PLANT MEDICINES FOR BODY & MIND
5 DIGESTIVE HERBS Used Since Ancient Times
THE EMOTIONS IN OUR GUT, FASCINATING FACTS ON OUR SECOND BRAIN & HERBS THAT HEAL OUR GUT.
Ancient teachings from around the world tell us that our emotional state has a dramatic impact on our physical health; they reflect an understanding that human beings are emotional creatures and that there is an intricate connection between our emotions and what is happening in our physical body. There’s a particularly deep relationship between our emotions and thoughts—both conscious and unconscious—and our digestion.
The oldest systems of medicine consider digestion to be one of the key factors to our health. From Ayurveda to Chinese, Tibetan, Egyptian, and different Rainforest cultures, and beyond, all regarded diet as an essential component to prevention and thriving. Interestingly enough all the ancient healing cosmologies, all had hundreds, if not thousands, of years of clinical experience, through trial and error, on the healing capabilities of medicines, foods, and their impact on our body and mind. There was no distinction from food to medicine, nor was there a distinction from body and mind. Food wasn’t just associated as fuel, it was respected as a supportive medicine, being medicinal in itself, as well as an optimal carrier for plant medicine.
Many doctors from different traditions have declared that all diseases start in the gut. A faulty diet, along with stress or other psychological issues, leads to imbalance. It’s essential to note that everybody is different, and every single digestive tract interacts differently to food and medicine. This is for many reasons, from cellular memory to muscle memory, to digestive history, to physical + emotional history, and beyond! All these major factors affect how your digestion runs. Don’t be swayed into eating what might be trendy because it worked for other people. Same goes for herbs. Do not consume unless you actually know that your body needs it, and you understand the impact of the medicine. If not, you might just be the reason your gut isn’t performing as you’d like it to.
ITS ALL ABOUT DIGESTIVE QUALITY
The quality and strength of your digestion dictate the ability of your body to properly absorb the nutrients from food and medicine. Even if you think you have the best dietary habits, it will do you little good if the digestive tract is malfunctioning and your body struggles to process the essential nutrients locked away in your food. In cases of deficient digestion and deeper digestive problems, as little as half (in severe situations, even less) of what we consume in terms of actual nutrients—vitamins, minerals, protein (amino acids)—is actually assimilated into our bloodstream and used by our bodies.
The common symptom found in today’s gut is a deficiency. This is due to the underperforming digestive tract in most individuals nowadays, which arises from poor eating patterns, along with lifestyle habits that have become unfortunately normal in Western culture. I’d say that stress it the leading cause of the deficiency. Stress doesn’t just come from a busy life, or an overloaded workplace, it can also come from emotional stress (sadness, anger, worry, etc.) as well as environmental stress (polluted air, toxic water, heavy metals and contaminants in agriculture, etc.) The gut is constantly trying to adapt and create a homeostatic state between the outside world and the inside. If the outside stressors are constantly being brought in, along with psychological stressors, (not to mention our cellular memory and ancestral inheritance), all these contribute to an underperforming digestive tract.
You really are what you eat. Living a “perfect” dietary life, but a poorly maintained state of mind equals bad digestion. It’s that simple.
THE BRAIN AND THE BELLY
Did you know that a major portion of our nervous system is located in our intestines? Also known as the ‘enteric nervous system’ (ENS) by Western doctors, and commonly known as our “second brain”. The ENS is the reason the “gut feeling”, or “the second brain” was coined to the gut because the ENS can operate independently of the brain and spinal cord and the central nervous system. (Isn’t that amazing?) For example, scientists were shocked to learn that about 90% of the fibers in the primary nerve, known as the vagus, carries information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around. An example is when we feel butterflies in our stomach, or when we suddenly get an intuitive hit on what do to in a moment of danger, or a powerful feeling about someone, or a telepathic connection, or a psychic hit… these all stem from our second brain.
Another major fact is that 90% of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gut, as well as about 50% of the body’s dopamine. Also, your intestines produce and co-regulate 30 other neurotransmitters identical to those found in your brain and are used by the central nervous system to regulate our hormones, mood, stress levels, sleep patterns, mental functioning and any number of other essential body processes.
