Latin:  Sceletium tortuosom

Family:  Azioaceae

Parts Used:  Whole plant

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter

Properties:  Analgesic, stimulant, anxiolytic, euphoric, sedative at higher doses.

Actions:   This is an herb that has long been used in South Africa for its stimulating and euphoric properties for at least a thousand years. Traditionally it is made by fermenting the whole plant and has been used by warriors returning from battle who suffered with depression and fear due to trauma.  There is some research being done in terms of its effectiveness with those who suffer from PTSD.

This plant enlivens, stimulates, can bring a mildly euphoric state akin to a mild amphetamine or the beginning stages of MDMA.  Its quite an extraordinary experience for such a small amount of plant material.   It is a little “stonier” than a caffeine amphetamine stimulant and can augment the experience of listening to music, appreciating art, etc.    There is a slight dissociative quality to it that can make it feel a tad uncomfortable for some, especially at higher doses.  The stimulant effect then turns to sedation as the effects wear off within a couple hours.   Addiction and withdrawal issues have not been noted with traditional use of kanna.

Dosage:   Traditionally one either chews on the plant, snorts it, smokes it or prepares it as a tea or as an extract.  Tea is a fairly weak way of preparing it and is said to be useful for those who are weaning off substances and need a palatable adjunctant helper herb.  Smoking/chewing are common ways of consuming this plant.   When smoking, a mild dose is 50-100 mg and a heavy dose is 400-500 mg.  A moderate dose is generally around 150-250 mg.  If chewing it or taking it as a capsule, the dose is a little larger:  100-200 mg for a mild dose, 300-500 for a moderate dose and 600-1000 for a very strong dose.  Effects last 1-2 hours.

Contraindications:   This plant has alkaloids that act as serotonin reuptake inhibitors.  Thus it has the potential to interact with serotonergic antidepressants so avoid taking with that drug class.  This plant can cause headaches, nausea, insomnia, diarrhea and anxiety in some. This is a legal plant but this plant requires caution because it is a strong stimulant.  Avoid if pregnant, have cardiac issues or hypertension.  Generally avoid with other stimulants, drugs, etc.  This is definitely something you can take too much of and get into trouble.  Some have noted a synergistic effect with cannabis.  I wont comment on that.

Again- lets be careful about taking medicines from indigenous societies without respect or reciprication.  Purchase only from respected ethical harvesters who are connected to the traditional indigenous peoples.




Latin:  Piper methysticum

Family:  Piperaceae

Parts Used:  Roots

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, numbing, cooling

Properties:  Antispasmodic, sedative, analgesic, euphoric, anxiolytic

Actions:  Aaah kava.  This amazing root has been used by Polynesians for hundreds of years in celebrations, ceremony, ritual and for everyday pleasure and relaxation.  Kava has found its way into the western herbalist’s pharmacopeia in the last few decades and is a common plant to give to people to help calm, reduce anxiety, help with sleeplessness, for muscle relaxation and pain relief.  In high doses it can have a euphoric effect.  It has become so popular that numerous “kava bars” have popped up in major cities to offer this beverage.   Kava has a strong numbing and bitter flavor that is not generally enjoyable unless one is accustomed to it.  The effect is quick and generally enjoyable.

Kava is really something that should be taken infrequently for when the desire for anxiety relief or for an enjoyable sensation of pleasant euphoric relaxation is desired.

There are a variety of types of kava and it is key to buy from a reputable vendor.  Some varietals and groups of kava strains (Tudei in particular) are controversial due to their prolonged, excessively potent and perhaps hepatotoxic effects in the body.  “Noble” varietals are generally the main safe ones that are exported but one can find these “non-Noble” varietals online.

Dosage:  There is quite an art to the process of making kava as a beverage.  Traditionally it has been made with cold milk as the active constituents (kavlactones) are fat soluble and can be extracted more easily this way.  Other fatty beverages such as goat’s milk or coconut milk also work.  Kava is also generally made with lukewarm water as hot liquid is reported to destroy these active alkaloids.  However, further research and personal experimentation shows that kava can indeed be effective even if made with hot water, though perhaps not as potent.

So the dosage is really dependent upon the needs of the consumer but a good starting point would be about 1-3 teaspoons (2-6 grams) infused in milk.  Please see recipe here. 

It can also be taken in capsules 1-2 grams, or as a tincture 1-2 ML to 2 x day.

Contraindications:  There has been some controversy around it being toxic in the liver and in some parts of the world it has been made illegal due to that fear.  Beyond the silliness of making plants illegal, kava has a long history of being used in very high doses on Polynesian islands without severe hepatotoxicity being noticed.  There is some evidence that the research pointing to toxicity was done very poorly .  At the same time, it is likely smart to avoid strong use of this plant if there are signs of liver damage.  Avoid with other sedative and opiate drugs.  Avoid in pregnancy.




Latin:  Catha edulis

Family:  Celestraceae

Parts Used:  Leaves

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, warming

Properties:  Stimulant, astringent, anti-depressant, euphoric at high doses, aphrodisiac, nootropic

Actions:  Common to East African countries such as Ethiopia and Somalia, khat is a leaf from a tree that is traditionally rolled up and chewed for its potent stimulant effect.  With two strong stimulating alkaloids  (Cathinone and cathine) has a similar effect to amphetamines with associated alertness, energy and euphoria at higher doses.  Khat does have the potential to be abused and addiction is prevalent in some users.

The desire to consume stimulants for increased alertness and energy is a worldwide phenomena whether it be with coffee, cacao, tea or coca leaf and khat is another stimulant that offers similar effects, though perhaps stronger than average depending on dose.

Khat has been tied up in immense controversy over the years and recently the UK chose to ban importation of the plant.   Khat is also illegal in the US, Canada and most of continental Europe.  Again I would reiterate that it seems strange that we ban a substance like khat while allowing for addictive and potentially lethal sale of tobacco and alcohol.   While khat is likely tied to increased agitation, violence and addiction with a percentage of users, it is also a cultural touchstone plant with thousands of khat cafes abounding in East African countries.  Khat is extraordinarily popular in parts of the world that are strongly Muslim and where alcohol is generally illegal.  Khat offers an alternative form of pleasure.

In terms of mental health, we are talking about a substance similar to many stimulants.  It gives a nice buzz but there is a long term effect if one abuses it- diminished reserves, agitation, insomnia, etc.

Dosage:  Man, you got to chew a lot of this stuff.  A couple big pinches of leaf rolled up and chewed for a couple hours or so is a general beginning dose.  100-200 grams.  Its most potent fresh and loses its potency when dried.

Contraindications:    Its a stimulant- so…not for folks with cardiac conditions, hypertension, tachycardia, pregnant, prone to anxiety, panic attacks, mania, psychosis, insomnia.  Its addictive with withdrawal issues but shows no potential for overdose.



Kola Nut

Latin:  Cola vera, nitida, acuminata

Family: Sterculiaceae

Parts Used:  Nut

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, sweet, warming

Properties:  Stimulant, vasodilator, nootropic, aphrodisiac, diuretic

Actions:  Native to African tropical rainforests, Kola nut has long been used as a stimulant for greater energy and clarity in traditional ceremonies and healing work.  In Nigeria, the Kola nut is commonly consumed in weddings, births and funerals.  Starting in the 19th century, the kola nut was brought to the West and most famously found its way into one of our most ubiquitous soft drinks- coca cola (with coca leaf as the other main ingredient.)  With two potent stimulants in the ingredients,, coca-cola was marketed as an herbal remedy for improving energy levels and stamina and quickly took off as a product.

Because it contains both caffeine and theobromine, two noted stimulants, kola nut has the capacity to boost heart rate, blood pressure and metabolism.  Kola nut improves memory, cognition, alertness and blood flow circulation, leading to greater oxygenation of the viscera.  Kola nut leaves, root and stem appear to have other constituents that make it useful for bolstering the immune system.

Dosage:  1-3 grams

Contraindications:    Avoid in pregnancy, if there is hypertension, cardiac issues, potential for anxiety, panic attacks, mania.




Latin:  Mitragyna speciosa

Family:  Rubiaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, warming

Properties:  Analgesic, stimulant, sedative at higher doses, anxiolytic, euphoric

Actions:  The kratom tree is native to many parts of South-East Asia and the leaves have been traditionally consumed by indigenous peoples for its pain relieving, stimulating and pleasurable qualities.  Kratom has now become a very popular herb in the West and due to its potency as an analgesic, for recreational purposes and frequently to help addicts wean off opiates and replace it with a more benign plant.

Kratom has numerous constituents that give it its complex pharmacological effects.  Two of the main alkaloids (mytraginine and 7-hydroxy-mytraginine) are noted to be the primary alkaloids that target opiate receptors as well as sympathetic adrenergic receptor sites- giving the plant both stimulating and analgesic properties.

Because of the ability of some of its constituents to bind opiate receptors, its addictive potential is also apparent.  When people stop taking kratom after consuming it for a period of time, similar withdrawal problems akin to opiate withdrawal will happen, including increased anxiety, pain, insomnia, cravings and depression.  Similar to opiates, kratom also causes constipation and is a traditional medicine for those who have diarrhea.  The half life of these main constituents with opiate like affinity is about 3.5 hours.  That means the duration of the main effect is about 5-7 hours.

Kratom can generally be categorized into country of origin (Bali, Indonesia, Thailand) and three main groups-  red , green  and white leaf.  Green and white leafed kratom tend to be more energizing and stimulating and some say that green is especially useful for those with anxiety and depression.  Green strains tend to be powerful and long lasting.  White strains tend to be the most energizing and last the shortest time.  Red vein leaf varieties are more sedating and these varieties are more commonly used for detoxing off of opiates.

Dosage:   Dosages range from 2-15 grams per use.  1-3 grams is a small dose, and often causes more stimulating effects at that level.  4-6 grams is a moderate dose, 7-10 grams is a strong dose and anything after that is extremely strong (except in the case of habitual users) .  Strong doses not only tend to be sedating but can bring on heightened states of euphoria. There is also increasing potential for nausea and vomiting as the dosage increases.    Tolerance to the herb grows quickly and most people do not feel its euphoric effects if taken daily.

The internet is now rife with wholesale sellers of both the powder as well as extracts, usually in resin and tincture form.  Extracts  are high potency concentrates usually made by boiling down , purified and tinctured to make the kratom highly potent.  Usually, the leaf is boiled in water until it is evaporated off, leaving a paste that is highly concentrated with pharmacologically active alkaloids.  The extract then is made into a powder, a resin, a tincture or an oil.   Those who study the pharmacology of the plant promote extracts that carry a full spectrum of the active constituents in proper balance, or what is known as a Full Spectrum Balance extract.  The potencies are often designated by 1x, 5x, 10 x, 15 x and higher.   15 x would mean that the plant has been reduced from 15 grams of leaf to one gram of extract.  Extracts are notably potent, addictive and often carry a much higher risk of side effects and complications, especially if taken with other drugs or alcohol.

Contraindications:  Avoid if taking other pharmaceutical medications in general and especially  avoid when taking opioid drugs, benzodiazapenes, tranquilizing agents, alcohol, narcotics, z-drugs and other sleeping pills or when pregnant or breast feeding.  Long term and chronic use of this herb is associated with dependence and usual opiate like withdrawal effects.




Latin:  Lavendula angustifolia

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Primarily flowers

Taste/Energetics:   Cooling, drying, bitter

Properties:  Anxiolytic, anti-spasmodic, carminative, analgesic, anti-microbial, anti-depressant

Actions: Lavender’s scent is deliciously stimulating and relaxing at the same time.  It is one of the premier aromatherapy herbs for lifting mood and is a wonderful herb to have in the garden for its scent.   Lavender is noted for reducing anxiety and is helpful for those with insomnia and tension due to stress.  Lavender can also be helpful as a pain reliever for those with tension headaches and migraines.  The plant can be infused in oil or the essential oil can be added to the oil to make a wonderful topical massage oil for aches and pains.    For those who feel sad, frustrated and anxious, lavender is naturally anti-depressant.  Lavender helps relax spasms, tics and tension, improves digestion and is useful for those who are wound up, tight with poor digestion.

Dosage:  There are a variety of ways to get more lavender into your life.  Some of the best ways are to use lavender EO in massage oils to apply where there is tension or strain.  It also works wonderfully as an additive to epsom salts for bathing.  As an essential oil, add 10-15 drops to one ounce of carrier oil  Growing the plant in one’s backyard or in a pot on the porch adds her sweet smell and beautiful purple flowers to the home.   Lavender can be added to tea blends or taken alone 1-2 tsp infused in hot water for 10 minutes.

Contraindications:    Avoid internally during  pregnancy due to potential emmenagogue effects.




Latin:  Cymbopogon citratus

Family:  Poaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves

Taste/Energetics:  Sour,

Properties:  Analgesic, antidepressant. antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory. astringent, carminative, diuretic, diaphoretic, anxiolytic, diuretic, antifungal

Actions:  Traditionally lemongrass has long been used as a medicinal and culinary herb in SouthEast Asia and India. It is also used in teas in parts of Latin America.  Lemongrass has a heady citrusy aroma and the herb has numerous medicinal effects.  It is helpful for cooling fevers due to its diaphoretic action.  It relaxes the stomach, reduces cramping and improves digestion.  Its gentle anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties are helpful for reducing muscle spasms, restless legs and arthritis.

Its diuretic and dispersive quality make it useful for eliminating and excreting unnecessary waste particles and helping the body to function more smoothly and efficiently.  It can also be used externally to treat fungal infections such as ringworm.

In terms of mental health, lemongrass is often used in aromatherapy for its uplifting and anxiety reducing properties.    Lemongrass promotes feelings of hope, confidence, strength and is gently relaxing as well.

Dosage:  Often added to SouthEast Asian meals in whole form.  Can be taken as tea (standard infusion).  Added to epsom salt baths, massage oils, diffusers, and sprays (standard).

Contraindications:  This is a strong and potent smelling essential oil.  Avoid the oil with pregnant and nursing women, small children.



Lemon Balm

Latin:  Melissa officinalis

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves, flowers

Taste/Energetics:  Sour, slightly sweet, cooling

Properties:  Anxiolytic, anti-depressant, anti-spasmodic, carminative, anti-microbial, diaphoretic

Actions: This is one of the best gentle herbs for bringing calm and relaxation to someone who is overheated, irritable, hypertensive, anxious and stressed out.  Lemon balm is a great soothing herb without being too tranquilizing.  Lemon Balm has an affinity for the stomach and is helpful for those who have a nervous or cramping tummy.  This herb grows wild as a weed quite commonly and like many aromatic herbs, it is is best used fresh as it loses its medicinal volatile oils quite quickly with time after being dried.

Dosage:  As tea, 1-2 tsp to one cup of hot water infused for 10 minutes.    It also makes a great sun tea.  Just fill up a big quart jar with fresh lemon balm.  Fill with water and let it sit in the su for a few hours.  Add ice for a nice summer beverage.   This is one of my favorite herbal teas for kids and the elderly due to its pleasing taste and gentle effect.

