Top Herbs for Living Your Highest Self
By Kyla Sheffield
Wouldn’t we all love to be at our best at all times – strong, healthy, energised, inspired, stress-free, focused & centred in our hearts! Unfortunately, it’s not always so easy to live in our highest self physically, emotionally & spiritually.
In this modern world, we are constantly being bombarded by stress – from overwork, environmental toxins, and the daunting task of being human in these trying times on planet earth. We all need tools that we can use everyday to help us deal with all this insanity. Thankfully there are many tools to choose from – from yoga & meditation, deep breathing, exercise, laughter, dancing (or whatever helps you drop into the present moment, into your body, and out of your mind). Find what works for you, and use those tools! Create a daily practice, and do your best to stick to it.
On the physical level, herbs can help us deal with the stress of modern living, cleanse the body of toxins, keep our immune systems strong and even boost our meditation practice, helping us remain centred & focused.
Below are some of our top picks for your herbal toolkit for living your highest self.
There is a group of herbs called ‘adaptogens’ – which help the body adapt to a wide range of internal and external stress factors, including sickness, lack of sleep, stress, and overwork, while enhancing physical and mental performance, endurance and overall vitality. They can help your body perform at its best, and are excellent herbs to take daily.
Here are some favourites:
Rhodiola – This is a classic adaptogen that has been shown to assist in adrenal exhaustion, as well as depression and emotional wellbeing. It can be a great ally for overcoming caffeine addiction, as it boosts energy while supporting the adrenals and nervous system.
Siberian ginseng – It is not as stimulating as Korean Ginseng, yet can help boost energy levels, endurance, and our capacity to deal with stress. Siberian ginseng enhances the human immune response, as well as quickens the recovery from both acute and chronic disease. It assists with symptoms of overworking and exposure to environmental toxins. (I personally add this to my daily tea blend – see below.)
Ashwagandha – Another adaptogen, that is also slightly sedating. It helps boost the immune system, and is traditionally used as a general tonic. The active compounds in ashwagandha have anti-anxiety, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-arthritic properties that may be effective in reducing stress caused by physical and emotional fatigue; increasing mental alertness, focus and concentration; relieving nervous tension and anxiety; invigorating the body; decreasing inflammation and balancing out and leveling mood swings.
Damiana – This is not an adaptogen, but is one of our favourite happy herbs, helping to boost mood, and reduce stress. Damiana helps relax the nervous system, and supports the kidneys. It is a excellent ally to help take the edge off when you’re feeling grumpy or moody!
Passionflower, Skullcap & California Poppy – These are all great herbs to relax nervous tension, and assist healthy sleep patterns.
Herbs can help the body rid itself of accumulated toxins…critical in this day and age. Toxic overload can not only tax the liver, kidneys, and skin, but can also make us generally feel like crap! Detoxifying the body can help boost your mood and energy levels, and help all your organ systems function more efficiently.
Activated Charcoal – Made from coconut husks, activated charcoal is able to absorb many times its weight in toxins. It sucks them up so the body can eliminate them! It’s also crucial to have on hand in case of food poisoning, hangovers, etc.
Dandelion Root – A top pick for loving your liver. It assists with liver stress from lifestyle factors such as alcohol, coffee and drug use, as well as environmental toxins. (This one is also in my daily tea blend…see below).
Milk Thistle – Another favourite liver protector. Silymarin, an extract from the seed, acts on the membranes of the liver cells preventing the entry of virus toxins and other toxic compounds and thus preventing damage to the cells. It also dramatically improves liver regeneration in hepatitis, cirrhosis, mushroom poisoning and other diseases of the liver.
Turmeric – Great anti-inflammatory, helps cleanse the blood & liver. Used in cancer treatment and inflammatory disease.
IMMUNITY & LONGEVITY
Herbs are well known for helping fight off infections and boosting the immune system. There are certain herbs that help tonify the system, making it stronger and more capable of dealing with bugs, as well as stress. Many of these herbs are adaptogens, which not only help boost immunity, but can also help decrease stress and increase endurance, energy and overall vitality (see above).
Medicinal Mushrooms – Reishi, Chaga, Maitake, Lion’s Mane, Shiitake are all amazing medicinals that can help your body function at its best. For immunity & longevity, Reishi and Chaga would be great choices.
Ginseng – A famous invigorating tonic, Ginseng lives up to its reputation. It helps boost immune function, energy levels, endurance & stamina, and helps you live long and strong.
Spirulina (& other green foods) – Full of chlorophyll, bioavailable protein and essential amino acids, it is the richest plant source of vitamin B12. Spirulina is a powerful tonic for the immune system, and an excellent detoxifier as it helps to bind heavy metals, which the body can then excrete.
Astragalus – Used in both traditional Chinese and Western herbalism as an immune tonic. This herb stimulates the body’s immune action against viruses, has a mild antibiotic action and increases the activity of white blood cells.
