How did you fall in love with herbs? Did it start with a particular herb or formula that helped you? Or maybe you were like me and found a lot of herbs that helped you heal from a chronic problem? I know some of you may have grown up with herbs in your life (lucky!). However the plants made it into your life, chances are it went from mildly interesting to passionately exciting in a short length of time! When I first started learning about herbs, I wanted to soak up everything … today … or perhaps tomorrow! I simply couldn’t learn fast enough. I borrowed herbal books from the library and from friends. I took classes when I could. I had flashcards. (Seriously, I made flashcards!) I would brush my teeth and try to memorize herbal actions based on a poster I had hanging in the bathroom. I loved this new, exciting world of herbs that was opening up to me. But I was also frustrated. In those days, I often felt overwhelmed with information. It was maddening to be learning the same things over and over but the information wasn’t sticking in my head. Galacto-what? Someone would ask me about an herb or an ailment and even though I knew I had studied that before, my mind went foggy or blank. Instead of stammering an incoherent response, I wanted to confidently know about herbs. Over time my herbal recall became clearer. Someone would ask me about an herb and I could mentally see the flashcard in front of my eyes and repeat back what was on it. But this method had its problems too. As people began taking my advice (myself included), I saw that the herbs sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. Not knowing if an herb was actually going to help or not was hard on my confidence!
How to Choose Herbs With Confidence
How to Choose Herbs With Confidence Now, many years later, after attending many different herbal schools and helping thousands of herbal students confidently learn about herbs, I know something for certain: It’s not WHICH herb you choose, it’s HOW you choose that matters. Learning herbalism by memorizing lists often leads to confusion and overwhelm. Using herbs confidently and effectively begins with experiencing HOW the herbs work. This starts with a simple tool that you carry with you everywhere you go: your taste. That’s right. Tasting and experiencing how herbs work in your body is the best way to learn how to use herbs. As you develop this tool, by simply tasting something, you will KNOW how it works and how best to use it. Tasting and experiencing brings the herbs to life and transforms your learning experience. Instead of passively trying to remember facts, you are building your herbal knowledge from within. In this way you can confidently choose herbs that work because you know HOW to choose them.
Everything Begins With Taste!
In herbalism there are five main tastes: pungent, salty, sour, bitter, and sweet. Each of those five different tastes have different attributes. That means when you taste a sour herb versus a pungent herb, you can determine those different tastes and know HOW to use those herbs. To demonstrate this, I’m going to show you five different herbal formulas using elderberries as the main ingredient. Each of these herbal remedies can be used in very different ways. I’ll show you how to interpret herbs for yourself using taste. In other words, we are going to use the taste of herbs as our guide in making five distinct herbal remedies with elderberries. Elder is such a wonderful plant! We use both the flowers and berries as medicine and while it’s famous for being a cold and flu herb, you’ll soon see that its gifts go way beyond this! Elders grow as a shrub and are very common in temperate parts of the world. There are several different species of elders. Sambucus nigra (black elder) and S. nigra ssp. caerulea (blue elder) are the ones I am most familiar with using as medicine. Red elders, like S. racemosa, aren’t typically used in the same way as the black or blue elderberry. Before we get to the elderberry tea recipes, I have one more note. If you prefer to drink sweetened teas, you can add a sweetener of your choice to these recipes. However, I do recommend sipping them before adding sweeteners so you can get a sense of their pure taste
Elderberry Tea for Sniffles, Congestion, and Aches and Pains
Taking elderberry at the first sign of a cold or influenza is a potent way to either stop the infection or to shorten the duration of the illness.123 Elderberry works well as a single herb, but you can add other herbs to be more targeted in your approach. If you feel like you are coming down with something and you also feel cold, have the sniffles or congestion, and are starting to feel the aches and pains associated with an upper respiratory illness, then adding warming and aromatic herbs can be the perfect solution. Warming and aromatic herbs are called pungent herbs. These herbs are used to awaken the senses and get things moving. But you don’t have to memorize this … you probably already know it! Have you ever eaten a spicy soup or meal? Do you remember it making your eyes water or your nose run? That’s what pungent herbs do in a nutshell. They stimulate and move things, which is perfect for stagnancy or when something is stuck (e.g., sinus or lung congestion, sluggish digestion, etc.). The following herbal tea combines the cold- and flu-fighting qualities of elderberry with the warming and stimulating properties of several pungent herbs: ginger (Zingiber officinale), black pepper (Piper nigrum), rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) and thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Reach for this elderberry tea when you feel like you are coming down with a cold and you also feel cold (chilled) in your body
What you’ll need…
1/4 cup dried elderberries (30 grams)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns, coarsely ground
- 14 ounces water 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- Honey or another sweetener as desired
- Place the elderberries, ginger, black pepper, and water in a small saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Add the rosemary and thyme. Cover and let steep for 5 minutes. We add the aromatic herbs at the end so that their volatile oils don’t evaporate during the simmering process.
- Strain. Add honey or another sweetener as desired.
- Drink throughout the day.
Elderberry Tea for Strong Bones and Healthy Hair
Elderberries are nutrient-dense. They contain significant levels of potassium, magnesium, ascorbic acid, calcium, and beta-carotene.4 They can be enjoyed daily as an important source of nutrition.
The following herbal tea combines elderberries with other nutrient-dense herbs that are considered to have a “salty” flavor: stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) and oatstraw (Avena sativa). It’s important to note that when I say salty, I don’t mean they taste like table salt! Instead, these herbs have a deep mineral-rich taste, similar to kale or spinach. That mineral taste indicates that these are food-like herbs that contain lots of nutrients!
This elderberry tea can be enjoyed daily and is a great way to support healthy bones, teeth, and hair. Many people also report having increased energy levels after drinking nourishing nettle and oatstraw teas for an extended period of time.
What you’ll need…
- 1/4 cup dried elderberries (30 grams)
- 1/2 cup dried nettle leaves (approximately 14 grams)
- 1/2 cup dried oatstraw (approximately 14 grams)
- 32 ounces of water
- Honey or another sweetener as desired
- Place the herbs and water in a medium saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
- Strain. Add honey or other sweeteners as desired.
- Drink throughout the day. This is also good as a cool beverage.