As a tincture I often like to make double or triple tinctures.  That means one tinctures the plant repeatedly in the same alcohol to produce a more potent medicine.  1-2 ml as needed.

Contraindications:    None.



Lemon Verbena

Latin:   Aloysia citriodora

Family:  Verbenaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves, flowers

Taste/Energetics:  Sour, cooling, drying

Properties:  Anxiolytic, carminative, diaphoretic, anti-spasmodic, anti-depressant, antimicrobial

Actions:  This is another gentle relaxant herb that tastes great and is useful for all ages.  Lemon verbena also has a nice shelf life and retains its aromatic properties as a dried plant for a good 6-9 months.  This is an herb to offer to children and elderly for feverish colds.  Lemon verbena will help relax the stomach to improve digestion and is gently antispasmodic for cramps and muscle tension.  Lemon verbena has a nice uplifting quality that makes it helpful for mild depression as well.

Dosage:  Best taken in tea form- 1-2 tsp to cup of hot water infused for 10 mins.   Also can be added to meals as an herb ingredient.  Can be infused into oil and then used for massage.

Contraindications:  None




Latin:  Glycyrrhiza glabra

Family:  Fabaceae

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:  Moistening, sweet

Properties:  Nutritive, tonic, adrenal supportive, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, expectorant, immunomodulator, antimicrobial, demulcent, adaptogen

Actions:  Licorice is one of the most used herb in the Chinese medicine tradition and is often part of herbal formulas as a way to harmonize the other herbs and give greater effect to the medicine.  Licorice has multiple uses, is famous for its sweet taste and is often found in candies and beverages.

Licorice is useful as an anti-inflammatory pain reliever for arthritis and rheumatism.  It has nice gentle demulcent properties that make it useful for dry hacking coughs, ulcers and other inflamed conditions.  It has a gentle adaptogenic quality of building resilience to stress and reducing fatigue.

One of the main active sweet constituents, glychirrhizin, is chemically similar to aldosterone and other steroidal hormones.  For this reason there is some caution with its use as it can have similar effects to that chemical in raising high blood pressure, causing potassium excretion and cardiac issues in rare cases.

In term sof mental health, this is an herb that is very useful for those who have burned out their reserves, are feeling fried with heat signs.  They may  appear to be aging too quickly, feel dry and withered, pale, worn out.  Useful for those with fatigue, irritability, anger who feel highly stressed.  Licorice calms, moistens, smoothes and builds vitality.

Dosage:  This is a strongly sweet tasting herb that can “color” and overpower a lot of other herbs when taken in a formula.  Its best taken in small doses.  1-2 teaspoons to one pint of water decocted for 40 minutes.  As tincture 1-2 ml to 2 x/day.

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Lions Mane

Latin:  Hericium erinaceus

Family:  Hericaceae

Parts Used:  Fruiting body

Taste/Energetics:   Sweet, neutral

Properties:   Nootropic, antioxidant, antiinflammatory. tonic

Actions:  This is one of my favorite fungi.  I have a spot out in the Gorge where I have discovered a patch of Lion’s mane’s relative “Bear’s Head” (Hericium abietis).  It is an amazing fungus to find out in the wild.  With beautiful cascading drooping long fingers, it is a remarkable and beautiful creature to behold.  Research points to its amazing nootropic effects.  A nootropic substance is one that increases cognitive function, alertness and memory.  There is some evidence that lion’s mane regenerates nerve cells and could be a useful adjunctive therapy for dementia.  Lion’s Head contains certain compound (hericenones and erinacines) that appear to augment Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) which are associated with repair and growth of nerve cells in the brain.  Its anti-inflammatory properties also make it useful for gastric ulcers, Chron’s disease, and other stomach and respiratory inflammation.

Dosage:  2-4 tsp dried lions mane to one pint stare decocted for 40 mins.   Tincture 2-3 ML to 2x/day.    Lions mane is super tasty if you find it in the wild and it can easily be turned into yummy medicine by sautéing it in a pan.   I really don’t recommend taking Lion’s Mane as a powder unless one adds it to hot water because all of the constituents are not adequately extracted.

Contraindications:  Not to take during  pregnancy or nursing




Latin:  Tilia spp.

Family:  Tiliaceae

Parts Used: Leaves, flowers

Taste/Energetics:   Cooling, sweet, slightly bitter, astringent, aromatic

Properties:  Diaphoretic, nervine relaxant, carminative, expectorant, hypertensive, antispasmodic

Actions: This is one of my favorite go-to herbs for stress relief.  Linden helps to soothe and relax an overburdened nervous system.  Very helpful for those feeling grief, sadness, fear or shock from trauma.  This is a gentle herb that is good for kids, elderly and infirm alike, and generally can be taken by people who take medications.  Traditionally, this herb has also been used to cool a fever and to improve digestion.

Dosage:  Best as tea. 1-2 tsp to one cup of hot water infused for 10 mins.

Contraindications:    None




Latin:  Lobelia inflataFamily:  Lobeliaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves and seeds

Taste/Energetics: Pungent, sharp, cold

Properties:  Expectorant, stimulant/relaxant, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, anti-asthmatic, emetic in larger doses

Actions:  This is a strong and potent little beast.  Originally used extensively by native peoples of the Eastern U.S., Samuel Thomson and his students popularized lobelia in the early 1800’s and often used it in cases of spasm, convulsion and inflammation such as asthma, whooping cough and bronchitis.  It can both be highly stimulating and also deeply relaxing and is very potent to the point of emesis if taken in larger doses so many herbalists have stopped using it.  Thomson himself was accused of killing a patient with an overdose of this herb. Its contradictory and unpredictable nature make it a challenging herb to work with.

A number of modern herbalists such as Matthew Wood are helping to popularize this plant again through his writings and his entire description should be studied in his “The Book of Herbal Wisdom.”   His words:  Turning now to our own senses, we observe that Lobelia makes an impression on the tongue and nervous system which is sharp, shocking and highly diffusive.  Because it is both a stimulant and a relaxant, the therapeutic potential of the plant is extensive, but contradictory and complex.”

In terms of mental health, in small doses this herb can have a marked relaxing effect, calming and slowing the heart beat, loosening the muscles and relieving cramping.  One study with mice showed that lobelia caused the release of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain, possibly giving it a slight antidepressant effect.  It has also been used as an aid to quit smoking.  The theory is that one of the main alkaloid constituents lobeline mimicked nicotine and could replace the desire for smoking but that has never been proven.

Dosage:  This is an herb that should generally be taken in small and even minute doses (1-5 drops of a standard tincture) as large doses can cause emesis, confusion, dizziness, convulsions, weakness, respiratory depression and severe distress.  Essentially I would support using this as a homeopathic or via “drop dosing”- meaning the use of this herb in tincture form at a minuscule level.

Contraindications:  This is strong medicine, and I would avoid any use above the small dosage mentioned above.  I am not a fan of old school “puke therapy.” Further I would avoid in pregnancy, for folks with hypertension, those with cardiac issues, those taking other strong sedatives or stimulants.



Latin:  Lepidium meyenii

Family:  Brassicaceae

Parts Used: Tuber

Taste/Energetics:  Bland, sweet, neutral.

Properties:  Nutritive, no its not an aphrodisiac.

Actions:  Growing high in the Andes, maca has been cultivated by indigenous peoples for many hundreds of years as both food and for its medicinal effects.  It is one of the few crops that grow in extremely rugged high altitudes and these “highlanders” would often trade their maca crop with lower altitude people for corn, beans and potatoes.  This is an herb that has received excessive attention as an aphrodisiac and tonic capable of transforming people with its effects.  The reality is that the people of these high altitudes have been consuming pounds of this crop weekly without any noticeable massive transformation in ability or sexual prowess.

It has been the subject of massive “superfood” campaigns by unscrupulous people out to make a few bucks. Even more silly is that it is usually consumed in powdered capsule form at comparatively extremely low doses (a gram or two a day).  If one gram could be an aphrodisiac, imagine consuming a 300 gram tuber.  Thats common in the Andes where folks often eat on average 5 pounds of maca a week.   Is it a useful tuber?  Absolutely it makes for a great nutritious tuber if one eats them whole as part of a regular diet.  But please lets tone down the excessive claims.  When I lived in the Andes and the Amazon I also got to enjoy the fermented alcoholic drink made of maca known as chicha that is popular in some parts there.

Dosage:  Head to the Andes, eat a few tubers and get back to me about its effect. OK OK I know some people have undoubtedly felt an effect at low doses of 1-2 grams in powder form, often in capsules, or added to smoothies and “goo ball” preparations.

Contraindications:    None.




Latin:  Magnolia officinalis (many others)

Family:  Magnoliaceae

Parts Used:  Bark, root bark, fruit, flowers

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, warming, drying

Properties:   Anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, circulatory stimulant, analgesic, diaphoretic, nootropic

Actions: When we are talking about magnolia, we are really talking about over 200 species of flowering trees.  There are a number of them that have a long history of medicinal use in Chinese and Japanese medicine.  Magnolia is less known in the West but there is increasing attention paid to it due to its great medicinal effects.  Magnolia is an aromatic bitter herb that is anti-inflammatory and stimulates circulation and helps reduce “stuck” pain such as arthritis and menstrual cramps.

Magnolia has two main constituents known as honokiol and magnolol that researchers have found to be useful for cancer prevention, reducing tension and anxiety and improving our adaptation to stress via the endocrine system.    Honokiol has been compared to valium as an anxiolytic and appeared to be far stronger in effect.  There is some evidence that these constituents also help to prevent the progression of alzheimer’s disease by encouraging the production of neuroprotective agents.  Magnolia bark has also been traditionally used for conditions such as asthma that are due to stress and inflammation in the respiratory system.

Dosage:   Often taken as a powder 250 – 500 mg to 2 x/day.  Traditionally in Asia the 3-9 grams of the bark is decocted for one day dose.  This is definitely an herb that can be toxic in high doses so one must be careful.

Contraindications:  Avoid if pregnant, breast feeding, avoid for small children, elderly, those with respiratory conditions.  Avoid taking with painkillers, sedatives.  May cause vertigo in some.




Latin:  Origanum majorana

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, slightly bitter, aromatic, warm

Properties:  Carminative, antimicrobial, diaphoretic, uplifting, antiinflammatory, anxiolytic, antispasmodic

Actions:  As a close cousin to oregano, marjoram is another wonderful uplifting aromatic herb that comes to us from the Mediterranean and has a long history of use dating back to the ancient Greeks.  They associated marjoram with joy and happiness and it would often be left at funerals to promote happiness in the afterlife.  Generally used as a culinary herb, it is often added to numerous dishes for its aromatic flavor.

In terms of mental health, it is distilled into an essential oil that can be added to blends and is useful for calming the nervous system and associated anxiety, insomnia, shock and grief.

Marjoram works topically and as an analgesic antispasmodic aid in massage oils.  Useful for tension headaches, cramps, tics, muscle spasms, restless legs, etc.

Dosage:  Standard preparation as essential oil.  Liberally in culinary dishes and salad dressings.  Lovely in the garden for its scent, appearance and culinary usefulness.

Contraindications:   None as culinary ingredient.  Avoid as essential oil if pregnant.




Latin:  Ilex paraguariensis

Family:  Aquifoliaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves

Taste/Energetics:  Slightly bitter, warming, drying

Properties:  Stimulant, nootropic, nutritional tonic, digestive aid, antidepressant, immunostimulant, digestive aid, antiinflammatory, antioxidant

Actions:  I’ll admit I have a strong crush on this plant.  It is my favorite stimulant and I often drink it with a few other health giving herbs such as holy basil and bacopa that blend well with it.  Mate (pronounced Ma-tay) has long been used by various peoples of South America for its stimulant properties.  A cousin of the holly tree (Ilex aquifolium), mate has numerous benefits.  Besides its stimulant properties due to its caffeine and theobromine constituents, mate is also a powerhouse of easily absorbable nutrients and vitamins and high levels of antioxidants.  I also recommend getting our nutrients from food (as opposed to tablets and capsules) if possible and mate is one of the best ways to do this.

Like many caffeinated beverages, mate improves cognitive function such as memory, alertness and mood.  There are a number of different varietals and distributors of mate and each varietal carries different levels of caffeine but generally mate is considered to be more caffeine rich than a cup of green tea but not as much as a cup of coffee.  Of course this is dependent on the mate varietal and the level of dosage.  For many, the stimulant effect tends to feel smoother than coffee with less of a crash feeling.  However for some who are sensitive to caffeine,  mate can cause increased anxiety and palpitations.

Dosage:  Generally 1-2 tsp (1-4 grams) of herb per cup/pint of water.

Contraindications:   Avoid if prone to anxiety, panic, insomnia.  Avoid in pregnancy.




Latin:  Grifola frondosa

Family:  Meripilaceae

Parts Used:   Fruiting body



Actions:  This fungi is known as one of the most nutritious mushrooms one can take and has numerous medicinal properties.  Like other medicinal mushrooms it contains numerous beta gluten polysaccharides, key complex carbohydrate chains that are effective immune system stimulants.  Maitake also helps to lower and regulate blood pressure, blood sugar and has cancer fighting properties as well.   For mental health, this is another strongly nutritious mushroom that can help strengthen and nourish those who feel weak, listless, malnourished and depressed.

Dosage:   Add liberally to meals.  In powder 1-3 grams to 3 x/day  In this manner it goes well in a formula of numerous medicinal mushrooms.  Tincture 1-2 ml to 3 x/day.

Contraindications:    None.



Manjistha  (Indian Madder)

Latin:  Rubia cordifolia

Family:  Rubiaceae

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, sweet, cooling

Properties:  Astringent, lymph tonic, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, circulatory stimulant, antiinflammatory, antimicrobial, vulnerary

Actions:  Manjistha has been used as a tonic herb in Ayurveda for centuries and is notable for its bright red roots.  This is a blood and lymph tonic par excellence able that can help with the metabolism and excretion of waste material in that system.  Backup of lymph can lead to sluggishness, fatigue, depression and immune system problems.   It is considered a “rasayana”, a supreme tonic capable of rejuvenating and improving energy levels, immune system function, calming and mood stabilizing.  There is similarity between it and “Red Root” (Ceanothus americanus) in its lymph and blood tonic properties though Red Root is more warming tan Manjistha.

As a cooling herb it is useful for people who feel hot, aggravated, “toxic”, at times angry and labile in mood.  Other symptoms that can arise that Manjistha can be helpful for:   when it is more challenging to fight off colds, swollen glands, chronic infections, urinary tract inflammation and when the skin becomes hot and inflamed with eczema and psoriasis.  For women this herb can alleviate painful uterine cramping and poor choppy blood flow as well as calm anxiety and frustration during menstruation.

Dosage:  1/2- 1 teaspoon to 2x/day- for several weeks to take good effect   It is also used externally

Contraindications:  Not to use with blood thinners, pregnancy.




