Milk thistle. (Contributed: Nutrition World)

Do you minimize pain? Men tend to ignore or downplay pain in all forms—physical, mental and emotional—and the consequences of this can be critical. Over time, ignored aches and pains can turn chronic, making discomfort the new norm.

While standard medicine can offer interventions for chronic pain, it is best to focus on preventive and maintenance levels now when pain hasn’t peaked. It’s important to realize that getting sufficient nutrients through herbal medicine can be manly, especially when it means bodily autonomy and feeling well.

I find men tend to have reservations about taking herbs, but plant medicine is just that, plants used as medicine. Neither plants nor medicine discriminate in healing. Finding what plant-based medicine works best for your needs as an individual is the most important thing to consider.

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Remember: What works for one person may not work for another. That’s why I encourage listening to your body to figure out the root cause of your symptoms and then working from there. For example, if you feel inflammation in the lower back, check your posture and experiment with stretches. If you feel a lack of energy, check in on your hormones through blood work, evaluate stress and determine if you are eating a quality diet. Any, or most of these, could be out of balance.

With that said, balance in all areas of life is critical to feeling your best self. Think about it this way: Working out regularly won’t do much good if your diet consists of fast food. Likewise, exercising and eating well won’t matter much if your sleep schedule is lacking. You could be doing all of these things well and still not be getting enough nutrients in your body or making the most of the herbal medicines available to you.

Time for herbs

When integrating herbs into a more holistic approach to wellness, the main objective is to work on your body and organ systems rather than treating the symptom itself. It’s an entirely different approach than taking pain or symptom-relief medicine to reduce inflammation. Because of this, it takes time to work and a doctor’s clearance.

Before integrating herbs into your health regime, I highly recommend reading Herbal Healing for Men: Remedies and Recipes, written by Rosemary Gladstar. It’s one of the few books with lots of detail to discuss herbal and preventive healing specifically for men.

If you like what you read and do want to start taking a new herbal regimen, have that conversation with your doctor and then do lots of research. It is also important to go over your current list of medicines with your doctor to assess if any drugs are likely to interact negatively.

I also suggest coming in to Nutrition World to talk to a certified herbalist. You’ll find that some herbs and preparations can be used acutely or more frequently for a speedier action, while others are meant to be taken tonically or daily over longer periods of time for a gradual effect. You’ll also be encouraged to be patient with your body as it adjusts to a new herbal regimen.

Not all herbs work for all bodies. If you come across a herb your body doesn’t respond well to, take a break then try a different herb. It can take some time to find out what works for your body and what doesn’t work as well. For example: Kava kava is a popular herb recommended for relaxation and stress relief. I’ve tried it numerous times, and it is just not for me. I feel heavy, sluggish and often even more inflamed. However, I’ve witnessed numerous people, especially men, who have responded beautifully to it, which goes to show it’s about finding herbs that work for you and sorting through the many options available, with guidance from a certified herbalist.

For your heart—If you are wanting to protect your heart, consider taking hawthorn berry to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the heart muscle, and cayenne to promote health blood circulation.

For your liver—To nourish your liver, try taking dandelion root, a nutrient-dense plant that encourages your liver and digestive system to move things down and out of the body. Milk thistle is another herb that improves the liver detox process by acting as a protective shield against toxins such as alcohol.

For your stress—For stress management, try passionflower, the Tennessee state wildflower that promotes a sense of calm to racing thoughts and anxious feelings. Ashwagandha and maca are other herbs for stress management that work to restore optimal adrenal function, promote balanced hormones and, therefore, are preferred herbs for men’s vitality.

The herbs listed above are a handful of the many herbs available for the taking. For more information about herbs this month, stay tuned to Nutrition World’s Facebook and Instagram accounts for information, videos and events. Nutrition World is also hosting a Medicinal Mushroom 101 class on July 31st at 6:30 p.m.

If you have questions and want to speak directly with Olivia before then, call Nutrition World or stop by and talk to our friendly, supportive staff.

Olivia Cleveland is a Certified Herbalist at Nutrition World, which opened in 1979 with the priority of offering Chattanooga’s best selection of health products that meet high standards for quality.

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