Tonic Herbs: Maintenance for Life

by Elisa Adams

Providing the requisite oils and fluids is part of our accepted automobile care. Herbal tonics have been used for millennia for similar reasonsbecause "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." The following are some favorite tonic herbs, recommended by Douglas Schar, an herbalist practicing in London.

Hawthorn: the heart tonic. Like rose hips, the hawthorn berry is an exceptional source of rutin, a bioflavonoid which helps reduce blood vessel plaque formation. Known for its role in lowering blood pressure, easing angina, reducing ankle puffiness and shortness of breath, it contains hyperin, an antioxidant which neutralizes free radicals. Left alone, free radicals damage blood vessels and result in atherosclerosis. The NSP hawthorn berry extract is delicious mixed in yogurt!

Licorice: the respiratory tonic. Not just black anise-flavored candy, this tonic rootan essential in Chinese medicineis a potent source of glycerrhetic acid, glycyrrhizin, and other compounds shown to reduce inflammation, fight infections, reduce asthma and other allergic reactions and to support adrenal function. Recommended for pale children with dark circles under their eyes, it reduces tendencies to coughs, colds, and chronic bronchial conditions. It is a moisturizing herb and is not recommended for adults with high blood pressure.

Story: Exposure to a highly toxic mix of chemicals left a London chemist battling a variety of chronic respiratory problems: hay fever, sinusitis, allergies, and colds that wouldn’t quit. After three months of licorice therapy, she realized that she was enjoying a cold-free winter and later, her allergies were only a faint reminder of what they’d been the year before!

Maitake: the immune tonic. A mushroom-producing fungus, maitake is one of the oldest life forms on planet Earth. Found in North America, Europe, and Japan, its ability to inhibit cancer was confirmed in the early 1980’s. Elevating white blood cell levels and strengthening immune boosters like interferon and interleukin, it also directly inhibits viruses like herpes.

Schar, author of Thirty Plants That Can Save Your Life, is currently doing AIDS research with Maitake. Patients are experiencing a rise in T-cell count and a lessening in the symptoms associated with the HIV (virus), such as night sweats, weight loss, and diarrhea. Many of his subjects have successfully gained weight and returned to work.

Oregon grape: the liver and skin tonic. For skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, and acne, Oregon grape provides a way of avoiding steroid creams and antibiotics by addressing the underlying problem rather than treating the symptoms. O.G. contains berbamine, an antihistamine that stimulates immune and liver function, and berberine, an anti-inflammatory compound useful in treating dandruff and ulcers. Many chronic skin disorders are autoimmune, an area where O.G. shines.

For many women, skin conditions are often accompanied by gallstones. Schar discovered that while skin problems were alleviated, difficulties with digesting fatty foods and chronic constipation also disappeared in a year with Oregon grape!

Saw Palmetto: the prostate tonic. Part of the “male menopause” syndrome is enlargement of the prostate gland, caused by an enzyme that converts muscle-building testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, a nasty little hormone. Saw palmetto blocks this conversion, protecting the prostate, libido, potency and muscle mass, and helping men stay active longer!

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