Latin:  Filependula ulmaria

Family:   Rosaceae

Parts Used: Aerial parts

Taste/Energetics:   Bitter, cooling, drying

Properties:   Analgesic, anti-inflammatory, astringent. diaphoretic, carminative, diuretic, circulatory stimulant

Actions:  This is a beautiful fragrant plant with a spray of white flowers that has long been employed medicinally.  Meadowsweet contains the key pain relieving constituent salicin found in aspirin.  Felix Hoffman first synthesized aspirin in 1897 and derived it from meadowsweet.  The “Spir” in aspirin is derived from the older botanical name for this plant Spiraea ulmaria.  Bayer manufactured aspirin starting in 1899 and it became the most common pain relieving agent through much of the 1900’s.

Up until recently doctors suggested taking aspirin daily as a preventative for stroke but guidelines have changes and it is now recognized that daily aspirin could actually increase the risk of hemmorhagic strokes.

Meadowsweet is a lovely pain relieving and anti-inflammatory herb that is especially useful for the type of pain that is hot, stagnant and throbbing such as a nasty headache.  It helps move the blood, lowers inflammation and has a direct analgesic effect via the salicin.  It is also useful for folks with ulcers as well as tight burning sensations in the stomach, acid reflux, and improves digestion in general.

Dosage:  This is an herb that is quite challenging to take as a tea as it is so bitter.  It can be offered in formulas if it is “covered up” a bit by more tasty fragrant herbs such as rose or licorice.  1-2 tsp to cup of hot water infused.  It makes for a good tincture 1-2ML as needed to 3x/day.

Contraindications:  Avoid if allergic to aspirin/salicylates.  Avoid  with children under 16 who have flu/chickenpox due to rare possibility of Reye’s syndrome.



Latin:  Mentha spp.

Family:   Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Aerial portion

Taste/Energetics:  Cooling, drying, aromatic

Properties:  Diaphoretic, carminative, nervine mild stimulant, antispasmodic, antimicrobial

Actions: This is a sweet gentle set of herbs that have multiple properties.  Spearmint, peppermint and other Menthe species all share the ability to help bring on a sweat which can be helpful at the onset of a cold.  Mint in some form is one of the main herbs that I will offer along with elder and yarrow for those just getting a cold.  The mints all improve digestion and have a relaxing effect on the tummy if there is cramping and tightness there.

For the mood the mints are lovely mood elevators, gently stimulating while aslo relaxing at the same time. Mints are cooling and are useful for folks who appear hot, restless, charged up, a little frustrated and angry.  Mint will soothe and relax while acting as a gentle antidepressant.  The various mints are used extensively as essential oils in aromatherapy as well.

Dosage:  Standard infusion 1-2 tsp to a cup.  Not as common in tincture.  Common as essential oil with standard dosaging/precautions

Contraindications:  Avoid during pregnancy due to potential emmenagogue effect.




Latin:  Albizia julibrissin

Family:  Fabaceae

Parts Used:  Flowers, bark

Taste/Energetics:  Cooling, sweet (flowers), bitter (bark)

Properties: hypotensive, calming anxiolytic, antidepressant

Actions:  Mimisa is one of my favorite mental health herbs.  Just sit underneath one of these common ornamental trees when it is blooming and take in its absolutely beautiful inforencese.  That is uplifting and antidepressant by itself.  Mimosa has long been used in Chinese medicine for its dispersive/antidepressant (flowers) and mood stabilizing (bark) qualities.  This is a common tree that grows quickly often grows as a weed in certain parts of the country.  It produces an enormous amount of flowers when in bloom.  Because of this we should really take more advantage of this tree as an herb because it is not in danger of over harvest.

The flower has gentle anxiolytic properties, helping to calm a troubled heart, lightening the spirit and helpful for those with insomnia, grief, sorrow, irritability and anger.  The bark is more commonly used for those who are labile in mood, with big up and down swings in mood.  Mimosa bark helps stabilize, calm and center people.

Dosage: As tea- 1-2 grams as infusion. As tincture 1-2 ML to 3 x/day.  This can be taken for long periods.

Contraindications:    Avoid during pregnancy and use cautiously if taking antidepressants.




Latin:  Mimulus species

Family:  Phrymaceae (previously Schrophulariaceae)

Parts Used:  Flower

Taste/Energetics:  Cooling, moistening

Properties:  Anxiolytic,  analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, vulnerary

Actions:  This is not an herb that I have used extensively and because of that I hesitated to include it in this book.  I also get concerned about the over harvest of plants that could potentially be in danger.  That being said mokeyflower deserves mention because not is such a useful plant for mental health concerns.

First off, the genus of monkey flowers include numerous sp[ecies that seem to be able to work mostly interchangeably.  They are all delightful to see in the field and that beauty and playfulness follow through with their medicinal effect.  They help lift the mood, relax the spirit and improve feelings of connectedness and openness to others.  This is a good plant for folks who feel shut down, tight and guarded around others.  This sensation is common to  trauma survivors and it can be a useful addition to formulas for PTSD.

This is also a lovely analgesic, especially in cases of pain that are leading to frustration, anger and brooding depression.

Dosage:  Generally as tincture .5-1 ML to start to 2 x day.

Contraindications:  This is not a common herb and no contraindications are noted.




Latin:  Leonorus cardiaca

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Aerial

Taste/Energetics:    Bitter, cooling, drying

Properties:   Anxiolytic, antispasmodic, cardio tonic, carminative, astringent, emmenagogue

Actions:   Motherwort has a number of uses that makes this one of the most beloved herbs by herbalists.  Motherwort is an esteemed member of the Mint family and originally comes from Europe and Asia.  It was cultivated by Colonists in North America and grows easily here.   Motherwort is one of the best herbs for both relaxing the nervous system as well as strengthening the heart.  In small doses, motherwort helps bring greater calm and in larger doses it can help improve sleep.  In terms of the heart, it can regulate the heartbeat, calm palpitations and lower blood pressure.

The name motherwort comes from its traditional use as an emmenagogue.  An emmenagogue is an herb that helps promotes menstrual flow and in turn helps promote birth.   Its antispasmodic qualities make it helpful for pre-menstrual tension and cramping.   Its bitter and relaxing qualities make it very useful for sluggish digestion with tension and tightness in the belly.

It is also a women’s tonic during menopause.  Motherwort helps cool hot flashes, relax tension, stress and cramping.

Motherwort has the name Leonorus- which means lion’s tail, and cardiaca- which refers to its good effect on the heart.  In terms of mental health, I often think of this herb for those who have experienced trauma and have symptoms of anxiety, insomnia, confusion, frustration, anger and sadness.   Motherwort brings a mother’s touch, regulating and calming our heart, soothing our distress and fear.

Dosage:  In tea as infusion 2-4 grams per cup, in tincture 2-4 ml to 3 x/day.

Contraindications:   Motherwort contains the alkaloid leonine which acts as a uterine contractor and for that reason should be avoided during pregnancy (unless at end stage with the advice of a competent herbalist.) Avoid with blood thinners.




Latin:  Moringa oleifera

Family:  Moringaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves, fruit


Properties:  Anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, nourishing tonic, antispasmodic, hypotensive, analgesic, antimicrobial, galactagogue

Actions:  Known as a “miracle plant”, Moringa comes to us via South Asia where it has long been consumed as a medicinal herb.  Moringa is now grown in tropical areas throughout the world for its amazing properties.  Moringa is foremost a nourishing tonic herb with high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, large amounts of calcium, protein and iron.  Moringa contains 9 times the vitamin A of carrots, 16 times the calcium of milk and 24 times the iron of spinach.

Moringa relaxes the artery walls and reduces high blood pressure.  With huge amounts of antioxidants, it helps protect the body from free radicals and oxidative stress.  Studies point to Moringa being useful for preventing atherosclerotic plaque formation, protecting and strengthening cardiac function.

Moringa is used in Ayurvedic medicine to heal stomach ulcers, urinary infections, help with arthritis, joint pain and other inflammatory conditions.  It has also been used  to improve libido, likely due to its highly nutritional features.  In India it its also commonly added to external oils and liniments as an analgesic and wound healing aid.

In terms of mental health, this is an immensely nutritious herb that can help with those who appear tired, depleted, exhausted and malnourished.

Dosage:  1-3 tsp of powder to 3 x/day.

Contraindications:    In large amounts, may cause upset stomach.  Avoid in pregnancy.



Mucuna (Kappikachu)

Latin:  Mucuna pruriens

Family:  Fabaceae

Parts Used:  Seeds

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, bitter, heating

Properties:  Adaptogen, anxiolytic, Nervous system tonic, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac

Actions:  Mucuna has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine as an herb to help calm nervousness and manic anxiety as well as improve libido in both men and women and decrease erectile dysfunction in men.  Mucuna is thought of as a rasayana, a supreme tonic in Ayurvedic medicine with a specific tonic effect on the nervous and reproductive systems.

In terms of mental health, this is a lovely and underused herb that can be of significant effect for those who are looking for something to strengthen their nervous system and bring a sense of steady calm.  In Ayurveda, this herb would be said to “pacify vata”.  Vata is a term for the constitution of someone who tends to be wired, excitable, talkative, interactive, light and airy.  While calming it also tends to have an antidepressant mood boosting effect as well.

Dosage:  1-2 tsp in powder, capsule or tea form to 2x/day.

Contraindications:  Avoid in pregnancy




Latin:  Artemisia vulgaris

Family:  Asteraceae

Parts Used:  Leaf

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, aromatic, warming, drying

Properties:    Anxiolytic, carminative, digestive stiulant, circulatory stimulant, emmenagogue,  diuretic, diaphoretic

Actions:  Mugwort has a long history of use in many cultures.  It has a strong bitter flavor that helps strengthen digestion and improve absorption and assimilation of nutrients.  Mugwort relaxes and calms cramping muscles and has a relaxing effect on the nervous system.   This is a plant that stimulates movement and helps bile and blood to flow and is helpful for those with delayed menstruation.   Mugwort has a long history of use for dream and prophetic work.  Taken at night it can bring lucid dreams and for some is too stimulating because of that.

Dosage:  1-2 ml to 2 x/day.  1-2 tsp. infused to 2 x/day.  In smoking bends.   Excellent as a smudge and used as incense for acupuncture treatment to “warm and move qi”, especially where there is pain and obstruction of the channels.

Contraindications:   Avoid in pregnancy.



Mulungu Bark

Latin:  Erythrina mulungu

Family:  Fabaceae

Parts Used:  Bark, root


Properties:  Analgesic, anxiolytic, sedative, hypotensive, antispasmodic, antimicrobial

Actions: Mulungu bark is from a tree found native to central, South America and parts of South Africa.  It has long been used for its tranquilizing and sedative effects and is useful for anxiety and insomnia.  It is also used to quell an asthma attack, for persistent spasmodic coughs and for hepatic inflammation.  It is perhaps best for shock and trauma leading to heightened persistent anxiety that would do well with a strong anxiolytic herb.   Mulungu can also help regulate heartbeat, reduce palpitations and decrease blood pressure.

Mulungu is in my category of “stronger herbs” to be used with caution and infrequently.  This is a potent anxiolytic and sedative that some say work as well as valium.  I find it to be on a similar level to kava in terms of potency.

Dosage: 2-4 tsp in pint of hot water decocted for 40 minutes, 1-2 ML tincture 2x day

Contraindications:  Sedatives, tranquilizers, hypertension meds



Muira puama

Latin:   Ptychopetalum olacoides

Family:  Olacaceae

Parts Used:  Roots


Properties:  Circulatory stimulant, aphrodisiac, stimulant, antispasmodic, analgesic, adaptogenic, tonic

Actions:  This herb comes to us from South America where it has long been used as a tonic and to enhance the libido.  It appears to enhance sensual and sexual receptivity in both men and women and improve length of arousal and greater sexual satisfaction.  This is an herb that is slightly stimulating and like all stimulants is good for bringing greater alertness, cognitive acuity, and for fighting fatigue.  Its tonic effects help improve adaptability to stress while reducing anxiety.   Muira Puama also has an antispasmodic and analgesic effect that is useful for cramps, rheumatism and neuralgia.

Dosage:  It appears to work best in tincture form as some of its key constituents are not water soluble.  1-2 ml to 3x/day.

Contraindications:   Avoid for those with hypertension, in pregnancy.




Latin:  Commiphora myrrha

Family:  Burseraceae

Parts Used:   The resinous gum of the tree

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, cooling

Properties: Antioxidant. anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, analgesic, circulatory stimulant, vulnerary, astringent, antimicrobial, astringent, expectorant, diaphoretic

Actions:   Myrrh has been used medicinally and ritually since antiquity.  It is useful for healing symptoms of bronchitis, colds and hacking coughs.  Myrrh is a cousin to frankincense and is often paired with that herb.  Frankincense and myrrh were two of the gifts (along with gold) said to have been given to Jesus when he was born.  Myrrh is stimulating to the nervous and digestive system and improves circulation.  It is helpful for clearing and dispersing congestion, mucus and general dampness and edema in the system.  It It has antimicrobial properties which make it useful for treating infection and has wound healing properties which make it helpful for healing cuts, bruises and abrasions externally.

In terms of mental health, myrrh is a common essential oil that is often paired with other oils such as frankincnse, lavender, thyme and patchouli for stress relief and to lift the mood.

Dosage:  For mental health generally used as an essential oil, standard dosage.

Contraindications:   Avoid in pregnancy.




Latin:  Citrus uranium

Family:  Rutaceae

Parts Used:

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, slightly warming

Properties:  Antimicrobial. antidepressant. aphrodisiac, carminative. antispasmodic, anxiolytic

Actions:  Like many of the Citrus plants, neroli is another very uplifting and somewhat intoxicating scent.  That scent makes it often used as an essential oil in blends that promote increased energy and improved mood.  Neroli is also used in blends as an aphrodisiac to promote arousal and increase libido.  Neroli is also gently relaxant as well, helping to reduce anxiety and  improve digestion.  Its antispasmodic effect is helpful when there is cramping, restlessness and spasming coughs and aches.  Like many essential oil rich plants, it is also useful as antimicrobial for infections, colds and bronchitis.

I think of neroli in blends for people who feel tight, tense, sad and perhaps a little frustrated and angry.  They can’t relax easily and this affects their relationships, intimacy and sex life.  Neroli relaxes, eases and promotes pleasurable feelings.  A heady and lovely antidepressant that goes well with other gentle lifting oils such as ylang ylang, jasmine, lavender and geranium.

Dosage:  As essential oil, standard dosage.

Contraindications:  Standard essential oil precautions.



Latin:  Urtica dioica

Family:  Urticaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves

Taste/Energetics:  Bland, milky, slightly warming, drying

Properties:  Nutritive, tonic, astringent, diuretic, antiinflammatory, prostate support (root)

Actions:  Nettles is beloved by the herbal community for many reasons.  It is one of the most supremely nutritious herbs available to us.  Because of its high levels of chlorophyl, protein, vitamins and minerals such as calcium and iron it is useful for those who appear worn out, depressed, malnourished, pale, anemic and sad.  Nettles nourish and strengthen and build healthy tissues, bones, skin and nerves.  Nettles has a clearing and cleansing quality via diuresis that makes it helpful for metabolizing waste products and thereby improving skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.  Nettles have anti-inflammatory qualities that helps quiet asthma and allergy attacks.

