The Way Nature Intended: 5 Healing Herbs For Holistic Health & Wellness
Herbal medicine is one of the oldest ways that humans have supported holistic health and wellness with the use of herbs and plants that naturally work synergistically with our bodies — what could be a more beautiful way to support optimal vitality and connect us with the world around us than through the celebration of plants.
As an integrative dietitian, plants and the way in which we interact with them each and every day has always fascinated me. Whether you realize it or not, plants have a profound effect on the way we feel both mentally and physically, and just spending 15 minutes in nature has been found to help reduce the body’s stress hormone cortisol – we quite literally feel better when we are out in nature, and that’s not a coincidence.
Our bodies were designed to exist with nature, which is why it is no surprise that herbal medicine is one of the oldest ways that humans have supported their holistic health and wellness. By using medicinal herbs and plants that naturally work synergistically with our bodies, humans have for centuries been incorporating herbs into our food culture and medicine to support vitality and connect us with the world around us.
Disclaimer: This article is in partnership and sponsored by New Chapter, a leading vitamin and herbal supplement brand here in Vermont that is committed to supporting sustainability and holistic health.
Herbalism Is Deeply Rooted In Every Culture
When I first discovered herbalism and alternative medicine I was fascinated by the deep history and cultural connection that herbalism has in our lives.
For instance, in my Italian culture, fennel and anise are often used to help soothe an upset stomach and aid in digestion. While this tradition always felt like something my culture just does, once I began to better understand herbalism I learned that these foods were, in fact, full of carminative digestive properties that help aid an upset stomach.
Similarly, in India, turmeric is used in many traditional dishes and is a common herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to support a reduction in inflammation. But long before the evidence-based research surrounding the positive benefits of turmeric existed, culturally it was being used in it’s whole root form to promote balance in the body.
Now we also know that the turmerones (present in the oil of turmeric that are often removed when curcumin is extracted) help to enhance the absorption of curcumin naturally without the use of any additional ingredients, which is just one example of how nature really does always know what’s best.
This is what is so wonderful about herbal nutrition and using healing plants in both a culturally appropriate and traditional way of supporting full body wellness. Often if we just look to traditional food cultures and the ways in which people have been supporting a holistic approach to healing for centuries we will find that herbalism has in many ways been at the center of it all.
What Is Holistic Health?
Holistic health is most often referred to as a form of healing that looks at the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. This kind of holistic healing often uses a wide variety of complementary medicines and alternative healthcare practices that can overlap with modern-day western medicine and support the mind-body connection.
Some of the most common types of holistic health alternative therapies are:
What Is Herbalism & Herbal Medicine
Herbalism (also known as herbal medicine) as I mentioned above, is one of the oldest forms of medicine dating back thousands of years and can be seen throughout Chinese, Ayurvedic, and even Western medicine.
By definition herbalism is:
The study and practice of the medicinal and therapeutic use of plants. While herbalism has been used throughout the history of medicine, it now is considered to be an alternative and holistic medicine.
Today many practitioners from naturopathic doctors to holistic nutritionists and clinically trained herbalists use herbal medicine to support holistic, whole-body wellness. Often times these practitioners will use a combination of herbal products, supplements, and whole-foods to support wellness, but anyone can use herbs in their own home to support their health – and most likely you already do.
Why Sustainable Sourcing Matters
When it comes to sourcing herbs for your own use in cooking or for nutritional/health supplementation, it is incredibly important that you pay attention to where you are sourcing your herbs.
While many people may think of purchasing organic when it comes to their fruits and vegetables, often herbs are overlooked – but they shouldn't be. Herbs like any other plant can be sprayed with pesticides and grown using unsustainable practices, which in many ways goes against the reasons why you are using herbs in the first place.
Since often herbs are being used to support health, it is so important that you take the time to understand where your herbs and herbal products are coming from, and the growing practices being used.
Ideally, it is best to opt for herbs that you can grow yourself (especially for use in the kitchen) or can be sourced within your own region, but since that isn't always possible, make sure to source your herbs for cooking from farms or companies you can trust, and your herbal nutrition/health supplements from companies like New Chapter who support sustainable growing practices, organic farming, and the fair and ethical treatment of farm workers.
Since the reason why you are incorporating herbs in the first place is to support your health, you want to make sure that you are choosing the healthiest possible option for your body (and for the planet).
5 Healing Herbs To Support Health and Wellness
If you would like to get started incorporating more herbs into your daily life to promote holistic health and wellness, the following five herbs are a great place to begin. Like I mentioned above, the sourcing of your herbal products is important, which is why I love using New Chapter's herbal supplements when I am looking to add a more concentrated herbal product into my health and wellness routine.
Because New Chapter has exceptionally high standards for sourcing, and support local, sustainable sourcing from the regions where the herbs and plants grow best, they are a company I can confidently trust and recommend to people looking for the highest quality, sustainably sourced herbal products out there!
Rhodiola is an incredible herb that can be used to help manage the effects of stress on the body, and promote increased energy and stamina. Rhodiola is considered to be an herbal adaptogen, which means that it works with the body synergistically to manage stress and shift the body's stress response.*
Rhodiola can be very helpful during periods of prolonged stress or sleep disruption and can help balance out a person's mood and improve energy which otherwise may have been compromised. So for those who may be struggling with managing their stress, Rhodiola could be an excellent herb to help compliment other stress reduction lifestyle behavior changes.
Remember all herbs and supplements are meant to work with our bodies to compliment and support healing, but no one herb will ever be a miracle cure to out-balance a poor lifestyle.
Holy Basil , also commonly referred to as Tulsi, is used to promote cognitive function and reduce stress. It first was introduced as a healing herb through Ayurvedic medicine and is considered to be one of the best adaptogens for mitigating stress and reducing inflammation in the body.
Holy Basil also acts as an antihistamine, which makes it a great option to turn to when you are experiencing high-histamine and inflammatory symptoms. I personally love taking Holy Basil during periods of stress in the form of tea or New Chapter's Holy Basil Force daily supplement for a more concentrated dose.*
Lemon Balm is an incredible herb that can easily be grown at home to incorporate in cooking or can be taken in supplement form. Lemon Balm is most often used as a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the body from oxidative stress and supports a healthy immune system and balanced mood.
Lemon Balm can also help improve focus and alertness, which makes it an excellent herb to turn to if you are looking to reduce your caffeine consumption or improve mental clarity.*
Elderberry is one of the best herbs for supporting immune function and has been well researched for its impact on reducing cold duration and symptoms. I often will recommend that Elderberry be used as a natural herbal supplement to support immune health, and love that it is a safe alternative to cough syrup.
While there are many options for making homemade elderberry syrups to promote immune health, I personally love the New Chapter Elderberry Force Capsules, which combine both Elderberries and Black Currants to provide complementary antioxidant support to the immune system.*
Ginger is an herb that most people are familiar with, but may not have really thought of as the amazing herbal healing remedy that it is. Ginger is often used in Asian and Indian cooking and is most well-known for its beneficial digestive effects, which is why ginger is often a key ingredient in teas that support good digestion.
Ginger has also been found to support cardiovascular health, and promote a healthy immune response, which makes it a complimentary herb to use in both cooking and supplement form as needed.
Personally, I love using fresh ginger in blended soups and homemade herbal teas, and often will recommend it in supplement form (like Ginger Force from New Chapter) for people who may need a little extra help improving digestion and managing digestive symptoms.*
With these five herbs in your holistic medicine cabinet, you will be well on your way to supporting your body's stress response, immune system, mood, and whole-body wellness through the holistic power of healing plants and herbs each and every day.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.