Written by: Charoula Dontopoulos
Hello, and welcome again to our Column dedicated to Herbs!

I have had a relationship with herbs since I was very young, and contracted a very dangerous illness.  It was actually an awful time for Greece back then, in the middle of the Second World War, medicines were rarely available, and doctors were rare as well. So what I mostly remember from those days was my grandmother, who harked back to the botanically rich island of Crete, brewing different herbs together and making me drink cup after cup of them, some definitely tasting not so nice! But I recovered!

I have loved herbs since then, an invigorating cup of Peppermint tea, a sweet cup of Chamomile tea, and many others, from the mountain slopes of Crete, whose names I forget.

Many years later, after coming to this country to go to College, and in my forties, I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. The magic of herbs, once again, (and a bit of Western medicine!) helped me get through that crisis as well. Herbs became my best friends, and I devoted a lot of time to their study.

From way back, as far as we have available information, herbs have been experimented with, studied, and put to use, around the globe. They have served humans as food and as remedies from the time our ancestors lived in caves! These people were intimately related to Nature and were the first to identify the wealth of botanicals in the forests and the plains in which they roamed.

The first humans who studied the plants around them and used them both as food and as medicine were probably cave dwellers.

It was, however, the ancient Greeks and the Chinese who began to identify their nature, their specific qualities, and their possible medicinal effects on humans.

From way back, humans figured out that the power of plants lay in their inner energy. It was only in the modern era that plants began to be analyzed in laboratories, and their power was found to depend on their chemistry!

Energetically speaking, herbs can be

  • Real mild herbs that need to be taken for a long time to have an effect.
  • Medium strength herb– can be taken for one to three weeks at most.
  • Strong herbs are more like drugs and should only be taken


Examples of mild herbs are: Chamomile, Nettles, Alfalfa, Plantain.

Examples of medium strength herbs are: Sage, Valerian, Celandine.

Examples of very strong herbs are: Bittersweet twig, Hellebore root.    (The Energetics of Herbs, Peter Holmes)


Obviously, mild herbs are for minor issues, but mostly for pleasure, and day to day nutritional benefits. They can be taken for a long period of time.

Medium strength herbs are for more chronic or acute conditions, and should be taken for a medium period of time, after which they may become mildly toxic.

Strong strength herbs are more “drug-like”, and should only be taken rarely, when the need is great, and only for a limited time.

My favorite way of taking herbs, actually, is to mix some of each of these categories, in order to achieve a strong healing effect.

For instance, since I find it hard to go to sleep, I usually make a strong tea with two teaspoons of Chamomile, another favorite of mine, Skullcap, and maybe one teaspoon of Valerian if I absolutely cannot go to sleep! and this sends me right to oblivion!  (Valerian is actually a very strong herb, even though I call it a medium strength herb–and one we should not take too much of every night. I often substitute Catnip, which is milder and quite sleep producing.)

For pleasure during the day, I will do a Nettles tea along with Sage, another favorite of mine: delicious Lemon Balm; and maybe a bit of Lavender. I make a lot of different teas, including one for Memory (to brighten up my brain!  More of the Memory components next time).

There are a lot of books out there on Herbs, and getting one to use as a reference is greatly helpful.

I hope you try some of these combinations, or some of your own, and get some excellent results.  Making herbal teas can be LOTS OF FUN!!



If you have questions on any of the above herbs and their use, please contact me:

Ask Charoula about Herbs

All answers are posted on our website E-Wellness.com, on the following Friday.

Thanks for reading!

Charoula Dontopoulos
Certified Herbalist
Holistic Health Advisor
BC Polarity Therapy Practitioner


Questions and Answers

Q: I would love to hear what herbs you used during your Cancer episode, could you name a couple?

A: Some of the best botanicals for reducing inflammation – which now we know is at the basis of serious (and milder even) diseases such as cancer, are Roots. Herbal Roots seem to have much more of an effect on us because, as we say in Herbology, they go to the Root of the problem. What I learned early on to use for a healthy as well as a fighting and recovering system, are Echinacea, Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng),  Astragalus,  Osha, to name a few.

However, I would definitely add some non roots as well, such as Reishi, Mushroom, Cayenne, and Milk Thistle.

Q: What is a book good for beginners to use as a guide and source of information?

A: I would strongly recommend Dr. James Duke’s book, the Green Pharmacy, which, as the publishers themselves say, is “lively, fun to read, and filled with gems of wisdom”.  It is all of these and much more, and was one of my first books long ago, but I still cherish it and use it constantly!