Nettle seeds are especially densely nutritious and stimulating.  They have been given to horses to give them more energy and vibrancy.  They are especially helpful for those who appear tired, weak and listless.  Thomas Easley writes that “nettle seeds can slow, halt or even partially reverse progressive renal failure” and “improve benign prostatic hypertrophy.”

Dosage:  I generally encourage folks to take large doses of this plant in the form of one large cup of nettle to a quart of hot water steeped overnight, then strained and drunk throughout the day (Thanks Susun Weed.)  Nettle seeds can be sprinkled liberally in meals and smoothies.  Nettle tincture has a more stimulating lifting quality without containing the dense nutritional value.

Contraindications: Generally very safe.  Sometimes people feel overstimulated by this herb.




Latin:  Myristica fragrans

Family:  Myristicaceae

Parts Used:  Seed

Taste/Energetics:  Spicy, warming, drying

Properties:  Analgesic, nootropic, aphrodisiac,  anxiolytic, sedative, narcotic in excessive doses, hypotensive, circulatory stimulant

Actions:  Nutmeg is a spice that has been used since ancient times for augmenting the flavor of culinary dishes and beverages. Nutmeg has numerous compounds such as myristicin and sabinene that give it its complex aroma and medicinal effects.  As a medicine it is a circulatory stimulant and is pain relieving for conditions such as arthritis, neuralgia, etc.  As a vasodilator it is useful for lowering blood pressure and improving cardiac health.   Nutmeg is gently warming and relaxing to the stomach, making it easier to digest food.  In small doses, nutmeg is an anxiolytic, gently relaxing the body and is a traditional remedy to take in the evening in warmed milk if one has insomnia.

Dosage:   This is an herb that is traditionally offered in meals and beverages at very small doses-  a fraction of a teaspoon per serving.  In larger doses its tranquilizing effect becomes apparent.  A 1/4 of a teaspoon taken in warm milk is enough to be sedative without likely side effects.  The effects take a while to come, as much as 4-6 hours after the dose.  With increasingly larger doses (especially at a tablespoon or more) paradoxical effects can occur of both sedation but increased heart rate, restlessness and nausea.   Nutmeg is also used as an essential oil at standard dosages with usual precautions.

Contraindications:   Avoid during pregnancy and for those with low blood pressure, or heart issues in general.    Its become popular in some quarters with recreational users to consume excessive quantities (over an ounce or more) of nutmeg to induce narcotic and psychedelic effects.  Unfortunately doses of just a tablespoon can also induce irregular heartbeat, palpitations and seizures.  There are far more easier and less risky ways to get your high so please look elsewhere for that.


Oat straw 

Latin:  Avena sativa

Family:  Poaceae

Parts Used:  Seeds and grass

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, neutral, slightly warming.

Properties:  Anxiolytic, nutritive tonic (straw),  nervous system tonic (mily oats), antispasmodic

Actions:  There are two main ways to work with this plant.  The first is to work with the Oat tops when they are harvested with an unripe seed at their “milky” stage- thus the term Milky Oats.  The second is to work with the plant in whole form, cut up as “straw”.  In the first case, milky oats is one of the best nervous system restoratives out there and is one of my main go-tos in case of exhaustion, weaknesss, severe shock and trauma with associated depression, listlessness and dissociation.   The exhaustion might also show up also as frequent colds, poor sex drive, digestion and elimination.  Milky oats brings you back slowly and gently.  Yes it is anxiolytic but also invigorating and strengthening.   Taken regularly it steadily rebuilds the vital force.    Herbalist Kiva Rose writes “It is a profound restorative for the nervous and endocrine systems which are so easily depleted by a stressful lifestyle and bad diet. It’s no replacement for proper nutritional therapy but an excellent therapeutic agent for the process of healing. It seems to directly provide a special sort of “nerve food” for the body, to rebuild the nervous apparatus in a way that is both nutritional and yet more.”

Oat straw is the whole form of the grass and is somewhat different in effect.   While milky oats seems to have a direct relaxant quality on the nerves, oat straw is more nutritional and indeed is used as  a food for both humans and animals.  It is a deeply nourishing herb filled with vitamins and minerals.  This is an herb that works over time to strengthen those who are exhausted, malnourished, weak, feeble with anxious depression.  There may be a feeling of fear, of things being too much.  Oat straw is calming, strengthening and vitalizing.

Dosage:  Commonly milky oats is taken in a tincture 1-2 ML as needed or added to tea formulas of 1-3 tsp.  Oat straw is best taken in large amounts in tea form.  This is one of Susun Weed’s standard rotated large batch infusions.  She suggests taking an ounce of oat straw infused in a quart of hot water for at least 4 hours.

Contraindications:    None


Latin:  Origanum vulgare

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Aerial

Pungent, aromatic, cooling

Properties:  Antimicrobial, antispasmodic, expectorant, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory

Actions:  This is another lovely aromatic Mediterranean herb commonly used in cuisine and easily grown in the garden and in pots.  Oregano is commonly useful for calming and strengthening digestion, as an expectorant and antimicrobial for bronchial infections and to reduce menstrual cramping.  Externally it is used for fungal infections.   It is commonly used as an essential oil in aromatherapy as well for its upliftimng, stimulating qualities.

Dosage:  Common culinary herb.  Standard dosage as essential oil.

Contraindications:    Standard contraindications as essential oil.



Palo Santo

Latin:  Bursar graveolens

Family:  Burseraceae

Parts Used:  Parts of fallen twigs and branches

Taste/Energetics:  Warming

Properties:  Aromatic, antimicrobial, stimulating

Actions:  Known as “holy wood”,  palo santo is a tree that grows wild from Mexico to South America.  Palo Santo is commonly used as incense by locals for its intoxicating scent, to purify and cleanse space for doing healing and ceremonial work and to fight off negative spirits and energies.  Traditionally one would just use the fallen branches and twigs of this tree so as to not over harvest this precious tree.  This has changed as Palo Santo has become more popular and it is now in danger of being dangerously overused.  It is key to purchase this from ethical wildcrafters who are treating this tree sustainably and replanting it.      

Dosage:  As incense.

Contraindications:    None




Latin:  Pogostemon cablin

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves

Taste/Energetics:  Warming, drying, aromatic

Properties:  Astringent, antifungal, antimicrobial, stimulant, diuretic, analgesic, anxiolytic, antidepressant, aphrodisiac

Actions:  With its potent intoxicating scent, patchouli is generally used as an essential oil in perfume and for its effect on mood.  It has a rich, earthy smell that helps to calm and relax while being uplifting and antidepressive.  Patchouli is often associated with the 60’s and hippie culture but has long been an ancient remedy in India, China and Japan.   Traditionally it has been used to soothe inflammation such as arthritis and neuralgia, improve immune system response, to treat skin and hair problems such as eczema, acne and dandruff and for its aphrodisiac qualities.  Its overpowering scent is not for everyone and often it is best to blend this oil with others to soften its odor.

Dosage:  Standard essential oil use.

Contraindications:  Standard essential oil contraindications.




Latin:  Passiflora incarnata

Family:  Passifloraceae

Parts Used:  Leaves and flowers

Taste/Energetics:  Slightly cooling, drying

Properties:  Anxiolytic, hypotensive, antispasmodic, analgesic

Actions:   Just take a look at this gorgeous flower and you will already feel relaxed and calmer.  The Spanish missionaries in the New World thought that the flower looked like Jesus’ crown of thorns and named the plant after the Passion.  This is one of the best gentle relaxant herbs available to us.  It is calming and at larger doses can bring sedation for those with insomnia.  It helps reduce tension, nervous tics and restlessness and is useful for neuralgic pain such as found in Parkinson’s disease, shingles and sciatica.   Its pain relieving and antispasmodic properties also make it useful for those with menstrual cramping, headaches and muscle strain.  IN general I tend to think of someone who is overly hot and keyed up, tense and twitchy, can’t sleep, stressed out and exhausted.  They may chew on things in their mind excessively and not be able to let things go.

Dosage:  Best taken in tea or tincture form. 1-3 tsp dried herb infused in hot water for 15 minutes,  1-3 ml tincture- to 3x/day.  .5 to 3 grams a day in capsule if one must.       This is one that can be offered to both children and elderly.

To determine the child’s dosage by weight, you can assume that the adult dosage is for a 150-pound adult. Divide the child’s weight by 150. Take that number and multiply it by the recommended adult dosage. For example, if your child weighs 50 pounds, she will need one-third the recommended dose for a 150-pound adult. If the adult dosage is three droppers full of a tincture, she will need one third of that dose, which is one dropper full (1/3 of 3 droppers full). A 25-pound child would need one-sixth the adult dose, so he would receive one half of a dropper full (1/6 of 3 droppers full).

Contraindications:   Avoid with other heavy sedatives and hypotensive drugs. Avoid if pregnant.




Latin:  Prunus persica

Family:   Rosaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves, bark, flower.

Taste/Energetics:  Cool, moist, sweet, slightly bitter, sour

Properties:  Anxiolytic, digestive aid, alterative, diuretic, expectorant

Actions:  Peach is not a commonly used plant these days and thats a shame.  It is easily gathered in the field (organically grown please) and has numerous wonderful qualities, especially for mental health.  This is an herb that is designed for the hot and dry type with its cooling, moistening properties.   Peach improves digestion for folks with an inflamed nervous stomach, ulcers, some nausea and those with diarrhea.   Peach gently relaxes and calms the nervous system, especially for the overly stressed, excitable type who can’t sleep.  The person may feel their reserves have been fried and they feel frustrated, restless with bursts of anger.  Peach gently restores and is one of my favorites for those with PTSD who feel that memories and imprints of their trauma are wearing them out.

Dosage:   1-3 tsp leaf infused in water for 15 mins.  Tincture of leaf, bark, flower and pits often best in brandy to accentuate the taste, 1-2 ml, to 3 x/day.

Contraindications:  Some consideration about it containing hydrocyanic acid aka prussic acid, especially in the pits.  In general there should be some caution in using excessive doses but many herbalists have used this widely with no complication.  Avoid in pregnancy, when nursing.




Latin:  Pedicularis (various species)

Family:  Orobanchaceae

Parts Used:  Aerial parts

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, bitter, cooling

Properties:  Antispasmodic, analgesic, anxiolytic, occ. eupohric

Actions:  Pedicularis is an herb that is not well known outside of herbalist circles and the underground/head shop world.  It is one of the most delightful and beautiful plants one can find in the wild and there are 23 species that grow here in the NorthWest alone and upwards of 500 worldwide.  Many of the species have a very nice antispasmodic and analgesic effect that is especially useful for skeletal muscle tension and pain.  This is for the person who has overworked or tweaked themselves working too hard in the field or lifting kettle bells.  At low doses it has a nice pain relieving quality but at higher doses it can induce greater relaxation, sedation and for a few some disorientation and spaciness.

I hesitate to talk about this plant too much because it is not excessively common, sometimes threatened,   and I would never want it over harvested.  There are a number of other options for skeletal muscle pain relievers (Jamaican Dogwood, black cohosh, kava, vervain) that are more easy to procure ethically.  If you go to a headshop you will find a number of different Pediuclaris species for sale such as Elephant’s Head (P. greonlandica) and the potent Indian Warrior (P. densiflora) and like many offerings here, it is often uncertain how these herbs were procured and there are often issues of ethical harvesting.

Dosage:  Ethically harvested tincture is your best bet- a dose as low as 10 drops can be effective to 2 ml, to 3 x/day.  Pedicularis can be smoked as well- just a pinch of the dried flowers for good effect.    Too scarce to make tea of this precious herb.

Contraindications:   Pedicularis has the potential to pick up toxic compounds from other plants via the root system so its key to be careful harvesting this plant.   Otherwise, avoid in large doses with sedative drugs, hypotensives, in pregnancy.



Peony  (Bai Shao)

Latin:  Paeonia species

Family:  Paeoniaceae

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, sour, cooling

Properties:  Antispasmodic, analgesic, hypotensive,  circulatory stimulant, anti-inflammatory

Actions:  There are a number of different species of Peony and two of the most common in Chinese medicine are the tree peony (Mu Dan Pi), Paeonia suffructicosa, and white Peony, Bai Shao Yao- which is what I will write about here.  One of its cousins grows here in the NorthWest (Peonia brownii) and has similar properties to Bai Shao Yao.

In Chinese medicine, peony is for “moving blood” with associated stagnancy and pain.  It is useful for menstrual cramps with scanty flow, for removing cysts and as an antispasmodic and analgesic for painful tight muscles, cramping and tension.  Peony relaxes and calms and I have seen it work powerfully for folks who feel like there is a block of emotional energy that is dammed up.  I have seen people cry from taking just a few drops and have noted that ability to release emotions such as grief and sorrow in myself as well via work with herbalist Scott Kloos.

Traditionally (white) peony is used in formulas with 5-10 grams of the plant.  When decocted like that it acts to nourish the whole system and is useful for that hot frazzled type that has used up much of their “juice” in life die to stress, partying, etc.  They may show signs of irritability, anger, general debility, dizziness, vertigo and blood shot eyes or what the Chinese would call “Liver yin deficient.”

Dosage:  Generally as tincture 10 drops to 2 ml to 3 x/day.  As a root in a decoction, upwards of 5-10 grams of the root decocted for 40 minutes, generally in formulas.

Contraindications:   Avoid with sedatives.






Latin:  Lophophore williamsii

Family:  Cataceae

Parts Used:  Buttons

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, cold

Properties:  Entheogenic, emetic, stimulant

Actions:  Peyote is native to northern Mexico and into southern Texas and has been used as an entheogen by indigenous peoples for over 5,500 years.  Growing on a succulent, spineless cactus, peyote induces auditory and visual hallucinations and can cause profound insights and spiritual understanding.  Peyote contains the key alkaloid mescaline that is found in other hallucinogens such as San Pedro.  Peyote induces a wild kaleidoscope of visions, colors, and extraordinary perceptions.

Traditionally used in ceremony and ritual by Aztec and numerous indigenous groups, peyote is commonly used by the modern Native American Church who consider peyote to be a sacrament where worshippers are “able to absorb God’s Spirit in the same way as the white Christian absorbs the Spirit by means of the sacramental bread and wine.”   Peyote has also been used for healing work, divination and prophesy.

There are deep problems with the over harvesting of this increasingly rare cactus. It is key to protect wild peyote cactus and either cultivate one’s own or work with other mescaline containing cacti such as San Pedro that are far more easy to grow.

Dosage:  3-6 buttons (50-100 fresh grams) is a light dose.  6-10 buttons (100-150 fresh grams) is common.  10-15 buttons (150-200 fresh grams) is a strong dose.

Contraindications:  Please follow the general edict to avoid consuming wild peyote unless you are a member of an indigenous or religious organization legally entitled to work with this medicine.  This cactus is precious.  As a potent entheogen, general contraindications are to avoid if one is pregnant, nursing, weak, confused, are prone to panic, mania and psychosis.  Do a hell of a lot of research and consider that this is a truly special plant that should be deeply respected.




