Relationships with herbal plants can be formed in many ways. Look at the seeds, feel their texture, and plant a few in a pot. Start with basil. It is easy to grow from seed. Place the pot in a sunny window and watch the basil's growth habits. Harvest small amounts throughout the growing season and use fresh in tea and in cooking. Note the aroma. Savor the taste. After using an herb several times, it becomes second nature to spot mold, rancid scent, or other problems with quality. Try drying a bunch of fresh herbs or making an herbal tincture. This is the start of a relationship with herbs.
There has been a dramatic increase in the use of herbal products over the past ten years. Many Americans are looking for a cheap cure all and are eager to believe outlandish claims and exaggerations. Buyers should be cautious when purchasing herbal remedies since many are full of saw dust and fillers. Remember -- medicinal herbs are not a quick fix. Healing takes time even with the freshest, most potent herbs.
Always buy herbs from reputable dealers (or grow your own). If taking medicinal herbs in capsule form, open one and pour out the contents. Does it look like herbal plant material? Taste the herb and note the color. It pays to be familiar with every herb you put into your body.
When buying herbal tea, do the leaves have a pleasing aroma? When crushed, there should be a nice scent. Try growing herbs or look for fresh ones at local farmers’ markets. A tablespoon of fresh chamomile is better than a pound of old stuff -- which is only fit for the compost pile.
Herbs work differently on different people. It is best to develop a personal relationship with the plants used in herbal medicine. Don't just pop an herbal capsule or gulp down a cup of tea. You will only be disappointed.
As time goes by, some herbs will become favorites and other will appear of lesser value. Do you like the way peppermint grows rampantly with little care? Maybe you prefer a tender carpet of thyme. Bee balm may be perfect for a sunny border -- and great for a relaxing bedtime tea. Calendula may fit perfectly in a pot on the patio -- and work as a great skin tonic on sensitive skin. A tall mullein plant may look like a big fuzzy weed, but to me it is the king of Georgia meadows -- and an ingredient for an effective chest poultice.
England’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency has this to say, “Remember that herbal remedies are medicines. As with any other medicine, you should use them with care while first ensuring they are the correct products for you or your patient. Also remember that the phrases ‘natural’, ‘herbal’ and ‘derived from plants’ do not necessarily mean ‘safe’. Many plants can be poisonous to humans, and many pharmaceutical medicines have been developed from plants using the powerful compounds they contain. Herbal products don’t have to meet specific standards of safety and quality and so standards can vary widely. In addition they are not required to be accompanied by the necessary information for you to use them safely such as safety warnings and contraindications.”
The same holds true in the United States. Become familiar with your herbs, grow them if possible, and always buy from reputable dealers. Always start with a small dose to see how the body reacts. Use common sense!
* Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking other medicines.
"The only way to really learn about herbal medicine is to touch and smell herbs, taste them, use them daily, and grow them if possible. Herbal medicine is a way of life. It is not a quick fix." ... Janice Boling, herbalist, web designer, writer, photographer
* Note - the information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
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