Time for your tune up with herbal Tonics!

Tonics are an important aspect of herbal medicine. Toning and supporting our body systems is one of the ways that we can use herbs every day to feel our best and support ourselves on every level. I tend to use ‘tonic’ herbs all year long, and especially during our change of seasons, spring and fall.

Spring is a time of renewal. A time for lightening up and throwing off the ‘cloak of cold and snow’ (in my case) or maybe just embracing the change for warmer weather from cool months.

I have so many favourite herbs to use during the change of seasons. I see it as a time to ‘tune up’ a little. Spring is traditionally LIVER time and we tend to think of ‘Spring tonics’ as herbs which support and detoxify this very important organ.

Autumn? A time to prepare for winter ahead ~ supporting the digestive system which supports our immune system and …well.. we are a magical ‘machine’. All our systems are connected!

Our ‘tune up’ can be a series of small changes.
It can be a simple addition of bitter greens like dandelion, rapini, chard to your salads, or steamed or added to light soups.  There is something missing in our ‘western diets’ and that is the “bitter taste”. Increase BITTER taste in your day and you are supporting your all important liver!
Do you have a favourite way to ensure that you are having your bitters? I would LOVE to hear about it. 

We can benefit greatly from paying attention to our need for bitters! More ideas to come next week! Whether it’s a seasonal ritual or a definite physical need (detoxification from exposure to environmental toxins), herbs can help. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, here 3 ideas to help you to feel your best!

Milk Thistle seeds are an important part of some SPRING herbal formulas. I use this special herb all year ’round but especially in spring and autumn as a part of supportive liver and detoxifying tonics.

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Milk Thistle (silybyum marianum) is a good herb to know. It is a powerful ally, used mostly in tincture form, but not always! See below for a super tasty condiment starring milk thistle seeds!

This ‘best friend’ to your liver has the ability to offer protection from the harmful affects of toxins. Milk Thistle is toning and regenerating. We tend to combine with other bitter herbs to get the best results. More about milk thistle medicine, this week!

Now is a great time to energize and support our digestive system. This formula supports the liver and gall bladder. I make it as a tincture and find it very effective.
The basic ‘home’ method for making a tincture? 
Assemble the ingredients below. Place in a glass canning jar. Cover with Vodka or other alcohol. Ensure you have a snug-fitting lid. Shake daily. Store in a cool dark cupboard. It’s ready in 3-4 weeks. (personally, I leave at least 1 month) Don’t worry if you are taking this tonic in the summer. Your body will thank you ~ anytime is great to support liver and gall bladder!

Liver – Gall Bladder Tonic

50% Milk Thistle Seed
10%  Barberry
10% Dandelion root
10% Fennel seed
5% Gentian Root* 
10% Ginger root
5 % Garlic bulb
 * can substitute with Wormwood (leaf)

This next recipe can be used to create a tincture but it also makes a delicious detoxifying tea. It’s easy to make. I’ve included the step-by-step details. There are 5 main ingredients and many ‘optional add – ons’. Customize the recipe with what you have on hand or to your own taste. 

Detox Tea

We tend to make a decoction when working with barks and roots (and which have water soluble chemicals). We boil the plant material for 15-20 minutes, instead of  steeping it in hot water. Decoctions encourage roots to release their active constituents.
To prepare a decoction, you will need a stainless steel or ceramic pot with a snug fitting lid. Measure the amount of herb needed*  into the pot and add the proper amount of cold water depending on how many cups of the decoction you wish to prepare.
Turn on the heat to medium high and bring to a rolling boil.
Put the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to medium or even low to keep the mixture simmering.
Allow to simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Add any of the optional ingredients, and continue to simmer for another 5-8 minutes.
Allow decoction to cool a little and then strain. I use a large glass canning jar. 
Therapeutic ‘dose’ (the amount needed to make a difference in your body!)
is 2-3 cups per day. It’s easy to make this in the morning. Just make enough for your 3 cups. Sometimes, I will make a larger batch and have enough for the following day.

Note:
Measure approximately 2 teaspoons of cut herb per 8 ounces of water

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Add the first 5 ingredients to a pot to start the process:

2 parts Dandelion Root
2 parts Burdock Root
1 part Cardamom Seed
1 part Ginger Root
1 part Fennel Seed

Optional ~ add 1/4 to 1/2 part of any additions below after 15 minutes

Cinnamon Bark
Juniper berry
Horsetail Herb
Black peppercorns
Parsley Leaf
Uva Ursi
Orange Peel
Licorice Root
Clove Bud

Milk Thistle can combine with sesame and other seeds to create a LIVER tonic condiment!! Here’s one of my all time favourites. Always on hand at home.

Milk Thistle Gomasio

In this ‘adapted’ recipe, I’ve used toasted sesame seeds along with hemp seeds, milk thistle seeds, and a touch of that gorgeous Himalayan pink salt. This combination creates a mineral dense, liver supportive, nourishing + healthy condiment! Milk Thistle seeds can be a wonderful support for your liver. Herbalists traditionally use Milk Thistle seeds, tinctured, alone or in formulae in many digestive and hepato-trophic tonics. I like to use the seeds whenever possible, in tasty condiments like this one.

You will need:

1 cup sesame seeds, organic preferred, raw or quickly dry toasted in a pan
1/4 cup hemp seeds (sometimes called hemp hearts)
1/4 cup milk thistle seeds
1 tbsp Sea Salt

To make:
To dry toast the sesame seeds, gently warm them in a pan over medium heat, tossing or stirring constantly. When the oil begins to release and the seeds start to turn golden, remove the seeds from heat and place in a bowl to cool. Be very careful not to let them burn!

What’s YOUR favourite tonic for this season?   Be well. xo Carol

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2 Comments

  • How often and how much do you use the tonic. Also, I have thistle in my yard. It flowers pink. Can you use the root at all? I am constantly pulling it out.

    I am glad you included wormwood in one of your recipes. I grow that too and was wondering what to do with it.

    • Thanks for writing Anna. I will amend the post to include this rather important info!!!
      If you are drinking the tea, take 3-4 cups per day.
      If you are taking the remedy as a tincture, I would suggest taking 1 dropperful 2-3 x per day for a couple of days to see how you feel. Then increase the dose to 2 dropperfuls per day 2-3 x daily. The ‘therapeutic’ dose is 3 dropperfuls 3 x daily. As with all of our posts, here at Studio Botanica, I am making general recommendations, based on my experience. If there is an ongoing health issue and folks want to take this nourishing tonic, they may want to be in touch with me as a client or employ another herbalist to make specific suggestions. I am sure you understand. TUVM!! LMK if you have any more questions.
      YES.. Love wormwood.. Will eventually post the post I’ve been writing for a year!! lol

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