Did you know that you could increase the benefits of taking herbs by understanding how to anchor with them?
Besides being an herbalist and strongman, I’m also an NLP Trainer (neuro-linguistic programming). One of the tools in the NLP skill-set is that of anchoring. Anchoring refers to a process where a state change or internal response is associated with some sort of trigger, either internal or external.
In short, it is how you can go from being completely relaxed into a blind rage in one second, or vice versa, assuming the right anchors are in place. (Of course, that’s an extreme example but one that is not unrealistic.)
So what does this have to do with herbs?
Beyond the physical, biochemical effects that herbs have consuming them, they can also be a psychological tool. That is through understanding this process and using it to your advantage.
Anchoring is going on all the time even if you’ve never heard of anchoring before. Just think about the morning coffee ritual that people engage in. How much of the waking up is from the caffeine (which takes time at least ten minutes to kick in)? And how much is from the anchoring effect when you start feeling more awake from the first sip?
Anchoring is a proven psychological tool. These added effects should not be confused with the placebo effect, in the way that most people refer to it as being not real. (Actually, the placebo effect could be described in terms of anchoring fairly well.) Much more on the placebo effect in this recent article.
How Anchoring Works
Once again, anchoring is a completely natural process that is happening all the time, whether you are intentional about it or not. It is simply in using it consciously that we can cue it up to be more on demand.
For anchoring, you need two things, the state you want to be in and an anchor or trigger to use.
Let’s say you want to get pumped up to workout. In sports psychology, this is called arousal. (That is interesting in that many of the herbs that are great for pre-workout energy tend to be good for the other area where “arousal” is needed, and vice versa.)
You might do this already with some anchors that can exist by:
- Working out in the same gym or location
- Listening to music
- Warming up in the same way
- Certain things you say to yourself out loud or just in your mind
And let’s say that you take some sort of pre-workout supplement. This could be Hercules, but any herbs or other foods or supplements would also work for anchoring purposes.
The important thing is that it is unique and done in the same way each time.
That builds the anchor. Since it is natural to amp yourself up, to get aroused (again, not that kind) for the work to come, you are entering the state.
Over time, these become associated or anchored to one another.
Then one day you find that you feel like crap for other reasons. But you show up at the gym, have your pre-workout supplement, and boom you’re right into the state that you need to be. You have a fantastic workout despite the earlier funk. The act of taking the pre-workout may become every bit as powerful as what is in the pre-workout itself.
(If you are interested in more about anchoring and other mental training tactics for excelling in the gym, please see my popular book Mental Muscle.)
Anchoring through Taste
Anchoring can occur through any of the sensory channels. I’ll use the official terms and the more basic understanding of them.
- Visual – What you see
- Auditory – What you hear
- Kinesthetic – What you feel
- Olfactory – What you smell
- Gustatory – What you taste
All of these can be done externally or internally. This means that you can see something that acts as an anchor, or you can simply imagine seeing that thing and it still works. You can say a phrase out loud to yourself or imagine doing so.
All the channels work. Sometimes certain ones are more appropriate than others and you can also do multi-sense anchors too.
Because they’re our main ways of interacting with the world, the visual, auditory and kinesthetic are most commonly used.
Yet, the taste of herbs can be very powerful too. Have you ever had the experience of smelling something and it vividly bringing back a memory? Say the smell of a certain fragrance bringing you back to your grandmother’s house when you were younger?
They say this is because of how the nose and brain are wired. Smells are processed in the olfactory bulb which is directly connected the amygdala and hippocampus, two important areas for emotion and memories.
The thing is that taste and smell are closely related. So I wonder if taste can have a similar effect.
In any case, this means that smell, and possibly taste as well, can be more powerful anchors.
One of the Best Examples – Blue Vervain
I love, love, love Blue Vervain. It’s quite a bit different from many of our other herbs.
It is classed as a “Bitter Nervine.” The first part of this is pretty self-explanatory. It is bitter, very much so, almost on par with Tongkat Ali. (Understand that Tongkat Ali’s bitter taste is largely because of the concentration of it being a 100:1 extract. Some of the compounds in this extract taste bitter. So although it is very bitter, it does not have this same bitter nervine action.)
In this case, the taste really drives the action. The cooling bitterness acts to drain energy downward. And specifically, as a nervine herb, it is working on the nervous system. Essentially, it releases stress off the nerves.
From people I have watched take it and talk to, about 50% or more can feel this action right away.
What does it feel like? For me, I notice that I tend to immediately take deeper, more relaxed breaths. My neck and traps, where I tend to carry tension, relax. But it’s not a direct muscular relaxation like some other herbs provide (such as kava kava), instead there is a difference in how it starts on the nerves which then triggers the muscles to relax.
Once again, the taste drives this action. Taking a capsule of Blue Vervain would not have the same effect.
And, as we’re discussing here, we can further use this taste as an anchor.
Blue Vervain is specifically indicated for Type A personalities, entrepreneurs, people who tend to get stuck in their head. That’s me and a lot of my friends.
So one of the ways I have intentionally used Blue Vervain is at the end of my workday. When I’d step away from the computer, I would take a dropperful. The taste and feel of this herb have an immediate effect. And the anchoring helps in the transition from “work mode” to “personal mode.”
As many entrepreneurs, especially those that work from home, have issues with this, I find it can be extremely effective in doing so. In giving you that hard stop so you’re not checking your email five more times before the day is over.
Ideally, for the anchoring effect, you would only take Blue Vervain at this time as it makes it more specific to the state you want. I did that for a while though sometimes I also take it at other times too.
More Examples of Anchoring with Herbs
So we’ve covered two examples so far.
- Taking herbs as a pre-workout to set you up to perform at your peak.
- Taking relaxing herbs at the end of your workday to transition out of work mode.
What else can be done?
The sky is the limit but here are some thoughts:
- Taking herbs before sex, such as Thor’s Hammer. Pretty obvious, this one.
- Taking post-workout, including relaxing herbs such as Ashwagandha, to help shift out of that peak arousal state.
- Taking herbs right before sleep. This could include herbs that help you sleep like Albizia, as well as herbs that may support dreaming like Mugwort.
- Taking nootropic herbs, like Bacopa or Lion’s Mane, before engaging in learning or practicing a skill.
These are all anchoring processes I’ve worked with, but there are more possibilities. If you have any you’ve done, please share them in the comments below.
Herbs are great.
Anchoring is great.
Combine the two and one plus one may just equal three!