Payne Mountain Farms
Buy dried yellowroot and other wild herbs at Payne Mountain Farms.

Forming relationships with herbs

Beware of capsules that contain little or none of the actual herb

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.

Grow your own herbs or buy herbs from reputable dealers

Always buy herbs from reputable dealers (or grow your own). If taking capsules, open one and pour out the contents. Does it look like plant material? Taste the herb and note the color. It pays to be familiar with every herb you put on or 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 bin).

People should develop a relationship with herbs

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.

Try growing your own herbs

Relationships with plants can be formed in many ways. Look at the seeds, feel their texture, and plant a few in a pot. Place in a sunny window and watch the 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 a patch of mold, rancid scent, or other problem. Try drying a bunch of fresh herb leaves or making a tincture. This is the start of a relationship.

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). Mullein also shoots up a tall stalk with yellow flowers that is beautiful in the back of a flower border.

Herbal remedies are medicines

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.

* Always consult with a healthcare professional before using any herbal remedy especially if pregnant, nursing, or taking other medicines.

Beware poor quality herbs.

© Phil Date | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Beware of poor quality herbal products that contain little or none of the actual herb.