If you’re like me you’ve seen these magical looking gold-labelled bottles, and been wildly curious about what mysteries they hold. I’ve even been taking a few, but was still filled with questions: What’s a Tonic Herb? Are they safe? Which ones are right for me?
I had the opportunity recently to meet the owners of Sun Potion, Scott and Nitsa, at CAP Beauty in the West Village. The small space was packed with people eager to understand more about how Sun Potion can support their bodies and minds. Scott and Nitsa were incredibly knowledgeable, and super approachable. They are “Californians” seemingly from central casting, but I mean that in the most complementary and delightful way possible, blood, bright, and full of wonder. As someone who is currently in the process of shedding the yoke of New York City, it does my heart good to see people running a thriving business who also express a bit of overwhelm when faced with the relentlessness of pursuing life and business in New York. But now I’m veering into a whole other post. Let’s get back to the products, shall we? What is a Tonic Herb, anyway, and are they safe for anyone to just take?
[Please bear with me here. Traditional Chinese Medicine and other forms of herbalism are something people study their entire lives. I claim absolutely no expertise here, whatsoever. I simply want to report about the information I was given, because a lot of people have asked me about these products.]
According to Scott, Tonic Herbs are herbs without adverse side effects than can be safely taken over the course of a lifetime. Tonic Herbs should not be confused with Medicinal Herbs which should be taken only with supervision, and are curative, to be taken over short periods of time. Tonic Herbs have a more amorphous effect. They help the body handle a wide range of situations. They can be balancing, revitalizing, or soothing. Some are adaptogenic, which is a word floating around a lot these days. It basically means the substance helps us adapt to stress. Scott spoke about increasing our circuitry, allowing us to become more powerfully ourselves over time. They make you feel better, more alive. Sounds good to me! Humans have had centuries of loving relationships with these plants, and they have been robustly studied by science.
But there are so many to choose from! Which one is right for you? Because the potions help you be in your body and gain intuition about your body, the more you use them, the better you get at choosing what’s right, how great is that?! How are you feeling right now? Are you crazy over-stressed? Are you tired all the time? Do you need digestive support? Is your romantic life with your partner a little, uh, lacking? Just jump in! Try an herb whose described effects resonates with you, wherever you find yourself in this moment. I loved a sentence that Scott said “You are the sovereign ruler of your body. You get to decide!” So give yourself permission to experiment. And remember, tonic herbs are safe!
Ok, but how do they taste? To me they are delicious, with a soupçon of “it’s an acquired taste.” As Scott spoke, Nitsa was hard at work making us three potions. They were really recipes, with several herbs, a base of chaga tea or gymnestemma tea, some with coconut butter and a little raw honey. All were delicious! The goal of Sun Potion is that people relate to these plants as ingredients, not just as something you pop as a pill. So they spoke of including the herbs in cooking soups, adding to tea or nut milk, adding to smoothies. Check out #apotionaday on Instagram for loads of ideas from Sun Potion and their customers. For me, the ritual of preparing these potions is akin to the delight I get mixing masks and applying face oils. Blend the pleasure of nurturing my body with the mysterious thrill of plant magic, and I am a goner.
Here’s how I use my (growing) Sun Potion collection:
Anandamide is where I started, and I’m addicted. Raw cacao blended with tonic herbs and spices? Yes please! I love to mix it with almond butter, a little honey and have it on sprouted grain toast. It is beyond good! Sugar and I have an on again/off again relationship, but even when we are ON, this still tastes as delicious as Nutella to me. Honestly. I also love mixing Anandamide with cashew milk and a dash of maple syrup. Give it a shake so it’s frothy, and there you go, a tonic herb milk shake! It always gives me a boost of energy and good feeling.
I have been using Astragalus and He Shou Wu in tea every morning for three months or so. The effects have been subtle, but I have noticed my nails have been growing more quickly, and I’ve been much less susceptible to winter colds. The one I did catch was significantly shorter in duration than I would typically expect. Encouraging results, to be sure.
I purchased the Reishi at the CAP, and took it for the first time this morning in my tea. It’s got me like, woah!! I’ve felt happy and strong all morning. Throughout school drop off (a nerve jangler supreme) I felt great. I was crazy excited to get home and do yoga, and now have been extremely focussed in writing this essay. I cannot wait to see what else develops with Reishi. And it tastes sooo gooood! [Ed. note: I wrote this essay two weeks ago, and am very pleased to say that I’ve continued to have the same grounding and strengthening effects whenever I take Reishi, which obviously is every day without fail!]
I’ve been trying Ashitaba, but to be honest it hasn’t really been speaking to me. I’m going to set it aside and see if it resonates during a different season of life.
I’ve started Triphala at night as a digestive tonic, and definitely find it helps, er, move things a long. But gently. I’ve taken Triphala before as a pill and am noticing a huge difference with the powder. It is so much more effective! The taste is really strong, but not unpleasant, and I find myself looking forward to my nightcap (Hmmm, how my definition of nightcap has changed over the past decade!)
I am excited to try Rhodiola next, known for supporting mental clarity, energy, and creativity. Have you tried Sun Potion yet? Have I helped your understanding a bit? Check out the Sun Potion website to see the array of potions available. I also found these accessible guides to common tonic herbs very helpful.