How To Research Herbs In Four Simple Steps | Growing Up Herbal | Learn how to find the herbal information you're looking for in four simple steps.

Have you ever come down with some sort of ailment, and you’d like to approach naturally through the use of herbal supplements? Unfortunately, you have no idea how to figure out what you need? You probably feel like you have no clue how to research herbs let alone how to end up using them. Am I right?

If so, stress no more because today, I’m going to tell you how to research herbs in four simple steps. These are the exact steps I take when I’m looking for herbal information that can help support my body through acute and chronic ailments.

How To Research Herbs In 4 Simple Steps

1. Research The Ailment

First, I start by looking up whatever issue I’m dealing with. You see, the more I know about the issue (what it is and how it affects my body) the more I understand how to use herbs to support me during this time. 

As I’m researching, I’m taking notes on the ailment such as common signs and symptoms, the various body systems that are affected, recommended home and medical treatments, possible nutritional links, etc. I want to know as much about what I’m dealing with as possible.

2. Herbal Actions & Energetics

Once I know more about the issue at hand, I write out a list of possible actions and energetics that I feel would help counter the problem and support my body during this time, and I put these actions in order from most important to least important. For example, if I have a sore throat, I may be looking for anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, demulcent, astringent, anodyne and lymphatic actions that have cooling, moistening energetics.

This helps me to find the right kinds of herbs to help support me through this specific issue.

3. Identify Supplements

At this point, I feel like I have a good understanding of the issue at hand. I also know the possible herbal actions and energetics that I need. Next, I’ll look at books or go to trusted online resources such as Herb Mentor or the Herbarium. There, I’ll look for herbs with the actions and energetics I need. 

I start by writing each of the actions I need in a separate column on a piece of paper. Below each action, I create a list of herbs. If we go back to my example of a sore throat, my list of herbal supplements for the anti-inflammatory action may look as follows.

  • chamomile
  • ginger
  • goldenrod
  • licorice
  • marshmallow
  • tulsi
  • turmeric

Once I have my lists complete, I write out each herb’s energetics to the side. Now my list may look like this:

  • chamomile – cooling
  • ginger – warming, drying
  • goldenrod – cooling and warming (balancing), drying
  • licorice – cooling and warming (balancing), moistening
  • marshmallow – cooling, moistening
  • tulsi – cooling and warming (balancing)
  • turmeric – warming, drying

Once I have my herbs in the appropriate categorized, I start eliminating those that aren’t the right fit. Back to the sore throat example. If my sore throat is hot and swollen, I’ll be looking for herbs that are cooling and moistening. This means I’m going to automatically mark off any herbs that are warming or drying, and this will help narrow my herbal choices down a bit. *NOTE: Herbs that are warming and cooling (balancing) are okay to keep. These are often adaptogen herbs or herbs that work according to what the body needs.

Here’s what my current list looks like:

  • chamomile – cooling
  • ginger – warming, drying
  • goldenrod – cooling and warming (balancing), drying
  • licorice – cooling and warming (balancing), moistening
  • marshmallow – cooling, moistening
  • tulsi – cooling and warming (balancing)
  • turmeric – warming, drying

Next, I look to see if there are any herbs that fall into more than one column and have some of the same actions I need. If there are, then these may be the right kinds of herbs to use as they will do more than one thing.

4. Create A Formula

Now that I know which herbs will give me the actions I need, I put them together using a tea blending triangle which is one of many different ways to formulate herbal blends. Tea blending triangles are easy to use, and they help you create effective, thorough herbal formulas that will give you the results you’re looking for. Not only that, but they help you figure out the right amount of herb to use in your formula.

You can learn more about how to create your own herbal formulas using a tea blending triangle here.

Once I have my herbal formula figured out, I then try to decide which herbal preparation is best to use. Of course, this will vary depending on my particular situation. Back to the sore throat example. If my throat’s sore due to a dry cough, an herbal syrup or tea may be the way to go. However, if my throat’s sore due to an infection, a tincture may be better suited for the situation.

So there you go, mama. This is how I research herbs for a particular issue that I or someone I know is dealing with. I hope this breaks down this overwhelming task enough for you to follow if you need to.

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