Elixirs and Tonics

Posted to Subscribers on 26 November 2013


Dear Subscribers,

Several people have been asking questions that others may have. I think I will devote most this post to definitions of words found in herbal medicine. Every discipline has a specialized vocabulary so sometimes it helps to clarify the meaning of words. Don't worry, I am not going to write a dictionary, but I will take a few important words so that their meanings become clear.


Like many important nouns in our language, the word "elixir" comes from the Arabic "al-Ikseer", meaning "effective recipe". Elixirs are sweetened and are sometimes called syrups. For instance, the famous Eclectic physician Dr. Eli G. Jones left his recipe for relieving cancer to his brother physicians. He called it Compound Syrup Scrophularia. Not surprisingly, many people could not remember the name so I eventually gave it a name to honor the Native American tradition that gave so much of its wisdom to early settlers from Europe as well as the Eclectic physicians of the 19th century. I call the "syrup" Seneca Elixir. Before sugar became the adulterated product it is today, it was regarded as healthy, but an elixir can be sweetened with honey, molasses, jaggery, or even glycerin. Seneca and Sundance elixirs are sweetened with honey. The new Brahmi Elixir also contains honey. Hibiscus Elixir is made with jaggery, a kind of natural sugar from India (organic) and Yellow Dock Elixir is made with molasses, mainly because of the high trace mineral content in these sugars. Goji Elixir is made with glycerin.

Some people are afraid of anything sweet, especially sugar and honey, but traditionally, elixirs were regarded as both medicinal and nourishing. Several medical doctors were skeptical about using elixirs with patients with tumors, especially those who are also diabetic. I explained my clinical experience and a few ran their own trials and were surprised to find that elixirs are actually a great delivery method. The herbs are absorbed very quickly. In darkfield microscopy, we can see differences in the plasma and blood behavior within 20-30 minutes. Moreover, we can be reasonably certain that the sweetness aids the ability of the formula to cross the blood-brain barrier.


A tonic is something used to enhance and/or repair tissue. It will be easier to understand the word if we contrast a detoxifying formula from a tonifying one. I have a long essay on this topic here:


When one detoxifies, it is assumed that there is something present in the body that needs to be removed. For instance, there may be parasites, fluoride, chemical or pharmaceutical residuals, metal toxins, free radicals, mold, yeast, or perhaps just excess acids from exercise or poor dietary choices. In any event, the goal is to remove the unwanted substances. This generally involves catabolic processes or the use of bitter herbs, both of which can be weakening if carried to the extreme.

A tonic, on the other hand, is used to strengthen, repair or regenerate, or enhance the functioning of cells or organs. For example, an adrenal tonic nourishes the adrenal glands so that the coping margins for stress are extended. This gives us more elasticity. We might not be able to banish our challenges, but we can improve our stamina and provide the nutrition needed by the adrenal glands so that they are not exhausted by ceaseless outpouring of cortisol and other hormones.

The liver is another fascinating organ. We can detoxify the liver using bitters. This might take several months; but then we want to rejuvenate it. Think of people who have been exposed to toxic chemicals or excessive amounts of alcohol or pain relievers and you realize that the liver not only needs freedom from these insults but also support to regain normal functioning. Many herbs contribute to homeostasis and many of them help to repair damaged tissue, everything from liver cells to DNA.

The most important tonics might be those that nourish the brain because these forestall or prevent many of the symptoms associated with aging. However, for a patient, the point to keep in mind is the difference between detoxifying and tonifying, between catabolism and anabolism, between purification and regeneration. Mixing and matching may not produce the results sought so we can expect better results when we know what the priorities ought to be and how to achieve the goals.

Some formulas are not named in helpful ways. Well, I ought not be pointing fingers since some of the names I use are not particularly clear. A few guidelines might be helpful. If a person is weak, tonification may be more important than detoxification. If a person is strong, detoxification can often be carried out over a period of months or years, but one still needs to watch carefully for any signs of deficiency since any process involving removal of what is unwanted can sometimes result in the removal of what is needed. Many people who become fanatic over detoxifying lose strength. I have seen people in their twenties with creaky joints. We have to observe carefully so as to recognize when balance is more important than purification.





Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2013







Seventh Ray Press
Copyright by Ingrid Naiman 2010

Home || Contact Us

No content on any of the pages of this web site may be reproduced without written permission of
Ingrid Naiman and Seventh Ray Press, publisher of this site.


Design by Damien Francoeur