9 ancient herbal tonics having a modern resurgence

Herbs have been part of healing since the beginning of time, but a handful in particular are enjoying a modern revival.

Herbal medicine has been a popular form of alternative therapy for many years and the variety of the possible benefits of herbs is continuing to come to light.

Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia president David Casteleijn says much is still being discovered about herbs in laboratories.

“There’s an enormous amount of information to be discovered about herbs that is almost infinite,” David says.

“When you think about the number of plants there are, and the number of individual components they have, it’s endless.

Melbourne naturopath Kylie Sartori says herbs have “so many actions”.

“The main use I have for herbs in my clinic is for calming the nervous system, hormonal imbalance and gut health,” says Kylie, who is also a consultant on the My Good Habits health program.

“They’re gentle and non-addictive, so it’s a way of getting as close to nature as possible to help treat a range of conditions.

David reveals some ancient herbs that are becoming increasingly popular for their modern healing properties:

Withania (also known as ashwagandha)

It was traditionally used to treat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, ulcers and rheumatism but is now widely used to treat chronic stress and anxiety. It is also used to help improve cognition.


Chamomile has many traditional uses but has most commonly been used to treat wounds, burns and skin irritations.

It has also been used for many years to help sleep disorders and is still widely used to treat anxiety.

But its use has broadened to now help with digestive issues such as colic and irritable bowel syndrome.

Celery seed

Historically and predominantly used to treat fluid retention conditions such as edema, celery seed is increasingly being used to relieve joint pain and may even have a role in hormone regulation.


With such a rich history, ginger is known as a champion herb for its traditional use in treating a range of conditions such as toothache, respiratory conditions, gingivitis and asthma.

Now, it’s used more commonly for motion sickness, nausea and arthritis.

Gotu kola

Traditionally used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine as a general health tonic and to treat wounds, rashes, coughs and rheumatic fever.

Now, it is also used for anxiety and to calm the nervous system.


This sacred herb was often a central part of tribal ceremonies as a way for members to connect and feel good.

It still helps people to feel good because of its relaxing effect, which is why it’s been found to help improve sleep. It also has some excellent anti-anxiety, calming properties.

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Written by Catherine Lambert.