Propolis – This is not an herb, but a product from the beehive. It’s a waxy substance made from tree resins which the bees use to seal their hives. It has antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties, and is one of our favourites for any infection (great externally on cuts, excellent for dental issues, as well as colds & flus).
Jiaogulan – A long-valued folk remedy for longevity and general well-being. It has only recently come into use worldwide for its adaptogenic and antioxidant activity, improving resistance to physical and emotional stress and reducing free radical damage.
FOCUS & MEDITATION
With all that’s going on in the world – a daily meditation practice is extremely helpful. Many spiritual teachers advise that this is the only way to true peace and happiness. Did you know that herbs can actually support you to stay focused, and nourish your consciousness?
Tulsi – Revered in India for sharpening the mind, some even claim it decalcifies the third eye! Also considered a preventative against epidemics such as cholera, influenza and malaria. Plus, it makes a delicious addition to tea blends.
Reishi – Not only an immune boosting, longevity herb – Reishi is revered in China as a powerful Shen tonic – an herb which nourishes the spirit.
Brahmi – Recognised the world over as a brain tonic, used to promote intellect and comprehension, rejuvenate the brain and boost the memory. Its immune and vitality boosting properties are attributed to high levels of antioxidants.
Gotu Kola – Revitalising brain & nerve tonic, used to promote calmness and clarity. and boost concentration. Revered in China as the ‘fountain of life’, it promotes longevity, increases circulation, decreases inflammation, and benefits skin health.
White Sage & Palo Santo – These are both sacred smudges used to cleanse negative energy. They are beautiful plants to have as allies on your sacred journey of life.
When we’re lacking in energy – herbs can help put the bounce back in our steps in a holistic way. While there are some energy herbs that contain caffeine, others are tonics that help nourish our nervous systems and adrenals!
Ginseng – Stimulating adaptogen & tonic…so much energy it can keep you up at night. Great for bodybuilding, immunity & longevity.
Guayusa – Related to Yerba Maté, this Amazonian plant is packed with caffeine as well as antioxidants. Used to help focus the mind, and assist lucid dreaming. Great for long-lasting, clear, expansive yet focused energy without jitters.
Yerba Maté – South America’s favourite beverage – great alternative to tea or coffee. Provides long-lasting stimulation and focus. Boosts mood. Packed with vitamins and minerals. Alkalinising.
Rhodiola – An adaptogen & tonic herb – assists in regulating mood and nourishing the adrenal system. Great for overcoming caffeine addiction (and other drug addictions too). Boosts energy without the caffeine.
Cacao – Stimulating and mood-boosting food of the gods. Need I say more? Yes, cacao does contain caffeine…but it also contains magnesium, antioxidants galore, and anandamide (the chemical of bliss).
Bee Pollen – It contains nearly all the nutrients needed to sustain life! It has long been revered in Traditional Chinese Medicine as an energy and nutritive tonic. Cultures worldwide have used bee pollen for endurance, vitality, longevity, recovery from illness, reducing cravings and addictions, preventing infectious diseases, strengthening the immune system and correcting nutritional deficiencies.
Hemp – This super-seed is full of bioavailable protein, omegas, and essential fatty acids. Great for energy, brain function and inflammation.
Chia – Packed full of nutrition, including high amounts of omega-3, this tiny seed was once used by warriors for endurance and energy. This little powerhouse seeds can also regulate blood sugar, reduce appetite, and aid digestion. Yum!
I know, that’s a long list of herbs! You may be thinking, how could I possibly incorporate all those herbs into my daily life. Well, you don’t have to. Some herbs will be better suited to your body than others, we’re all different. Experiment and see what resonates with you. Here’s a little recipe of my favourite daily tea blend, to help nourish your body, mind and spirit.
Daily SUPER Tea Blend
Part 1 (Root Tea)
1 tsp Dandelion Root
1 tsp Siberian Ginseng / or Rhodiola (or both!)
1 tsp Turmeric (fresh is best!)
1 tsp Astragalus
1 tsp Licorice
Simmer the above herbs (covered) in 1 litres of water, for 10 minutes.
Part 2 (Herb Tea)
2 tsp Tulsi
2 tsp Jiaogulan
1 tsp Gotu Kola
1 tsp Peppermint (not on the above list, but tastes so great!)
1 tsp Yerba Maté (optional – contains caffeine)
1/2 tsp Stevia
Add herbs to teapot, and fill with root tea (above), let steep, covered for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy.
NOTE: You can reboil the roots for another round of tea.
Daily SUPER Smoothie Blend
1 cup Frozen fruit (bananas and berries are great)
1 cup Milk (your choice)
1 Tbsp Hemp Seeds
1 Tbsp Bee Pollen
1 tsp Chia Seeds
1 tsp Spirulina
Honey or stevia to taste
Add everything to a blend. Blend and enjoy!