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Herb Classifications

Before we can go about developing an herb-based hair regimen or start using herbs in any way, it’s important to understand what herbs are and how they are used internally and externally.  The word “herb” simply refers to a useful part of a plant. The useful part could be flower, leaf, stem, seed, berry, bark, root and fruit. Most herbs have either culinary, medicinal or in certain cases even spiritual value.  In culinary arts, herb refers to the part of a plant used for seasoning and flavoring a recipe, but not as the main ingredient. Medicinal herbs are plant parts that heal, treat or relief deficiencies or disorders in the body. Spiritual herbs are plant parts used in religious rituals or thought to have mystical powers.

CATEGORIES OF HERBS

1. AROMATIC/PUNGENT:

Active Constituent: Volatile Oil

All plants naturally contain volatile oils, which are extracted to produce essential oils. Essential oils have a distinctive scent (aroma), or essence of the plant from which they are extracted. Essential oils are used widely both therapeutically and as perfume flavors. All aromatic herbs have a pungent, spicy taste to them.  Aromatic herbs are generally divided into two based categories: stimulants and nervines.

Stimulant herbs stimulate the body and increase energy and alertness. Stimulants also increase activity in the respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems. Herb examples include Ginger Root, Peppermint, Sage and Cayenne pepper,

As the word suggests, nervines, are used to heal and soothe the nervous system, and often affect the respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems. Herb examples include: Marshmallow Root, Lemon Balm, Chamomile and Valerian

2. ASTRINGENTS:

Active Constituent: Tannins

Astringent Herbs contain tannins that constrict, tighten or tone tissue and reduce fluid discharge. They affect the digestive, urinary, and circulatory systems. Large doses of astringents are toxic to the liver. Herb examples include: Cramp bark, Comfrey, Slippery Elm, Red Raspberry and Eyebright.

3. BITTERS:

Active Constituent: laxative & diuretic, glycosides, alkaloids & saponins

Bitter herbs are divided in to four basic types:

Laxatives – Bitter laxative herbs mildly stimulate contraction of the intestinal system and stimulate bile secretions rather than acting as irritants to the bowel. The 2 types of laxatives are:

Mucilants – They contain mucilage that reduces irritation and inflammation, absorbs and eliminate toxins via the intestinal tract, regulate positive intestinal flora, heals tissues, decongests respiratory system and increase bowel movement action or regularity.  Herb examples: Marsh Mallow, Slippery Elm,  Fenugreek and Aloe Vera.

Stimulants – They contain antraquinone which stimulates contraction (spasm) of the intestinal system to purge the digestive (mostly colon) tract of toxins.  Herbs containing antraquinone are still being invested for health concerns and should be used under the supervision of a herbalist. Herb examples include: Senna, Buckthorn, Cascara Sagrada, and Rhubarb

Diuretics – Bitter diuretic herbs induce loss of fluid from the body through the urinary system. The fluids released help cleanse the vascular system, kidneys, and liver. Diuretic herb examples: Burdock, Dandelion, Nettle, Parsley, Milk Thistle and Horsetail

Saponin-containing herbs – Saponin-containing bitter herbs have the ability to produce foam when mixed with water. They enhance the body’s ability to absorb other active compounds. Saponin-rich herbs like Yucca and sarsaparilla give root beer its foamy properties. Alfalfa, Soapwort and Ginseng are additional examples.

Aloaloid-containing herbs – Aloaloid refers to any organic compound that contains nitrogen. Aloaloid-containing herbs are antiseptic, respiratory tonics, stimulants, and nerviness. Herb examples include Valerian and Capsicum.

4. NUTRITIVE HERBS:

Active Constituent: protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals

These are food herbs contain key vitamins, fats, proteins, minerals and carbohydrates that add to the nutritive value they provide or add to a diet.  They are true foods and provide some medicinal effects as fiber, mucilage, and diuretic action.

Herb examples include Spirulina, Papaya, Wheat Germ, Pineapples, Camu Camu berries, Broccoli, Carrot, Banana and Asparagus.

herbs for natural hair

HERBS BY TASTE:

Herbs can also be categorized by the sense taste they appeal to. They can be bitter, sweet, sour or salty.

Salty:

Active Constituent: Mineral salts

These herbs supply minerals like Silica, Magnesium and Pottasium to the body and are also mildly detoxifying. Herb examples: Dandelion, Horsetail, Nettle, Sea Kelp and Alfafa.

 Sweet:

Active Constituents: Poly-saccharides, Fructans, Saponins, Phenylpropanoids, Glycosides.

These herbs stimulate the immune system and energize the body. They also help the body adapt to stress and strengthen structure and function. Herb examples: Eleuthero root, Licorice, Ginseng and Stevia.

Sour:

Active Constituents: Organic acids (citric, malic and abscorbic acid), flavonoids.

These herbs protect the cardio-vascular system and great antioxidants. They also reduce inflammation and fever. Herb examples:  All berries (Camu Camu, Schizandra, Elderberry, Bilberry etc.), Lemon, Grapes and Oranges.