Herb Information For A Better Life

Good herb information is one of the keys to natural health.

I have a friend who is also a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and when I would visit his office, I was always fascinated by the shelves full of jars of dried, strange looking brownish twigs, and other materials.

More than once, he resembled a mad scientist from times past, scurrying around in his lab, combining those itchy, scratchy looking herbs into liniments that amazingly helped relieve my muscle soreness.

He was part of a centuries old tradition of healing with herbs. And more importantly, the herb information that he possessed and willingly shared, inspired me to research how best to use herbs as part of a natural health plan.

An herb is a plant that has medicinal, flavor, or aroma uses. Herbs and spices used for cooking, particularly fresh herbs, can turn an ordinary cook into a chef. Some people also use herbs for spiritual or recreational purposes.

Herbal treatments are part of a natural healing wisdom that has been building since the earliest people noticed that some of the plants around them helped make them feel better.

It might seem like it was a bit risky to expose their bodies to strange plants, but in the early days, people were hard wired to nature, and they had an innate sense of what might be helpful to use. Their actions and word of mouth spread experience and information on herb usage.

There is no lack of lore, tradition, experimentation, and uses of herbs. Here in the US, herbs used to be a more important part of our health system. Up until the mid 1900’s, pharmacists would prepare herbal medicine for their customers. But large pharmaceuticals gradually took over, and herbal treatments began to look a bit “unmodern”, and were even unfairly made out to be dangerous, or somehow related to witches’ potions. Meanwhile, the FDA’s requirements for large scale trials reduced the probability that herbs that had been used successfully for many years would ever achieve medicinal status.

The good news is that herb treatments - used correctly - are still an effective treatment for what ails us, and for warding off sickness. The bad news is that because we have largely lost our direct experience with herbs, we do not know how to get good herb information, and we know less about how to use them to our most healthful advantage.

Good herbal medications can work well. During a recent winter trip to China, I, and several members of my team, developed sneezy cold and flu symptoms.

We then got to experience the unique healing power of a Chinese pharmacy (add jars of exotic animal and insect parts to the jars of herbs in my friend’s lab, and you get close to a Chinese pharmacy). We took several small vials of a bitter, amber liquid and within days we all felt better. I do not know what the liquid was, but I knew that it had been extracted from herbs. Over thousands of years the Chinese have developed herb information and advanced skills in combining herbs that works with the chi in the body and fits an individual’s specific condition.

The Benefits of Using Herbs For Health

Here are a few benefits that can come from correct herb usage for medicinal purposes:

  • Gentle acting
  • No synthetic substances
  • Contain phytochemicals and antioxidants
  • Excellent for that period of time when you feel a sickness coming on
  • Complements other natural health treatments
  • One of the 4 natural health practices

A partial list of conditions that herbs have been used to treat:

  • Acne
  • High Blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Arthritis
  • Stress
  • High Cholesterol
  • Weight Loss
  • Inflammation
  • Colds and fever
  • Constipation
  • Joint Pain
  • Cancer
  • Muscle pain
  • Headaches
  • Skin conditions
  • Wounds

Are They Safe?

When starting on a path to explore the benefits of herbs, some caution is wise. Herbal treatments are real medicine, but they are not as refined as over the counter, or prescription drugs. They can be abused, just like prescription drugs.

The best recommendation I can think of for the inexperienced is to consult a professional when you get started. Naturopathic Doctors, Doctors of Oriental Medicine, Herbalists, Botanists, Chiropractors, and Holistic medicine practitioners are often more knowledgeable than traditional doctors on these topics.

Dosages, potency, and quality of herbs that you buy in the stores today vary from brand to brand. It’s best to look on the labels for some indication that there is quality control in their making. GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices), AHPA (American Herbal Products Association), NSF (National Sanitation foundation), and USP (United States Pharmacopeia) designations are good, but not always on the bottles, so it may be necessary to do your own research into a brand's manufacturing methods.

Processing raw and fresh herbs so that you can control quality can give excellent results, but requires skill and experience. Do not try this at home without expert's guidance! This is also true of harvesting plants growing in the wild - many times it takes an expert eye to determine if it is the plant you are looking for, or one that looks very much like it. The best option may be to go directly to an herbalist or a doctor experienced in this area.

Also, unlike prescription drugs that usually have a single active ingredient, herbs can have a broader impact on the body - usually positive, but sometimes, too much of it can cause problems. So take care to use herbal supplements, liniments, tonics, and herbal infusions with care. Go slow and pay attention to what goes on in your body.

Other Herb Information Sources:

Here are some additional herb information sources:

PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) for Herbal Medicines (Today, some pharmaceuticals are still extracted from raw herbs, thus the need for this kind of reference) The Herb research Foundation

To find and order organic herbs online check out: Lingle's Herbs Finally, Americans alone spend tens of billions of dollars every year on herbs and herbal supplements. The reason for that is that herbs can add enjoyment to our lives, whether it’s cooking or healing with them.

Gathering more herb information, and learning more about the properties of specific herbs is guaranteed to provide some interesting surprises, and many people find great relaxation in the simple act of growing their own herbs.

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