LET’S GET DOWN TO THE HERBS!
MILK THISTLE – TOXIC RELINQUISHER
Milk thistle is a powerful anti-oxidant that protects the cells from free radicals by scavenging them before they cause cellular damage. In classical Greek medicine, milk thistle was used to treat liver and gallbladder diseases and to protect the liver against toxins. Historically, the seed of milk thistle was used as a cholagogue which stimulated the flow of bile. Stimulating bile ensures a smooth digestion — improving metabolism, breakdown, absorption, along with preventing stagnant bile, which means toxic buildup in the Gall Bladder and subsequently the Liver.
Dandelion Leaf – The Weed of Wonders
Not only does this incredible healer soothe the gut, reduce inflammation, and restore the liver and gallbladder, it has many more healing functions that most people don’t know about. Recent studies have demonstrated that its rich anti-oxidant makeup prevents free-radical damage to cells and DNA, slowing down the aging process in our cells. It is rich in vitamin C and vitamin A as beta-carotene and increases the liver’s production of superoxide dismutase. The ability to combat cancer is not a claim made lightly, but dandelion seems to show promise in study after study after study. Dandelion may slow cancer’s growth and prevent it from spreading. The leaves are especially rich in the antioxidants and phytonutrients that combat cancer. This dear plant also increases bile production and reduces inflammation to help with gallbladder problems and blockages.
MANGOSTEEN – THE QUEEN
The cancer-fighting, heart-boosting power of Mangosteen is just a few other abilities it has on top if its well known digestive healing powers.
In a study, researchers monitored the pharmacological activity of two Xanthones in Mangosteen, alpha-mangostin, and gamma-mangostin, and demonstrated that they had “serotonergic receptor-blocking capacity”. Clinical experience indicates that conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may be favorably affected when serotonin is blocked in the gastrointestinal tract where it is found extensively.
The many benefits this dear fruit provides is supported by decades of experience in traditional Asian folk medicine, where the fruit is widely used to treat a variety of conditions in the gastrointestinal system. Numerous studies have also shown that gamma-mangostin, dramatically slows down the production of the COX-2 enzyme that precedes and leads to inflammation. Research scientists also suggested that the anti-inflammatory effects of gamma-mangostin on brain cells may have potential in helping with inflammatory conditions of the brain such as Alzheimer’s.
Quassia – Bitter Bark
In the Amazon rainforest, Quassia, also known as amargo, has been used as a bitter digestive aid for centuries. It is also used across South America as a tribal remedy for debility, digestive problems, fever, liver – gallbladder problems, as a natural insecticide (for plants and humans!) as well popularly used for viral and parasitic diseases like malaria. In more modern herbalism Amargo is employed as a bitter tonic for the stomach, stimulating metabolism, increasing bile flow, cleansing the blood from toxicity. Many have effectively used it to clean the blood from a history of pharmaceutical medications and general toxic buildup in the liver.
ARTICHOKE LEAF – BITTER LEAF
As one of the strongest herbs for digestion, it stimulates bile flow, which by now you know what a relief this contributes to a better digestion. This digestive herb also strengthens liver and kidney function.
Artichokes have many benefits, but its main ingredient is cynarin. High concentrations of cynarin are found in the leaves, and they can be used to improve appetite, due to its increase in bile production, and digestion. The leaves are commonly taken to relieve gas, and bloating. Their bitterness has a stimulating effect on the liver and also a cooling action. As a classic herb for digestion now being employed by Western doctors, artichoke appears to alleviate symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), improving nausea, bloating, constipation, and pain from gas. Research has shown that taken to help maintain a healthy digestive system, digestive herbs like artichoke, and ones mentioned above, may also help maintain cholesterol at normal levels.
There are so many more incredible herbal healers that increase digestive function. Classics like: ginger, turmeric, hibiscus, licorice
More bile-boosters, liver – gallbladder tonics like Yellow dock, Oregon Grape root, Chanca Piedra.
Other aromatics that most people live by like: Peppermint, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Orange Peel.