Herbal infusions, shots and even cocktails are popping up in hipster cafés up and down the land, but such plant power is far from a passing fad; herbs and spices are Mother Nature’s medicine chest and have been bolstering our health, upping our energy levels and helping us to wind down and sleep better for centuries. We asked Master Herbsmith and Pukka Herbs co-founder Sebastian Pole how these herbal remedies can give us a much needed January lift and restore our mojo throughout the year:
“Plants have been at the centre of human health forever and it feels like we are only just discovering how important they are to living well today. Helping to nourish, cleanse, rejuvenate and restore your whole system, herbs can be used for both optimising health as well as getting you better when you are unwell: in other words, they can be food as well as medicine. Their life-enhancing properties are simple to bring into your everyday life, and one of my favourite ways is to do this by making herbal blends and drinking their delicious infusions.”
“How exactly can herbs help restore our health and cleanse our body? While we wash away and eliminate waste daily, modern life throws so much at us that not all of it goes down the plughole. If we don’t take time to cleanse the inside of our bodies, then we run the risk of a range of symptoms from bad breath to sluggish digestion.”
“Feeling clogged up can also affect our emotional state - we might hold onto negative issues (the run-in at work last month, the break-up last year), instead of letting them go. Cleansing on all levels is central to being healthy. Toxins have damp, sticky and stagnant qualities. Ayurveda calls toxins ama, which refers to any undigested and unutilised wastes inside you. Remember the last time last time you had a cold and that ‘heavy’ feeling that you can’t get away from? Or the last time you were feeling depressed and stuck-in-the-mud? That’s a sure sign you need a bit of cleanse.”
If any of the above sounds even remotely familiar, upping your intake of super-herbs could well do you the world of good, but what herbs in particular should we be looking out for? Sebastian gave us a rundown on his herbal top-ten of the season:
1. Green and matcha tea is famed for its antioxidant properties, and after water green tea is the most popular drink in the world. The antioxidants found in green and matcha tea give it the remarkable ability to protect cells from ageing and disease by combating damage from free radicals. Paradoxically it helps to both calm and energise, it’s good for digestion, protects the liver and supports clarity of mind. Matcha in particular has very high levels of the amino acid L-Theanine, which helps to nourish neurotransmitters in the brain, which in turn has a positive influence on our mood and sense of inner peace.
2. Turmeric is one of the all-time great liver-loving herbs. Turmeric root supports the organ’s innate desire to clear the old and welcome the new. It has also has blood-cleansing properties which can be particularly helpful for clearing and brightening skin.
3. Dandelion root is a traditional tonic for supporting the liver and digestion. This bitter root has been shown to stimulate bile flow, which may also aid the liver and gallbladder to remove congestion and inflammation trapped in the system.
4. Nettle leaf has long been used in herbal medicine as a blood ‘tonic’ and blood purifier; the body’s answer to a ‘spring-clean’. It's refreshing, rejuvenating and can sometimes help to alleviate cystitis.
5. Whole lemon and lemon essential oil are high in antioxidant bioflavonoids and vitamin C, which help to protect our cells against free radical damage. Particularly helpful at this time of year, lemon adds a tang to tea and cuts through mucus, while the natural vitamin C gives our immunity a boost.
6. Fennel seed helps to soothe an upset digestive system and may also be beneficial for the urinary system, blood and skin. It’s can also be helpful for reducing period pain and nausea as it releases tension and eases spasms.
7. Aniseed is an aromatic seed that is famed for clearing mucus and flushing the urinary system. It also has a calming effect on the digestive system, helping to soothe bloating, colic pain and indigestion.
8. Celery seed is a small but mighty seed that helps to clear uric acid from the blood and joints (high levels of uric acid can cause joint pain and inflammatory conditions such as gout). Celery’s ability to improve blood flow means that it could help to improve mobility in the joints and cartilage by increasing the level of fluid moving through them; great for the prevention of tired and aching joints before and after exercise.
9. Cardamom has been shown to provide relief to the digestive system from indigestion. It stimulates metabolic and digestive processes while working as a decongestant removing mucus from the digestive and respiratory tract.
10. Chlorella, wheatgrass, arctic seaweed and spirulina are highly nutritious green plants that are packed with vital macro and micronutrients that nourish and support the health of the body. These super-greens may be highly beneficial for those who live in areas where pollution levels are high, or may be over exposed to cigarette smoke, synthetic hormones such as the contraceptive pill and HRT and alcohol.
Want to give these herbal remedies a whirl? Pukka has just launched the Clean Me Green kit , £19.99, to make the classic January health kick that little bit more sparky. Designed to support our digestive systems post-holiday season, Clean Me Greens is an organic 14 day wellbeing programme with 14 sachets of Pukka Clean Greens Superblend Powder, Pukka Detox Tea and Clean Matcha Green tea, plus a two week guide with hints, tips and recipes to inspire and support you through the often tough first few weeks of the year. If you’re craving even more uplifting ideas and recipes, Sebastian’s recently published book Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Teas , £19.99, combines a whopping 70 herbal tea recipes, ranging from the classic to the adventurous, with Ayurvedic expertise and advice on finding the perfect blends for your mood and any relevant ailments. If there was ever a time to sit down a pore over it with a (herbal) cuppa, it’s now.
Pukka Herbs Clean Me Green Kit, £19.99, buy online
Cleanse, Nurture, Restore with Herbal Teas by Sebastian Pole, £19.99, buy online
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This feature was written in partnership with Pukka Herbs
All imagery credited and copyright Kim Lightbody