A Quick Guide to Creating Your own Personal Herbal Blend by Sulin Sze of Wild Medicine Academy

Author: Sulin Sze - Wild Medicine Academy  Date Posted:22 August 2021 

 A big welcome to all the herb lovers!
Just in time for a Spring health kick, and the evergrowing importance of taking care of our immune systems and overall health, here is our first ever guest Naturopath, Herbalist, writer, and herbal wizard - Sulin Sze!

 

Hello and welcome, I’m Sulin, a Naturopath and Herbalist with post graduate qualifications and I’m a Fellow of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society. I run HERBALWELL natural medicine clinic in Sydney. I’m also the creator of the Wild Medicine Academy online school where you can learn the art of herbal medicine making. For the past 18 years I’ve worked in clinic, providing individualized health care for everything from gut health, hormone balance, sleep disturbance and children’s ailments. I also write academic courses for naturopathy students and supervise their clinic training. I make a lot of medicines and you’ll see that passion coming through in my recipes. I really hope you enjoy my articles and that they inspire the wild healer within you! X Sulin

 

In this post I’ll be sharing some insights from my own herbal extract experiments over the years (!), so that you can benefit from my many hours spent hovering over a glass jar with my hands full of GREEN. I can’t wait to share this with you and I hope that it’s useful!

No matter what system of herbalism you follow (if indeed you do follow any), you’ll hear this term ‘qualities’ come up, and they’re really the key to understanding how herbs ‘go together’ in a blend. Will they synergise? Will they compete? Will they overpower? And so on… Let’s look at the concept of qualities quickly before we move on.

 

Qualities in a nutshell!

Plants and their medicinal traits are influenced by the location where they grow, the climate, the growing conditions (for instance, how well they’re cared for, what the soil is like), the chemistry they contain and much more. A plant that grows in dry, arid environments is likely to have a very different quality and chemical profile to one that grows in moist soils by the side of a river. I mainly consider the growing location and the chemical profile when determining what the qualities of a plant may be. Some refer to the ‘energetics’ of plant medicines, which refers to the effect the herb’s qualities have on our physiology.

So qualities can be any feature or method of description that gives us a sense of the experience of the plant when we ingest it. For example, Dandelion leaf tea puckers up the bitter taste buds on our tongues, but leaves feeling cooler. So its qualities are bitter and cooling. But it also stimulates our bladders more so another quality would be drying. The effect of the herb is cooling and drying, and so are the ‘qualities’.

 

Categories of ‘qualitites’

The qualities of the medicinal plants that you know and love so much, are roughly divided into 4 or 5 types if you group them by the ancient elemental approach (i.e earth, air, fire, water for Western Herbalism). There’s also the Eastern approaches where we see ether and metal as well, and then there’s groupings by taste and temperature. It’s going to be most useful for you to use the latter two so I’ll focus on those in the examples I’m about to give you. By the end of this you’ll be a master herbal blender!

 

Choosing the right qualities for you

Oh you’re going to love this one! In order to get the best effects out of your herbal concoctions for your body and mind, you want to first find out how balanced you are. I use elementals (as mentioned above) from East and West to diagnose my own constitution. I’d recommend either the Ayurvedic Tridosha system (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) or the Temperament Types (Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic, Melancholic). Why? Because these constitutional typing systems will give you an idea of whether your running too hot, too cold, too dry, too moist and so on. The next step which is even more fun, is using my table below to work out which herbs have the qualities you may be lacking. They’re the ones you want to use in small doses consistently, until you find yourself glowing with health.

 

Your Dosha type/s

To find out your dosha type, head here

You’ll test as either mostly Vata, Pitta or Kapha. Everybody has some level of each of these dosha types within them, so what you’re looking for is the balance and if you’re too much of any one dosha type. Some people can be equal blends of each too.

Vata types tend to be cool, dry and windy so they do best with warming, moistening and earthy herbs. A great herbal blend for Vata would be a warm tea infusion containing spices like ginger, cinnamon, Licorice root and honey.

Pitta types tend to be hot, dry and they do best with cooling and moistening herbs. Herbs like Fennel help to cool down Pitta types, while root herbs like Shatavari, Licorice and Rehmannia also help to cool and ground. A great way to take herbs if you’re Pitta dominant, is in a smoothie with fruits, avocado and milk.
Kapha types tend the be watery and prone to stagnation so they do best with warming, drying and stimulating herbs. A great way to take herbs for Kapha is a Ginger and Turmeric latte with a touch of Black Pepper.

 

Your Temperament type/s

To find out your temperament type, head here

You’ll test as dominant in either Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic or Melancholic. Again, you’re looking to see If you swing too far in the direction of one or two types, and some people are just so well balanced they’re an equal blend.

