The Benefits of Alterative Herbs

Alterative herbs are a category of herbs that work to restore the proper function of the body. If you spend time learning about herbal medicine, you’ll often see the word …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Alterative herbs are a category of herbs that work to restore the proper function of the body.

If you spend time learning about herbal medicine, you’ll often see the word “alterative” pop up.

So what are alternatives and how do they work?

Read on below to find out.

alterative herb benefits

How Do Alteratives Work?

Alteratives are a class of herbs that work to gradually restore the proper function of the body. This helps to increase overall health and vitality.

Simply put, alterative herbs help the body find homeostasis.

Some alterative herbs support waste elimination processes in the kidneys, liver, lungs, and skin.

Others stimulate digestion or provide antimicrobial properties.

Herbal medicine is all about balance. Rather than trying to fix what’s wrong, oftentimes the best solution is to first remove what’s wrong.

In modern medicine, there is no pharmacological process that easily describes alterative herbs, which is why it can be a complex idea to grasp.

However, if you think of an alterative as a herb that helps to detoxify the body, that may be the easiest way to conceptualize it.

List of Alterative Herbs:

  • Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
  • Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)
  • Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata)
  • Burdock (Arctium lappa)
  • Chaparral (Larrea tridenata)
  • Cleavers (Galium aparine)
  • Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
  • Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa)
  • Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
  • Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis)
  • Garlic (alium sativum)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastus canadensis)
  • Guaiacum (Guaiacum officinale)
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolia)
  • Poke (Phytolacca americana)
  • Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)
  • Queen’s Delight (Stillingia sylvatica)
  • Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
  • Sarsparilla (Smilax spp.)
  • Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)
  • Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

Alterative Herb Safety:

Long-term usage of alterative herbs is generally appropriate and is usually safe.

Essentially, alteratives work to improve the function of organs. They tend to have a gentle action on the body with effects that are deep acting and lasting.

Body System Affinities:

Certain alteratives are particularly well suited to specific body systems or parts. We’ll go over some of the main system affinities below:

Cardiovascular:

Generally, alteratives are not specifically indicated for the cardiovascular system. However, almost as a by-product of helping the body run efficiently, many alternatives will aid in increasing circulation.

Alteratives with this action include:

  • Cleavers (Galium aparine)
  • Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
  • Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa)
  • Garlic (alium sativum)
  • Poke (Phytolacca americana)

Respiratory:

Many of the primary alternatives provide benefits for the lungs and respiratory system, including:

  • Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
  • Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
  • Garlic (alium sativum)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastus canadensis)
  • Wild Indigo (Baptisia tinctoria)

Digestive:

Many of the primary alteratives work to support the digestive system, especially the liver and pancreas.

These include:

  • Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)
  • Bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata)
  • Burdock (Arctium lappa)
  • Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus)
  • Garlic (allium sativum)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastus canadensis)
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Sarsparilla (Smilax spp.)
  • Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

Urinary:

Alterative herbs that work as herbal diuretics include:

Reproductive:

Many general alterative herbs support reproductive health, specifics include:

  • Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastus canadensis)

Nervous:

All alteratives help to aid strained nervous systems. However, the following two herbs are particularly good:

  • Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla vulgaris)
  • Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Skin:

This is the body system where alterative herbs are most often used. Examples include:

  • Burdock (Arctium lappa)
  • Cleavers (Galium aparine)
  • Echinacea (Echinacea spp.)
  • Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa)
  • Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis)
  • Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolia)
  • Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
  • Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

Conclusion:

Alteratives are important herbs in herbal medicine and are widely used.

Consider adding this type of herb to your daily mix as they are fantastic in aiding the body back into homeostasis.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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