I've been asked countless times what my top 10 herbs are or which herbs I couldn't live without and the answer honestly changes too often for me to ever create a definite list. Herbs are kinda like celebrity crushes, you have your old favorites from your early years but sometimes new ones come along that capture your attention and adoration. But this list is really chocked full of my favorites. I use them for my family and clients often. I hope you find this information helpful and just maybe you'll develop a new crush or two.
Ashwaganda- We know it’s been used for at least 3,000 years and is prized in Ayurvedic medicine as well as all over the Middle East and China.
Primary uses are to counteract the adverse effects of stress, increases energy, tones all the organs and systems helping them work efficiently.
Several scientific studies have shown that Ashwaganda increases stamina, endurance and immunity. It’s a powerful antioxidant that reverses cellular damage showing that it can be used not only as a preventative to heart disease and cancer but also may reverse the effects of those.
Ashwaganda has shown to help stabilize both low and high blood sugars.
Perhaps, my favorite use of Ashwagnada is to help with stress. It supports the adrenals and helps with fight or flight reactions in people. I’ve used it to undo damage done by Chemo and Radiation with great results.
Fennel -Fennel is the digestive herb. It soothes the stomach and aids in the break down of foods and even stomach acids. It freshens breath, stabilizes blood sugar and stabilizes mentsrual cramps, unwanted hair loss. balances hormones, regulates blood pressure, helps with all digestive complaints like diarrhea, colitis and Inflammed bowel disease.
Studies have shown that it profoundly improves memory and cognitive disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Inhibits the formation of tumors and blood clots, without stomach damage like aspirin and aspirin derived products
Fennel extract has shown that it may improve the pressure on the optic nerve which would benefit glaucoma sufferers
Turmeric- ANTI INFLAMMATORY in all caps because it is the superb herb for treating all types of inflammation.
Used to treat Acne, skin irritations such as psoriasis and eczema, Allergies, Alzheimer’s, Cancer, High cholesterol, Colitisis, Cystic Fibrosis, Depression, Type 2 Diabetes, Eye infections, Gas, Gout, Gum disease, Heart Disease, High Blood Pressure, Liver disease, Macular degeneration( age-related) Parkinson’s disease, stroke and wounds
It’s a powerful antacid, speeds healing, relieves headaches and migraines, decongestant.
Yarrow- According to the some Greek Myths this herb was made into a tea which Achilles was dipped into instead of the river Styx making him immortal. It has a history dating at least 2,500 years back to Ancient Greece and India.
Primary uses are for wound healing, stamina, digestive uses, coughs and colds, inflammations and bites of all kinda.
Culpepper was a prescriber using it for everything from infections of the “privates” to wounds, nosebleeds and hemorrhoids.
Colonists introduced it to Native Americans who began using it for toothaches, dysentery, all blood illnesses including menstrual cramps and problems.
Yarrow is used today for all of the before mentioned and has been used to combat stresses I find it exceptionally useful for stresses that are related to the physical, like running or over exertion.
It has small amounts of thujone so it can help with sleep disorders. I would use it in correlation with other sedative herbs and not alone.
Use the leaves dried or fresh for wounds. Makes a great gargle for toothache but tastes like hell. Make sure you add lots of mint and cinnamon.
Dandelion- From flower to root and everything in between. In my humble opinion, the hands down best herb but the most maligned at least in our country. It Russian Herbalism, it translates to “elixir of life” It not only has a history of use in the folk medicine but holds an important role in the official medical books as well.
Mainstream Doctors use it to treat liver and gallbladder diseases. It promotes the formation of bile and acts as a diuretic so it is used to treat edema. It breaks up kidney and gallstones and helps them pass as it pulls water out of the body for them to travel upon.
It’s bitter properties aid in digestion and is useful for balancing the acid level of your stomach and easing inflammation caused by stress or poor eating. It has mild laxative qualities and helps with constipation in a very gentle calm way.