Latin:  Pinus (various species)

Family:  Pinaceae

Parts Used:  Needles

Taste/Energetics:  Aromatic, warming, drying

Properties:  Circulatory stimulant, expectorant, antimicrobial

Actions:  There are a variety of pines and they generally have similar properties of stimulating circulation and helping to move stagnant fluids and phlegm that is stuck.  Along with its antimicrobial properties, that makes pine useful for longstanding chronic pulmonary infections where it feels hard to cough up that last gunk.  Pine essential oil is used in a number of formulas for its stimulating uplifting quality that makes it helpful for stuck, morose melancholy.

Dosage:  Dried needles 2-4 grams standard infusion.  Standard dosage as essential oil.  

Contraindications:   Standard essential oil warnings.



Polygala  (Yuan zhi)

Latin: Polygala tenuifolia (sibirica)

Family:  Polygalaceae

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, spicy, slightly warming, drying

Properties:   Anxiolytic, sedative, antispasmodic, nootropic, expectorant, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, enhances libido

Actions:  Polygala is an herb with an ancient history of use in Chinese medicine.   It has long been used to help calm the spirit and reduce anxiety, restlessness and insomnia.  This herb is commonly used with other herbs for those who have experienced trauma, shock and fright with associated palpitations, confusion and panic.  It has been used for the treatment of mania (phlegm misting the mind) along with other herbs such as Acorus calamus.

Polygala also has an expectorant property which makes it useful for treating bronchial infections with thick stuck phlegm.

The word zhi means will and this herb has long been revered by taoist sages as having the ability to strengthen willpower.  Willpower (zhi), memory and sexual potency are all associated with the kidneys and polygala helps strengthen these functions while calming the heart.

This is a key herb for those who have experienced trauma

Dosage:  1 teaspoon herb decocted for 30 mins.  1-2 ml of tincture to 2x/day.

Contraindications:  Avoid in pregnancy.  Avoid with other sedatives, anticonvulsants.



Poppy  (Opium)

Latin:  Papaver somniferum

Family:  Papaveraceae

Parts Used:  Poppy heads.  The latex of the capsules for the opium.

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, cold

Properties:  Analgesic, anxiolytic, sedative, euphoric, narcotic

Actions:  Its amazing what a beautiful little flower can do.  For thousands of years, cultivators of this flower have cut into the ripe capsules to remove the latex to dry and make into the potent pain relieving and narcotic opium.  Sadly this lovely flower is now cultivated primarily for a worldwide multi-billion dollar heroin industry leading to untold suffering, addiction, strife and wars.  Sad because the plant could be a very useful plant if used responsibly.  Needless to say it is quite illegal to make “medicine” from this plant though one may grow it ornamentally.

Many years back in my more freewheeling days a friend suggested trying opium poppy heads as a tea.  The dried heads also contain some of the morphine, codeine and thebaine alkaloids responsible for the narcotic effect, but nowhere near the potency found in the opium latex.  Unfortunately for me I was a novice and made a mistake in consuming too much of the tea.  I initially became strongly sedated and euphoric but soon after became severely nauseous and vomited violently for many hours.  Though it is not as potent as opium, the tea of the heads can be quite dangerous, leading to respiratory distress and there has been one case of a death attributed to this method of extraction.

So though I hesitated to place this plant in the book, I think its key to honor a plant that has had thousands of years of use as perhaps the most important and effective analgesic herb on the planet.   Alkaloids derived from poppy and turned into synthetic drugs like vicodin and percoset have become the primary way of managing pain in our health system and are responsible for an epidemic of overdose deaths.

Today opium poppy heads are often purchased over the internet by those seeking a recreational high or those seeking a replacement for those strong synthetic pharmaceuticals.

Dosage:  By writing about dosage I am in no way recommending using this plant as an analgesic or recreational agent.  Frankly, it can be dangerous and is known to be addictive as well.  At the same time, I think it is key to understand all medicinal plants and their effects.  For opium poppy, a light dose is between 1-3 pods (weighing on average 2 grams a pod.).  A medium dose is 3-5 and over 5 pods is a strong dose.  Generally the pods are chopped up or ground in a coffee grinder and then placed in a pot of 2-4 cups of water.  The water is brought to a boil and then the poppy is simmered for 10 minutes.  Then the very bitter tea is strained from the poppy and drunk.

Contraindications:  Many- Its  addictive and dangerous and should absolutely be avoided with any other sedatives, alcohol.



Latin:   Anemone species 

Family:  Ranunculaceae

Parts Used:  Whole fresh tinctured herb.

Taste/Energetics:   Bitter, pungent, cooling

Properties:   Anxiolytic, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, alterative

Actions:  Pulsatilla has often been used in respiratory illnesses when one has a hacking spasmodic cough that keeps you up at night.  Its also useful for calming that panicky “can’t breathe” feeling one gets from asthma.  For mental health, I think of this as trauma medicine for those who are in shock, overwhelmed and experiencing panic attacks and severe anxiety.   It seems to ground and “bring one back.”  Its a strong medicine and should not be taken at any length but more for crisis situations.  It is also a plant that should not get popular as it is not easily grown and should not be over harvested in the field.

Dose: 1-10 drops of tincture as needed, not to be used excessively.

Contraindications:   There is some controversy over the best preparation and use of this plant (fresh vs. dried,  for cool or hot types, etc. )  I find that it works best as a freshly tinctured plant and to be cautious with its use with folks who are somewhat feeble, elderly and deeply sick.  I would suggest this plant more for folks who are exhausted from trauma and stress who are wired, panicky, labile and fearful with “false heat” signs.  Strong medicine. No more than twice a day.


Red Clover

Latin:  Trifolium pratense

Family:  Fabaceae

Parts Used:  Flower and leaf

Taste/Energetics: Sweet, salty, Cool

Properties:  Nutritive tonic, expectorant, alterative, anti-inflammatory, phytoestrogenic

Actions:  Red clover is a common weed that was introduced to North America during colonization.  It has long been used as an “alterative” herb to help improve the metabolism of waste particles and often used in remedies for inflamed skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.   Red clover has a gentle expectorant action and can be added to teas and honeys to help soothe inflamed bronchial passages.   Red clover has become very popular as a natural estrogen replacement as it contains 4 phytoestrogenic isoflavones.  In that vein, it has been used to help women going through menopause with associated hot flashes.  Studies on that have proved inconclusive however.

In terms of mental health , I think of red clover is another highly nutritious nutritive herb that can be useful for those with depression that appear restless, wired, exhausted and poorly nourished.  Strong infusions of red clover can bring back that glow and feelings of improved well being.

Dosage:  My favorite method of working with this plant is taking large doses of a cup of red clover heads (one ounce) to a quart of hot water infused for a couple hours, strained and then drank throughout the day.  It can also be added to tea blends in much smaller amounts, infused in honeys and vinegars for nutritive, heat clearing, tonic and expectorant effects.  Not really a fan of the tincture.

Contraindications:  Some concern over mixing with hormone treatments.



Rehmannia  (Raw- Sheng di Huang)

Latin:  Rehmannia glutinosa

Family:  Orobanchancacae (formerly Scrophulariaceae)

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, slightly bitter, cooling

Properties:  Anti-inflammatory, nutritive tonic, demulcent, slightly laxative

Actions:  There are two ways to prepare Rehmannia.  This is a description of Rehmannia in its raw form, known as sheng di huang in Chinese medicine.   Rehmannia is one of the 50 most popular Chinese herbs offered today.  Raw rehmannia is used traditionally to “clear heat, cool blood, nourish yin and generate fluids.”   That means it is generally offered to those who have burned out their reserves and appear hot, wired, nervous, restless and frustrated with symptoms such as constipation, dry throat, mouth sores, night sweats, fever and insomnia.

Dosage:  9-30 grams in standard decoction.   This is a 1-2 grams in powder/capsules.

Contraindications:   Avoid in pregnancy, when breast feeding.



Rehmannia  (Prepared- Shu di Huang)

Latin:  Rehmannia glutinosa

Family:  Orobanchancacae (formerly Scrophulariaceae)

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, warming

Properties:  Nutritive tonic, circulatory tonic, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive

Actions:   Prepared cooked rehmannia is really noticeable when added to a formula of herbs.  It is overpowering in its sweetness and richness.  This is a deeply nutritive root that is offered to those who appear pale, anemic, deficient and undernourished with “Blood deficient” signs such as irregular and scanty menstruation, infertility, impotence, dry skin, poor memory, dizziness and fatigue.  Western herbalists often perceive this herb as as “adrenal tonic”, meaning that it can help reduce the effects of stress and trauma on the system. Rehmannia contain iridoid glycosides that stimute production of adrenal cortical hormones.   These have an anti-inflammatory effect that have proved useful in the treatment of asthma, arthritis and hives.

Dosage:  This is a fantastic herb that I find works best in decoctions.  Traditionally one uses about 9-15 grams in a formula and sometimes upwards of 30 grams.  In powder or capsule form, 1-2 grams a day.  Because it works best as a nutritive tonic, I don’t recommend taking it in tincture form.

Contraindications:   Avoid in pregnancy, when breast feeding.




Latin:  Ganoderma lucidum (other species)

Family:  Ganodermataceae

Parts Used:  Fruiting body

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, slightly warm

Properties:  Adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, cardiac tonic, immunomodulatory, anxiolytic, hepatoprotective, anti-viral.

Actions:  Known as the herb of immortality, Reishi is a mushroom with an ancient history of use and is one of the most commonly used herbs throughout the world.  Reishi has long been esteemed for its tonic properties that help improve ones ability to resist illness and stress as well as augment stamina and energy levels. Reishi has been studied extensively and shown to improve immune system function, lowers blood pressure, strengthens cardiac function, reduces palpitations, arrhythmia and angina.  Reishi is also an anti-inflammatory that is useful for helping those with asthma, arthritis and neuralgia.   Reishi has been studied for its ability to combat cancer and especially for liver cancer.  Studies have shown that it has a hepatoprotective function that make it useful for liver cancer as well as for damage done to the liver via drugs and alcohol.

In terms of mental health, reishi is known to “calm shen” in Chinese medicine.  Shen is a term for the heart spirit and one’s emotional and mental balance.  When the “shen” is disturbed by trauma and shock, one can develop symptoms such as anxiety, depression, confusion, panic and insomnia.  The light dims from the eyes.  This is where I work with reishi the most- for folks with PTSD that appear distant, disturbed, unhappy in their hearts.  Reishi restores the light in the eyes.

I also tend to offer it generally as a rich fortifying tonic that will help restore strength, vitality and help improve resistance to illness.  It is gentle enough to be taken by most anyone.

Dosage:  The key aspect of working with reishi is understanding that there are a variety of constituents that have different functions.  The polysaccharides that improve immune function are best extracted by hot water in a decoction.  The triterpenes, including the potent ganoderic acids, are what give reishi its grounding, calming, adaptogenic qualities as well as its anti-inflammatory, hypotensive and anti-viral qualities.   The triterpenes require high percentage alcohol to adequately extract them.

That means the best way to take reishi is to take both a water extract (decoction) and an alcohol extraction of the herb.   Often people suggest taking a double extraction where both ways of working with reishi are combined together.   I review this in greater detail in*********** and give my own notes about this as well as how to do this in your own kitchen.

In terms of dosage I recommend 5-20 grams of reishi decoction a day and 1-2 ML of reishi tincture to 3 x/day.  I do not recommend any powdered raw reishi as the constituients require water and/or alcohol extraction to truly receive any benefit.  A lot of bunk out there on the market.  If you can cook you can make yourself top notch reishi medicine pretty easily for a fraction of the price and at far greater quality than what is usually available in the market.

Reishi is fairly mild in effect but starts to really work cumulatively when taken over a period of weeks and even months. In general one purchases organically grown Ganoderma lucidum but there are a number of other species of Ganoderma (applanatum, oregonense) that also have very similar properties and can be harvested in the wild if done ethically.  In particular I find that G. oregonense has particularly strong attributes.

Contraindications:  This is really a pretty gentle herb but one should be careful if taking immune-modulating, blood thinning or hypotensive drugs.



Rhodiola  (Golden Root)

Latin:  Rhodiola rosea (sacra)

Family:  Crassulaceae

Parts Used:  

Taste/Energetics:  Cooling, drying

Properties:  Antioxidant. immunostimulant, adaptogen, antidepressant, anxiolytic, stimulant, astringent

Actions:  This is one of the most stimulating adaptogens available to us and is very helpful for increasing energy, stamina, memory, cognitive acuity and improving our response to stress.  It helps bolster the immune system so that we can fight off illness better.   This is an herb that grows low to the ground in Northern European countries such as Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Russia.  It has long been used as a folk tonic in those countries and it has now been assayed by researchers who have discovered a number of constituents (such as rosin and salidroside) that have tonic properties.

Because it is so stimulating I tend to think of it as useful for the heavy, lethargic type  with fatigue, trouble concentrating, mentally foggy who feel depressed.  Rhodiola lifts, strengthens and gets a person motivated without the boom and bust effect of a normal stimulant such as coffee.

Dosage:  If you try this as a decoction, you likely will never try it again.  It is one of the most bitter and astringent herbs you can take as a tea.   As a decoction, 2-4 tsp to one pint of water decocted for 40 minutes.   I recommend it primarily in tincture form 1-2 ml to 2 x/day.   In capsule form 1-2 gram up to 2x/day.  Take before 5 pm to avoid potential of overstimulation at night.

Contraindications:  It is not generally good for the wired, excitable type with insomnia who feels burnt out.   For some it can induce excessive feelings of restlessness, stimulation and make it hard to get to sleep.




Latin:  Rosa sp.

Family:  Rosaceae

Parts Used:  Flowers, hips.

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, slightly sour and bitter, astringent, cooling.

Properties:  Anti-inflammatory, diaphoretic, antimicrobial, cardiac tonic, anxiolytic

Actions:  Ah rose.  This flower has been esteemed and loved for thousands of years for its visual beauty, for its fragrance and for its effect when taken internally as medicine.  Much of Rose’s beauty can be appreciated by simply planting her in a garden or visiting with various wild roses out in nature.  And aromatherapy, rose softens, lifts mood, opens the heart and relaxes the body.  Its perfume is often associated with love and we are all familiar with the idea of giving roses on St. Valentine’s day.

Rose can also be added to tea formulas to help bring a pleasant fragrance and taste, to help relax and strengthen the heart, to bring calm and as a gentle anti-inflammatory for heat conditions in the system.  Rose hips are a strong source of vitamin C and can be useful in jams and syrups for fighting off colds and flu.

I think of rose as helpful for those who have experienced emotional trauma and shock.  It has an affinity for the heart and is especially helpful for those who are overheated, anxious and stricken with grief.

