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Calendula

(Calendula officinalis)

With Spring in the air, it feels appropriate to celebrate calendula, also known as Herbal Sunshine. Calendula is a great herb for spring detoxification as well as warm-weather skin conditions & first aid.

Family: Asteraceae

Names: pot marigold

Parts Used: whole flowering head

Energetics: primarily bitter, subtly sweet & pungent, warming, drying

Actions: lymphagogue, alterative, vulnerary, bitter tonic/cholagogue, antiseptic, diaphoretic, emmenagogue

Properties & Uses: Calendula brings warmth & light to cold & stagnant places in the body, for the “places where the sun don’t shine” (Chris Hafner, acupuncturist). As a lymphatic herb, Calendula maintains balance in fluid metabolism by clearing stagnation, keeping the channels of elimination open and detoxifying. This helps to keep pathogenic bacteria at bay. Calendula is also antiseptic and vulnerary (speeds tissue repair), making it especially useful in purulent wounds, slow-to-heal wounds, and “swollen, hot, painful, pus-filled tissue” (Matthew Wood). All of these are conditions of damp heat, usually the result of stagnation or coldness in the tissue. Calendula has a soothing, anti-inflammatory quality, reducing itchiness and irritation. It is a valuable remedy for inflammations external and internal in the GI tract. As an alterative, it supports immune function by cleansing the blood of lymphatic congestion & lingering infections. Its warming qualities promote sweating, thin fluids and warm the stomach/solar plexus (Matthew Wood). Calendula is best suited for cold, damp, Kapha conditions & constitutions.

Indications: swollen glands, lingering, unresolved infections (look for swollen tongue with red papillae), sunburn, burns, sores, ulcers, insect bites, swollen, painful, pus-filled tissue, hard-to-cure wounds, candida, gum disease, diaper rash, GI inflammation, leaky gut, painful menstruation, Seasonal Affective Disorder, psychological melancholy, immunological deficiency, symptoms worse in cold/damp weather

Contraindications: avoid large amounts during pregnancy due to emmenagogue action; not appropriate for signs of excess heat/ for hot/fiery constitutions.

Preparation & Dosage: Infusion- 1 ounce of flowers to 1 quart of boiling water; drink 2 cups a day or use externally as a local application. Tincture- 1-4 ml three times a day. Topical preparations include fresh plant poultices or infused oil. Infused oil can be used neat or turned into lotions & salves.

Click Here for a Recipe for Calendula Cream

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**

Schisandra

(Schisandra chinensis)

Schisandra is a deciduous climbing vine that is native to China & Eastern Russia. It’s a highly prized tonic herb in traditional Chinese medicine, used to promote longevity and overall wellness. Because it contains all 5 flavors recognized by Chinese medicine (bitter, sour, salty, pungent & sweet), its effects on the body are broad, as each flavor is associated with an organ system. The flavors will come through differently for different people, and there is a saying that whatever flavors you taste first are the flavors you need the most to restore balance. Because it contains a balance of all 5 flavors, it is considered safe for any constitution.

Family: Schisandraceae
Names: 5 flavor berry, Wu Wei Zi
Parts Used: berry

Energetics: sweet, sour, warm, all 5 flavors

Actions: adaptogen, astringent, tonic, antioxidant, hepatoprotective

Uses: As adaptogen, schisandra strengthens the hypothalamic/pituitary/
adrenal axis (HPA) and normalizes the endocrine and immune systems. It has historically been used as a longevity tonic, a sexual tonic, and a tonic for vital energy.  Out of all the adaptogens that exist in the world, schisandra stands out as one that is both calming and invigorating. It can give you sustained energy and endurance while calming the spirit and helping you stay focused. And it is simultaneously nourishing, calming, rejuvenating and detoxifying.

Schisandra is also hepatoprotective, meaning that it protects the liver against damage caused by environmental toxins, viruses or alcohol/drugs. In Chinese medicine, it is considered to nourish the liver yin, or the cooling & nourishing aspect of the liver’s functions. Modern research has shown that schisandra increases metabolism of heavy metals, and can help to decrease elevated liver enzymes. This is helpful for anyone with a liver that is overheated and overworked due to high levels of stress, anger, and controlling personalities as well as anyone exposed to a high level of toxins. It can be a useful herb for someone recovering from hepatitis, mono, or undergoing a hepatotoxic drug regimen such as chemotherapy.

As an astringent herb, schisandra astringes excess fluid, tightening loose tissues to prevent leaky/boggy/atonic conditions such as urinary frequency, prolapse of the bladder, and diarrhea. It is used in Chinese medicine for leaky chi (involuntary sweating, premature ejaculation and ‘wasting & thirsting diseases’) when vital energy is slowly dissipating from the body.

I think of schisandra as an herb for anyone who is feeling puny or sluggish, with poor detoxification, brain fog, blood sugar lability, and a lot of anxiety/stress/overwhelm. It’s great for type A people who have burnt themselves out and are experiencing signs of adrenal fatigue such as metal fog, low energy, low libido, weak immunity. These people would do well to kick the coffee habit, as coffee depletes the adrenals, and schisandra makes a wonderful replacement for your morning coffee, perking you up while helping you to adjust to the symptoms of withdrawal (keeping you feeling stable and focused, alleviating jitteriness, headache and palpitations).

