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Using Herbs Simply and Safely
Are herbs “mild forms of medicine” – and therefore dangerous? Or are they “natural” – and therefore safe? If you sell herbs, you hear these questions often. What is the “correct” answer? It depends on the herbs! These thoughts on herbs will help you explain to your customers (and yourself) how safe – or dangerous – any herb can be.
To avoid problems when selling or using herbs:
- Make sure you have the right plants.
- Use simplicity.
- Understand that different preparations of the same herb may work differently.
- Use nutritious, tonifying, stimulating and potentially toxic herbs wisely.
Make sure you have the right plant
The easiest way to get into trouble with herbs is to use the “wrong” ones. How can this happen? Common names for herbs overlap, leading to confusion about proper identification. Properly labeled herbs may contain extraneous material from other, more dangerous, herbs. Herbs can be picked at the wrong stage of growth or improperly handled after harvest, causing them to develop harmful traits.
Protect yourself and your customers with these simple steps:
- Buy herbs only from reputable suppliers.
- Only buy herbs labeled with their botanical names. Botanical names are specific, but the same common name can refer to many different plants. Could be “marigold”. Calendula officinalisA herb, or targetsUsed as an annual bedding plant.
- If you grow the herbs you sell, be careful about keeping the different plants separate as you harvest and dry them, and be obsessive about labeling.
A simple one is an herb. For optimal safety, I prepare, buy, sell, teach and use herbal simples, ie: preparations containing only one herb. (Occasionally I add a little mint for flavor as a remedy.)
The more herbs in a formula, the greater the chance of unwanted side effects. Understandably, people look for combinations hoping to get more for less. And many mistakenly believe that herbs must be used together to be effective (perhaps because potentially toxic herbs are often combined with protective herbs to reduce their harm). But combining herbs with similar properties, such as goldenseal and echinacea, is counterproductive and more likely to cause trouble than usual. A simple tincture of echinacea is more effective and safer than any combination.
Different people have different reactions to substances, be it drugs, food or herbs. When herbs are mixed together in a formula and someone takes them with troubling side effects, there is no way to determine which herb is responsible. Simply put, it’s easy to tell which herb is doing what. If there are adverse reactions, other herbs with similar properties can be tried. Limiting the number of herbs used in any one day (no more than four) offers additional protection.
Side effects from herbs are less common than drug side effects and are usually less serious. If the herb interferes with digestion, it may be that the body is learning to process it. Try a few more times before giving up. Stop taking any herb that causes nausea, dizziness, sharp stomach pain, diarrhea, headache, or blurred vision. (These effects will usually be very quick.) Slippery elm is an excellent antidote for any type of poison.
If you have any food or drug allergies, it is especially important to consult resources that list the side effects of herbs before using them.
Understand that different preparations of the same herb may work differently
The safety of any herbal medicine depends on the way it is prepared and used.
- Tincture And extract Alkaloids, or toxins, are parts of plants and must be used with care and wisdom. Some tinctures are only as safe as the herbs they contain (see precautions below for tonifying, stimulating, sedative, or potentially toxic herbs). Best used/sold as plain, not a combination, especially when strong herbs are used.
- Dried herbs Made into teas or infusions, plants contain nutritional aspects and are generally safe, especially when nourishing or tonifying herbs are used.
- Dried herbs in capsule This is generally the least effective way to use herbs. They are poorly digested, poorly used, often stale or ineffective, and quite expensive.
- Infused Herbal Oils Available as is or thickened into ointments. They are safer than essential oils, which are highly concentrated and can be fatal if ingested.
- Herbal Vinegar They are not only decorative but also rich in minerals. A good medium for nourishing and tonifying herbs; Not as strong as tinctures of stimulants/sedatives.
- Herbal glycerin are available for those who prefer to avoid alcohol but are generally weaker in action than tinctures.
Use nutritive, tonifying, stimulating and potentially toxic herbs wisely
Medicinal plants are a group of thousands of plants with widely varying activities. Some are nutrients, some are tonifiers, some are stimulants and sedatives, and some are potential poisons. To use them wisely and optimally, we need to understand each category, its uses, best method of preparation and usual dosage ranges.