Dosage:  This is an herb that is controversial in the aromatherapy world because it takes 22 pounds of rose petals to distill and make just 5 ml of the essential oil.  For that reason I would recommend infusing oils directly with rose petals to make lotions and salves.  In tea form, rose is fairly strong and overpowering so I recommend using quite a bit less of it when mixing with other herbs such as lemon balm, lemon verbena, oatstraw, etc.   As a tea alone, 1 teaspoon to 1 cup of hot water infused for 10 minutes.  Not great as a tincture either but lovely in brandy elixirs.

Contraindications:   None.




Latin:  Rosmarinus officinale

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Leaf and flower

Taste/Energetics:  Warming, drying, aromatic

Properties:  Antiomicrobial, stimulating, anxiolytic, nootropic, immunostimulant, antimicrobial. circulatory stimulant.

Actions:  This well known herb grows easily and is commonly found in gardens for its delicious aroma, lovely foliage and for culinary purposes.  Rosemary is less commonly used in herbal teas and tinctures but is quite common in aromatherapy as a hydrosol and an essential oil.   With its stimulating uplifting properties it has long been revered as an herb to improve digestion, to increase cognitive acuity, memory, reduce anxiety, fight off colds, stimulate blood flowing and externally as a pain reliever.

Dosage:  Generally added to meals or used in aromatherapy.  Standard infusion of rosemary in oil for topical use.  Standard essential oil use.  In tea, infuse 1-2 tsp in cup of hot water 10 mins.  As tincture 1-3 ml to 3x/day.

Contraindications:  None




Ficus obliqua on Rosewood

Latin:  Aniba rosaeodora

Family:  Lauraceae

Parts Used: Heartwood

Taste/Energetics:  Warming, aromatic

Properties:  Analgesic, antidepressant, antimicrobial, circulatory stimulant, analgesic

Actions:  Coming from the rosewood tree in Peru and Brazil, rosewood is commonly converted into essential oil and material for woodworking.  The extreme over harvest of this tree leaves it deeply endangered and therefore this is an herb that frankly should not be used.  I felt it is was key to mention, however, as it has such a long history of use and continues to be used by many aromatherapists.  There is a move on to try and cultivate it sustainably.  Rosewood is incredible smelling with a grounding, relaxing and uplifting quality.  It is blended in oils and used topically in massage formulas and as an analgesic.

Dosage:  Until it is sustainably available, avoid.




Latin:  Crocus sativus

Family:  Iridaceae

Parts Used:  Flowers

Taste/Energetics:  Warming, drying

Properties:  Anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antispasmodic, circulatory stimulant, anxiolytic

Actions:  So saffron is expensive- sometimes coming in at over 500 dollars a pound.  However, you don’t need much of this herb for it to be effective.  Saffron is one of the best anti-inflammatory and mild antidepressant herbs available to us.  Made from flowers it is labor intensive to grow and harvest this crop.  Grown primarily in Iran, there has been quite a bit of research into its antidepressant effects and preliminary studies show that just small daily doses of less than 50 mg in capsules perform as well as known antidepressants such as prozac.

Saffron is also useful for improving blood circulation, for regulating menstruation, for easing coughs and asthma and to bring gentle relaxation.

Dosage:  In capsules at 50-100 mg to 2 x/day.  In tincture (1:10) 10-20 drops to 2 /day.

Contraindications:    Avoid while pregnant or nursing.




Latin:  Salvia officinalis

Family:   Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Leaves

Taste/Energetics:  Warming, drying

Properties:  Carminative, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, anxiolytic, circulatory stimulant, antimicrobial

Actions:  Sage is one of the most easiest herbs to grow in a garden and once it finds its place it sticks around.  Sage is often used for sore throats, canker sores and other oral infections.  Sage is great to add to teas for cold and flu formulas to induce a sweat.  Sage helps relax the stomach and improves digestion.  As an antispasmodic it goes well in  formulas for reducing menstrual cramps and hacking coughs with a lit of phlegm build up.  Sage has a nice warming, stimulating and relaxing quality.

Dosage:  Often for culinary uses.  As tea, infuse 1-2 tsp for 10 minutes.   As tincture 1-2 ml  to 3 x daily.

Contraindications:  Sage will help drug up mothers milk and should be avoided by nursing others unless they are trying to wean.  Avoid in pregnancy.



Saint John’s Wort

Latin:  Hypericum perforatum

Family:  Hypericaceae

Parts Used:  Flower, leaf

Taste/Energetics:   Slightly warming, drying

Properties: Hypotensive, anxiolytic, antidepressant, antiviral, vulnerary, anxiolytic.

Actions:  Though it is often overused as an antidepressant herb, st. john’s wort is truly one of the best herbs available to us for a variety of mental health reasons.  St. John’s wort is gently calming and relaxing and generally has a cumulative effect of improving mood which makes it great for mild to moderate depression, generalized anxiety and seasonal affective disorder.  That relaxant effect makes it useful for those who have depression with insomnia.  In Germany it is one of the most common herbs prescribed by doctors there with a long track record of treating depression.  The main problem with SJW is that it has numerous contraindications with psych meds and other pharmaceuticals and generally should only be offered to people who are not taking meds.

On a larger level, it is key to look at this herb for its wider uses.  St. John’s Wort is a great anti-viral useful for cases of shingles, herpes and the flu.  It is also a fantastic aid as both an internal and external analgesic for neuralgia, fibromyalgia, sore muscles, joint pain and fatigue.  It is also vulnerary (wound healing) for conditions such as burns, stings and abrasions.

This is a lovely herb that grows commonly as a weed and for that reason it is one of the best herbs to gather oneself and make into a homemade medicine tincture.  The flowers immediately bruise and stain the hands and turn alcohol a rich blood red.  The latin name hypericum refers to being above the icon (image of Christ).  In that way it is associated with its ancient lineage as a protective plant against malevolent forces.  perforated refers to the leaves that were initiatlly thought to be perforated.  Instead the leaves carry tiny translucent glands.  In traditional folk medicine where a plant’s appearance is associated with its function, those translucent glands signify the idea of letting the light in.  And really this is what SJW seems to do: it lets the light in.  It is the antidote for that brooding melancholic sadness that can often pervade in the winter.

Dosage:  My preferred way to take this plant is as a wildcrafted tincture.  This isn’t that complex.  In the summer time in early July go to any field or meadow near your home and you will find some SJW (grab a guide- its easy to identify).   Make sure the land is not contaminated with pollution.  Loosely fill up a pint or a quart jar with the flowers and leaves.  Then fill it up with alcohol. 95 % organic alcohol is the best but really some good old 100 proof vodka will do the trick.   Cap it and store it in a dark cool place.  Shake it every day and then in a few weeks strain it out and you have a ton of Saint John’s Wort medicine.  Take 1-3 ml to 3x/day for a period of weeks and months.  Really- thats the best way to take this herb.  And yes you can buy it as a tincture but man- think if you made a connection to the plant itself and took medicine from that nearby meadow.  Pretty cool!  You can also make SJW oil like this as well.  Just substitute olive or almond oil for alcohol and store in somewhere nice and warm and strain it out after a few weeks.

I am not as big a fan of taking ion teas but many others are.  Try 1-2 tsp to one cup of hot water infused for 10 minutes.

Forget taking this as a capsule that you buy at your local grocery store.  Its likely low quality pesticide ridden Saint John’s Wort.  OK OK if you must…Take a couple 500 mg caps (a gram) several times a day.  You can buy it loose leaf and add it to teas however as a  standard infusion.

Contraindications:   A number of people report heightened sensitivity to light when taking this herb regularly and many livestock develop photosensitivity from consuming it.

Avoid with serotonergic antidepressants, with blood thinners, anxiolytic and analgesic drugs.




Latin:  Santalum spicatum

Family:  Santalaceae

Parts Used:  wood, roots

Taste/Energetics:  Warming, drying, aromatic

Properties:  Anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive, antiviral, antimicrobial.

Actions:  Sandalwood has one of the most distinctive aromas with a deep rich warm texture that immediately relaxes and calms most who smell the scent.  Sandalwood has been traditionally used in India for spiritual purposes, helping those in prayer and meditation.  It promotes mental clarity, memory and calmness without drowsiness.  I have seen its effectiveness for clients with trauma who describe it as making them feel “safe.”  Sandalwood helps lower blood pressure, has anti-inflammatory effects and can be used externally for its anti-viral and antiseptic properties.

Sandalwood (S. album) has been horribly overharvested in India to the point where it is no longer ethical to buy sandalwood from that part of the world.  Sandalwood has been grown and ethically harvested in Australia though this species (S. spicatum) has a lighter and less potent aroma

Dosage:   Standard use as essential oil.

Contraindications:  Standard essential oil contraindications.



San Pedro Cactus

Latin:  Echinopsis (Trichocereus) pachanoi


Family:  Cactaceae

Parts Used:  Whole aerial plant

Taste/Energetics:  Very bitter, cooling

Properties:  Emetic, entheogenic, tonic,

Actions:  This columnar cactus is native to South America and is generally found in the dusty hot valleys and mountains of Peru and Ecuador.  This cactus is highly hallucinogenic due to containing mescaline, an entheogenic alkaloid also found in Peyote and other cacti.

Because of its highly potent effects, it has long been revered as enormously sacred to the indigenous peoples of South America.  I had the chance to take this plant in the early 90’s when I traveled to Ecuador and lived there for a summer.  I drank a strong brew of it that was horrifically bitter and acrid.  The effects lasted for over 12 hours and were deeply affecting and overwhelming.  The medicine first brought me to a deeper level of connection to the natural world around me and I was able to see the threads and connecting cords between rocks, plants and the soil.  Between these connecting cords, I could see spirits and entities dancing and waving.  At the core of the trip I felt in contact with the very soul or “teacher” of the plant who appeared as an old Gaucho, a somewhat bemused, grumpy and strong being who taught me a few lessons that are hard to describe on paper…:).  Beyond this deep spiritual work, the cactus also had a profound effect on my body, wracking and contorting me into intense postures and positions that felt natural and “required” at times- almost like hallucinogenic yoga.  The cactus feels cleansing, heightening, stimulating, rearranging and deeply penetrating, reaching core parts of one’s heart and soul.

Because of its ability to peer into your soul, San Pedro often points people in a good direction and asks us to put down poor habits and poor ways of thinking and seeing life.  For that reason, it has often been taken to heal addictions such as alcoholism.

Like many of these foreign hallucinogens, it is key to consider how we are working with these plants and make sure we are not just robbing the cultural identity and spiritual heritage of indigenous folks for a few cheap thrills.  San Pedro requires respect and reciprocation to be used in a good way.

Dosage:  A general dose would be around 100 grams per person.  There are a number of places to look on line as to how to prepare it.

Contraindications:  Um, yup- Like all super potent hallucinogens, San Pedro really is not for everyone and can be extremely challenging for some folks, or if taken in excessive amounts.  And needless to say, this is not something to consume and then go shopping at CostCo for a few hours…unless you’re really into that kind of thing.   Be careful out there people.




Latin:  Schisandra chinensis

Family:   Schisandraceae

Parts Used:  Berries

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, sour, cooling, moistening

Properties:  Adaptogen, immunomodulator, hepatoprotective, hypotensive, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant,

Actions:  Known as five flavors fruit, schisandara has long been revered in traditional Chinese medicine for its general tonic and restorative properties.  Research has shown it improves cognitive acuity, memory, stamina, reduces fatigue and vulnerability to illnesses.  Schisandra is specifically known for its ability to protect the liver from damage and help regenerate liver cells. Schisandra is also knows as a circulatory stimulant and is used primarily in Korea as a tonic to improve cardiovascular function.

Dosage:  Most often used in tea formulas, standard decoction of 3-6 grams (2 tsp)  to 2x/day.  Traditionally infused into wines and taken liberally.  In powder form, it is increasingly being taken as a “superfood”, added to smoothies, etc. 1/2 -1 tsp to 2x/day.

Contraindications:  Avoid in pregnancy.




Latin:  Laminaria, Undaria, Porphyra, and many others

Family:  Various

Parts Used:  Fronds

Taste/Energetics:  Cool, moist

Properties:  Nutritive tonic, demulcent, diuretic, aphrodisiac, cardiotonic, antimicrobial. analgesic, anxiolytic, anti-radiation, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive

Actions:  There are a variety of seaweeds and they are all tremendously nutritious with loads of vitamins and minerals,   Seaweeds are composed of 20-50% minerals and that they are the best dietary source of essential minerals.  Some of the best seaweeds to consume include hijiki, nori, dulse, wakame and kombu.  Mineral rich seaweeds  help improve thyroid function (due to high levels of iodine) and reduce chance of osteoporosis (high levels of calcium)

In general seaweeds are deeply nourishing and rejuvenating and can play a key role in helping people with long term exhaustion and depletion.  Seaweeds feed our nerves, muscles and sinews, improves cardiac function, lowers blood pressure and soothes and nourishes an inflamed digestive system (ulcers, constipation, colitis, etc).

Seaweeds in general are anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic and useful for those who feel hot, wired and tired with inflammation, pain and anxiety.  Seaweeds are great for those with CFS or fibromyalgia who feel stressed, exhausted and suffering from neuralgia.

Finally studies have shown that common seaweeds can reduce the effect of radiation.   Seaweeds are truly a nutritional powerhouse that are easily available to us.

Dosage:  One of the best ways to consume seaweed is to add it in the pot when making bone broth (1 cup seaweed to large stock pot).  You can eat it traditionally as a salad (see recipes) , add seaweed as a dried garnish by sprinkling it on meals or add it to soups.

Contraindications:   Many precautions about gathering them as there can easily be contamination.   Avoid taking if consuming blood thinner drugs.  Some are sensitive to seaweeds and may experience a reaction.  Excessive doses linked to thyroid suppression.




Latin:   Convolvulus pluricaulis

Family:  Convolvulaceae

Parts Used:  Flower, leaves, root

Taste/Energetics:  Pungent, bitter, cooling

Properties:  Nootropic, anxiolytic, nervous system tonic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic,  expectorant, diuretic, hypotensive

Actions:  Long used in Ayurvedic medicine, shankhpushpi is primarily offered to improve memory, concentration, cognitive acuity and to reduce anxiety, sleeplessness and melancholy.  Shankhpushpi is a nervous system tonic, stimulates blood circulation, reduces blood pressure and alleviates pain such as arthritis and neuralgia.   Ayurvedic practitioners offer it in formulas for dementia, insomnia, anxiety. hypertension and to improve sperm production.

Dosage:  2-3 tsp powder, 1-2 ml tincture to 3 x/day.

Contraindications:  Hypotension, those taking sedative drugs.




Latin:  Asparagus racemosus

Family:  Asparagaceae

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, bitter, cool, moist

Properties:  Adaptogen, immuonmodulator, galactagogue, anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, antimicrobial. demulcent.

Actions:  This lovely herb comes to us via India and Ayurvedic medicine and is one of the most common herbs given for women’s health.  Shatavari promotes breast milk production, strengthens women’s reproductive system, improves hormonal balance and strengthens fertility.

