I absolutely love herbs—especially those classified as “tonic herbs,” meaning they can be taken regularly as preventative maintenance. Nature created medicinal plants for a reason. The diets of human cultures throughout history have always had an herbal or medicinal component. Unfortunately, because we’ve grown increasingly disconnected from Nature, many people now instinctively seek out pharmaceutical drugs and narcotics to fill that need, unaware that they’re actually looking for the medicinal substances that plants have always offered.
The diets of human cultures throughout history have always had an herbal component.
Unlike drugs, tonic herbs are non-addictive and health promoting. As plants, they contain certain compounds that make them hardy and help them thrive under harsh conditions (think: weeds). When you consume them, these compounds (aka “active constituents”) are then passed on to you and in turn help you adapt to stress, resist disease and have more vitality.
Below I list six of the most potent tonic herbs used throughout history by great ancient cultures from around the world to increase longevity, immunity, virility and energy (L.I.V.E.). There are tens of thousands of herbs out there, but I chose to write about these six in particular because of their long history of safe use and for their adaptogenic and health promoting qualities in both men and women. (Plus I’ve been using them myself a lot lately and wanted to share).
1.) Asian ginseng
Also known as Panax ginseng, Korean ginseng or red ginseng, this herb has been famously called the “King of Herbs.” The botanical name “Panax” means “all-heal” in Greek, sharing the same origin as the English word ‘panacea,’ meaning cure-all. It is one of the oldest, most revered and most well-studied herbs of all time. For thousands of years up until relatively recently, ginseng has only been available to those who found it growing wildly in the forests of Northeast China and other remote regions. Now you can have it anytime you want. You lucky dog, you.
Asian ginseng helps invigorate and regulate the metabolic, respiratory and central nervous systems. It has also been shown to balance the endocrine systems of otherwise healthy individuals. Ginseng helps a person quickly adapt to routine and occasionally stressful conditions. In athletes, it enhances endurance. It has been shown to reduce the negative effects of physical, emotional and mental stresses. Recent scientific research is showing that high quality Asian ginseng also has very powerful immunological functions.
2.) American ginseng
Also known as white ginseng, this is a more mild, less stimulating version of Asian ginseng. Whereas Asian ginseng has a stimulating, “warming” effect, American ginseng has more of a calm, “cooling” effect. They balance each other out very nicely when taken together (yin and yang). American ginseng has a particular affinity for moistening the tissues and is used especially as a lung tonic.
Out of all the ancient herbs used throughout human history, ginseng has the most solid reputation for effectiveness as an adaptogen, or substance that increases the body’s ability to handle stress and promote normal physiological functioning. Because of its long and famous history of successful use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, other herbs from around the world with similar health promoting qualities have also earned the nickname “ginseng.” Although not botanically related, these “ginsengs” from around the world have unique adaptogenic qualities of their own and therefore are an important part of any herbal program. Which brings us to our next herb…
Of all the medicinal herbs used throughout human history, ginseng has the most solid reputation for effectiveness as an adaptogen.
3.) Eleuthero (aka Siberian ginseng)*
A well-known adaptogen, this root herb helps your body handle stress, recover from mental and physical exertion and improve mental alertness. Eleuthero is also excellent for building blood and helping the body absorb and efficiently use oxygen. It’s extremely immune system supportive. As with the other adaptogens, its true benefits are cumulative and most apparent with long term use.
4.) Ashwaganda (aka Indian ginseng)*
Because of it’s wide use for a variety of conditions and as a daily tonic in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, it is colloquially referred to as “Indian ginseng”. Ashwaganda has been used for over 3000 years to help nourish and restore optimal nervous and immune system functions. It has been shown to help concentration, especially in people with ADD or ADHD. It also has the ability to increase cognitive functions and has been used as a libido enhancer and sexual stimulant for both men and women.
5.) Maca (aka Peruvian ginseng)*
A distant relative of the radish, maca is a cruciferous root vegetable that is widely used by the indigenous cultures of Peru to promote and maintain healthy sexual function. It is unique because it only grows at elevations above 10,000 feet, where the terrain is harsh and the growing conditions unforgiving. By its very nature, the maca root must be a hardy plant in order to survive and thrive in its natural habitat. By consuming this plant, you acquire these same robust qualities for yourself.
Astragalus is not a “ginseng,” yet nevertheless it is one of the most important tonic herbs in the world. Astragalus extract has been recognized as a longevity substance by modern researchers because it helps lengthen telomeres, which are the “caps” at either end of DNA chromosomes. The lengthening of telomeres has been associated with slowing down the aging process by protecting chromosomes from deteriorating. Conversely, the shorter your telomeres become, the more damaged your DNA gets and the shorter your potential lifespan. It has been used for over 2000 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to strengthen the body as a whole. In TCM, the root is believed to strengthen muscle and increase sperm activity. It promotes healthy skin and helps your body respond to changes in the weather and in the environment. This herb is best utilized by the body as an extract.
4 Easy Ways to Use These Herbs
Here are a few ideas for how you can incorporate these herbs into your daily life right now. Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to buy bulk herbs, by the way.
1. Buy capsules or tinctures of the separate herbs at your local herb shop or online. Take them like you would a daily vitamin.
2. Use the bulk herb powders in your baking, smoothies or other recipes.
3. Get the chopped up dried herbs and use them to make an herbal tea.
4. Buy Supreme Vitality, an organic herbal supplement I handcrafted myself that contains all of these freshly prepared and encapsulated ingredients. I started fresh grinding these herbs just for my personal use and would throw the powder into smoothies I was making. After posting about it online, my social media (and real life) friends started to repeatedly ask me to make blends for them. So I did. And they loved it. And now I made it for you, too.
In abundant health,
* For clarification, this plant is not botanically classified as a true “ginseng” but rather has ginseng-like properties, thus the nickname.