The many types of herbal tonic include nervines, cardiac tonics, stomachics, hepatics, biliary tonics, diuretics and others. The definition of an herb is a seed plant that does not have woody parts and that dies to the ground when the growing season concludes. It also is a plant or part of a plant that is believed to have medicinal value. An herbal tonic, therefore, technically could be mad with a vegetable, fruit or any other plant that has medicinal properties and that stimulates and enhances the functions of the systems of the body.
Nervines help to relax nervous tension and to provide nourishment to the central nervous system and its subdivisions. Among the herbs traditionally employed to formulate an all-natural herbal tonic that will act as a nervine are valerian, skullcap, lady's slipper and lobelia. Cardiac tonics, also known as heart tonics, help to strengthen and nourish not only the heart but also the entire circulatory system. One of the safest and most effective of all heart tonics is that made with Hawthorne berries; other tonics for the circulatory system include those made with lily of the valley, motherwort or rehmannia.
Stomachics, sometimes referred to as "bitters," are unique in that they not only affect the stomach in a beneficial way, they also act upon all the systems of the body and might be thought of as "general" nourishing tonics or stimulating tonics. For example, the very bitter-tasting herb elecampane, which is a stomachic, has a profound effect on the lungs, is excellent to treat bronchitis and is a powerful expectorant. Chamomile figures on the list of the mildest bitters and is used to make a tea that is frequently consumed in North America and Europe, where it is still recommended by some pharmacists for stomach ailments.
Hepatics promote normal function of the liver. Dandelion root, cascara, stoneroot and sassafras are herbs frequently used to prepare an herbal tonic to ease or treat liver ailments. Biliary tonics stimulate the production and secretion of bile. This is a type of herbal tonic that truly can be made from a plant with medicinal properties or from a food. The choices of plants for this purpose include Oregon grape root, goldenseal and wild yam, and the choices of foods that help stimulate bile include parsley and rhubarb.
Diuretics help to increase and promote the flow of urine and are useful when treating some types of nerve inflammation, a urinary tract infection and lymphatic swellings. This is an herbal tonic that also is very useful in cases of water retention and kidney stones. An herbal tonic can be used in the successful treatment of certain health problems, but some people believe that an herbal tonic also can be used as preventative alternative medicine. Periodically treating oneself with one of the bitters can help ward off disease and sickness.