Shatavari also improves digestion and elimination, cooling bronchial and digestive inflammation, strengthens the immune system and has a nice gentle quality for reducing stress and tension in the system.   This is an herb that is especially useful for women who tend to run dry and hot, appear exhausted and overwhelmed with associated digestive and reproductive inflammation.

Dosage:  1-2 grams to 3x/day.  As decoction, 1 tbsp to pint of water, decoct for 20 minutes – to 3 x/day.  Traditionally best simmered in warm milk with some honey with other herbs such as ashwaghanda.

Contraindications:    Avoid in pregnancy.




Latin:  Lentinula erodes

Family:  Marasmiaceae

Parts Used:  Fruiting body

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, Neutral

Properties:  Adaptogen, immunostimulator, nutritive tonic, anti-tumoral

Actions:  Shitake mushrooms are an incredible tonic to add to your diet as they have  numerous medicinal properties.  Shiitakes are filled with vitamins and minerals and have a high level of magnesium, calcium and potassium.  Shitake stimulates the immune system to fight off colds, the flu and infections.  Shitake also has been studied for its ability to inhibit tumor cells from growing and to improve outcomes during radiation therapy for cancer.

In terms of mental health I think of shiitake for those who appear fatigued, listless  and depressed with frequent colds.

Dosage:   Shitake can be added to bone broth, soups or taken as part of medicinal mushroom tonic elixirs and decoctions.    One can add shitake liberally to the diet.  Please see the recipe section if you are interested in making “mushroom medicine” in the form of tincture and decoction.

Contraindications:  None.




Latin:  Scuttelaria lateriflora

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Leaf and flower

Taste/Energetics:  Aromatic, Cooling

Properties:  Anxiolytic, antispasmodic, nervous system tonic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic

Actions:  This is one of the best herbs to offer people who are experiencing anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, muscle cramping with tics.  Skullcap is a fairly gentle herb and is both wonderful for symptomatic relief, but also in tonic formulas for longer term use to strengthen the nervous system.  Scullcap is more subtle in strength compared to stronger herbs like valerian and kava, but its gentle action is not to be underestimated.

For mental health, it is best for those who appear hot, wired, frustrated, intense and wound up with tight musculature.  They may be intensely sensitive to sounds and the people around them and appear jumpy and even paranoid.    Traditionally in the 19th century it was offered by eclectic physicians for everything from epilepsy and convulsions to schizophrenia.

Dosage:  In tea, 1-3 tsp per dose, to 3 x/day.  In tincture 1-3 ml  to 3x/day.

Contraindications:  None



Skunk Cabbage  

Latin:  Lysichiton americanus

Family:  Araceae

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:  Warming, bitter

Properties:  Anxiolytic, analgesic, circulatory stimulant, antispasmodic

Actions:  This is not an herb that is commonly used, mainly because it is a pain in the ass to get into a mucky bog and pull up some skunk cabbage roots when there are plenty of other alternatives.  Skunk cabbage has a strong effect on the nervous system.  It is indicated in very low doses for anxiety, insomnia and calming a panic attack as a symptomatic anxiolytic agent.   It is also useful for as an expectorant and for calming a spasmodic cough and an asthma attack.  It also has a nice analgesic effect and is useful for cramping, muscle tension and premenstrual tension.  

Dosage:   This herb should not be confused with its cousin Symplocarpus feotidus which shares the same name and some similar properties.

Best taken as a tincture 5-20 drops.

Contraindications:   Skunk Cabbage can have a problematic effect (nausea, vomiting, dizziness, narcosis) if taken in excessive doses.  Avoid if pregnant or nursing or if any strong health problems exist. Avoid with pharmaceutical sedatives and analgesics.   Like many wild plants that are not weedy, this plant should be only ethically harvested.



Solomon’s Seal  

Latin:  Polygonatum biflorum

Family:  Asparagaceae

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:   Cool, moist

Properties:  Demulcent, anti-inflammatory, analgesic

Actions:  This is an herb that’d fallen out of favor for some time but is finding its way back into many herbalist’s repertory due to its promotion by herbalists such as Matthew Wood and Jim McDonald.  Solomon’s seal is primarily used for musculoskeletal system injuries.  That means its been used for broken bones, torn ligaments and injured tendons. It has an anti-inflammatory property that is useful for addressing painful conditions such as tendonitis, arthritis.  Its general moistening quality makes it useful for dry inflamed conditions in the lungs and the digestive system.

Dosage:  M. Wood and J. McDonald have found quite a bit of success using this plant at very low doses of just 3-10 drops as needed of tincture. I have not used it in tea form.

Contraindications:    None noted.   Ethical harvesting a must.




Latin:  Pfaffia paniculata


Parts Used:  Root of vine

Taste/Energetics:   Bitter, cooling, drying

Properties:  Tonic, aphrodisiac, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, circulatory stimulant, adaptogenic.

Actions:  This is another South American herb that has been used as something of a panacea (para todo).  As a tonic, str has been noted to boost libido and has been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac.  This is a nutritionally dense herb with high amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  Traditionally suma has been consumed to increase physical strength and stamina, to decrease fatigue and for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.  It has also been used to strengthen the immune system and potentially as a cancer fighting herb.

There is some research into this herb that points to its sterols having some estrogenic effect and it has traditionally been used for menopausal symptoms, hot flashes, irritability and PMS.

Dosage:  2-4 grams powdered herb/dayTraditional decoction up to 10 grams for 40 minutes in pint of water.

Contraindications:   None indicated.  



Suo Yang

Latin:  Cynomorium songaricum

Family:  Cynomoriaceae

Parts Used:  Fleshy stem

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, warming, moistening

Properties: Demulcent, libido tonic

Actions:  In Chinese medicine suo yang means “locking up yang”.  Yang refers to our strong virile directed energies and so suo yang refers to its ability to act as a sexual energy tonic and to build stamina and fight fatigue.  This is an herb commonly offered to men with impotency issues.    In Chinese medicine it treats kidney yang deficiency with associated symptoms of fatigue, difficulty urinating, soreness in the lower back and knees, poor libido and cold limbs.    It also has a moistening effect and improves peristalsis.  This is a pretty mild herb

Dosage:  Traditionally 5-10 grams decocted for 40 minutes in pint of water.

Contraindications:    Avoid if there is diarrhea.




Latin:  Hierochloe odorata

Family:  Poaceae

Parts Used:  Aerial portion

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, cool

Properties:  Anxiolytic, aromatic

Actions:  Sweetgrass is primarily used as smudge by certain indigenous North American and European groups for its ritual, purification and healing properties.  It has a gentle, sweet smell akin to vanilla.  The grass is traditionally braided together and has also been used in basket making and for mats.  The smell is quite calming and relaxing.

Dosage:  Mainly used as a braided incense.

Contraindications:    None



Latin:  Cayaponia tayuya

Family:  Cucurbitaceae

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, cooling

Properties:  Diuretic, anti-inflammatory. analgesic, stomachic, tonic, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, metabolic tonic

Actions:  This is an herb with a long history of use by indigenous peoples of South America.  Tanya has a moderate anti-inflammatory property which makes it useful for helping those with arthritis, neuralgia, sciatica and headaches.  It helps act as an alterative, improving absorption and the elimination of waste particles which in turn helps reduce inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.  With its tonic property it improves stamina, reduces fatigue and depression.

Dosage:  1-2 gram of powder. 2-4 tsp decoction in pint of water for 40 mins.  1-2 ml in tincture to 3 x/day.

Contraindications:    None known



Tea-  Green/Black

Latin:  Camelia sinensis

Family:  Theaceae

Parts Used:  Leaf.

Taste/Energetics:  Depends on the processing.  Green more neutral in temperature.  Black more warming.  All tend to have complex flavors but are often bitter, aromatic and slightly sweet.

Properties:  Antioxidant, cardioporotective, stimulant, diuretic,

Actions:  As one of the most common stimulant plants containing caffeine, tea from Camelia sinensis comes in a variety of forms.  Besides location, the form of processing tea is key to its flavor, taste and effect.  The main factor in the difference between white, green, oolong or black is the process of oxidation.  The more a plant is subject to oxidation, the more it turns black.

Though we traditionally think that caffeine content is higher in black tea than green tea that has not been born out in research.  In fact, caffeine content varies widely from tea to tea. Caffeine content does rise the longer a tea is steeped in hot water.    On average you can think of a cup of tea as having on average 20-60 mg of caffeine compared to a cup of coffee containing from 100-150 mg.

There has ben a lot of focus on green tea being the more health giving type of tea due to higher levels of flavonoid antioxidants.  However, both appear to have immune and cardiac improving properties and research has pointed to both green and black tea reducing the risk of stroke.

White tea:  Tea buds are picked when they are still tightly enclosed and then just wilted and dried.  White tea really retains the flavor and essence of the plant.

Green tea:  This is the type of tea that is gathered and either heated by steam or pan firing to avoid oxidation.  Green tea is highest in anti-oxidant flavonoids.

Oolong:  This is semi-oxidized tea that tends to retain the flavor of green tea while having a more earthy, roasted flavor.

Black tea:  These are fully oxidized teas that are rich and strong in taste and flavor.  Many of these teas are familiar to us such as English Breakfast, Darjeeling or Earl Grey.

Pu’erh:  These are teas that have been fermented and tend to improve with aging and time.  They can be bought green or black.

Dosage:  1-2 tsp per cup is common.   Green tea is best steeped in 160-180 degree temp water to retain flavor.  Black tea can be steeped in boiling water.  In general tea only needs 2-3 minutes to steep.  The longer the steep, the more bitter the flavor and the higher the caffeine content.

As a side note, one of the main things that annoy me when I go to a cafe is that I am asked what size cup of tea I would like- with price being variant on the size of cup.  How ridiculous is that?  The price should vary due to the amount of tea being placed in the cup.  You put more tea in my cup, I will pay you more.  End rant.

Contraindications:   Avoid if sensitive to caffeine.




Latin:  Dispacus sylvestris

Family:    Asteraceae

Parts Used:  Roots

Taste/Energetics:   Bitter, pungent, warm

Properties:  Diuretic, astringent , blood circulatory stimulant

Actions:   Walking out along roadsides and up into open weedy meadows in the winter you are likely to see the tall dark stalks of dried up teasel.  This is a weedy herb that had been largely ignored by western herbalists until Matthew Wood brought it back to people’s attention.  Wood sees it as a powerful restorer of vital energy and deeply protective against lyme disease and its wide varying effects on the immune and nervous system with associated brain fog, confusion, neuralgic pain and severe fatigue.  Wood sees this as a “kidney tonic” as seen through a traditional Chinese medicine lens.  He writes that “The muscle and joint pain, the deterioration of structure, the helplessness and loss of purpose all relate to this pattern.”  Traditional Chinese medicine also views this root as strengthening kidney essence and repairing damaged tissues, bones and ligaments.

Dosage:  Traditional root decoction of 5-10 grams a day in pint of hot water for 40 minutes.  Tincture 2-4 ml to 3 x/day.

Contraindications:     None.




Latin:  Thymus vulgaris

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Leaf

Taste/Energetics:   Warm, drying

Properties:  Carminative, antimicrobial, immunostimulant, expectorant. antispasmodic, anxiolytic, circulatory stimulant, expectorant

Actions:  This is another Mediterranean herb primarily used in cooking but is also used in aromatherapy as an essential oil.  Thyme gently relaxes the stomach wall and eases cramping to improve digestion.  Thyme helps move ad circulate blood and has an expectorant and antispasmodic property useful for hacking coughs and asthmatic attacks.  Thyme can be helpful for treating coughs, colds and sore throats due to its antimicrobial properties.  In terms of mental health it is often used in aromatherapy formulas for its uplifting, stimulating qualities.

Dosage:  Generally as culinary garnish.  Standard dosage in essential oils.  1-2 teaspoons of herb in cup of hot water infused for 10 minutes to 2x/day.

Contraindications:   Standard essential oil precautions.




Latin:  Nicotiana tabacum

Family:  Solonaceae

Parts Used:  Leaf

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, sweet, warming

Properties:  Stimulant, anxiolytic, diuretic, expectorant, emetic when taken in large doses, antispasmodic

Actions:  This is one of the three most used stimulants in the world- along with coffee and tea.  Sadly tobacco has a really bad rap because it has been commodified and packaged with huge amounts of preservatives and added nicotine in a way that has hooked hundreds of millions of people.  Cigarettes are one of the leading killers of the modern age but tobacco itself is a wonderful herb if used with respect and care.

As we all know, tobacco contains nicotine, a potent alkaloid that is both stimulating and relaxing.  That quality of stimulation can make it addictive similar to other alkaloids like caffeine, morphine and cocaine.  The effect is short lasting (10-20 minutes) and the desire for another “hit” is palpable in regular users.

Outside of its “discovery” in the New Worlds and its eventual commodification as a vice, tobacco has long been a sacred plant to many Indigenous groups that recognized its potent effect and its ability to bring clarity, stimulation, spiritual connection and for purification.  When I worked with indigenous Quichua in Ecuador, the ayahuascero healers commonly used tobacco smoke to cleanse and purify those who were taking part in ritual.  Tobacco in that culture and many others is considered a great Teacher, a master plant deserving great respect.

Until recent times, tobacco was often smoked occasionally and generally for ritual, healing and sacred purposes.  But as Europeans integrated tobacco, they increasingly smoked it, chewed it and snorted it (snuff) as a stimulant for recreational purposes.  Physicians also used it for a variety of reasons: for enemas, to treat fever and gout, to kill internal worms and as an external wound healing agent for boils, sores, abrasions and to help with neuralgia.

While addictive cigarette smoking is a pretty terrible health risk, quite a few people with a history of trauma and a history of mental illness use cigarettes as a way of medicating their anxiety and depression.  While its not the best option, it is fairly understandable.   Ultimately the best option would be to work with this plant how it was used before colonization- as a sacred medicine to be used sparingly.

Dosage:  Generally to smoke- best infrequent with good intention and with additive chemical free tobacco.

Contraindications:    Addictive and likely eventually lethal if used frequently.  Avoid when pregnant, nursing, if there is hypertension, pulmonary issues.



Tongkat Ali

Latin:  Eurycoma longifolia

Family:  Simaroubaceae

Parts Used:  Root

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, warming

Properties:  Antimicrobial antimalarial, analgesic, aphrodisiac, circulatory tonic

Actions:  Tongkat ali is a common herb to much of South-East Asia where it is used for a variety of reasons including for combating malaria and fever, to relieve headaches and stomachaches and for its libido enhancing properties.  In the West it is now promoted primarily as an aphrodisiac with lots of extracts available on the internet.   In studies, tongkat ali does indeed improve sperm production and improve erectile function.  There is quite a bit of chatter that this is a testosterone builder with anti-estrogenic effects but no research has established that as of yet.

Dosage: 200-300 mg of 100:1 extract.

Contraindications:   There is good concern about the sustainability of using this plant.  Ethical harvest is must. Can cause irritability and insomnia.  Avoid if there is cardiac illness, hypertension.




