Body System

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-13 (EDT)

See Also Naturopathic Therapies
See Also Botanical Medicine (Herbalism)

Each system of the body has plants that are particularily suited to it. Tonics, for example, are often classified by the organ system that they support. Some herbs that have an affinity for specific parts of the body include:

Infections are often treated using Garlic or Echinacae or other Antimicrobials.
Cardiovascular System often needs to be supported in many different ways. Botanicals are helpful in decreasing or stopping the progression of atherosclerosis, supporting overall heart health, improving blood supply or increasing the efficiency of the heart.
Vascular Protectives: Ginkgo, Hawthorn, Bilberry, Buckwheat
Circulatory Stimulants: Prickly Ash, Cayenne, Ginkgo, Garlic, Onions
Cardiac Tonics: Hawthorn, Cayenne, Motherwort
Respiratory System some herbs are designed to treat coughs, others upper respiratory tract infections or lower respiratory conditions. Respiratory herbs are chosen based on their ability to treat or support the specific concern (cough, infection, asthma or chronic obstructive disease).
Decongestants: Ginger, Elder, Peppermint
Diaphoretics: Boneset, Yarrow, Ginger, Golden Rod, Elder, Peppermint, Euphorbia
Antiseptics: Ginger, Peppermint
Expectorants: Wild Cherry Bark
Anticatarrhal: Coltsfoot, White Horehound
Respiratory Tonics: Queen's delight, Mullein
Digestive System is a central aspect of naturopathic focus and treatment. Many conditions can be traced back to originating in the gastrointestional tract. Botanical medicines are useful across a wide spectrum of problems from ulceration to inflammation. Herbs typically used to treat digestive concerns contain bitters and include Gentian, Agrimony and Dandelion. Laxative and Demulcent herbs are associated with supporting digestive health.
The Liver is also supported by bitter herbs and includes the Hepatic or Cholagogues and Alteratives as well as herbs that are protective of the liver such as Milk Thistle and Globe Artichoke.
Urinary System is supported by herbs that address urinary tract infections or those that help in breaking down kidney stones. It includes such herbs as
Diuretics: Horsetail
Antimicrobials: Saw Palmetto, Pygeum, Bearberry, Buchu, Cranberry, Barberry
Reproductive System is a complex and intricate system. Not only do endocrine hormones exert powerful and deep actions on their target tissues, but the hormones exert secondary effects as well.[1] Common endocrine conditions treated with botanicals include: thyroid and adrenal conditions, diabetes mellitus, menstrual or fertility disorders, prostate concerns and sympathetic overactivation.
Uterine Tonics: Black Cohosh
Phytoestrogen: Angelica, Dong quai
Prolactin inhibitors: Chaste Tree
Antispasmodics: Cramp bark, Wild Yam
Nervous System some herbs are designed to relax or regulate nervous function, others are chosen as they induce sleep or quiet the mind, and still others work by decreasing anxiety or pain or by addressing fatigue and helping to establish a balance between the sympathetic and parasymathetic nervous system. Common herbs that work on the nervous system include:
Sedatives: Valerian, Passion Flower, Skullcap or Hops
Nervines: Lemon Balm, St. John's Wort
Anodyne: Jamican Dogwood, Black Willow, Kava Kava, St. John's Wort
Nervous tonics such as Oats.
Musculo/Skeletal System herbs help to decrease pain, spasms and inflammation and are useful in stregthening joints and supporting tissues. They are commonly used to address conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis.
The Skin is supported by herbs taken internally and applied topically. They can be used to treat hydration concerns, rashes, burns, cuts and other injuries. Herbs used include Cleavers, Nettle, Red Clover and most Diaphoretic and Alterative herbs.
The Lymphatic system is supported by Alterative herbs and many Tonics.

Check out further information on botanical medicine and the classification of herbs.


  1. Smith Fraser (2010) Therapeutic Classifications of Herbs In Godfrey A. and Saunders P. et al (2010) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Vol 1: Botanical Medicine Monographs CCNM Press, Toronto.