Costa Rica-born herbalist and author of Healing Tonics Adriana Ayales keeps her pantry stocked with “all kinds of weeds, roots and barks.” What? We want that!

Our “bark” pantry extends little beyond a few cinnamon sticks, but we’re studying up on Adriana’s list of twenty essential healing herbs to start ourselves on the right track. We love the idea of incorporating more herbs and botanicals into our daily life. Read through this entire list, focus on a few herbs that appeal to you, and learn to make a tea, tonic or food that helps you benefit from them… 

It’s hard to condense a list of my favorite and essential herbs. Usually my kitchen is stocked with all kinds of weeds, roots and barks, having more than a hundred different kinds of beautiful botanicals. I recommend that people not get overwhelmed with overstocking the kitchen with too many unfamiliar herbs. It’s good to start off with a seasonal selection of essentials and slowly start building from there, familiarizing with different botanicals. When you go on a walk, be on the lookout for your favorite herbs—they are some of the healthiest and most vibrant forms of medicine readily available.

This list contains essential herbal staples I love that they grow all over the world. It covers the major and minor necessities we have on a regular and seasonal basis for optimum wellness…

20 Essential herbs you should know

These are the essential herbs and herbal tonics that I cannot live without. Within these 20 you’ll find all the basic essentials you could possibly need within a home pharmacy – immunity booster, beauty, vitamin C, colds and flus, bones and muscle health, digestive health, weight loss and so on.

Graviola (Annona musicata):  Graviola is a rainforest essential known to be a potent antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antitumoral, anticancer powerhouse. Annonaceous acetogenins are only found in the Annonaceae family (to which graviola belongs). These chemicals in general have been documented with antitumorous, antiparasitic, insecticidal and antimicrobial activities. Many studies have recently determined that these acetogenins are superb inhibitors of enzyme processes that are found only in the membranes of cancerous tumor cells. This is why they are toxic to cancer cells but have no toxicity to healthy cells.

Moringa (Moringa oleifera): Moringa is a miracle tree known to contain a megaload of antioxidants, minerals, protein, essential fiber and cleansing properties. Also known for its power to supply sustainable energy, lower blood pressure and aid in adrenal support, moringa acts as a coagulant, attaching itself to harmful material and toxins within the body and flushing them quite rapidly.

Jergón Sacha (Dracontium loretense): Jergón sacha is a signature plant of the Amazon, containing some of the most potent antiviral chemistry found in nature. Indian tribes throughout the Amazon rainforest use the large tuber or rhizome of the jergón sacha plant as an antidote for the bite of snakes. It has also been used to treat bites from spiders, stingrays and other poisonous animals. It makes a potent antibacterial, antimicrobial and anticancer tonic, and supports healing from radiation as well as genital diseases.

Suma (Pfaffia paniculata): Suma is also referred to as “Brazilian ginseng” and is known as a master tonic and adaptogen found in the Amazon. The benefits of suma are astonishingly similar to those of regular ginsengs. It has been used for generations as a general cure-all, and has served as everything from an energy and vitality tonic to cellular oxygenator, appetite stimulant, anti-inflammatory and circulatory medicine, blood sugar balancer and, most popularly, an immune booster.

Chanca Piedra (Phyllantus niruri): Chanca piedra is referred to as the “stonebreaker” and is also known as the rainforest’s most potent liver and gall bladder detoxifer. It was named for its effective use by generations of Amazonian indigenous peoples in eliminating gallstones and kidney stones. It is a super tonic with long-documented use to support treatment of hepatitis, colds and flus, tuberculosis, liver diseases and disorders, anemia and liver cancer.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa): Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and vitamin C tonic root. It is a great daily remedy to keep inflammation at bay by alkalizing and soothing the digestive system and the liver. This masterful tonic for joints, muscles, soft tissue, and skin generates strength and elasticity and is a fantastic anti-aging root.

Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum): Tulsi is Ayurveda’s holiest of herbs, an adaptogenic powerhouse known for its digestive healing abilities, cardiovascular protection and potent anti-inflammatory nature. It lowers cholesterol levels, prevents hypoglycemia, eases stress by calming the nervous system, prevents migraines and repairs skin damage (topically and internally). It is a great overall superherb.