Latin:  Tribulus terrestris

Family:  Zygophyllaceae

Parts Used:  seed? fruit

Taste/Energetics:  Slightly warming and drying

Properties:  Tonic, hypotensive, aphrodisiac

Actions:  This is an herb that has long been used by the ancient Greeks as a general tonic and in ayurveda as a libido enhancer and aphrodisiac.  Tribulus contains a number of interesting saponins and sterols that are associated with improving the free circulation of testosterone and promoting higher sexual energy levels.  In the 80’s this herb was “discovered” by the body building world who have promoted it strongly as an anabolic alternative to steroids and for its potential testosterone boosting properties.  Most research have not shown that it does boost testosterone but there re some conflicting reports on this.

Dosage:   Powder- 1-2 grams to 2x/day.  tincture 1-2 ml to 3x/daily.

Contraindications:   None noted




Latin:  Curcuma longa

Family:  Zingiberaceae

Parts Used:  Rhizome

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, warming, drying

Properties:   Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, alterative, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antispasmodic, acarminative, astringent. diuretic, vulnerary, circulatory stimulant, anti-tumoral, nootropic

Actions:  Endemic to tropical areas of Asia, turmeric has long been used to spice dishes and for its medicinal value.  Turmeric is commonly used in India for a variety of concerns.  It improves digestive and hepatic function, soothes inflammation such as arthritis, ulcers and chronic pain, stimulates better circulation, bolsters the immune system, and helps to improves reproductive system.  Turmeric is also useful as an external agent to help heal cuts, abrasions, stings and burns.

In terms of mental health, turmeric works in a number of ways.  It can help to heal a sluggish, tense digestive system.  When the gut does not absorb nutrients effectively, overall vitality decreases.  Gut permeability can lead to unwanted cytokines entering the bloodstream and causing inflammation.  Quite a bit of research is going into looking at inflammation as one of the main causes of depression and anxiety.  Turmeric acts an excellent anti-inflammatory that in turn reduces the potential for anxiety and depression.   Turmeric has also been studies for its cognitive enhancing and protective features and appears to be quite useful in cases of dementia and alzheimers.

Research done with rats have shown that turmeric can reduce the potential for deeply recording fear after a traumatic event.  That means it shows potential as an agent to offer folks who have PTSD.

Dosage:  This will be beating a dead horse but herbs are generally better when you can taste them.  The tongue receives information about the taste and energetics of the herb and sends signals to the rest of the body for healing.  That is why I am not a fan of taking turmeric in capsules.   Generally you will find turmeric sold as a standardized powder that contains a certain percentage of its active constituent curcumin.  500 mg to 4 x/day.

In the best situation, turmeric would be taken by fresh grating the root or using fresh powder and adding it into meals or beverages 1-2 grams to 2 x/day.  Powdered turmeric will lose its efficacy if its been sitting on your shelf for a year.

The root can be tinctured but I find this an inferior way of taking this herb.  1-2 ml to 3 x/day

Contraindications:   Turmeric and its main active constituent curcumin have become something of a panacea these days with everyone putting it into smoothies, meals and taking it as capsules, etc.  And while turmeric is generally a good thing, there are some precautions.  It is generally warming and drying and not as good for an overly hot, dry type and can cause excessive drying out of tissues if taken in large doses or taken regularly.




Latin:   Valeriana officinalis

Family:  Valerianaceae

Parts Used:  Roots

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, warming, drying

Properties:   Anxiolytic, hypnotic, slightly analgesic, stimulating for some, antispasmodic

Actions:  This is one of the most commonly used herbs for anxiety relief and as a hypnotic to improve sleep.  It has a long history of use dating back to the Ancient Greeks.  Valerian is a fairly strong acting herb on the nervous system and for a number of folks it can prove to have an opposite effect and be stimulating, making sleep harder.  Mildly analgesic.  It is best for the cold, sluggish, exhausted and worn out type and should be offered cautiously to those who appeared wired and tired, excitable with heat signs.

Dosage:  This is an herb that most folks take in tincture form as it is a fairly bitter herb to consume as a tea. 2-4 tsp to one pint of hot water decoct for 40 mins.  As tincture 1-3 ml as needed to 3 x/day.

Contraindications:   Avoid with “hot types”.



Latin:  Chrysopogon (Vetiver) zizanioides

Family:  Poaceae

Parts Used:  Aerial


Properties:  Anti-inflammatory, anxiolytic, antimicrobial, aphrodisiac, vulnerary

Actions:  Vetiver is a strongly aromatic grass that has long been used in India as an uplifting and relaxing oil.  It has a deep, rich, woody and earthy  tone that is often used by aromatherapists for helping those with depression, insomnia, anxiety, stress and achy tight muscles.

Dosage:  As essential oil, standard dosage.

Contraindications:  Standard essential oil warnings.  




Latin:  Verbena officinalis, hastata- (blue vervain)

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Aerial portion

Taste/Energetics:  Very bitter, acrid, drying and cooling

Properties:  Anxiolytic, antispasmodic, analgesic, diaphoretic, vulnerary, carminative, emmenagogue, galactagogue

Actions:  This is one of the most bitter herbs I know and not one I like to generally include in tea formulas as it is so strong in taste.  Its strong and potent in tincture form and often only a small dose of 10-20 drops can be very effective.  Vervain primarily acts to relax the nervous system, relieving tension and strain, especially from folks who are very wound up and tight, with headaches, migraine, insomnia, bursts of anger and underlying anxiety.  This is often a good choice for type A individuals or those who have gone through quite a bit of stress and trauma.   It has a marked positive effect on those who hold their anxious tension in their stomachs and is helpful for folks who have tight, crampy indigestion.

As herbalist Kiva Rose puts it, “Their anxiety, while usually based in fear, mostly manifests as an aggravated, edgy attitude and an over-talkative brain that keeps them from restful sleep, good sex and general satisfaction with themselves or their lives. They may seem initially growly and unhappy, but in many cases it is simply the tremendous pressure of their internal tension that makes them so unapproachable and even haughty. It’s not unusual for their to be some level of alcoholism or addiction issues present.”

Dosage:  Pretty  challenging to drink as a tea because of bitterness.  2-4 tsp to one pint of water decocted for 40 minutes.  Best in tincture form 10 drops to 2 ml  as needed up to 3 x/day.  Not for long term use.

Contraindications:    Can cause an upset stomach, skin irritations, avoid with sedatives, during pregnancy




Latin:  Viola sp.

Family:   Violaceae

Parts Used:  Flowers, leaves

Taste/Energetics:  Cooling, moist

Properties:  Anxiolytic, demulcent, tonic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic (gentle)

Actions:  Violets are a beautiful lovely flower that is often overlooked as an herb.  Violets are gently relaxing and cooling to the body, helping to reduce fevers, sore throats, inflamed digestive tract and moisten dry skin. Rich in nutrients such as vitamins A and C, violets also have a nice nutritional tonic effect.  Violets contain methyl salicylate and are good for relieving pain and inflammation.  Violet is a nice uplifting herb that will soothe and relax someone who feels uptight, frustrated, sad and anxious.

Dosage: This is an herb best prepared by adding it to salads as a garnish or made into a tea.  Infuse 1-3 tsp of violet in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes.  Does well in syrups and honeys as well.  I don’t recommend tinctured violets.

Contraindications:  None.



Latin:  Salix sp.

Family:  Salicaceae

Parts Used:  Bark

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, cooling

Properties:  Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, febrifuge, antimicrobial, styptic

Actions:   This is the classic herb one thinks of for pain relief due to it containing salicylic acid and indeed it is helpful as a general anti-inflammatory analgesic for arthritis, joint and rheumatic pain.  It is strongly astringent and useful for stemming internal bleeding.  Finally it helps to soothe and cool high fevers.  This is not a strong pain reliever but does seem to be effective, especially when synergized with other plants in a formula.

Dosage:  2-4 tsp decoction in pint of hot water for 40 minutes (phew- hard to get down.)   Tincture 1-2 ml to 3x/day.  In capsule 1-2 grams to 3 x/day

Contraindications:  Yes it can cause gastric distress over time (though not as bad as aspirin.) Avoid in pregnancy.  Avoid if taking blood thinners.



Wild Dagga

Latin:  Leonotis leonorus  (nepetifolia, sibericus)

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used:  Flowers primarily, leaves

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter, cooling

Properties:  Antispasmodic, analgesic, anxiolytic, sedative, anti-inflammatory.

Actions:   Wild Dagga is native to South Africa and parts of South-East Asia.  The flowers can be made into tea or smoked and induce gentle relaxation, pleasant feelings and light euphoria.  This is another herb that is popular on the internet and in head shops because of its ability to give a legal high.  The effects are not so strong that it has become excessively popular.  It has sometimes been seen as similar to marijuana in terms of the body buzz without the trippy effects usually associated with it.

Traditionally the leaves have been used for pain relief, headaches, bronchitis and high blood pressure.  Wild Dagga is an antispasmodic herb and therefore useful for painful stomach and menstrual cramps and hacking coughs.  Along with its sedative properties, its antispasmodic action makes it useful for general pain management issues and for conditions such as arthritis, rheumatism and restless cramping legs.

Dosage:   Generally this plant is traditionally smoked or taken as tea.   500 mg of herb smoked produces general relaxant effect. 1-3 tsp infused in hot water  for 10 minutes as tea.   Duration of effect is generally an hour.

Contraindications:  Avoid in pregnancy, nursing or using other sedatives.



Wild Lettuce

Latin:  Lactuca virosa

Family:  Asteraceae

Parts Used:  Aerial

Taste/Energetics:    Bitter, cold

Properties:  Anxiolytic, analgesic, sedative, galactagogue,

Actions:  This is a strong nervous system relaxant and pain relieving herb that has been used historically for insomnia, anxiety, muscle spasms, arthritis and general pain.  It has long been considered an alternative to opium containing poppies with a similar milky latex that can be extracted fro its medicinal properties.  That latex is known as lactucarium.   Wild Lettuce also is useful for spasming coughs, cramps and stomach griping.  This is a potent herb that can cause severe respiratory distress in high doses and should be treated with the respect.

Dosage:  1-2 tsp infused for 10 minutes to 3 x/day.  1-3 gram as powder/capsule.  Tincture 1-2 ml to 3x/day.   Can be smoked.

Contraindications:  Use with caution.  Poisoning is rare but has happened with this plant.    Avoid with most pharma drugs, respiratory conditions, pregnancy.



Wild Yam

Latin:  Dioscorea villosa

Family:  Dioscoraceae

Parts Used  Root and rhizome

Taste/Energetics:  Bland, bitter, neutral, moistening

Properties:  Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antispasmodic

Actions:  Traditionally this is an herb that’s been used for its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effect to decrease pain.  It is commonly used for healing muscle tears and injuries, spasms, arthritis and swelling.  It can be quite helpful for inflamed intestinal complaints such as ulcers, colitis, stomach cramps and irritable bowel syndrome.   Its antispasmodic effect is also useful for menstrual cramps.

Dosage:  Tincture 1-3 ml to 3 x/day.  As decoction 2-4 tsp in pint of hot water for 40 minutes, to 3 x/day.

Contraindications:   Excessive dosage can lead to nausea.  Avoid in pregnancy.


Wood Betony

Latin:  Stachys betonica

Family:  Lamiaceae

Parts Used: Aerial parts

Taste/Energetics:  Warming, drying, bitter

Properties:  Anxiolytic (and somewhat stimulating too), tonic, carminative, stomachic,  antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory. anti-depressant, vulnerary

Actions:  Betony has long been known be useful for reducing headaches/migraines and is useful for those folks who tend to worry and overthink and analyze things excessively.  They suffer both in the head and in the gut and are afflicted by nervous tension and anxiety.  Betony also helps with digestive complaints associated with over worry and pensiveness that stall digestion.  The tummy feels stuck and obstructed without a lot of movement.   Betony also helps those who get nervous tics and spasms that tend to move around a bit.  In Chinese medicine they would call this “wind”.  I also tend to think of this plant for those who worry to the point of obsession, becoming stuck on mental patterns that are often disturbing.  In that way it could be useful for those with PTSD with disturbing circular thoughts.

Dosage:  1-2 teaspoons infused in hot water 10 mins, 1-2 ml tincture to 3 x/day

Contraindications:  None


Ylang ylang  

Latin:  Cananga odorata

Family:  Annonaceae

Parts Used:   Flowers

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, warming

Properties:  Anxiolytic, stimulating, aphrodisiac, hypotensive, antimicrobial

Actions:  With that intoxicating scent, ylang ylang is often offered in aromatherapy for its uplifting and stimulating quality while it simultaneously reduces anxiety and blood pressure.  Ylang ylang has often been paired with other scents to improve libido and as an aphrodisiac.  Some find the scent too overwhelming and cloying.  Used sparingly it can help relieve tension, act as an antidepressant and improve mood and wellbeing.

Dosage:  Primarily as an essential oil with usual recommendations of dosage.

Contraindications:   Some are sensitive to this scent.  Usual essential oil precautions.




Latin:  Pauinystalia johimbe

Family:  Rubiaceae

Parts Used:  Bark

Taste/Energetics:  Bitter as hell.

Properties:  Stimulant, aphrodisiac, enthogenic, anlagesec

Actions:  Native to Africa, yohimbe has been commonly used as a stimulant, an aphrodisiac and has some hallucinogenic qualities when smoked.  For many people who take yohombe, they report speedy, caffeine like qualities that tend towardsfeeling wired and anxious without the pleasant mood boosting and euphoric qualities of caffeine.  Yohimbe can induce hypertension, panic attacks and nervous system overload in some.  Many try it for its ability to stimulate libido, promote erections for those with dysfunction- but it just doesn’t seem worth it when coupled with CNS overstimulation and dysregulation.

Dosage:  Often 250mg to 2 grams generally in capsule form.  Can be taken as tea- (1 tsp- 1 tablespoon decocted in pint of hot water for 40 mins).   Also smoked traditionally with more hallucinogenic effects.

Contraindications:  Hypertension, prone to anxiety, panic, confusion, dissociation, most medications.



Zizyphus (Suan Zao Ren) 

Latin:  zizyiphus jujuba var. spinosa

Family:  Rhamnaceae

Parts Used:  Seed

Taste/Energetics:  Sweet, sour, neutral

Properties:  Anxiolytic, nervous system tonic, sedative, hepatic tonic

Actions:  This is a traditional Chinese medicine herb that has long been used for nourishing the heart, settling the spirit and helping those with insomnia, restlessness, night sweats, high blood pressure and palpitations.   Like many fruits, zizyphus is nourishing with lots of vitamin C and antioxidants.   In Chinese medicine, suan zao ren is also known for strengthening “Liver yin and blood”, helpful for those who appear frustrated, impatient, weak, pale with signs of heat such as dry eyes and throat and constipation.

Dosage:  1-3 grams as powder, 2-4 tsp in decoction of a pint of water for 40 mins to 2 x/day.  Generally this is an herb that likes to be in a formula.   The classic formula for sleep is called Suan Zao Ren Tang which has five herbs in it and the combination is very helpful for an overheated, wired, restless, deficient type (See recipes).

Contraindications:  None.  This is a very gentle plant.