Herbalism Homesteading

How to Start Understanding Herbs as Medicine

As I revealed in my last article, I went through an extreme health journey as a doorway to natural healing and natural living.  When I began, you could say that I was practicing “allopathic” herbalism.  In and of itself, an oxymoron. I was stuck in that Western medicine thought process of searching for herbs for symptoms.  It took a lot of research and trial and error to get to the point that I wasn’t sure if it was working or not. I’m chuckling to myself now, but I was frustrated that I couldn’t seem to make the process I was hoping for. There was a HUGE reason for this…


I had to go back to the beginning and relearn everything I thought I knew about healing.  Plants and herbs work on Gaia’s time, not ours and they work as she intended with our bodies and not against them. So, what’s the difference?  …. Everything!

Plants work energetically, with tissue states and constitutions.  This is the medicine humans have used for many millennia before even language.  It is the basis for practices like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  These systems have been around for thousands of years. I will talk more about plant spirit medicine in the future, but right now, I just want to lay out the basics, so you can begin to understand how to use them for yourself.

Herbs and plants don’t work on the minutia of symptoms directly.  They take into account that we humans are a whole being.  Mind, body and soul, it’s what we call holistic medicine.  Every person experiences sickness or dis-ease as a pattern.  They have their own overall appearances, tendencies and predispositions. It affects us on every level.  Alternative medicine takes this into account. In Ayurveda, it uses the doshas. TCM uses yin/yang. In Western Herbalism, we have developed a system of six constitutional tissue states that are two-fold. What that means is that a person’s overall being can have one state, yet the system that is being affected can have a different state. You have to assess both to be successful.  It basically bridges ancient systems and modern systems.

The 6 states of constitution are based on the 3 primary qualities of energetics; temperature, moisture and tone. These 3 states exist on a spectrum:

Temperature can exist from hot to cold.

Moisture exists from damp to dry.

Tone exists from relaxed to tense.

This leads to the 6 states of constitution referred to as:


It is common for people to have a blend of different states.  This is important to understand and look for when trying to understand how to use plant energetics to balance the body. Western herbalism doesn’t attempt to eliminate pathogens, but it asks how we can bring the body into a balance which prevents the pathogen from thriving moving forward. It is important to understand that we are not just referring to the physiological temperature, tone and moisture but also system states of over- or under-activity.

Tissue stateHerbal Actions  
Heat/ExcitationDiaphoretics, Diffusive, Sedatives, Demulcents
Cold/DepressionStimulants, Anti-sceptics
Dry/AtrophyNutritives, Demulcents, Emollients, Tonics
Damp/RelaxationAstringents, Stimulants, Lymphatics
Wind/TensionAnti-Spasmodic, Nervine, Sedatives, Hypnotics
Damp/StagnationAlterative, stimulants, laxatives

Note* This information provided by Evolutionary Herbalism.

Please remember that this is a guideline to help you start learning about using herbs, not a prescription. It is extremely important to do your research and, if you have varying conditions or are taking prescription medication, to make sure you discuss all herbs and supplements with your doctor.

This brings us directly to the actions that herbs can have. There are many herbs that act in more than one way, which is why depending on the constitution of the person and the energetics of the herbs, the possibilities are almost endless.

AdaptogensCirculatory StimulantImmunomodulating
Anti-InflammatoryRelaxing DiaphoreticsCathartic Laxatives
AntimicrobialStimulating DiaphoreticsLymphatic
AntihelmnithicDiureticStimulating Nervine
BittersExoectorant Tonic
Cardio TonicRelaxing ExpectorantTrophorestorative
CarminativeStimulating ExpectorantVulnerary

By no means is this a complete or exhaustive list.  Moving forward, I will discuss each herbal energetic in more detail and provide more information on individual herbs in each category.  If you are interested in learning more, there are many books on herbs available as well as online courses from various providers, some free, some not.

By Danielle Savage

I am a lifelong learner. I have lived experience in many, many forms but what I hold dear is my connection with the land, my spirituality, my ancestors and teaching others that there is another way to live besides the current offering!

2 replies on “How to Start Understanding Herbs as Medicine”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.