It’s used internally and externally for skin issues. All skin issues can be traced back to the liver and since it is the for most liver tonifying and rejuvenating herb it is excellent as a tea, tincture, vinegar or a food to help protect and heal the liver. Also washing with the tea, lotion or oil made of dandelion helps all skin issues such as psoriasis, eczema, carbuncles, skin rashes, hives etc. The tea has a long history in the Russian court and folklore as a way to rid the body of unwanted freckles.
It can be used to promote sweating out a fever. I would combine it with ginger, a pinch of cayenne and cloves to make a great sweat inducing tea.
It’s rich in potassium, iron, and all the vitamins a, B1, B2, B6, C and D. It prevents anemia, stiff joints, rheumatism and gout. It is the highest plant source of potassium and has an balanced amount of sodium so that even though it is a diuretic, it doesn’t leach potassium but actually replaces it unlike all other diuretics.
It can be used to help with Alzheimer’s (due to it’s high lecithin content and high choline content) all liver disease, bladder infections, swelling or edema, insomnia, heart conditions, miscarriage, pneumonia, flus, breastfeeding problems and due to it’s balance of magnesium, calcium and potassium osteoporosis as well.
Dandelion is a tonic, bitter, adaptogen herb that would improve every single person’s health if they used it.
Plantain- If Dandelion is the most maligned then plantain is the most ignored and it’s effecting our health. This lowly little plant is anti bacterial, anti microbial and anti toxic.
The leaves have a long history of being used to treat insect bites and small scratches, burns, poison ivy or poison sumac rashes and snake bites. In the wild, you only have to pick a leaf or two, pop it in your mouth and chew it around. Place it on the injury or the abrasion. You can also juice them, cook them or eat them raw.
In Russian medicine, the leaves are prescribed for gastric and digestive issues. The leaves are also juiced and drank to improve appetite and improve sluggish digestion.
Eaten or drank it helps to stabilize blood sugar, clean your liver and help your body with stand the effects of modern life and modern medicine. It has been shown to protect you from the toxic uses of chemotherapy and other drugs.
Red clover- Traditional uses are for respiratory disorders in China, Russia and North America. It’s been used to stabilize blood sugar, treat skin issues, all sorts of female health issues from PMS to menopause.
It has a long history of being used both internally and externally on skin issues ranging from hives, baby acne, balding and even vitiligo.
Taken internally it can relieve inflammation of the ears and eyes. Perfect for pink eye and meillures disease. A strong tisane or tea can be taken several times a day to treat chest pain from anxiety and stress, chronic rheumatism, inflammation of the bladder and kidney problems.
Women can use it to treat PMS symptoms such as cramping, heavy bleeding, menopausal hot flashes, and taken regularly in pregnancy it has been shown to prevent miscarriage. Tinctures are used in Russia to reduce benign fibroid tumors. It can relieve the inflammation of the ovaries and thus has been known as a fertility herb.
Red clover tincture can be taken to reduce serum cholesterol levels and has been used as a preventive for hardening of the arteries successfully.
Moms have used it to cure a multitude of ills from wounds, scars, jaundice and rickets.
It has also become used as both a tobacco substitute for chewing tobacco and snuff users. It helps curb the cravings and eventually they kick the habit. Drinking a strong tea has also helped cigarette smokers. I attribute this to it’s adaptogenic qualities.
Red clover as a cancer treatment and preventative is superb, some even say the best treatment. It shows a particular affinity toward treating cancers of the mouth, stomach and lungs. It is a purifier, working to clean the blood.
It also has a reputation of sort of an anti depressant. It is used homeopathically and a Bach Flower Essence for people who aren’t really sure if they want to live or die, give up or fight.
Mullein- Every mom should have some Mullein on hand. It’s a go to for ear aches and sore throats.
Mullein leaves are hairy in a prickly way and are actually fairly irritating when fresh so always dry the leaves to use.
Let’s talk about sore throats and coughs. Mullein has a lot of mucilage ( a slippery gel when it comes in contact with liquid) This is what produces the soothing action and reduces the inflammation. Commission E in Germany has studied it and endorses it as a treatment for coughs and colds. Thanks to it’s thick mucilage, it is a wonderful herb to have on hand for bouts of cough stemming from the Flu, bronchitis. allergies and whooping cough. You can take it as a tea, tincture or smoke it. It works particularly well on dry hacking coughs or coughs that seem to rock you to the core.
