Be Your Family Herbalist

More and more people are looking for ways to improve their health and wellness. And many of those people are looking at herbs as a safe and effective way to achieve herbal health. So, for all of you budding family herbalists out there, here is some basic, sound information about using herbal medicines. These questions and answers were compiled by a great organization called the American Herbalists Guild. You should visit their website for more herbal information.

Herbal Medicine Fundamentals

What is an herb?

Medicinally, an herb is any plant part or plant used for its therapeutic value. Yet, many of the world's herbal traditions also include mineral and animal substances as "herbal medicine".

What is herbal medicine?

Herbal medicine is the art and science of using herbs for promoting health and preventing and treating illness. It has persisted as the world's primary form of medicine since the beginning of time, with a written history more than 5,000 years old. While the use of herbs in America has been overshadowed by dependence on modern drugs the last 100 years, the World Health Organization of the United Nations estimates that 75% of the world's populations still rely primarily upon traditional healing practices, most of which is herbal medicine.

How are herbs different from pharmaceuticals?

Most pharmaceutical drugs are single chemical entities that are highly refined and purified and are often synthesized. In 1987 about 85% of modern drugs were originally derived from plants. Currently, only about 15% of drugs are derived from plants. In contrast, herbal medicines are prepared from living or dried plants and contain hundreds to thousands of interrelated compounds. Science is beginning to demonstrate that the safety and effectiveness of herbs is often related to the synergy of its many constituents.

For more information about the science behind the herbs, consider David Hoffmann's double DVD entitled "Herbal Actions"

Nettle soup

How is herbal medicine different from conventional medicine?

The primary focus of the herbalist is to treat people as individuals irrespective of the disease or condition they have and to stimulate the body's innate healing capacity through the use of such interventions as herbs, diet and lifestyle. The primary focus of physicians is to attack diseases using strong chemicals that can be difficult for the body to process, or through surgical interventions. Not only does this ignore the unique makeup of the individual, but many patients under conventional care suffer from side effects that are as bad as the condition being treated. The philosophical difference between herbalists and conventional physicians has profound significance. How can I know if a particular herb will work for me?

Medicine is an art, not just a science. No one can predict which herb will work best for every individual in all situations. This can only come with educated self-experimentation and experience or by seeking the assistance of those who are knowledgeable in clinical herbal medicine. The simpler the condition, the easier it is to find a solution. The more complicated the condition, the greater the need there is to seek expert advise.

How long does it take for herbs to be effective?

The success of herbal treatment always depends upon a variety of factors including how long the condition existed, the severity of the condition, the dosage and mode of administration of the herb(s) and how diligently treatment plans are followed. It can be as short as 5-10 minutes when using a spoonful of herbal bitters for gas and bloating; 20 minutes when soaking in a bath with rosemary tea for a headache; days when using tonics to build energy; or months to correct long-standing gynecological imbalances. Difficult chronic conditions can often take years to reverse.

How safe are herbs?

It depends on the herb. Most herbs sold as dietary supplements are very safe. When used appropriately, the majority of herbs used by practitioners have no adverse side effects. A review of the traditional and scientific literature worldwide demonstrates that serious side effects from the use of herbal medicines are rare. According to noted pharmacognosist Norman Farnsworth: "Based on published reports, side effects or toxic reactions associated with herbal medicines in any form are rare. In fact, of all classes of substances reported to cause toxicities of sufficient magnitude to be reported in the United States, plants are the least problematic."

These DVDs can help you learn more about medicinal herbs

Video titles available to help you learn more about herbs:

"Doctrine of Signatures" with Matthew Wood

"Foundational Health for Women" with Rosemary Gladstar"

"Hands On Herbal Medicine" with Susun Weed

"Herbal First Aid for Travelers" with Rosemary Gladstar

"Herbs for Family Health" with Rosemary Gladstar  

"Introduction to Herbalism" with Matthew Wood

"An Herbwalk in Michigan" with jim mcdonald

"Planetary Herbology" with Michael Tierra

"The Practice of Ayurveda" with Candis Cantin

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