Which ever one you choose (or both) complete the questions online and then write down the answer. If you’re spread evenly between two or even three types, that’s fine. Actually that’s great! It shows how well balanced you are already which means you can use lots of different herbal qualities equally. Once you have your constitutional type, it’s time to select your herbs.

Sanguine types run hot and moist so they do well with cooling herbs that have a drying effect like many of the bitters, antioxidants and astringents. Think along the lines of berry vinegars, Rose, Dandelion and Elder (flowers and berries).

Choleric types are hot and dry and they do well with cooling and moistening herbs. So the mucilage rich herbs like Slippery Elm, Licorice and Marshmallow are perfect here and milky smoothies are the perfect choice of beverage.

Phlegmatic types tend towards cool and moist so they do well with hot, bitter and dry herbs. Think about using plants like Turmeric, Cinnamon, Fenugreek, Ginger and Chilli in your meals or just go all out on the wasabi at the sushi train.

Melancholic types run cold and dry and do well with warming, bitter and moistening herbs like Chamomile tea, Fennel, Ginger, Dill, Thyme, Cacao and Green tea.

 

In the table below you’ll find a selection of herbs grouped by their qualities. Obviously there are lots of different therapeutic actions with all of these herbs so when you find the ones that suit you, you can go ahead and read up on them to see whether they’ll give you the specific actions you’re after such as relaxing, digestive stimulant, detoxifying, adaptogenic and more.

 

By Taste

Here are some guidelines for the energetics by taste:

Bitter herbs may have a warming or a cooling effect, but always stimulate the digestive system and the liver making them perfect for enhancing detoxification. They calm down excess Pitta and Kapha while increasing Vata simply because of their lightness and stimulatory energy. They also lighten the body in phlegmatic and melancholic types. 

Sweet herbs increase Kapha while reducing Vata and Pitta. So they’re great for nourishing your body and helping you glow from the inside out. Who doesn’t want that?! You’ll find lots of foods like honey, beets and sweet potato in this category while the obvious herbs are Licorice and Shatavari. These are two of our great nourishers in herbal medicine for women.

Sour herbs calm down an over-active Vata and increase Pitta and Kapha. They work specifically on the lungs and get your digestive juices flowing which is so great for sluggish digestion or if you have a tendency to bloat or get windy. They have a revitalizing and alivening action so its no surprise that you’ll find lot of berry plants like Shisandra, Blueberries, Goji, Rosehip and Hawthorn as well as complex tastes like Pomegranate listed here. Time to whip out that berry smoothie now!

Pungent herbs like chillies, mustards and Horseradish are like dragon’s breath in the body and they fire up the upper digestive system and the heart. They are great for cleansing and detofixication with their heating effects so always include one of these if you’re feeling congested or sluggish. Turmeric, Clove, Cinnamon, Fenugreek and Black Pepper are great examples of Pungent herbs so you’ll find a lot of spices in this category. Pungent herbs reduce the heaviness of Kapha and revitalize by increasing Pitta and Vata.

Salty herbs will improve food flavour, acting on the kidneys and tend to increase Pitta and Kapha making them useful where there is Vata dominance.

Herbs for different constitutions grouped by qualities

Quality

Taste

Herbs

Recommended for

Warm, dry

Bitter

Turmeric, Angelica, Dandelion root

Kapha, Phlegmatic

Cool, dry

Bitter

Dandelion leaf, Gentian, Elderflower, Wormwood, White Peony, Motherwort, Skullcap, Baical Skullcap, Dan Shen, Barberry, Bupleurum

Kapha, Pitta, Sanguine

Warm, moist

Sweet

Ginseng, Licorice, Codonopsis, Astragalus, Oats

Vata, Melancholic

Cool, moist

Sweet

Marshmallow, Slippery Elm, Rehmannia, Wild Yam, Chia

Pitta, Choleric

Warm, dry

Sour

Schisandra, Bayberry, Rosehip

Vata, Phlegmatic

Cool, dry

Sour

Elderberry, Rosehip, Hawthorn, Goji, berries, Rhodiola

Vata, Sanguine

Hot, dry

Pungent and Acrid

Horesradish, Pepper, Panax Ginseng, Cayenne, Garlic, Ginger

Kapha, Phlegmatic

Warm, dry

Pungent and Acrid

Turmeric, Cumin, Cardamom, Fennel, Lavender, Fenugreek

Kapha, Phlegmatic

Cool

Salty

Nettle, Chickweed, Cleavers, Seaweed, any herbs rich in mineral salts

Vata, Sanguine

 

So now you know what your constitutional type is, and you have the fundamentals on herbs and their qualities and tastes. It’s time to gather some ideas from the recommendations per constitution type and start creating your own blend, just for you.

Enjoy and I’ll see you soon in the next post.

Sulin