Top herbs for health and longevity
Herbal living is a delicious way to boost health and longevity. My grandmother always put dill in her chicken soup, and not only because she loved the flavor: rich in minerals, dill also helps ease digestion.
We spoke with Dr. Aviva Romm (avivaromm.com), board-certified family physician, midwife, herbalist, award-winning author, and internationally respected authority on botanical and integrative/functional medicine, about top herbs (including ones that may not seem like herbs) that can support a long and healthy life!
What are your top three herbs for longevity and why?
Dr. Aviva Romm: Right now one of the biggest health risks faced by Americans is inflammation. It shows up in everything from being overweight and more fatigued than usual to joint pain and even diabetes and heart disease.
*Turmeric (or curcumin) Turmeric—taken in foods, shakes, capsules, liquid or powder form—is the king of herbs for reducing inflammation. It is safe for most people, even with a variety of health conditions.
*Ashwagandha Aside from inflammation, out-of-control stress is probably one of our greatest health threats. This herb nourishes the immune system, reduces stress, promotes better sleep and increases immunity. Gentle and safe, it is a wonderful daily herbal ally.
*Reishi mushroom The medicinal mushrooms are powerful antioxidants, keeping our immune and stress systems in top functioning shape, allowing our bodies to detox naturally, and are classic herbs for longevity. Reishi is also wonderful for reducing anxiety and supporting better sleep.
Tulsi strengthens the immune system, it’s great for blood pressure and lowers stress. It is an adaptogenic herb—can you explain what that means?
AR: Tulsi or Holy Basil is a wonderful herb for supporting health. Like Ashwagandha and Reishi mushroom, these herbs are in a category of medicinal plants called adaptogens. The adaptogens help to calm and regulate the stress response (i.e., fight or flight) by modulating adrenal gland function. They take us out of overdrive and help our nervous systems stay more in cruise control!
Because the adrenal stress system is also tied into our immune system as well as our hormones, they help us to stay healthy and also to treat problems ranging from infertility to certain autoimmune conditions such as Rheumatoid arthritis. They can also help to improve blood sugar, stress tolerance and improve your concentration and work performance. In addition to the ones mentioned already, there is rhodiola which is excellent for all of the above in addition to helping with anxiety, ginseng for energy and stamina, and American ginseng, which is similar to ginseng but a bit less stimulating.
For general health, is it enough for a person to integrate herbs into a healthy diet? At what point would you think of prescribing herbal teas, powders, tinctures or pills?
AR: Adding herbs to the diet—basil, rosemary, garlic, oregano, and more—is a wonderful way to deliciously boost your health. They reduce inflammation, support natural detoxification, improve digestion and help prevent infections. They can be used to spice up your life, or other herbs can be used to make flavorful and health-promoting teas.
When someone has health imbalances, for example, digestive problems, sleep troubles, chronically bothersome symptoms, or actual health diagnoses, or when one is warding off or treating a cold/flu, headache or other acute problem, herbs can be used as medicines. In those situations, I would add in medicinal preparations such as teas, encapsulated
powders, pills or tinctures.