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Figuring Out the Fact & Fiction of Herbs

Herb's don't really work..do they?

Herbs DO work--on many levels--as medicines and as extra nutrition. World wide, herbs are an important part of medical care--except in the US, but that is rapidly changing. Herbs, like drugs, used correctly are safe and abused or used without guidance, can be useless or unsafe. They can be part of a wholistic health plan that includes modern medical medicne and technologies, but in many instances, they can be used successfully by themselves. Any condition that "over the counter" remedies can be used for, are usually well treated by herbs or certain foods. Many more chronic diseases can also benefit from an herbal treatment, but need supervision or education on proper usage.

Aren't herbs dangerous?

These first two questions are usually asked by the same people. Implied is that herbs do not work, yet are strong enough to be dangerous. This is not logical. As with anything else, with knowledge, moderate use and good quality herbs/foods, natural healing and herbs are not dangerous. Many pharmaceuticals are derived directly or synthetically from herbs or an understanding of their medicinal actions. Some herbs can be MADE dangerous by poor quality control or improper strength or form of use--just like drugs. Most studies touting the danger of herbs use synthetic version of the plant and/or use dosages so high as to be unrealistic as it applies to human consumption. all herbs are not equal, however, and some are better suited for certain people/conditions and work better if given appropriately,  but rarely are there dangerous outcomes-if the plant was identified and used properly.

Aren't herbal remedies too expensive--and not covered by insurance?

The way many herbal remedies are sold are indeed expensive and none are covered by insurance. Herbal pills remain the most expensive form of herbal remedy and are largely not nearly the best type of remedy--often being old, hard to digest, someties adulterated with unknown substances. Growing herbs or buying them in bulk is the most inexpensive form of herblal medicine, followed by tinctures. However, some drugs-even with co-pays are more expensive than many herbal products. In terms of health maintainence and economy, it pays to learn how to make your own medicines. Remember also, that herbs are foods (with some exceptions) and therefore not only offer healing of specific problems, but also nutrition that aids the entire body in promoting health-which drugs do not do.

Why bother with herbs when synthetic vitamins/minerals and pharamceuticals are available?

It is good to have choices, but choices need to be equal in effectiveness. A good herbal remedy and natural vit/min supplements provide the easiest way for the body to assimilate their properties as theu are the closest to being an organic substance that our bodies know how to deal with. We have evolved with plants-not synthetics. Often, it takes more vitamins/mins. to metabolize un natural substances--causing more stress on an already unwell body. For those who must take drugs for various illness, herbs can actually make the drugs work better by keeping the body (especially the liver) nourished and strong

Can't herbs cure everything since they are natural?

There is no one cure for everything. Herbs are one tool we have to aid in some cures-somtimes. There is no magic herbal or drug bullet that will keep us healthy forever. There are also natural, yet lethal substances--like plutonium and several toxic plants like hemlock. Herbs alone--just like drugs alone, are not usually effective in anything but acute or simple illnesses. They can be more relied upon to prevent onset of illnesses. Diet, lifestyle, environmental factors and genetics all have their role to play in our health and in our potential for  certain illnesses. There are also certain man made substances (ie plastics, pollutants, etc) that may not have a natural anecdote. Nature does provide many plants that specifically will prevent or heal illnesses prevelant in certain areas, but I do not think herb use has to be defined as opposed to or instead of drug use. There is room for everything. Again, knowledge and good judgement are the keys to deciding what is best in any given situation

I don't have land to grow herbs. Can I pick them from the roadside and fields?

No. Sorry, but roadside herbs are unsafe as they have absorbed road salt, tar, car exhaust, etc. Picking in fields--as long as it is 200+ feet back from roads is OK --as long as you have permission from the landowner. This sort of thing is a huge problem for us rural dwellers. City folk are driving around and just do not understand that all that land belongs to someone! This is also true of woodlands-which sometimes can be owned by the state-which also requires permission and an understanding of  local  laws protecting certain plant species. Many herbs can be grown on balconies/indoors. Some of the best medicinal weeds, however, can not. In these cases, ask friend who own property. If you belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), the owners may allow you to collect herbs off their land. If all else fails,  most medicinal plants can be bought in dried form from reputable companies--the best being Frontier Herbs in Iowa.

I like to curl up with a book and drink mint or chamomile tea. They taste nice and I get them at the grocery store. They can't really be medicinal, can they?

YES!! Two best loved teas, are valuable, mild and safe medicines. Mints are one of the largest herb families and some of them have the familiar minty, fresh taste we love in candy, cookies, gum and tea. Mints are digestive aids and are used iin other cultures culinary offerings to help digest fatty meals. They help us digest and metabolize our foods and medicines better. They are also mild nervines-meaning they calm the nervous system (some varieties do cause sleepiness like catnip), but most "mint teas" simply tonify the nervous system.

Chamomile is a pleasant tasting tea, but it is a stronger nervine-causing sleep in children (and Peter Rabbit), especially if they are fussy due to colic/teething/nrevousness.

These teas are both safe in large amounts, but 1 cup is enough. Medicine can taste good and be found in your grocery store--take an herb book with you to the grocery store next time and check out he Spice section. You will be amazed.

I had a bad reaction to an herb once. Maybe they aren't good for me?

Everyone is sensitive to different things, so it is important to know what you're allergic to (Chamomile and echinacea are both in the Composite family--where Ragweed, the allergy scourge resides!) Good herb books do caution readers about these sorts of things, as can a good herbalist--and a growing number of informed doctors. So, one herb or family of herb may best be avoided, but other herbs are probably fine. If you are allergic to nuts or strawberies, you do not stop eating all fruits/veggies.

Isn't it too hard to learn all of the details about herbs in order to make good health decisions?

Learning anything of importance takes time--and a teacher /learning model you are comfortable with. It is important to maintain contact with medical professional for diagnoses and diagnostic tests, but there are so many everyday/over the counter type problems that are simple to treat with herbs. It does take some time, but there are books on Family Health, First Aid, Herbal Nutrition that can act as reliable references when you need it. You do not need to be-nor should you be solely your own doctor. BUT--the difference in studying herbs is that it is fun--the history, lore, experiences of tasting/smelling and working with them is rewarding in itself. It isn't for everyone, but if you are on this web site, you may already be enthralled.

Can I learn everything I need to know about herbs on a website?

No-not from just reading a website-or just reading books....but....you have to start somewhere. What I have heard from many of my past Apprentices is that they read books or took a herbal correspondence course, but feel they are still unsure about what they knew-especially in the realm of making remedies and identifying plants and of actually "knowing" the plants thay were were working with. I interpret that to mean that there was a large amount of "impersonal learning". What is offered here is a direct relationship with your instructor to suggest and guide you through the learning process. Reading is not enough, students need to be able to discuss, bounce ideas around, understand points of view of certain types of herbalism and then be able to choose their own, feel comfortable doing hands-on projects, find local avenues for particular information,  do research and get feedback from someone. Students also need to be pointed in the direction of further study or projects that will give them more in depth knowledge and/or allow them to investigate particular areas of interest. The addition of a Message Board also allows students to talk to each other. Good classes will give a good foundation for further study either with a teacher-in person or other informal or professional venues.  Learning is interactive and should, if done properly, instigate a life long interest/love of the subject studied.


DISCLAIMER: The content of this web site is not intended to replace the guidance of qualified, certified medical professionals.  The author and web hosts of this site do not take responsibility for viewers' health decisions. Views and information presented here are meant to be educational in nature only and not to diagnose or prescribe. Visitors to this site must take full responsibility for their health care and dietary choices.