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Plants & People ~ An Introduction to Herbal Energetics

Herbal Energetics

The herbs and their energetics used in my herbal teas are listed in my Herb-pedia. Therefore I felt the need to note somewhere what this means as understanding plants, their properties and energetics are super important when blending naturopathic herbal teas or when formulating tinctures for my clients.   

To understand plants, you must understand two important ways in which herbs work in the body. These are herbal actions which are the uses, properties and clinical applications of plants such as bitters, carminatives, nervines etc.  Herbal actions are critical in helping to shift the physiology of the body (the effects of herbs on the function of the body). However, it is also super critical to consider the energetics of herbs. 

Herbal energetics also shift the physiology but what determines the physiology is the ecology, meaning it is how a plant interacts with the body's constitution and tissue state and this is what herbal energetics do. Herbal energetics are based off the four primary Elements (Earth, Wind, Air and Fire), and the knowledge of the energetic properties of herbs has been a part of healing practices worldwide for centuries.

Below I have listed a very simple breakdown of the energetic qualities to give you an idea of the role each one plays in the body. 

Temperature (metabolism)

  • hot/warming = irritation
  • cold/cooling = depression

Moisture (fluids in tissues - water and fats)

  • damp =  stagnation
  • dry  = atrophy (weakening)

Tone/Tonic (state of the tension the tissues are in)

  • tense = constriction
  • relaxed = relaxation

For instance, Cayenne is warming and stimulating, increasing the circulation of the blood. Lavender is cooling and stops a headache by cooling the hot blood to the head. Nettle is cooling, drying and tonic indicated for tissues that are hot and inflamed and swollen with fluids. Often times a herb can have more than one energetic profile.

It is important to note that there are various degrees of hot/cold, moist/dry or tense/relaxed.  For example, cayenne and ginger are both warming but not to the same degree.  These degrees do not refer to the degrees of temperature as on a thermometer however they represent categories of action, increasing in intensity from mild to strong.

It's all about matching the right herb to the right person as each and every person will respond to a plants energetics in a slightly different way.

It does take a quite a bit to get your head around it all however if you do want to dive deeper into the world of herbal energetics I would recommend Matthew Woods book "The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism".