What are Tonic Herbs?

The Chinese herbal pharmacopoeia is divided into three categories, or class'. The first class of herbs are the Superior herbs or Tonic herbs, the second class of herbs is the Regulating class, and the third group or class, are poisonous herbs which also have a purpose, but for more advanced students in the herbal arts.

So..What are tonic herbs? 

Tonic herbs comprise a small, but elite class of the approximately 3000 herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The Class of Tonic herbs, are the Superior group of the three classes, comprising only 50 to 70 herbs.

  • Tonic herbs support long-term strength, adaptability and resilience against the susceptibility to disease.
  • Tonic herbs act to balance the bodily and mental energies. Their actions are non-specific.

The Taoist masters considered the balancing property of the tonic herbs to be superior compared to herbs that have a one directional function such as to depress or stimulate. This is because tonic herbs are bi-directional. Meaning that Tonic herbs harmonize excess and deficiency, for this reason the tonic herbs are classified differently, and thus superior compared to the medicinal single directional herbs.

Tonic herbs could be considered a class of superfoods. Many superfoods, such as chlorella, shilajit, royal jelly, spirulina and bee pollen could too, also be considered tonifying foods.

The Greek root word tonic means; “Pertaining to, maintaining, increasing, or restoring the tone or health of the body or an organ, as a medicine,” and “Invigorating physically, mentally, or morally.” Also, the Greek word tonify means “to bring frequencies and musical tones into harmony.”

These terms were used by Hippocrates (4thcentury B.C.), and appeared in the English dictionary with Paracelsus (1493-1541). 

Three criteria for a Tonic Herb:

1. It must be proven safe for long-term daily consumption, and fortify the whole constitution over time.

2. It must have a broad-spectrum beneficial action on the body. It must contain “dual-directional” energies, helping bring the total organism into balance between the forces of Yin and Yang.

3. It must benefit more than one of the Three Treasures and the five major organ systems.

Examples of Tonic Herbs

Ashwaganda, Rhodiola, Suma, Sasparilla and Gotu Kola are herbs that tonify. 

The blood building herb Dang gui (Lat. Angelica sinensis) almost meets the criteria, and is considered a semi-tonic, just like Ligusticum (Gao ben). Frittillaria is also considered part tonic, part medicinal. 

Tonic herbs are the executive branch of the Chinese health system that no school in the West has yet taught exclusively; TCM curriculum typically includes tonic herbs, but focuses on medical and curative applications of herbs and physical therapies, and not so much on the development of the subtle bodies.

A balanced and healthy diet with properly selected, clean and toxic free Tonic herbs taken daily significantly assists in maintaining hormone balance. This is why Tonic herbs, particularly the Jing herbs, are called “longevity herbs.” Many Jing herbs have “adaptogenic” properties which support our bodily functions and assist in the adaptations to daily stresses. The Tonic herbs are very nourishing for the kidney meridian, which includes the kidneys and adrenals.

Tonifying the kidney we support longevity, beauty, and vital energies of our bodies, our genetics and our fortitude. When we fortify the adrenals, we feel safer, and more grounded. This alone can assist us beginning our journey to balance by consuming Tonic Herbs regularly. 

Black Radish Benefits

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What is Black Radish?

Black radish (Raphanus sativa nigra) is a member of the Cruciferae family, similar to its well known relative the conventional Radishes that are found in the produce market. Black Radish, or sometimes called Black Spanish Radish, is bitter and pungent in flavour and has been traditionally used in Mexican cuisine, Chinese Medicine, Modern herbalism and in Nutritional Balancing programs. Black radish supports liver detoxification enzymes and the release of bile which naturally assists the bodies natural cleansing processes [7]. In addition to the liver and gallbladder, the black radishes colour is indicative of its ability to support the Jing essence and thus kidney health.

What has Black Radish Been Used For?


Black Radish is effective for treating skin disorders such as rashes and dry skin to their abundance of calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, phosphorus and zinc [1]. In addition, Black Radish has significant amount of antioxidants [6] [7] which can help quench free radicals and prevent the damaging effects on the skin.


Radishes reduce the destruction of red blood cells which occurs in people suffering from jaundice by increasing the supply of fresh oxygen to the blood. In addition to Radishes profound ability to remove bilirubin and keep its production at a stable level. [2]


Piles, which are also known as hemorrhoids, are an inflammatory condition of the muscular tube connecting the anus and the rectum. When consumed twice daily, a half cup of radish juice will relieve piles. [3]


Isothiocyanates, which can be found in radishes, have a critical impact on the genetic pathways of cancerous cells and can cause apoptosis (cell death) thereby eliminating cancerous cells from reproducing. [4]


In 2012 a study revealed that radish has antifungal properties which can help induce cell death in Candida albicans, which can cause oral infections and vaginal yeast infections. [5]


Studies have shown that black radish supports health blood lipid levels. [6]


Traditionally, Black Radish has been heavily used for hepatic drainage (liver), and has also been used for hepatic headaches. [7] According to Dr. Wilson, Russian black radish, a source of sulfur, which is a powerful copper antagonist. By enhancing liver activity, it can increase the rate of copper elimination by the liver [9]. Black radish is also very high in sulfur compounds which are essential for phase 2 liver detoxification.


Reduces allergic rhinitis and asthma, sedates coughs and has been employed to reduce spasmodic conditions like whooping cough. Black radish shows tonic effect on the respiratory system, so it is useful in treatment of bronchitis, cough and asthma [7].


Due to black radishes rich vitamin C content, it is also very efficient antiscorbutic [7].


Black radish reduces bilirubin in the body and thus relieves the body of gallstones. In addition, black radish has been shown to support and promote optimal gallbladder health [8].


Radishes are high in raphanin (good for the thyroid) — Russian research on raphanin and its ability to assist thyroid dysfunction is substantial.


Black Radish helps the kidney rid the blood of irritants that promote allergies and arthritis.

  • Traditionally used as a choleretic, cholagogue, for benign bronchial problems and topically for sunburns, superficial and limited burns and for diaper rash. Results were limited for alopecia.


People with gallbladder stones or obstructions, and those with severe kidney or hepatic (liver) problems should not use Black Radish without consulting a qualified health care professional.

Part commonly used:

Root, Stalk, Leaf, Juice.

Herbal action:

Hepatic, biliary and mild diuretic.


Glucosinolate, Glucoraphanin, Glucoraphasatin, Raphanin, Myrosinase, Antioxidants - Isothiocyanates.


[1] Basic Report:  11429, Radishes, raw

[2] Treatment of Jaundice

[3] Ethnobiological Survey of Traditional Medicine Practice for The Treatment of Piles and Diabetes Mellitus in Oyo State


[5] The plant defensin RsAFP2 induces cell wall stress, septin mislocalization and accumulation of ceramides in Candida albicans

[6] Antioxidant effect of squeezed juice from black radish (Raphanus sativus L. var niger) in alimentary hyperlipidaemia in rats


Black Radish Herbal Information

[8] Raphanus sativus L. var niger as a source of Phytochemicals for the Prevention of Cholesterol Gallstones

[9] Dr.  L Wilson - Eliminating Copper

Castro-Torres, Ibrahim Guillermo, et al. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012

Hanlon, Paul R., et al. J. Agric. Food Chem., 2007