The Digestive and Immune Systems, an Ayurvedic Perspective
Ancient systems of medicine have long known the close relationship between the digestive and immune systems. Today, clinical research is providing new evidence to support that ancient knowledge. It’s exciting for herbalists and practitioners to see the research supporting what we have known. I’d like to share ways in which this knowledge can help you feel better, stronger, and healthier!
Traditional medicine systems such as Ayurveda understand the human body as an energetic organism. The subtle elements—Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Ether—work together in harmony to support, nourish, and heal the body. When this energetic system is disrupted or out of balance, illness results. Having a basic understanding of these elements and how they function in the body can help us to prevent illness and discomfort.
Naturally fermented vinegars are medicines in and of themselves, and they are also an excellent medium for extracting the medicinal properties of herbs. In fact, vinegar facilitates and strengthens the effects of the herbs extracted within it, especially stimulant and expectorant herbs, and we’ve been using vinegar in this way since the days of ancient Sumer. Medicated vinegars are easy to make, easy to take, and they last for decades.
If you’ve ever used diluted apple cider vinegar as a face wash, you know the cleansing, softening, and toning effect it has on the skin. Vinegar has the same purifying effects when taken inside the body. Like all fermented foods, naturally fermented vinegars such as apple cider, malt, grape, or rice vinegar are incredibly healing and beneficial to the digestive tract. They aid in kidney function and alleviate inflammatory conditions both internally and externally, including fevers. These vinegars are rich in nutritive minerals and help the body regulate its acid/alkaline balance. The potassium salts contained in vinegar bring balance and vitality to the nerves, lungs, metabolism, and blood.
Unlike alcohol-based tinctures, medicated vinegars can be given to just about anyone, regardless of their tolerance for alcohol, and they last just as long if made with dried herbs. Herbal vinegars can be sweetened with honey and fruit juices to become an absolutely delicious way to take medicine or enhance your culinary dishes. Your imagination is the limit when it comes to the types and styles of medicated vinegars you can make, and you’ll always have potent medicine at hand. For hands-on experience and tastings, come to Betsy Miller’s upcoming class on making Medicinal Vinegars and Syrups on April 22nd at Smile. Read more…
I’ll paraphrase one of my favorite herbalists, jim mcdonald, when he speaks to the difficulty some folks have in gaining confidence with herbs. He suggests picking one or two herbs to focus on completely– Grow them, eat them, read about them, make medicine with them, etc.; if you really got to know, say, Peppermint and Chamomile, you could treat an enormous variety of health problems with those two herbs alone. From there, it’s smooth sailing in terms of expanding your herbal knowledge base.
If this approach appeals to you, I humbly suggest the Nettle plant, Urtica dioica, as one of your top two herbs. As allergy season is upon us, any herbalist worth her salt will wax poetic about the allergy-relieving power of Nettle leaf if you give her half a chance. And it’s true- Nettles’ anti-histamine action provides powerful, instantaneous relief for allergy symptoms. But Nettles is a wonder of an herb because every part of the plant has a different medicinal use. The seeds, leaves, stem, and root all have their own unique gifts to offer. Read more…
Catnip, Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb, a member of the mint family, and one of the friendliest plants around. Its soft, aromatic leaves give you an idea of its gentle, calming effect on the mind and body. The square stems are a dusky purple color and grow quickly and abundantly with lots of water and sun. Catnip flowers are tall, frothy spires of white and sometimes purple blossoms that are much beloved by bees and other pollinators throughout Catnip’s long blooming season. The leaves and flowers are used medicinally, either dried or made into tea while fresh.
Aside from its highly esteemed position in the cat world, Catnip for humans is best known for being a soothing, calming herb and a sedative for the nervous system. It helps to release built-up emotional tension while it gently tones the nerves. Read more…
Gotu Kola, Centella asiatica, is a delicate, mildly flavored plant that is commonly found growing in damp marshy areas and next to gently moving streams and creeks around the world. It is used in the traditional medical systems of India, Africa, Europe, and Asia.
In India, this plant is sometimes called Brahmi, and can be confused with Bacopa monnieri. Both plants are considered rejuvenative, but Bacopa is the “true” Brahmi, and an Adaptogen (substance that helps the body deal with stress).