Today’s blog is on helpful herbs in Western, Ayurveda and Chinese herbalism that begin with the letter N. Before we get into these herbs and their properties I would like to begin with the taste of herbs. In every blog post about herbs I include the energy and taste of the herb. I wanted to explain why taste is important to the body in choosing an herbal remedy for your overall health and wellness.
The first taste I want to talk about is Sour. These herbs are usually astringent or drying in nature and help to drain things. They are often acid in nature (think of a lemon) and this helps to cleanse and detoxify the body. One of the ways that a sour herb does that is through taking a fat soluble toxin and making it more of a water soluble toxin that is easier to excrete by the kidneys. This is one of the reasons you will see all those articles about drinking lemon water to help you lose weight.
The next taste is bitter. These herbs are known to drain and dry. They are used for the heart, respiration, digestion, and immune function. They are often anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, antibacterial, and alkaloid. These properties help to move things out of the body (liver cleansing, lung and mucus cleansing, and blood purifying). They are best taken in smaller doses as too much will have an adverse effect on the body.
The next taste is sweet and they are to nourish and strengthen the body. Simple sugars are more readily available to utilize by the body. The brain, muscles, and tissues feed on glucose. When this is easily available the digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard and energy is preserved. This is only referring to natural food sugars (think yams or molasses) not refined sugars that harm your body. A major class of compounds called heteropolysaccharides are in many herbs that strengthen the immune system (like astragalus) and have been well studies for these benefits. These are to be taken in small doses for short periods of time.
The next taste is pungent also referred to as acrid. These herbs have a dispersing and moving effect on the body. They are good for the liver, and lungs as they help to prevent stagnation and to move mucus. Think of herbs like black pepper, cayenne pepper, ginger, onion, garlic, horseradish. These herbs help to warm the organs and disperse mucus.
The last taste is salty and these herbs are good for the kidneys, the heart, and to dissolve things. Salty herbs can tone and moisturize tissues but when taken in too high a concentration they will dry and irritate. Salt helps to balance potassium, calcium, and phosphorus in the body. These are herbs like sea side plants (kelp) celery and parsley. Use only in small and therapeutic doses.
This was only a short introduction into the taste of herbs and why they matter but I think it will help in understanding how herbs work and why.
Here are some helpful herbs that begin with the letter N.
Parts used: Leaves
Energy and Taste: Cool, bland and slightly bitter.
Constituents: High amounts of chlorophyll, indoles, including histamine and serotonin, acetylcholine, vitamin C, A, potassium, protein and fiber.
Internal Uses: Diuretic, astringent tonic, hemostatic, expectorant, and nutritive tincture that is helpful in allergies. The high concentration of nutrients in nettles make it great for anemia, asthma, and rheumatic conditions. A study of nettle roots found them to be very effective in the treatment of enlarged prostate. Take as a tincture 10-30 drops, as a pill, or a tea.
Topical uses: Helps to stimulate hair growth in shampoos, serums, or oils. Also stops bleeding when applied topically on wounds.
Ayurvedic Name: Nimba
Parts Used: Seeds, leaves, and bark
Energy and Taste: Cooling, pungent and bitter astringent.
Constituents: isomeldenim, nimbin, nimbinene, quercetin, beta-sit sterol, terpenoids, limonoids, azadrachtin.
Internal Uses: Purifies the blood, stimulates insulin secretion in the pancreas, is antimicrobial and is often referred to as “the village pharmacy” because of its numerous benefits. 250 to 500 mg a day, or as a tea.
Topical uses: parasites, eczema, acne, eye inflammations, gum inflammations. Use as a powder, in ghee, in tincture, or tea or neem oil.
Notopterygium (Qiang Huo)
This herb is endangered due to excessive cultivation
Parts Used: Root and Rhizome
Energy and taste: Warm, aromatic and bitter.
Constituents: furanocoumarins, notopterol, falcorindiol and phenethyl ferulate = antioxidants, anti-cancer properties, cyclooxygenase inhibitors.
Internal Uses: 6-12 grams
These blogs are not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure anything.
They are intended for educational purposes only. Always check with your physician before taking any herbs or vitamins.
Hope of any of the above information was helpful and check back for the next blog on the letter O.
The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: A Contemporary Introduction and Useful Manual for the World's Oldest Healing System, Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa and Michael Tierra
The Way of Chinese Herbs, Michael Tierra
The Way of Herbs: Fully Updated with the Latest Developments in Herbal Science, Michael Tierra