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Herbal Basics with Cheryl Davis, Certified Herbalist:

Herbal Basics

Cheryl Davis: Certified Herbalist, Certified Nutrition Councilor, Certified Natural Health Professional, Certified Applied Kinesiologist

Herbs are natural and therapeutic remedies for human ailments and for supporting continued vibrant health. Since the beginning of ancient history plants have been used as a primary source of medicine throughout the world.

The science of using plants for healing is known as herbology. When using herbs, the focus on the nutrition of the herb and how to utilize its active components to facilitate the bodies self-healing processes is one of their most powerful benefits.

One of the most quoted natural healing maxims is by Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine – “Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food.”

Herbs have been used for healing for thousands of years because they are capable of becoming a part of the living organism working completely and synergistically as a whole food/plant substance opposed to an isolated, synthetic or non-organic chemical structure.

We know that the herb assimilates inorganic mineral matter through its growth in soil and coverts this inert and lifeless matter into living organic material. When eaten by animals and humans it is then absorbed and sustains the renewal of life processes. As an example of this transformation process, we can look to the element sulfur. Organic sulfur is found in onions, watercress, marigold flowers, garlic, broccoli and arugula to name a few, and are all used in cooking. They are a source of organic sulfur which produces certain key compounds including two natural amino acids, methionine and cysteine which in turn form part of the composition of keratin and collagen.

In contrast, inorganic sulfur is generally administered in a form of a powder called flowers of sulfur; in this form it will circulate through the system and then will be thrown out through the pores of the skin unchanged, showing that is has not been assimilated by the cells. The effect of this inorganic mineral sulfur, however, causes an affinity for iron and also the destruction of ferments, a natural part of metabolism and digestion, and enzymes as it generates sulfurous and sulfuric acids in the organism. It steels iron from food and blood, forming iron sulfide, which causes constipation and dries up secretions in the digestive tract.

Conversely, eating garlic or taking a garlic supplement containing organic sulfur has been shown to enhance and balance bowel flora, have cardio protective effects, provide joint support, prevent cancer activity, lower lipids and improve hypertension as well. Thus, we can see the contrast, benefits and detriments to using herbs in their naturally available forms versus isolated chemically produced counterparts.

The three systems of herbology that many of us are familiar with are Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM, Western herbal medicine which often originated in folk medicine, and Ayurvedic medicine.

There are many overlaps in each system with the name of the herb being different due to the language as well as the specific localities or regions the herb has originated from.

Understanding which herb to use and when to use it can be fine-tuned by understanding the terms and concepts of herbal actions. For example, many of us are familiar with the terms Antidepressant, Anti-oxidant, Antihistamine, Antiseptic or Expectorant. Knowing these terms and the herbal actions will determine which choice is made to address a particular issue or to strengthen the body organ or system.

Many of us have been affected by respiratory distress or have known others in the past year who may have been affected. Using an herb or combination of herbs with expectorant qualities would help support the respiratory system by assisting it to remove excess mucus naturally.

Marshmallow is a mucilaginous or also called demulcent herb. These herbs including Marshmallow sooth and soften tissue. They contain indigestible complex polysaccharides that hold water and absorb irritants. Mucilaginous herbs taken internally absorb irritants in the digestive tract, help reduce cholesterol, act as a bulk laxative and moisten dry tissue. These herbs applied topically act as a drawing poultice to absorb irritants, reduce inflammation and swelling and keep tissues moist and pliable. They are indicated in hard, dry, irritated tissue states, including inflammation of the digestive tract, dry, irritating coughs, burning or painful urination, redness and topical swelling.

A great resource for determining herbal properties and uses of herbs is “the bible” of the herbal world called the Materia Medica. Many have been published over the years and updated with more current language than our herbal forefathers.

In addition to the Materia Medica, Applied Kinesiology, often called muscle testing, is another tool to help determine which herb may be indicated or supportive to weakness in the body. Applied Kinesiology developed by Dr. George Goodheart is a technique of using specific muscles, neurological reflexes and acupuncture points located on the surface of the body which relate to the state of health and to the flow of energy in each and every organ and function of the body. The goal being to find the appropriate herb, food supplement or other correction technique that would bring the reflex or acupuncture point back to strength.

Herbs are generally considered to be a safe and effective way to obtain vitamins, minerals and various nutrients. They facilitate therapeutic change without many of the unwanted side effects of prescribed or over the counter drugs. Caution should be taken for those on medication or pregnant and should consult your pharmacist or medical professional.

Cheryl can be contacted by email at


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