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Herbs and Actions

By Dr. Ranvir Pahwa, MSc, DHM, AHN, PGD Tox, DOHS, DNM, PhD

Medicinal Herbs and their products work in different ways. They work on various organs, systems, tissues and cells to help correct symptoms and encourage healthy functioning. Different herbs have been categorized according to their action-mechanism on the body based on the organs and diseases and symptoms they help. One can coin this as Herbal Pharmacology. The action mechanism of some important herbs is provided for the reader's knowledge.

Nervines Herbs working on the nervous system are called nervines. Some of these herbs help strengthen and energize the nervous system when prompted by physical or emotional trauma, and stress. Nervine herbs can relax and favorably reduce stress, anxiety, agitation, and sleeplessness.


  • California poppy (Eschecholzia californica) (seeds) - relaxation and sleeplessness

  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) (flowers) - stress, anxiety, insomnia

  • Hops (Humulus lupulus) (strobiles) - mild sedative and hypnotic

  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) (whole plant) - sedation, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

  • Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) (flowers) - anxiety, sleeplessness

  • Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) (root) - depression, anxiety

  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) (root) - insomnia, relaxant

Adaptogens These plant products enhance your stamina, endurance, physical and mental performance, immunity and promote power. It is done by altering the pituitary axis. Examples

  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) (root) - adaptogen, endurance, immunity, stress, fatigue

  • Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) (fungus) - adaptogen, tonic, sports endurance

  • Ginseng (Ginseng panax) (root) - physical and mental performances, adrenal gland tonic

  • Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) (leaves mostly) - immunity, endurance, cold, flu

  • Rhodiola rosea (Rhodiola rosea) - stress, fatigue, immunity, endurance

  • Siberian ginseng (Elutherococcus senticosus) (Root) - alleviate stress, fatigue, increases mental and physical performance, increases concentration

Bitters Bitter means that some edible vegetables and herbs taste bitter. Compared to herbs the bitterness of vegetables is less intense. Herbs are very bitter and some people hate to take them. However, bitter herbs, or "bitters," do magic to heal many health problems. Bitters promote the secretions of digestive enzymes from the pancreas and encourage the flow of bile from the liver. They also stimulate appetite. Bitters are cleansers and are commonly used for indigestion and liver health. Examples

  • Artichoke (Cynara scolymus) (leaf) - indigestion, bile flow, liver protection, alterative, tonic

  • Chamomile (Matricaria reticutita) (flowers) - indigestion, carminative, antispasmodic (use carefully as it belongs to the ragweed family and can cause allergies)

  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) (root and leaf) - Appetite stimulation, stimulates, bile secretion, dyspepsia, constipation

  • Gentian (Gentiana lutea) (root) - digestive stimulation appetite, malabsorption

  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa) (rhizome) - indigestion, anti-inflammatory

References: Nyholt, D. The complete Natural health Encyclopedia- Natural Treatments. A global health Publication. 1993. Qick Access- Consumer Guide to Conditions, Herbs and Supplements. Integrative Medicine. 2000. Balch, JF. Prescription for natural Cures. Wiely, 2004. ND Notes. Canprev and Orange Naturals. vol.3; No. 3, 2017


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