From a constitutional perspective, it appears that most herbal medicines have a drying effect upon the tissues. Whether it’s from increasing urination, exocrine gland secretions, sweating…. there are many ways that herbs lead to fluids leaving the body and this ultimately has a net drying effect.
Thus, knowing your moistening materia medica is critical for success as an herbalist and a formulator, especially in our modern world where there is a great prevalence of constitutional dryness.
Cross comparing different traditional models of dryness, we see that in Chinese Medicine it is referred to as Yin Deficiency. In Ayurveda dryness is governed by the Vata Dosha, which also tends to be cold and tense. From the perspective of our western herbal energetic model, this would be classified as the Dry/Atrophy tissue state, characterized by weakness, emaciation, withering tissues that are malnourished and loosing function. I remember one time Michael Tierra commented in a lecture that Yin Deficiency is likely one of the most overlooked patterns by western herbalists and will usually be an obstacle to cure. If the herbs you are giving aren’t working and should be working then it’s likely you have an underlying Yin Deficiency to correct.
In regards to herbal formulation, knowing your moistening remedies is critical because most herbal remedies are drying in nature. There are often times you want to give someone a certain herb, but the moisture quality of the herb may not match that of the person. It doesn’t mean you can’t give that herb to them, you simply need to formulate it in a way that will bring it into greater balance for that person.
This is a formulation principle we see in the Unani-Tibb system (Arabic medicine) called corrigents. This is oftentimes seen as just adding certain herbs to formulas to make them taste better, but in actuality the principle of corrigents is adding remedies to an herbal formula to correct its underlying energetics or constitutional actions.
In this video I share some core concepts of dryness in the body, how and why to use moistening remedies and a few of my favorite examples.
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