Sandra Clair's food and plant medicine combinations
Plant medicines and a nourishing diet go hand in hand. Plant medicine works best to harmonise bodily functions when the body is well nourished. These are my favourite ways to combine plant medicines with healthy nourishment depending on your needs:
1. Adrenal support
Adrenal fatigue is a prevalent syndrome affecting many people because our modern lives entice and even expect people to be constantly available and ready to respond to the next text and email coming through. It is easy to be hooked on being ‘on' in our daily lives and disregard our body's physiological need to rest and recharge for significant periods every day. Suffering in a constant state of fight or flight, our nervous system struggles to decipher the difference between real and perceived threats and over time, this chronic stress manifests into a variety of unwelcome symptoms, such as lethargy, low body temperature and mild depression.
Licorice improves resistance to stress and St. John's Wort strengthens the function of the nervous system. This sunshine plant helps to clear the stress hormone cortisol and keeps serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel relaxed and happy, circulating for longer. Licorice and St. John's Wort can be sipped throughout the day as a medicinal tea together with other plants that mitigate your body's stress response such as Passionflower and Lemon balm. That way you sequester the stress hormones as they occur so that you are not feeling completely ‘wired' by the evening.
When you are feeling exhausted, build your energy levels without causing blood sugar spikes by eating enough protein. If you can, organic and free range beef, chicken, eggs are the best source of proteins. You can often save money by purchasing them at your local farmers' market. If you have a plant based diet, some great options are lentils, black bean, tofu and quinoa.
For fats, fresh avocado, coconut oil, nuts and seeds are great. If you can tolerate dairy, incorporate ethically produced butter, cheese and other dairy products. Eating enough fat is important, and it's a great source of energy, but make sure that your sources of fat are from organic, natural whole foods. Reduce processed foods and sugar as this also can be taxing to the body. Consider reducing caffeine and alcohol as they can deplete the adrenals even further and can therefore be an added stress to the body.
Detoxification is the body's process of removing metabolic wastes and toxic substances. The liver, kidneys, skin and lungs naturally perform the detox functions for the body. 10,000 years ago; 2,000 years ago; even 300 years ago, this was enough to process everything we were exposed to, but the industrial revolution has made huge changes to our environment and therefore, huge demands on our body. We eat, drink, use, breathe and absorb more man-made chemicals than any human population, yet from an evolutionary perspective, we are the same species, with the same detoxification capabilities, as our ancestors.
Support your body's detoxification process with St Mary's Thistle, Globe Artichoke and Dandelion - powerhouse detoxification plants that support the flow of bile and digestive juices and breaks down food for better absorption.
Pair with a diet high in brassica and cruciferous vegetables (dark leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprout etc). These contain high levels of sulphur, soluble fibre, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals like magnesium and antioxidants, to support your liver, neutralise toxins, stimulate digestive enzymes and provide vital nutrients for good cell health.
Your immune system works around the clock to defend your body against pathogens. If your immune system is compromised, incorporate immune strengthening herbs like Echinacea, which balances the immune system, and prevents and treats upper respiratory tract infections. Thyme is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, making it a great first choice as a preventative measure and to treat coughs and colds if something has sneaked past your defences.
It is clear that there is a direct relationship between gut health and immunity, therefore gut healing foods are my favourite way to improve the immune response. Bone broths, freshly made vegetable soups, fermented vegetables and probiotic drinks such as Kombucha are easy on digestion, anti-inflammatory and feed and increase healthy gut bacteria. Bone broths are also a quick and healthy way to immediately stop sugar cravings. If you don't have time to make your own broths try out the concentrated powders by Nutra organics, I find them easy to prepare and they are delicious.
This article is not intended to substitute for medical advice. For any concerns, consult your health professional.
Sandra is a health scientist, registered medical herbalist, and founder of plant medicine company Artemis.