The Ooey Gooey goodness also works wonders on hemorrhoids! You can apply externally and take as a tea.
For ear pain, it is traditionally used as an oil. Mix with a few cloves of garlic and simmer over very low heat for a few hours. Let it cool and strain. You can massage it on the outside of the ear and pour a small bit on a cotton ball and place that in the ear. Studies have actually shown that mullein oil works better than amoxicyllan for ear infections.
With it’s similarities to comfrey, it can be used to help with joint health after a sprain or pull. The homeopathic remedy is great for hairline fractures or when a bone is out of place.
Black Walnut- vermifuge- dried hulls of the nut ground and dried for at least a year.
Kills all sorts of parasites, such as pinworms, tapeworms and other intestinal bugs. It stops Candida from spreading and kills it off.
It’s anti fungal properties make it a powerful medicine against hook worm, ring worm, athlete’s foot and even jock itch.
It clears up skin conditions like psoriasis, acne, and eczema. it can be taken internally and applied externally to the skin. It’s relationship with skin, fungus and bacteria make it a perfect aid for skin issues such as warts, herpes out breaks, and cold sores.
It tones ands eases inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Working well against any yeast or bacteria that may be lurking in your digestive tract.
Since they are related to English Walnuts, they have similar benefits on the cardiovascular system and diabetes but the Black Walnut is like the SUPERMAN of the walnut world. It works faster, better and stronger.
Traditionally, the blackened part of the hulls have been used but new research is being conducted on the green hulls. Dr. Hullah Clark has been having great results treating AIDS and cancer.
I use it as part of my Lyme Disease treatment.
Pau D’arco-Used by the ancient and mystical Incans, this tree gets it’s name from the Spanish because it was used to make bow sticks. Ahh, but it has so much more to offer. The Incans used it to treat fevers, sore throat, dysentery, snakebites, bladder and yeast infections. It’s excellent anti inflammatory action makes it useful for many of these.
It is a miraculous herb for killing Candida, especially good for yeast infections. Soak a tampon in strong tea and leave it in over night.
High in antibiotic power, it has been used to treat staph infections and MRSA. It’s very active against other types of bacteria and fungus. It conclusively shows to be great particularly for the bacteria that causes food poisoning.
It promotes rapid wound healing and prevents scarring.
In several studies in the 1950’s, Brazilian researchers showed that it was effective in destroying cancer cells and leukemia. Newer Korean studies show that it kills lung, colon and prostrate
cancer cells at a fairly rapid rate.
It is used often in the winter to alleviate coughs and alleviates Smoker’s cough and reverses the damage done by years of smoking.
Researchers are currently studying it against lupus and fibromalgia.
Beware- Large doses can cause nausea, vomiting and occasionally diarrhea. It can also interact with other drugs you may be taking causing your blood to take longer to clot. Not to be used in pregnant or nursing mothers or in children under the age of 2.
Tulsi- Holy Basil- Considered a gift from Vishnu. It is an ayruvedic herb from India but grows very well here.
Tulsi is one of my favorite herbs. It improves the immune system, helps the body fight inflammation, deal with stress, promotes energy but in a relaxing way that doesn’t rev you up like caffeine. It is great for colds and flus and asthma. It reduces inflammation in the whole body but I have seen an affinity for the softer places and it works to un block blockages of the lymph nodes.
It’s strengthening on the teeth and help in gum disease make it a wonderful ingredient in your tooth powders or as a mouth wash.
Works quickly on insect bites and wounds when a tea or lotion is applied externally. Helps with hives that flare up due to stress.
Cordyceps- also known as caterpillar fungus and summer plant/winter worm
Technically a fungus and not a true herb. It’s a parasite that infests and kills insect larvae and caterpillars. The fungus emerges from it’s dying host and looks like a worm. TCM considers this a plant in the Summer and an animal in the winter. It was extremely rare in Ancient China and only the Emperor and his family could afford to use it. It was used as a tonic herb to keep them healthy.
