Total Body Wellness Through Tonic
The New Revolution in Herbal Medicine
by Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D.
Balance in Body Systems
The basic concept underlying tonic herbs is balance. Tonic herbs restore and
maintain balance. Their action is directed toward whole body systems and
individual physiological processes. Body systems would include the nervous,
digestive, musculo-skeletal, cardiovascular, cerebral, reproductive, and immune
systems. Processes include those physiological and biochemical functions that
affect blood pressure, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, the function of
electrolytes, buffers, neurotransmitters, hormones, enzymes, vitamins, and so
Of all the terms associated with tonics, the most difficult to grasp is
"balance." Superficially, the word is a simple one and should not
create any confusion. Furthermore, most people find nothing objectionable about
the word; it seems to make perfect sense. But I often encounter a reluctance in
many people to distinguish one herb from another on the basis that one restores
and maintains balance while the other does not. Objections to this distinction
range from "don't all herbs do that?" to "so what?" In
reality, balance is not a characteristic of most herbs. Indeed, it may be the
rarest of all properties. It is so unique that only a handful of all of the
hundreds of thousands of plants in the world possesses it. Therefore, I admonish
the reader to not overlook the word, or assume he or she automatically knows
what is meant by it, or dismiss it as commonplace, irrelevant or primitive.
The action of any ingested chemical, whether from food or supplement or drug,
is to "push" some physiological process in a certain direction,
commonly to either increase a process or decrease it. For example, vitamin C
increases certain processes inside cells throughout the body that affect the
healing process. Essential fatty acids find their way into cell membrane
physiology. Silicon, from horsetail, increases the rate of tissue growth and
becomes part of the structure of new tissue. Certain substances from gentian
root stimulate the flow of gastric juices. Substances from onions cause the
tears to flow. "Pushing" processes is what physiologically active
substances do. Most substances push processes in one direction only.
"Balancing" processes requires pushing them in opposing directions.
It assumes that a process works best if maintained within certain limits. This
assumption is indeed correct. All physiological processes operate within fairly
narrow limits. While operating within those limits, they are said to be in a
state of homeostasis. Think of a teeter totter. When the board is perfectly
level, equal weights on both ends, it is balanced. This is homeostasis. The
normal, or healthy, state of a body process or system is one of balance. As the
teeter totter board begins to dip in either direction balance is lost. Likewise,
in the body, deviation from a normal, balanced state produces imbalance or
disease. Stated simply, balance equals health and imbalance equals disease, or a
state of ill health. Correcting the imbalance restores balance and health.
In today's world, stress is perhaps the number one cause of disease Stress is
any force that tends to push any body system out of balance. Stress can create
hyperactivity (overactive) as well as hypoactivity (under active) Thus, there
are diseases of under active processes and over active processes. For example,
an under active immune system is susceptible to infection, colds, flu, etc.
Likewise, an overactive immune system tend toward symptoms of imbalance,
including hay fever, allergies, an, autoimmune disorders. In our teeter totter
analogy, stressors would be weights applied to either end of the board forcing
it out of balance.
©1995, Victory Publications
Daniel B. Mowrey, Ph.D. earned his
advanced degree in experimental psychology from Brigham Young
University. His specialized areas was psychopharmacology, with
related studies in biochemistry, neurology, anatomy and physiology.
His interest in medicinal botany began while in graduate school and
his dissertation reflected that interest. Over the next several
years his research in this area lead to the publications of several
books, among which are: Herbal Tonic Therapies, The Scientific
Validation of Herbal Medicine, Guaranteed Potency Herbs: Next
Generation Herbal Medicine, and Fat Management: The Therogenic