Indications: tuberculosis, mild asthma with wheezing , diabetes, blood sugar lability, diarrhea, nocturnal emission, involuntary sweating, insomnia, forgetfulness, low energy, chronic stress, brain fog, difficulty focusing, anxiety, palpitations, weak immune system, low libido, bladder prolapse, quitting coffee addiction, hepatitis, heavy metal toxicity, mono, cancer

Contraindications: because the sour flavor can increase gastric secretion, use schisandra cautiously if you have gastric ulcers acute gastric inflammation. Its liver detoxifying actions may affect the metabolism of certain medications (inhibiting CYP3A4). Schisandra has shown no harmful effects to fetal development, but it does have a traditional use of inducing labor (20-25 drops of tincture per hour), so large amounts should be avoided by pregnant women. If you are pregnant, seek the guidance of a professional herbalist or midwife before using schisandra regularly.

Dosage: 3-9 grams daily of powder, or 1 tsp of dried berries to 8 oz of water, decoct for 5 minutes or steep for 30 min. Tincture: 30-60 drops (1.5-3ml) qid

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**

Resources:
Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston; Healing Arts Press 2007
Body Into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care by Maria Noel Groves; Storey Publishing (2016)
Herbal Therapeutics: Specific Indications for Herbs and Herbal Formulas by David Winston; Herbal Therapeutics Research Library (2014)
The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety by Simon Mills & Kerry Bone; Churchill Livington (2005)

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**

Myrrh

(Commiphora myrrha)
Myrrh is the resinous secretion of a small desert tree found in Africa and the Middle East. It has been used for thousands of years for its purifying properties, both as an incense and as an herbal remedy for internal and external infections. Myrrh has a fiery, invigorating effect on the blood, supporting clear, uninhibited blood flow to the entire body, increasing oxygenation to the cells and improving overall metabolic function.

Family: Burseraceae

Names: Guggulu, Myrrh, Mirra

Parts Used: gum resin

Energetics: bitter, pungent, warming, drying

Actions: anti-microbial, astringent, carminative, anti-catarrhal, expectorant, vulnerary

Uses: Myrrh is directly anti-microbial, making it useful for relieving bacterial or fungal infections, both topically and internally. It also stimulates the production of white blood cells, strengthening the body’s ability to fight pathogens. Use myrrh as a mouthwash for ulcers, gingivitis, or as a gargle for laryngitis or strep throat. The astringent and vulnerary actions helps speed up the healing of tissues, making it doubly useful as a wound-healing herb. Externally apply to wounds and abrasions as an antiseptic and Internally, it can be useful in treating intestinal candida overgrowth, boils, staph, bronchitis, and the common cold.

Another species of myrrh called Guggul (Commiphora mukul-burseaceae), is known for its detoxifying properties. Like all resins, it is warming, bitter, and antimicrobial. All species of myrrh help to move the blood and to cleanse the blood of toxins. One of my Ayurvedic teachers described Myrrh as having as a scraping action. Imagine a tiny scraper clearing all excess debris from your blood vessels and joints. All myrrhs have this action and can be used to lower moderately lower cholesterol levels, enhance circulation and relieve stagnation in the joints.

As a warming, bitter & detoxifying plant, myrrh can also be useful in obesity by stimulating digestive secretion, improving blood flow, and eliminating toxic build-up that slows down metabolic functions (i.e. insulin receptivity), thereby improving cellular respiration & metabolism. In Ayurveda, these warming and clearing resins are said to “burn up” ama or toxins. Think of it as helping your metabolic fire to burn nice and hot, preventing creosote build-up in your pipes.

Myrrh also has a reputation for purifying space, creating a sacred atmosphere, and focusing the mind. Burn the pure resin, mix it in with other herbs to make an incense blend, or add the essential oil to a spray bottle to evoke myrrh’s aromatic properties.

Indications: arthritis, high cholesterol, obesity, hyperglycemia, blood stagnation due to injury or toxic accumulation, would-healing, bacterial and fungal infections, gangrene, boils, ulcerated mucosa in the GI tract, vaginitis due to candida, pelvic stagnation leading to amenorrhea, atonic uterine tissue, uterine tumors or infertility, sore throats, bad breath, canker sores, bleeding gums, respiratory infections accompanied by profuse mucus secretion, and creating sacred space for ceremony (as incense)

Dosage: Tincture: take 1-4 ml three times a day. Externally, use undiluted tincture on the skin 2-3 times a day.

Contraindications: Theoretically, myrrh may interfere with antidiabetic therapy, since hypoglycemic properties have been documented. The essential oil can be irritating to the skin and mucosa. Always dilute your essential oils. We don’t recommend using essential oils internally, regardless of purity/quality claims. They all have the potential to disrupt your microbiome.

Resources:
Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine by David Hoffman, FNIMH (2003)
The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad (1986)
Herbal Therapeutics: Specific Indications for Herbs and Herbal Formulas by David Winston (2014)
The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood (2008)

**This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease**