Powerful Teachers

by Olga Sievers


Powerful plants are those who say, “Stop. Do not trample me. Do not abuse me. Be conscious, be careful. Pay attention.” They can be allies when respectfully approached and partnered with; and they can make a life miserable if used in ignorance and excess. These teachers are guardians to powerful effects on the human body, and it is unwise to underestimate them.

          Herbalists have long known, that often the determining factor between poison and remedy is dose and frequency. This is especially true of any plant with high alkaloid content. Western culture is too often deluded enough to think itself above reprimand from plants. Yet, any powerful plant will ultimately not allow itself to be abused and inevitably offer a learned lesson. Some of the most potent substances are derivatives of plants; think of the coffee bean, tobacco leaf, coca leaf, and cannabis. When approached and used with respect, they work with the human body to enhance our current state. But when abused, the energy of these plant teachers will turn from ally to antagonist, leaving us chemically and psychologically bound, rather than free.

Here are a few plants that have been honored by indigenous cultures:

  • Coffee and chocolate – considered foods of the Gods and used in ceremonies and rituals.
  • Tobacco – known as sacred plant used as an offering to the Gods.
  • Coca – treasured as a all-healing, medicinal panacea.
  • Marijuana – prized as medicine and used in journeying.

Today… Western culture tends to abuse these plants, discarding their sacred context within which the plant was known.

Coca leaves

Coca leaves


Today, stimulation saturates our environments –on our screens, demanding expectations and in the implicit cultural demand to always be going and doing. It seems we have conscripted plants to help us in this mad dash to nowhere. A stimulating consumable substance evokes dreams of endless energy, heightened awareness, and sensory arousal. Caffeine is a perfect example. Let’s honestly explore the effects of long term use of this familiar stimulant:

1.   Chronic hyper-arousal of the nervous system that often leads to anxiety, irritation, and insomnia

2.   Over-activity of the adrenals that results in chronic feelings of fatigue and depletion

3.   Long-term stress on the kidneys

Promising energy and vitality, caffeine will dull and eventually sap the vitality we long for. Now, this is not to demonize a deliciously robust cup of coffee! No less than any of us, I fully appreciate the burst of energy that caffeine affords me. The key is appropriate timing. An honorable relationship with this plant means partaking seldom enough to where you are not at its mercy, and your energy is not governed by it. When saved for the occasional treat rather than a daily crutch, coffee can be savored and enjoyed! Because why shouldn’t we enjoy life, after all?!


So given that lengthy preamble, what do we mean when discussing Herbal Stimulation? Contrary to conventional stimulant use, this therapy can offer increased vitality by nourishing the nervous system, removing energy blocks, activating the organs, and building those inner reserves needed for optimal immune function. This is not a quick fix rush of energy, but rather we are tapping into an inner wellspring that is sure, strong, and deep. When properly used and combined with other self-care practices, herbal stimulation therapy can awaken the senses and feed a sustained sense of vitality as crisp, clear, and deep as an alpine lake.

It can increase energy by:

  • Activating inner vitality of the body through nourishment and warmth.
  • Promoting the function of other herbs in a formula by catalyzing the herb and activating the body's functions.
  • Increasing circulation, metabolism, and elimination.
Roasted coffee beans

Roasted coffee beans


Examples of commonly used ‘stimulant’ herbs include:

  • Cayenne
  • Cinnamon
  • Clove
  • Ginkgo
  • Ginseng
  • Gotu Kola
  • Horseradish
  • Peppermint
  • Prickly Ash
  • Siberian Ginseng
  • Spearmint


1.   In acute stages of illness, when you need to activate body's natural defense system. In cold/yin imbalances: cold/flu, congestion, yeast infections

  Ex. Cold care formula – peppermint, elder, yarrow, ginger

2.   To aid with elimination by activating organs of elimination

  Ex. Digestive remedy formula – fennel, peppermint, coriander, ginger, comfrey root, licorice,      clove

3.   For ailments characterized by reduced energy

    Mental stimulation: Best over long period of time to revitalize a tired and foggy brain

o   Brain Tonic formula – peppermint, ginkgo, gotu kola, rosemary, sage, ginger

     For the blues: When feeling generally down and/or depressed

      Ex. Emotional Support formula -- peppermint, gotu kola, ginkgo, rosemary, sage, borage,          oatstraw, alfalfa, nettle



  • In cases of long term illness characterized by extreme weakness because there is no inner vitality left to draw upon – one must focus on nourishment and toning first
  • Use with caution in eruptive skin disorders because will temporarily worsen condition due to stimulation of elimination
  • Minimize use in chronic nervous disorders which will benefit most from calming nervine herbs like chamomile, catnip, and hops




Peppermint: Mentha piperita

  • Family -- Lamiaceae
  • Parts used -- aerial (leaves and flowers)
  • Medicinal Actions -- carminative, anti-spasmodic, aromatic, diaphoretic, anti-emetic, nervine, antiseptic, analgesic
  • Used for -- “A blast of pure green energy!” (Rosemary Gladstar)
    • stimulating due to its aromatic property
Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo: Ginkgo biloba

  • Family -- Ginkgoaceae
  • Common names -- Maidenhair tree
  • Parts used -- leaves and fruit (nut)
  • Medicinal Actions -- (nut) expectorant, antitussive, anti-asthmatic, sedative, mildly astringent; (leaf) improves brain circulation
  • Used for -- brain circulation, improving peripheral circulation, coldness, tinnitus, Alzheimer's, senility, improve mood and sociability, Raynaud's disease, rheumatism, arteriosclerosis, eye weakness of poor circulation, vertigo, anxiety and tension, lung and bronchial congestion
            • Historical evidence from China points to improved brain function


Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health by Rosemary Gladstar

The Science and Art of Herbology by Rosemary Gladstar

The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra


Compiled by: Olga Sievers

18 February 2018, Denver CO


*Please remember: This article is intended to provide educational information for the reader on the covered subject. It is not intended to take the place of personalized medical counseling, diagnosis, and treatment from a trained professional.