Especially nutritious herbs are called Nutritives to describe their action.
All herbs are nutritious simply on the basis that they’re plants. However, some are obviously much higher on the scale, being rich in vitamins, minerals or antioxidants; while others are much lower, for example acting mostly as fibre.
A herb has multiple actions due to the diversity of their chemistry. The action is then compared with its property, such as whether it’s warming or cooling, drying or moistening. This is why one herb works well for one person and not for another (possibly making them worse).
Herbal Actions 101
Nutritive – Pertaining to Nutrition. In Herbalism it is the action of a herb that has nutritional properties along with other therapeutic functions.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a staple, highly nutritious root vegetable of the Andes tribes people. Unlike the typical marketing hype, Maca is not a miracle supplement that will make you superhuman; nor will it increase testosterone. Maca is a rich source of vitamins, amino acids and minerals. However, Peruvians it is known to increase libido non-hormonally, and studies have shown it increases sperm production. Peruvians usually eat up to 2.5kg of Maca a week! Considering their thriving in the high altitude and harsh environment of the Andean mountains, Maca has definitively proven its worth, both through experience and clinical research. Just make sure you take enough – at least 10,000 mg daily – to feel its benefits.
Actions: Nutritive, Tonic, enhances fertility, energy and endocrine function.
Properties: Moist and Warming
Dosages: 5,000 – 10,000 mg daily
Side effects: None
Shilajit is a natural substance found mainly in the Himalayas, formed for centuries by the gradual decomposition of certain plants by the action of microorganisms. It is a potent and very safe dietary supplement, restoring the dynamic balance and potentially able to prevent several diseases.
An article in IJAD commented on its potential use in neurological diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s, due to fulvic acid which is abundant and has procognitive qualities. Moreover, Shilajit is naturally high in iron and other valuable minerals, making it very helpful for all wasting, degenerative diseases and diabetes, chronic urinary tract problems, impotence and infertility. It promotes healthy bones and therefore is useful for the healing of fractures, osteoarthritis and spondylosis. It is famous for its anti-diabetic properties, reducing blood sugar and countering diabetes in the early stages.
Actions: Anti-Inflammatory; Aphrodisiac; Cognitive; Nutritive; Tonic;
Properties: Warm and Drying.
Dosages: 500mg – 1000mg daily
Triphala is a blend from the dried fruits known as harad, baheda and amla as a part of Ayurveda herbalism. Its primary function is as a digestive cleanser. Depending on the size of the dosage, that can range from being a digestive revitaliser to a mild laxative. Its primary benefit, however, seems to be in improving the gut microbiome, which has the offshoot benefits commonly associated with Triphala, such as immune, skin and hepatic function.
Actions: Digestive, antioxidant, laxative, nutritive.
Properties: Neutral and drying.
Dosages: 500 – 3000mg daily. Start with one tablet before bed and increase dependent on personal effects.
Side effects: Laxative at high doses
One of my favourite root vegetables, the humble Beetroot (Beta vulgaris) is a treasure trove of nutrition. Beetroot can strengthen and cool the blood, cools the digestive system, helping in burning, acidity, gastritis and cool an overheated liver and gall bladder, signs of which are red eyes, ‘bursting’ headaches, constipation and anger
Research in Europe, especially in Germany has shown that taking at least one glass of raw beetroot juice each day can be helpful for cancer. Internally used for anaemia, chronic liver and kidney ailments and to enhance the effects of a tumour therapy. Red beet is claimed to be valuable for any condition that we need to cleanse our body from toxins.
Actions: anti-anemic, tonic, Antitumor; Carminative; Emmenagogue; Hemostatic; Stomachic
Properties: Neutral and Cool
Dosages: 5,000 – 10,000mg daily after meals
Side effects: None known
The dried inner bark of the slippery elm is a calcium-rich, nutritive substance containing bioflavonoids, a high amount of mucilage, starch, a few tannins, and vitamin E. Slippery Elm moistens, clears heat, neutralises overly acidic conditions, and provides nourishment. It soothes and heals any inflamed part of the body it comes in contact with.
Slippery elm is very easy to digest, and is beneficial for people who are recovering from illness, have digestive issues such as diarrhoea or undergoing chemotherapy. It can help nourish those who are wasting away, failing to thrive and losing weight. It can be added to baby food as a nutritive and to nourish recently weaned infants.
Actions: Demulcent, Emollient, Nutritive, Anti-tussive, Anti-Inflammatory.
Properties: Neutral and Moist
Dosages: 2,000 – 5,000mg daily.
To make a decoction, use 1 part powdered root to 8 parts water. First, add a small amount of powder to a little water and stir to facilitate mixing. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes. Dosage is 1/2 cup three times a day
Side effects: None
Contraindications: Slippery elm may slow the absorption of orally administered drugs.
Although these are my favourite nutritives, there are quite a few other herbs that support nutrition. However, I find the above to be particularly beneficial and fast acting. Out of all of these, however, I would use Triphala on a regular, lifetime basis, for its absolute benefit on the gut flora and microbiome.
Have you used any of these? If so, what’s been your experience? If not, what’s your favourite nutritive herb(s) and what’s worked for you? Was this post helpful? Leave your comments below.
Until next time,
British Herbal Medicine Association. Scientific Committee. British herbal pharmacopoeia. London: The Committee.
Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: the science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vt.: Healing Arts Press.
Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2000). Principles and practice of phytotherapy: modern herbal medicine. Edinburgh; London: Churchill Livingstone.
Skenderi, G. (2003). Herbal vade mecum: 800 herbs, spices, essential oils, lipids, etc., constituents, properties, uses, and caution. Rutherford, N.J.: Herbacy Press.