This is a guest post from Sunali Sikand and Quinn LeFae of Healthy High, the Sebastopol makers of elixirs that are a consciously crafted formulation of medicinal herbs, superfoods and essential oils that boost vitality by improving the body’s ability to adapt to stress.
When formulating complex herbal products there are many factors to consider: Do these plants synergize well? How do they collectively affect all body systems? How do they taste together? What is the overall experience a person will have energetically, physically and mentally when they work with this formulation? Luckily, there is a spectrum of diverse resources we can draw upon to answer these questions.
The beautiful dance of relationship has been a guiding light in approaching herbal formulations. Through utilizing infinite lenses including traditional wisdom, herbal medicine and science we gain a kaleidoscopic perspective for navigating this art form.
Offering plant medicines through Healthy High has inspired complex formulating that takes into consideration the many factors of the herbal medicine matrix. This includes the relationships between plants, between plants and our body’s innate intelligence, and between plants and culture.
The Healthy High formula is centered round a core belief in the power of Whole Plant Medicine. Whole Plant Medicine is a method of formulating that uses all parts of a plant to exponentiate the potency of its’ medicinal qualities. The synergy achieved through this method is called the “Entourage Effect.”
“We believe that engaging the senses in a pleasurable way helps to increase medicinal potency mentally as well as physically.”
The Entourage Effect is a proposed mechanism by which organic compounds present in herbs which normally would not have much effect by themselves are able to potentiate the healing effects of other herbs, and vice versa. We enact the Entourage Effect through “Root to Fruit”™ formulation, because all plant elements from the root to the fruit are represented.
In addition to Whole Plant Medicine, there are other important factors to consider when attempting to achieve the highest potency of medicine possible. These include method of delivery, the activation of the senses, the placebo effect, and plant to culture relationship.
In 2017 the herbal supplement market grew upwards of 8%, generating $8 billion in sales. While it’s heartening to see tangible data indicating appreciation of plants as healing modalities, the delivery method of herbs in pill form should be viewed with critical awareness. Herbal supplements require heavy processing to extract the herbal constituents and then transfer the medicine to pill form. This practice diminishes the potency of the medicine.
When looking for brands to try on the market, focus on brands that use minimal processing and keep the medicine as close to its original state as possible. Purchasing whole dry herbs, teas, tinctures, salves and whole plant powders is a great way to ensure the potency of your medicine.
Let’s talk about the connection between herbal medicine and our body’s innate intelligence. When the five senses are stimulated our body’s healing systems are activated. Herbs that trigger our smell and taste send signals to our bodies to produce saliva, begin digestive enzyme production and more. Activating the potential of 10,000 microvilli of tiny haired taste buds is key, as they send signals to the brain and in turn to the body: “Hello! Incoming! Fire those jets and get ready to harvest, process and retain all the goodness and eliminate the rest!”
These signals help to prepare the body for delivery and assimilation of herbal constituents. Try this experiment: Before you next ingest your herbal medicine, really sit with it. Engage your senses of smell, sight and touch before tasting. Set an intention of healing if you feel called to it. The more time you allow your body to prepare, the better it will be at doing its job.
“Our goal is to make herbal medicine a normalized and accessible wellness ritual for everyone. We believe that now more than ever we must put knowledge of traditional healing back into the hands of the people.”
Another important factor in the assimilation of medicine is the “Placebo Effect”, or a beneficial healing effect produced by simply believing in treatment. Another way of describing this is “Mind over Matter”. The etymology of placebo means “to please”, and a pleasing experience creates positive associations with that experience in your memory.
Through determined belief or positive associations, these mental processes can increase the healing power of medicine. We believe that engaging the senses in a pleasurable way helps to increase medicinal potency mentally as well as physically. The appearance of an herbal product, the aroma it emits, how good it tastes and the sensation it gives you afterward all create positive associations that increase the power of the placebo effect over time. This is why we decided to make an herbal superfood elixir that tastes and smells good. If you actually enjoy taking the medicine, you are more likely to take it regularly and enjoy the medicinal benefits!
Culturally the relationship between plants, people and medicine has taken many forms. Through analyzing Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, scientists have discovered more optimal methods of medicinal herbal delivery. Currently, there is a division between “Combination Therapy” and “Mono Substance Therapy”. Mono Substance Therapy utilizes one plant for healing and Combination Therapy utilizes many plants for healing. Combination Therapy of minimally processed plants is a practice that can be considered Whole Plant Medicine, wherein the Entourage Effect is in play. Healthy High utilizes Combination Therapy of whole plants from around the world.
Combination therapy can be appreciated via the 3,000year history of Indian people combining turmeric, black pepper and ghee to increase the bioavailability of the medicinal benefits. Turmeric has now become highly celebrated, and in our never-ending search for the fountain of youth we have often gravitated to finding that one, singular, isolated Rosetta stone. However, the plant itself is not activated without the relationship of black pepper and fat.
Through science’s lens we have learned that a small pinch of black pepper magnifies the bioavailability of turmeric, or our body’s ability to digest and assimilate it. Then when combined with a liposoluble fat such as ghee it drives home a potent package that would have only been a fraction of the medicine compared to ingesting turmeric alone. This is yet another way to look at the power of formulating through traditions and culture.
Through all of these relational aspects, potent medicine can be forged and enjoyed by all people from all walks of life through many paradigms of understanding. Our goal is to make herbal medicine a normalized and accessible wellness ritual for everyone. We believe that now more than ever we must put knowledge of traditional healing back into the hands of the people. Our collective autonomy and ability to heal our selves is a human right.
The Healthy High team loves to engage about these issues and collaborate with driven movers and shakers – please feel free to reach out to us!