Sensi Magazine

Previous slide
Next slide

THREE HERBS FOR ‘TOTAL WELLNESS’

There are some plant allies that should be in everyone's herb cabinet, Nettle Leaf, Oatstraw, and astragalus ...
By Eugenia Merkoulov
[secondary_title allow_html="true"]
3 herbs for medicine closet - eugenia

Whether you’re just beginning to dabble in using herbs to support your wellness or you’re close with the plant kingdom but want to get back to the basics, there are some plant allies that should be in everyone’s herb cabinet. My vote for top three goes out to astragalus, nettle, and oat straw for being some of the most deeply nourishing and widely adaptable plant tonics mother nature has to offer. 

     Now, let’s not throw the word “tonic” around loosely. In modern and traditional herbal practice, certain plants are considered tonic if their primary effect on the body is to provide deep nourishment, restore vitality, and improve overall system function. Tonic herbs typically contain gently acting phytocompounds and are safe to take over a long period of time.

Astragalus, nettle, and oat straw are each a prime example of this important category of plant medicine. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and other important phytonutrients, they are all nourishing superfoods that can be eaten as part of a nutritious diet just as much as they can be enjoyed as a daily cup of tea. 

   The use of astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) as a medicinal plant tonic is originally documented in records from Traditional Chinese Medicine where it is highly revered as a ‘Qi tonic’ – meaning it directly supports the life force energy and improves total well-being. The root of the plant has a mild and somewhat nutty flavor and it is commonly found tucked into many favorite Asian recipes like soups and even sushi. Extensive clinical studies have been performed on astragalus root, demonstrating an array of possible healing effects including a wide range of immune-supporting properties and neuroprotective qualities. Perhaps one of the most interesting things about astragalus is that it has been shown to reverse the aging process on the DNA level, potentially improving longevity! Astragalus root can be purchased in powdered form which makes it easy to add to recipes, smoothies, or quickly make into a delicious nourishing drink. I like to brew mine with a dash of cinnamon and a drop of honey (See my article on The Art of Brewing Tea in the 2024 Summer Issues of Sensi Magazine). 

     If you thought back to the stinging nettle patches of childhood when reading above, you thought right! Often dismissed as just an annoying weed, nettle (Urtica dioica) is actually a staple in the Western herbal tradition. This versatile plant contains impressive amounts of protein, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and magnesium – among a long list of other phytonutrients. Beyond just nourishment, nettle gently invigorates the body’s systems and stimulates a gentle detox by moving fluids. Though it pops up in early springtime to aid the body in the transition from the sluggishness of winter and into the momentum of warmer weather, this herb can be enjoyed as a delicious health-boosting infusion all year round – iced or hot. Dried nettle leaves can be found at any health food store, but if you have a springtime nettle patch of your own and want to give harvesting your own a try – make sure you are doing so in a place that doesn’t get sprayed with chemicals and don’t forget to wear gloves! Don’t worry though, the stinging effect dissipates as the plant dries or is brought to heat in the brewing process and is then safe to consume.  

     Moving back toward something a bit more mellow – let’s talk about oats! A bowl of steaming oatmeal is a familiar comforting meal, but there’s much more to the oat plant (Avena sativa) than just breakfast and chewy cookies. Like the mature seeds that make their way into our food, the rest of the plant (known as oatstraw) is also rich with nutrients that nourish and fortify the body on a foundational level. What makes oatstraw a unique tonic and a must-have in the herb cabinet, however, is its remarkable ability to support the nervous system. In our fast-paced world where we often find ourselves in overstimulating environments, feeling frazzled is common and the time to rest and reset can be hard to find.  Oatstraw comes to the rescue to soothe the stress and  jitters that come with the pressures of modern life. It helps to relieve burnout and is the perfect ally for those who tend toward anxiety. 

     Oats, nettle, and astragalus demonstrate that the simplest remedies are often the most effective healers.  The world of medicinal plants is full of such allies that invite us to slow down, get back to the basics of self care, and reestablish harmony within our mind, body and spirit. Sometimes, just drinking one nourishing herb daily for a few weeks or months offers an opportunity to develop a deep relationship with the plant kingdom that supports our wellness journey in transformational ways.  

Want to try Nettle Tea?  Here is a very simple recipe. 

NETTLE TEA 

If you would like to grow your own nettle, here’s a few tips: 

  • Grow stinging nettle in a sunny area with rich, moist soil. Ensure soil has nitrogen for optimal growth. 
  • When harvesting for tea, consider wearing gloves, long sleeves, and pants to avoid irritation from stinging hairs. 
  • Harvest the leaves of the top half of the plant  in late spring or early summer before flowering for milder taste and optimum wellness benefits.
  • As nettles grow tall, harvesting from the upper part of the plant only allows for consistent regrowth throughout the season (think – basil plant). 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon fresh nettle leaves or 1 teaspoon dried nettle leaves
  • 8-10 oz water
  • Optional Sweetener (agave, stevia,  or honey)

Instructions:

  1. Bring water to a rapid boil in a tea kettle or a small saucepan.
  2. Remove from heat then add in the nettle tea leaves using a tea strainer.  If you do not have a tea strainer, you can place the leaves directly into the water to steep, then run the water through a coffee filter or fine mesh strainer.
  3. Steep the leaves, covered, in the hot water for 3-5 minutes. 
  4. Pour/Strain and enjoy hot, or pour over ice for a lovely iced tea. 

Optional flavor boost:

     The earthy flavor of nettle tea pairs well with the addition of citrus, berries, or other brightly flavored leaf teas such as lemongrass or lemon verbena. 

 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

EUGENIA

Eugenia is a fifth generation herbalist rooted in the wisdom of Traditional Slavic Medicine and Ayurveda. Her original foundation in holistic wellness was passed on to her through wisdom held by the medicine women of her family going back many generations. This flourished into a lifelong study of worldwide plant medicine wisdom, from spiritual to clinical. In her work with plants and people, Eugenia hopes to inspire this ancient relationship to flourish in the modern world. 

Visit Eugenia’s Bio Page

Visit Eugenia’s Instagram