My Top 5 Herbs from 2020

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Well y’all, we made it through one hell of a year! It’s been many moons since I’ve written on here, and to say the least…a lot has happened since then. While we’re all living in the reality of a Covid-19 filled world, I’m hopeful that next year will bring about some positive changes. To be totally honest, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished much this year, but I think living and coping with the new reality has been enough for us all. This year we’ve all found refuge in certain comforts. For me that’s meant taking meditative walks around my neighborhood, reading sci-fi and fantasy mostly as a form of escapism, trail running (people-y-ness permitting), and drinking a nice warm cups of tea. Making tea blends and elixirs gave me some respite from the stresses of these days, and I’ll include some of top herbs of the year here. If you’re interested in learning about herbs, Herbal Academy is offering 25% classes through January 3, click here to learn more. To purchase any herbs mentioned below, please visit Mountain Rose Herbs.

1. Hawthorn

Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is one of my favorite herbs, it’s a cardiotonic and also very delicious at that! I love to use hawthorn berries, leaves, and flowers combined together in teas. It also has a history of use in foods and drinks, like jams and wines, so you can explore with it as you would with other berries. Because hawthorn is specifically indicated for heart conditions and heart health–and stress/anxiety over time will weaken the heart–this was an especially helpful herb to have on hand in 2020. We could all use a little hawthorn medicine to replenish our hearts, to recover from the loss of our sense of normalcy, the loss of our loved ones, and the loss of our functioning society as we knew it before the pandemic. Interested in trying a product with hawthorn? I make delicious Elderberry Hawthorn Syrup.

2. Milky Oats

Milky Oats (Avena sativa), oh milky oats. Thank you for existing this year! Phew. Just thinking about milky oats’ medicine brings me a big sigh of relief. You’ll find milky oats as an ingredient in many nerve nourishing tinctures. Milky oats can help us when our nerves are fried, when we’re feeling on edge and tense, to ease on down. With all the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty we’ve experienced this year, milky oats would be a great herbal tonic to use over time to calm and replenish the nervous system. This year, I’ve used a number of tinctures that have included milky oats as well as in tea blends. I like to mix it into a lot of my daily drinks.

3. Elecampane

Elecampane (Inula helenium) is a pungent herb that is typically used for respiratory infections. As someone living in so-called California during Covid-19 and some of the worst fires this year, elecampane felt like a godsend! I received some elecampane infused honey from an herbal mentorship I’ve been participating in through Dr. Jacqui Wilkins, ND of Xálish Medicines. It’s delicious on its own, but I also love putting it into my morning chai. It makes breathing easier and feels as though it expands your lung capacity. This year, it’s been so hard to feel like I can take a deep breath and elecampane really helped me learn to breathe deeply again. Many of us this year have been walking around trying not to breathe, so I recommend communing and meditating with some elecampane medicine. I also think generally this herb would be an excellent one to have on hand in case you contract Covid-19 as it could help alleviate some of the symptoms commonly associated with the illness.

4. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a replenishing and calming adaptogen that helps us deal with long-term stress and exhaustion. Sounds like the perfect herb for this year, right? Additionally, many (including myself) find this herb to help with insomnia and restlessness. When you’re finding it hard to relax and are feeling on edge, a decoction or tincture of ashwagandha could support a restful nights’ sleep, help calm an agitated mind so you can be less emotionally reactive, and also increase your ability to concentrate. For these reasons, ashwagandha has been an indispensable herb for the year.

5. Damiana

Damiana (Turnera diffusa) enhances mood and sensation. Many use this herb as an aphrodisiac (learn more about herbal aphrodisiacs here), which I’d most certainly say that it is! But more than an aphrodisiac, damiana can pull us out of depression. Damiana helps us tune into our body, improving circulation, and our ability to sense the world around us. While it can help boost libido, I think it also helps us to remember what it’s like to find joy in simple sensations like the wind caressing our face, the textures of plants, the taste of a delicious drink, and maybe that touch we’ve been longing for in Covid-19 times. I tend to be in my head and thoughts a lot which can bring me anxiety in social situations and damiana in my experience really helps to ground us and bring us back into our body which in turn can improve our sociability.

That’s a quick rundown of my top 5 favorite herbs that I’ve used throughout 2020, I’d love to hear what has helped you through this year in the comments below. 😊

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