Nettle (Urtica dioica): Nettle is an excellent daily remedy for overall longevity known for its anti-inflammatory, bone-building, blood-nourishing, testosterone-building, silica-gifting superherb qualities. The leaves and the seeds are also used in nerve repair and as a central nervous system regulator. The roots are usually used for testosterone- and prostate-building qualities, yet it’s also a great energizer that all can benefit from—not just men. It’s a wonderful tea to have and it can be combined with other tonics to enhance its qualities.

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum): Research on the chemistry and therapeutic benefits of mushrooms like reishi have been extensive for centuries. Reishi is an immune modulator capable of restoring the immune system and is often used for therapies before and after cancer. The polysaccharides present within the mushrooms are extraordinary cancer-fighting compounds. This amazing mushroom is known as a supreme lung and cardio tonic, supportive in lowering bad cholesterol and triglycerides.

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus): Chaga is the master tonic for the immune system. It supports the elimination of tumors, cancerous cells, autoimmune diseases and environmental traumas (such as radiation, pollution, heavy metals, etc.).

Pau D’Arco (Tabebuia impetiginosa): This sacred pau d’arco tree has been worshipped for hundreds of years, and its bark has been used as an antifungal and anti-inflammatory. It is used traditionally for blood sugar and blood pressure imbalances, ulcers, digestive imbalances, parasites, yeast infections, cancer, diabetes and allergies.

Sangre de Drago (Croton lechleri): Sangre de drago is claimed to be the best wound healer in nature. It is a tree known to bleed a miracle resin when you slice off some of the bark. This thick red resin is known to act as a potent internal and external bandage with intensive antibiotic support. Also known for its powerful antiseptic qualities, it has a potent antiviral and antimicrobial ability. Many have also used it as an anticancerous support as well as for healing from radiation.

Cat’s Claw (Unicaria tomentosa): Cat’s claw is known as the master immune booster of the Amazon. It is one of the oldest herbs with recorded history in the rainforest, noted for its immune-modulating power and anticancer, antirheumatic and anti-arthritic properties.

Ginseng (Panax ginseng): A superior tonic remedy, ginseng has been regarded for centuries as the king of medicinal herbs. In Chinese medicine, not only is it regarded an adaptogen and energizer, it’s also used to calm the spirit, eliminate anxious and stressed qi (energy), open the heart and strengthen the mind. Asian and American ginseng have both been used to strengthen the heart, spleen, lungs, liver and kidneys.

Spirulina (Anthrospira platensis): Known as the world’s highest source of complete protein (around 65% by weight), spirulina, or blue-green algae, provides a vast array of trace elements and macrominerals. Blue-green algae is a wild-grown superfood that also contains plenty of phytonutrients and enzymes.

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense): Horsetail is one of the most ancient plants in nature. Known for its excellent ability to heal bones, bone marrow and wounds in general, thanks to its high silica content, it contains high amounts of calcium as well as silica in minerals that specialize in repairing connective tissue, bone alignment and healing and skin repair. It is also used for the kidneys, eyes and hair and for immune regulation.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea): Rhodiola is a magical root known to strengthen the nervous system, fight depression, enhance immunity and memory, aid weight loss, increase sexual function and improve energy levels. It has been effectively used to prevent depression and to support post-traumatic stress disorder. It enhances the transport of serotonin precursors, tryptophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan into the brain.

Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana): Mangosteen is queen of the tropical fruits. Not only is it a delicious fruit, but the peel of the mangosteen is perhaps one of the most loaded vitamin-C sources ever known. It contains a huge amount of antioxidants known for their anti-aging and longevity attributes. It is also a master tonic for the endocrine and immune systems, is known to support healing of wounds and damaged nerves, and can assist in weight loss.

Gynostemma (Gynostemma pentaphyllum): Also known as jiaogulan, gynostemma is an adaptogen and antioxidant with chemical constituents similar to ginseng. The leaf is known for its ability to lower blood pressure, purify the blood, support the pancreas and release stress out of the body, and it can support weight loss by assisting in the metabolism of fats.

Schisandra Berries (Schisandra chinensis): Schisandra berries are one of the few botanical sources containing all five flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent. These superberries are known to be adaptogens, liver protectors, blood purifiers and nourishers and master tonic to the five organs. Among many more healing benefits, the master tonic made from these berries prevents fatigue and boosts the body with endurance and strength.

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