabling the body to adapt around a problem and avoid the adverse effects of stress, such as fatigue. Many adaptogens are thought to work by supporting the function of the adrenal glands.
2. Anti-inflammatory: Herbs that soothe inflammation or reduce the inflammatory response of the tissue directly. They work in a number of ways, including inhibiting the formation of various chemicals produced by the body that tends to increase the inflammatory process.
3. Antimicrobial: Antimicrobials help the body destroy or resist pathogenic microorganisms. While some herbs contain chemicals that are antiseptic or poisonous to certain organisms, in general they aid the body’s own natural immunity.
4. Antispasmodic: Antispasmodics ease cramps in smooth and skeletal muscles and alleviate muscular tension.
5. Astringent: Astringents have a binding action on mucous membranes, skin, and other tissues, reducing irritation and inflammation and creating a barrier against infection that is helpful to healing wounds and burns. This may result in toning and tightening of skin and tissues.
6. Bitter: Herbs with a bitter taste have a special role in preventative medicine. The taste triggers a sensory response in the central nervous system leading to a range of responses, including stimulating appetite and the flow of digestive juices, aiding the liver’s detoxification work, increasing bile flow, and motivating intestinal self-repair mechanisms.
7. Carminative: Plants that are rich in aromatic, volatile oils stimulate the digestive system to work properly and with ease. They soothe the gut wall, reduce any inflammation that may be present, ease griping pains, and help with the removal of gas from the digestive tract.
8. Diuretic: Diuretics increase the production and elimination of urine, helping the body eliminate waste and support the whole process of inner cleansing.
9. Expectorant: Herbs that stimulate removal of mucus from the lungs. Stimulating expectorants “irritate” the bronchioles causing expulsion of material. Relaxing expectorants soothe bronchial spasms and loosen mucus, which helps dry, irritating coughs.
10. Hepatic: Hepatics tone and strengthen the liver, and can also increase the flow of bile. They are of great importance because of the fundamental role of the liver in maintaining health by facilitating digestion and removing toxins from the body.
11. Hypotensive: Hypotensives are plant remedies that lower abnormally elevated blood pressure.
12. Laxative: These are plants that promote bowel movements. They are divided into those that work by providing bulk, those that stimulate the production of bile in the liver and its release from the gall bladder, and those that directly stimulate peristalsis.
13. Nervine: Nervines help the nervous system and can be divided into three groups – tonics that strengthen and restore the nervous system, relaxants that ease anxiety and tension by soothing both body and mind, and stimulants that directly stimulate nerve activity.
14. Stimulating: Stimulants quicken and invigorate the physiological and metabolic activity of the body.
15. Tonic: Tonics nurture and enliven. They are used frequently in TCM and Ayurvedic medicine, often as a preventative measure. Tonic herbs like ginseng are thought to build vital energy, or qi.
Incorporate a variety of herbs into your lifestyle, and look into adaptogenic herbs as a great start. Check out the first source below for more information on adaptogenic herbs.