It is used traditionally in the areas of the Himalayas. A survey in 2008 showed it to be one of the most common treatments in Nepal.
Immune and Antioxidants- It improves immune function and helps make white blood cells. Japanese and Hong Kong scientists have been studying it’s antioxidant activity. It has been shown to prevent cell damage. This makes it a powerful tool in helping reduce the ill effects of aging on the body.
It has been shown to lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides which would benefit anyone with a history of heart disease or strokes. It also raises the good “HDL” cholesterol. Studies have shown that it levels out blood pressure, raising it if your’s is low and lowering it if it’s high.
It increases blood circulation which in turn helps the whole body. The increased circulation has wonderful results on the bronchial tubes and the lungs. Several Chinese studies have found it to be invaluable for asthma and chronic Bronchitis sufferers. In a review of 5 separate studies, 4 weeks of cordyceps use improved lung function in 78 to 92 % of participants. It dilates the airways which increases oxygen to the blood and the rest of the body since it is increasing the circulation of the blood.
It has been proven the increase strength and stamina and is used by athletes and weekend warriors. It aids the body in muscle formation. It has a duality that enhances energy but promotes a deep and restful sleep, so it’s not your traditional stimulant.
The Chinese have studied it extensively on the liver and the kidneys. It has been called “ideal” for the kidney transplant patient as it actually increases the chance of a body accepting a new kidney. It has been shown to increase renal health and reduce the inflammation of the kidney particularly in people with lupus nephritis and liver diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Last but not least, probably due to it’s circulation enhancing properties, it treats erectile dysfunction and impotence. It also works as an aphrodisiac and has a history of improving fertility.
Astragulus- Root of plant. legume. Typically sold in long strips that look like tongue depressors, but for the last several years most herbal stores sell the powdered and boy does this make life better! No more boiling decoctions but you can make a tea or throw it in soups and rice so much easier. Native to China and Mongolia. Would grow well here.
Called the children’s echinacea or milk vetch it is one of the safest most helpful herbs in TCM.
It is used to strengthen the immune system and it’s over all effect on the body and energy. It has been proven to be safe from people as young as a month and all the way up to 108 year olds. It’s very nourishing is a food that people in Asia eat most of their life.
In TCM it is often combined with ginseng or Angelica. I use it with Elderberry, ginger and black cumin seed a lot.
Black Cumin Seed- It has the reputation of “ curing everything but death” and it pretty much lives up to the reputation.
It is known as “the blessed seed” and ‘love is in the mist”. In the Bible, it is called “ftich” It has been utilized for at least 3000 years in the Middle East for everything from respiratory illnesses, stomach issues, circulatory diseases, overall tonic health.
Most of the modern world dismissed it’s healing properties, even in the Middle East until recently the younger generations were over looking all it’s healing and wonderful mojo, because old school healers and sages used it for everything and I mean everything. I liken it to the Dad in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. He used windex for everything and everyone ignored him but on the Wedding day, John Corbett used it successfully for his pimple. BCS is very much like that Windex.
Got a cold- take some BCS
Got the Flu- BCS
throwing up- BCS
high blood pressure - BCS
PMS and menstrual cramps-
all cancers- BCS
So everyone chalked it up to bunk. A placebo at best but most likely modern myth. UNTIL, a prize Arabian horse was on it’s deathbed with asthma. The owners had a fortune on the line and wanted a safe, truly holistic way to cure this animal. Vet after Vet failed until an old homeopath called an old acquaintance vet in Egypt who recommended BCS. They mixed it in the the feed bags and in just a few weeks, the horse was not only better but winning shows. It got the attention of researchers.
After over 200 tests were performed they were mesmerized. BCS actually improved or cured all the above conditions. All those aged and wise people were right!!!! Actually nothing that it has historically been used to treat has shown any negative results. Science is baffled and a little unhappy about that.
Wife, Mom, herbalist and friend. Feel free to change the order of the description to fit your needs, I do several times a day.