Herbal Allies: Specific Bodies, Specific Herbs
Updated: Aug 23, 2020
When I first started working in a small herb shop 6 years ago I learned about the concept of "herbal allies". An herbal ally is an herb that uniquely matches a person's symptoms and helps them achieve balance over a long period of time. When someone has found their herbal ally, they feel good! They have made a friend that they are uniquely matched for to ease whatever they may be struggling with.
I have found this concept is similar to what Chinese Medicine refers to as a "constitutional formula", or a formula of herbs that a person can take for a long time to balance their body's constitution and tendencies towards certain imbalances. This concept of herbal allies and constitutions has become a foundation of my practice.
I recently had a prospective client ask me about licorice root and her less-than satisfactory experience with it. She had used traditional Chinese herbal formulas with an acupuncturist in the past that were helpful for her digestive issues but were causing her blood pressure to raise dramatically. Licorice can have this effect on some who are sensitive or predisposed to high blood pressure. Licorice root is also very popular in traditional Chinese patent formulas and can be difficult to avoid unless seeing an herbalist who makes customized formulas. So for this person, although licorice root is still a lovely herb for digestion, it’s other effects were ill suited for her. The trick is matching up an herb with many actions to a person with many unique symptoms. For this reason, I don’t always use herbs that might be what people (or google!) would first think of for their health goals because another herb with different properties might suit them better.
Another client was suffering from inflammation, high stress and sciatic pains while also dealing with rising blood sugar levels. To help lower his blood sugar he was taking very high doses of cinnamon daily, which was not helping his inflammation and pain. We worked together to find another herb (aloe juice) that helped his blood sugar but also worked at the underlying issues behind his inflammation and sciatic pains. (Aloe is wonderful for decreasing inflammation, minimizing food sensitivities, healing tissues, and regulating the bowels.) He ended up taking less herbs and supplements than he had before but noticed better results because the new herbs matched him and his unique situation better.
People are not their ailments or diseases and each ailment manifests itself differently in every body. The key is understanding how your body is uniquely adapting and handling an ailment. Sometimes it takes some adjustments to reach the perfect formula for your body’s needs. By working together we can figure out which path (and herbs) fits your unique situation best.