HERBALISM 101: Basic Laws On Blending Your Medicines
~ Herb Combining ~
Basic laws to achieve harmony
I'm sure you've heard about food combining, but have you stopped to consider herb combining? You might know some key essentials within food combining, like not combining starches and protein in the same meal, or to always eat fruit a good 45 minutes before a meal, not after. With herbs, similar law's apply in order to achieve harmony. Well, honestly a bit more complex, yet with similar fundamental aspects to apply when formulation is taking place. For example, combining stimulants with sedatives could be as bad as adding lemon into your coffee.
I honestly get asked around 100x a week, if X herb goes well with X herb? Or, is mixing four different formulas together in their smoothie ok in the morning? So, i've combined essential tokens of wisdom often practiced within herbalism, as basic how-to's when blending your own medicine. This of course is just the tip of the iceberg, as formulation is an ancient and mystical practice. Once you become familiar to herbal categories, energetics and personal experience, you'll be intuitively flowing when composing your own medicinal tea's, tonics and superfoods.
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IS AN ANCIENT ART
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Formulation is an ancient art practiced for thousands of years in all healing traditions across of the world. What has often been observed and seen within herbal traditions, is that herbs often work better when combined. For example, A good example is our revered adaptogen, Asian ginseng, It can be too warming and stimulating if used alone, however, when combined with licorice and astragalus, it has a broader sphere of influence and isn’t overstimulating. The concept of creating a harmonizing formulation can be applied for both prevention and treatment of disease as well as to improve general health. Because many of our health problems are interrelated, it is often best to take combinations of herbs to support different body systems. Yet, the art itself is the right combination, for the right symptomology.
It’s vital to keep in mind that the best results don't always come from masterfully prepared formulas. Rather, they come from the skillful application of specific herbs to the symptomologies witnessed. It’s also important to note that, as the body adjusts to the given formula over time, the effects of the herbs in the formula will change. Just like an ecosystem, the body has its own delicate natural balance. It will respond differently depending on its needs. Herbal combinations must keep up with these changes to ensure the best results.
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Before we begin scouting out the right herbs for your ecosystem, ask yourself these
questions to narrow down what you might. Based on these answers you can compose a formula that can target your present circumstances, yet also targets the underlying patterning that might be causing some of the acute symptoms.
1. What are you aiming to heal/harmonize?
2. What are your current acute problems (if any) on a mental, emotional and physical level?
3. What have been chronic issues manifesting over time on a mental, emotional, physical level?
4. How would you like to feel in this moment in your life… Relaxed? …Energized?...
*If you're not targeting something in particular, yet seeking strengthening and longevity, that also defines the types of herbal categories you'd be exploring. For example, adaptogens, rasayanas, alteratives, nutritives, etc.
**Again, these are just super basics, if you have a serious chronic illness please be sure to consult your herbalist before self-diagnosing!**
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BASIC PRINCIPLES when
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When putting a formula together, it’s important to acknowledge the whole person (or your whole self.) A formula should reflect all the different aspects of a person’s character. It should incorporate elements key to the creation of a turning point in his or her healing journey. In the chart above you can see three basic principles -- the main erb(s)also referred to as the "The Leaders", next would be the “The Supporters”, and then the “The Catalysts”. Last comes the bioavailability-enhancing activity with various structurally and therapeutically diverse herbal compounds...but that'll be for more next time!
THE LEADERS :
Primary Master Herb(s)
These are your heavy hitters often the ones that most directly address the main action and intention of your formula. In my experience, this can be anywhere from 50-70% of your formula (but this is highly variable as it depends on your mission and vision.)
Some key herbal categories that usually fall under this primary category are: adaptogens and alteratives. *This is of course highly variable, as it all depends the main herb that you're choosing as your primary to tackle the fundamental intention. Both of these categories are similar in that they powerfully affect, balance and restore several organ systems at a time, while increasing health and vitality. They also are both serious detoxifiers as they both can assist and repair from damage caused by toxicity and indirectly aid in many key metabolic activities.
Ex: Adaptogens: Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Tulsi, Reishi, Rhodiola, Cordyceps, Shizandra, etc.
Ex: Alteratives: Nettle, Osha, Burdock, Echinacea, Red Clover, Yellow Dock, etc.
PS: keep in mind some (or most) herbs fall into two or more categories!
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Some of our adaptogenic + alterative rich singles:
Ashwagandha root, Reishi mushroom, Chaga mushroom, Lions Mane mushroom, Cordyceps mushroom, Suma root, He Shou Wu root, and more!
Formulas with lots of adaptogens/alteratives:
Collagen Booter Elixir and Powder, Adaptogenic Tonic and Super-powder, Blood Tonic,
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THE SUPPORTERS :
Builders + Nourishers
Think of these herbs as magnifiers to your main herb(s), while also being those that tone and assist the actions and sub-actions of your chosen primary herb(s). This can be anywhere from 10-25% of the formula.
Examples: If you’re building a relaxing formula, turn to supportive nervines: lemon balm, chamomile, oat tops, mimosa and more. OR, lets say you're building a brain enhancing formula, turn to supportive nootropics: gotu kola, lavender, ginkgo, rosemary.
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Some of our supportive + nourishing single herbs:
Ashwagandha root, Blue Lotus, Suma root, Lions Mane, Mangosteen Hibiscus, Turmeric.
Formulas with lots of nourishing herbs:
Qi Energy + Protein, Liver Vitality, Viridem Mineralizing Elixir, Curam Beauty Elixir, Dream Elixir and Tea.
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THE CATALYZERS :
Activators + Boosters
These herbs are key as they are the activating component for both the organ system and the other herbs used in the formula. They can stimulate, warm up metabolic processes, break up stagnation and assist the body in elimination. The class of herbs that are usually used within this section are: stimulants, expectorants (secretion of mucus), diuretics (help you pee), diaphoretic (help you sweat). This can makeup anywhere from 10-20% of the formula.
Examples: If you're composing a formula to bust a cold, using Echinacea like your master herb, aloe as your supportive herb, and the ginger cayenne as the catalyzer to activate. Other catalyzers: Turmeric, Cayenne, Ginger, Cacao, Kava Kava, Hibiscus, etc.
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Some of our activating single herbs:
Turmeric, Mucuna, Green Coffee.
Formulas with lots of activating herbs:
Digestive Bitters, Colds Cocktail, Fat Belly
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