• The Energetics of Herbs (and our biology)

    The Energetics of Herbs (and our biology)

    "If you want to understand the universe think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration" Nikola Tesla


    “I teach an energetic system of herbal medicine and energetics is pretty much universal throughout the world’s great systems of herbal medicine. So, whether we’re talking about Chinese medicine, TCM, whether we’re talking about Ayurveda, Unani-Tibb, whether we’re talking about Campo from Japan, Jamu from Indonesia, Cherokee medicine, whatever tradition we’re talking about, there’s usually a system of energetics.” David Winston

    We are energetic beings. Einstein taught us that energy literally creates matter and that energy and matter are interconvertible and transferable. Every living thing produces an electromagnetic field and vibrational frequency. Recent studies in quantum physics have proved that all physical, mental and emotional imbalances have frequencies and can be harmonized and rebalanced.


    Ancient herbal medicine systems have known this for millennia.

    In traditional Chinese Medicine the energetics of herbs and their actions in the body are classified according to;

    Jing - which is literally and figuratively the sexual fluids of the body. This is the foundational energy and most important to preserve for human longevity. The giver of life.

    Qi - is the life force energy that gives you the power to do everything that you do. The breath of life.

    Shen - is spiritual energy. The light of life.

    As well as 5 tastes and their affinity with meridians and organ systems, and yin (inward and downward moving, cool or cold energy) and yang (upward and outward moving, warm or hot energy) and associated tastes.


    In Ayurveda for herbs specifically there is; Rasa (taste - there are 6), virya (energy), vipak (post-digestive effect) and prabhav (special effects).

    Taste gives clues to the energetic effects in the body, which tells us whether a herb is heating or cooling as well other things such as its effects on digestion and whether it will constrict or dilate the shrotas (channels of the body). These two qualities will tell us its post-digestive effect (whether it’s strengthening or purifying to tissues and whether it will cause a net loss or net gain to your body).


    Another part of this intricate system are the doshas (vata, kapha & pitta) – energetic forces of nature that are also present in our bodies and influenced by herbal medicines. And subdoshas such as vayus – the 5 vital forces that organise your physiology.


    Other energetic components are also incorporated into this complex ‘science of life’ such as prana (the vital force in its totality), vyana (the force that distributes prana), agni (the digestive fire), the chakras (major energy centres of the body), marmas ( the vital points in the body where the life force energy is concentrated), gunas (saatva, rajas and tamas – creative, maintaining and destructive tendencies that are present in all things), ojas (the substance in the body that governs aging, immunity, radiant skin, vigor, mood, sleep, digestion, spirituality, and physical strength, and is described as the ‘physiological expression of consciousness’) and shakti (the female (organising) principle of divine energy).


    The beauty of “adaptogens and tonic herbs (is that they) often possess polarized benefits. For instance, Ashwagandha is famous for its ability to both calm and energize. Turmeric can both warm your digestion and cool excess heat. Triphala both detoxifies and rejuvenates. It is likely the uncommon energetic patterns which these herbs possess that gives them the phenomenal ability to provide healing in an opposite, yet complementary direction.” [1]


    “Tonic herbs generate some of the following qualities when ingested – they are supporting, nourishing, enriching, increasing, moistening, boosting, strengthening, fortifying, and building, and can be divided into categories such as the following;


    * Vital energy tonics (increase Qi/prana) – these increase the vital energy inherent in each cell and throughout the system giving a sense of aliveness and stamina. These include Ashwagandha, Astragalus and He Shou Wu.


    * Blood tonics - work indirectly in building the blood by improving the general health of the whole body and deeply nourishing the tissues.  Some also promote improved blood circulation. These include Zizyphus and Rehmannia.


    * Fluid essence tonics (yin or kapha) - The use of these herbs tends to foster compassion, patience, tolerance and devotion as do those in the blood tonic category. Herbs in this category include Shatavari and Shisandra.


    * Warming essence tonics (yang or pitta tonics) - provide warming energy to the kidneys (adrenals) and in turn can increase the life force of the body/mind as a whole, which results in a more dynamic life. (They) increase the general physical energy as well as the energy of the spine and brain. They strengthen the sexual power, the blood and bones and stabilize the joints. They provide the energy of courage, fortitude and will power. The warming essence tonics increase the adaptive energy of the body and enhance internal defense mechanisms. They also regulate the function of the adrenal cortex, regulate energy metabolism, and strengthen resistance. Herbs in this category include Ashwagandha and Schisandra.” [2]


    These wholly inclusive systems of medicine make so much more sense than the narrow and reductive current paradigm for western healthcare (which of course has it’s own relevant time and place). And it makes sense that whole, unadulterated, organic herbs are a profound energetic match for our biology, having coevolved for hundreds of thousands of years. So take them with these elements in mind, take them with ritual and take them with gratitude.






    [1] Super Herbs of Ayurveda: The Healing Powers of India’s Most Revered Medicinal Plants by Jai Dev Singh


    [2] Adapted from “Tonic Herb Theory for the Western Herbalist”

     by Candis Cantin Kiriajes, AHG