Ask five different people to list their top five healing herbs and you’ll probably get five different answers. But certain herbal tinctures pop up with particular frequency because of their accessibility and long history of use. Here are five examples, which you’ll find among our inventory of 100% alcohol-free liquid herbal supplements.
European settlers couldn’t imagine life in the New World without dandelions, so they brought their “dent de lion” with them. The French name, meaning lion’s tooth, references the plant’s coarsely toothed leaves. Dandelions thrived in America and soon acquired the nickname, “horse lettuce,” because horses happily gobbled up the yellow flowers, leaves and roots. Why wouldn’t they? Dandelion is a source of iron, calcium, Vitamins B, C and D and other antioxidants. Those ingredients make dandelion a wonderful tonic, balancing blood pH and blood sugar levels, while also promoting optimal gall bladder function and protecting the liver.
Even though its name derives from the Greek word for hedgehog, a reference to the spiky flower heads, coneflowers are as American as apple pie. The Plains Indians were using echinacea as medicine centuries before European settlers arrived. Studies show that phenolic compounds in coneflower roots enhance the bodies innate immunity, the reason for this herb’s reputation as an immune system booster.
Ginseng may get its name from the Chinese words for “man” and “herb” (describing the root’s resemblance to the human torso, arms and legs), but this plant is native to both China and North America. Chinese healers were using the root medicinally at least from the second century BC, to boost energy, improve cognitive function, aid sexual performance and generally promote fitness. Back then, ginseng was reserved for royalty. After Chinese emperors overharvested the herb, the resulting shortage was filled by American exporters. Europeans had been aware of ginseng’s healing properties since Marco Polo’s 13th century expedition to East Asia, so it was only a matter of time before a French priest working with the Iroquois realized that the very same plant grew in North America and was revered among Native American healers. Modern medical studies substantiate ginseng’s energy-boosting properties, as well as its support of cognitive function.
4. St. John’s Wort
A Eurasian native, St. John’s wort was named for St. John the Baptist, because it typically begins blooming around June 24, the day celebrated as the saint’s birthday. The cheerful yellow flowers now grow in many corners of the globe, including North America. The visual cheer is only one reason why St. John’s wort can elevate mood. Its ingredients, like hypericin and hyperforin, have been shown to boost happy brain chemicals like serotonin.
Valerian root figured prominently in the pharmacopeia of 2nd century Greek physician Galen. Galen might not have known that valerian, whose name traces back to the Latin word for “healthy,” boosts the human neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid, but he recognized its calmative properties, its efficacy in promoting sleep and generally helping people calm temporary anxiousness and stress.