My growing herb list: healing with plants

I was asked a while back when I was in the very early stages of my herbal medicine experiments what herbs I was having success with…at the time I didn’t feel confident sharing much information. Now I’m feeling a bit more able to articulate what I’m up to.  I wrote an early draft of this post for a health group I’m part of. This is an edited version with additional information.

I’ve learned a lot but the information I share is very much what I’ve learned in a very personal quest and I don’t recommend anything in particular for any given reader reading this blog. In fact I need to make it very clear that some of these herbs, if taken when in acute psychiatric withdrawal could very well exacerbate things. Timing is everything. I’m four years into rebuilding from the devastating damage the drugs left me with. A year ago, or two or three, I would not have tolerated what I’m doing now. We’re all different and certainly many people don’t ever develop the sensitivities I and many others do. So it’s likely if you don’t have multiple sensitivities experimenting with herbs would be safer. Some herbs are truly very safe for almost everyone. Others some folks need to be careful with. The scope of this post does not detail this issue, so please do your own research or work with an herbalist.

I’ve been taking herbs and adding more into my diet in a somewhat systematic fashion now and seen great improvements in my well-being for a few months and it’s become clear that one of the things I’m doing is simply ingesting mega doses of a wide variety of anti-inflammatory compounds on a daily basis. I’m rotating many different herbs, mostly by way of teas, and adding to my collection too, all the time. I’m getting better at a clip and it’s very exciting.

Some of these herbs I learned about from Susun Weed, a master herbalist and wonderful human being, both. She has lots of information about the nutritive value of herbs and they are astonishing nutrient powerhouses. I can’t take vitamins and minerals in supplement form due to multiple sensitivities so I think some of these highly nutritional herbs are helping me on that count too. Here is an article about nourishing infusions from Susun Weed. I’ve learned a whole lot from her and experimented (cautiously) with her recommendations. I’ve gone beyond her recommendations too, however, and found information from multiple sources and use some herbs that she doesn’t seem to commonly use as well.

I am using a lot of herbs that are categorized as “nervine” herbs. They support the nervous system. I find that they are truly profoundly healing. Psychiatric drug withdrawal syndrome, is among other things, an autonomic nervous system injury.  The herbs are healing in a very literal sense in that they don’t just soothe the nervous system — I can feel them building it. I don’t have to use the herbs in an ongoing way the way pharmaceuticals are used and what’s more I find that if I meditate after taking them I can process old traumas and shadow content from my psyche in such a way that old traumatic stuff moves through and is healed. Truly astonishing and wonderful. I don’t expect everyone would find this to be true for them, but I’m very grateful that it works this way for me. As I suggested earlier, there was a time when taking the herbs would have been too much for my nervous system and taking them would have been detrimental. Again, timing is everything.

I find that I use some herbs only occasionally and others almost daily for short periods of time. I don’t take anything daily for more than a week or so, I guess. This is determined by what my body wants not by any intellectual process.

Some of the herbs are very potent and I need to use them cautiously…some are simply healthy beverages that pack a nutritional punch….I imagine everyone’s list would look different…I don’t recommend anyone take anything off my list without doing your own research or consulting an herbalist.

So I’m sharing the developing list with you all here. I want to say that I research each herb and then based on particular medicinal properties that may be helpful to me and my particular issues I try them…many of them are simply like having good food and in fact I cook with a lot of herbs with wonderful medicinal properties as well. Think basil, sage, cumin, parsley, dill, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, garlic, mint etc. Yes, they are all wonderfully nutritive and anti-inflammatory too. We grow many in our garden.

Some of the herbs were at one time in that zone of being risky but are no longer…so that’s, I guess, indicative of me healing…not sure how or why these things change…

I follow my intuition and it’s gotten to have quite the impressive capacity when it comes to knowing just what I need and when…it’s kind of an awesome mystery that is unfolding.

this is the list:

I’ve marked the ones that are uber potent for me with a notation…

  • Motherwort
  • Lemon Balm
  • Chamomile
  • Skull Cap
  • Catnip
  • Hawthorne Berry
  • Nettle leaf
  • Black Cohosh
  • St. John’s Wort (very carefully and rarely)
  • Feverfew
  • Valerian (very carefully and rarely)
  • Bugleweed (very carefully and rarely — this started my adventure when I was diagnosed with hyper-thyroid which I no longer have as a result of treating it with herbs. I didn’t need to take the bugleweed as much as it was prescribed to successfully lower my hyper-thyroid…I listened to my body rather than what the routine prescription was. I’m not taking it at all anymore now. It’s a doozy in my body, but it did help lower the thyroid hormone. It has other benefits as well — for other people — but it’s not an herb that my body likes all that much)
  • Eleuthero (very carefully and rarely)
  • Oatstraw
  • Red Clover
  • Passionflower
  • Hops
  • Slippery Elm Bark
  • White peony
  • Holy Basil
  • Nigella Sativa (seed and oil)  — I’ve been very reactive to this at certain times and need breaks from time to time still
  • Fennel seed (I eat the bulbs and greens quite often too and have for a long time)
  • Dandelion root
  • Rooibos
  • Raspberry leaf

on the agenda:

  • NEEM
  • Boswellia
  • Calamus Oil

Don’t forget the herbs you can cook with I mentioned above…basil, sage, cumin, parsley, dill, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, garlic and mint etc.

So many more to try!! And it’s likely I’ve missed a few.

I also pick and eat wild dandelion at this time of year. It’s delicious. I buy it in the health food store the rest of the year. I’m able to pick wild nettle locally at this time of year as well, but I’ve only managed to get out and do it once. Dandelion is everywhere, it’s harder to get to nettle patches for me. Actually there are a lot of herbs that grow locally and I hope to learn to identify and harvest many more.

 Updated note: I’ve been continuing my adventures with herbs since I wrote this piece. They are phenomenal allies. I use fresh dried herb and make teas so that I can very carefully slowly sip and savor and discern the experience. I have thus learned how to know which herb is appropriate when…this is not about taking the same thing day after day after day…it’s about being in relationship with the plants…it’s lovely.

Other posts that talk about plant medicine:

Please do not attempt to discontinue psych drugs without first very carefully educating yourself on the risks involved so that you might minimize the chances of developing grave iatrogenic illness if you decide to withdraw: Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal and Protracted Withdrawal Syndrome Round-Up

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About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters