Medical herbalist Katie Pande, from Pukka Herbs, reveals how different herbs can help your physical and mental wellbeing
Herbs to boost immunity: Elderberry and elderflower, sambucus nigra
The elder tree boasts a wealth of traditional medicinal uses and numerous clinical trials and research have demonstrated its benefits for the immune system. Traditionally almost every part of the tree has been used to prepare medicines, tonics and drinks, including the flowers, berries, bark and leaves. But, it is the berries that are bursting with the most goodness! The dark purple-pink colouring of the berries is indicative of a specific constituent known as anthocyanin, a very powerful antioxidant that can help protect our body from the damage caused by free radicals. The berries are also a rich source of vitamin C, boosting our immune functioning and protecting us from pesky colds. More specifically, elderberries have strong benefits for the respiratory system, helping remove stuck mucous while also soothing sore and irritated mucous membranes. Elderberries have also been shown to neutralise the neuraminidase enzyme, which is responsible for the development of the flu virus in our respiratory tract.
Herbs to boost your love life: Shatavari, asparagus racemosa
The name shatavari is derived from the Sanskrit words shat, which means ‘100’ and vri, which means ‘root’. The word vari can also mean ‘husband’, which may explain why shatavari is often referred to as ‘she who has a hundred husbands’. The association with husbands and fertility is a reference to the traditional uses of the roots of this plant, which for centuries have been used to treat and nourish reproductive health. Shatavari contains constituents that help balance out the key sex hormones, oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. It’s able to encourage hormonal balance while also boosting libido and fertility. Although it has become famous for its benefits to women, shatavari also boosts men’s fertility, so it’s a winner all round!
Herbs to boost joint heath: Turmeric, curcuma longa
Turmeric, also known as the ‘the ‘Golden Goddess’ in India, has been used for thousands of years in ayurvedic traditions as a medicinal herb. Pigments known as curcuminoids give this radiant-root its characteristic vibrant yellow colour. These pigments are also responsible for the primary medicinal properties of this root. Turmeric is a well-known anti-inflammatory, sharing many properties with its relative, ginger, such as pain relief and boosting circulation, making it perfect for supporting joint health. The availability of these powerful yellow pigments in the body can be significantly increased simply through the presence of the roots natural volatile oils and a constituent found in pepper known as piperine. Piperine enhances digestion and microcirculation, making curcumin 2000 times more bioavailable than when taken alone!
Herbs to boost memory and cognitive function: Holy basil/tulsi, ocimum sanctum
Holy basil, the name often given to the herb tulsi, will awaken the mind, bringing mental clarity while also relaxing the nervous system, allowing time for the restoration of adrenal glands that have become exhausted by trauma, depression or anxiety. It modulates the stress response, increases adaptive energy and nourishes the vital spirit. Holy basil is the perfect antidote to the pressures of modern life. It has adaptogenic qualities and improves our ability to cope with both physical and emotional stress. In addition to this, the vibrant and delicious essential oils in this plant boost blood flow to the brain and are thought to be responsible for this plant’s ability to positively impact upon memory and concentration. These potent oils also provide a level of antioxidant protection for the brain, safeguarding against degenerative conditions of the mind. In India, holy basil is a very special plant; for thousands of years it has been worshipped by Hindus, who consider it to be an avatar of the Goddess Laxmi, the goddess of prosperity.
Herbs to boost energy and stamina: Ashwagandha, withania somnifera
In ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is known as a ‘rasayana’ meaning a rejuvenative. Rasayanas enhance both the quality and quantity of life, nourish the mind and enhance vigour, making them perfect for weak, debilitated or exhausted conditions. This has made ashwagandha one of Ayurveda’s most prized herbs as a truly superior rejuvenative tonic to the whole body and mind. Interestingly the Sanskrit word is translated as ‘the smell of a horse’ which reflects its ability to bring you the strength and stamina of this animal. Ashwagandha is a modern-day adaptogen, supporting our body’s resistance to physical and emotional stress. However, this herb is unusual in that it is a tonic and sedative all in one; a calming adaptogen. It will strengthen an exhausted or agitated nervous system whilst at the same time calming it. Ashwagandha brings us energy through supporting deeper rest.
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