Nutritious herbs are the safest of all herbs; Side effects are rare. Nutritious herbs are taken in any quantity for any period of time. They are used as food just like spinach and kale. Nutritious herbs provide high levels of protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, carotenes and essential fatty acids.
examples Nutritious herbs are: alfalfa, amaranth, astragalus, calendula flowers, chickweed, comfrey leaves, dandelion, fenugreek, linseed, honeysuckle, lamb’s quarter, marshmallow, nettles, oat straw, plantain, A shrub with red flowers, red flowers, seaweed, Siberian ginseng, slippery elm, violet leaves and wild mushrooms.
A tonifying herb Work slowly in the body and have cumulative rather than immediate effects. They increase the functional capacity of an organ (such as the liver) or system (such as the immune system). Tonifying herbs are most beneficial when used in small amounts over an extended period of time. The bitter the taste of the tonic, the less should be taken. Bland tonics can be used in large quantities as well as nourishing herbs.
Side effects occasionally occur with tonics, but are usually short-lived. Many older herbalists mistakenly equated stimulating herbs with tonifying herbs, leading to widespread misuse of many herbs and serious side effects.
examples Toning herbs are: yarrow, burdock root/seed, chaste tree, crown (mug) wort, dandelion root, echinacea, elecampane, fennel, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, ground ivy , hawthorn berries, horsetail, ladies’ wort, , milk thistle seeds, motherwort, mullein, pau d’arco, raspberry leaves, schisandra berries, St. John’s wort, turmeric root, usnea, wild yam, and Yellow dock.
Sedative and stimulant herbs Causes a variety of rapid reactions, some of which may be undesirable. Some parts of the person may be stressed to help other parts. Strong sedatives and stimulants, whether herbs or drugs, push us beyond our normal range of activity and can cause severe side effects. If we rely on them and then try to function without them, we end up more irritated (or depressed) than when we started. Habitual use of strong sedatives and stimulants – opium, rhubarb, cayenne or coffee – can lead to loss of tone, impaired performance and even physical dependence. The stronger the herb, the more moderate the dosage and the shorter the duration of its use.
Herbs that calm/stimulate and nourish are some of my favorite herbs. I use them freely, because they do not create dependencies. Sedative/Stimulant Herbs that tonify or nourish: Boneset, catnip, citrus peel, cleavers, ginger, hops, lavender, marjoram, motherwort, oatstraw, passion flower, peppermint, rosemary, sage, skullcap.
Strong sedative/stimulant herbs include: angelica, black pepper, blessed thistle root, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coffee, licorice, opium poppy, osha root, shepherd’s purse, sweet woodruff, Turkey rhubarb, Uva ursu root, velbutti lettuce, willow bark and wintergreen leaves.
Potentially toxic Herbs are strong, powerful medicines that are taken in small amounts and only for as long as needed. Side effects are common.
examples Among the potentially poisonous herbs are: belladonna, blood-root, yarrow, chaparral, foxglove, goldenseal, henbane, iris root, jimson weed, lobelia, may apple (American mandrake), mistletoe, poke root, poison hemlock, stillingia root. , turkey corn root, wild cucumber root.
Additionally, consider these considerations about using herbs safely:
- Respect the power of plants to transform body and soul in dramatic ways.
- Increase confidence in the effectiveness of herbal remedies when using remedies for minor or external problems or when working with core and internal problems.
- Develop ongoing relationships with knowledgeable healers – in person or through books – who are interested in herbal medicine.
- Respect the uniqueness of each plant, each person, each situation.
- Remember that each person gets healthy and well in their own unique way, at their own pace. People, plants and animals can help in this process. But the body/soul heals itself. Do not expect the plant to recover at all.
Legal disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. None of the instructions given and all herbs listed are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Individual directions and usage should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula you. All content contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or consultation. If you need medical care, contact a reputable healthcare practitioner. Empower yourself by asking for a second opinion.
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