How to Use Medicinal Herbs.
So you’ve decided you want to incorporate herbal remedies into your health regimen. Congratulations! You’re embarking on a journey that will help your body heal itself from the inside out in a way that is much more natural, safe and gentle than conventional medicine.
It’s also a journey that can be a little confusing. There are many different types of herbal remedies out there. Sometimes you will find the same herb sold in many different preparations. What do all those different terms mean? Here’s a rundown of some of the most common ways medicinal herbs are sold and used.
Tablets and Capsules: Like conventional drugs, herbs are often packaged and sold in tablet and capsule form. Tablets involve compressing an herb into a round or cylindrical shape, usually with some sort of binder, colorant, flavorings and coating that prevents them from breaking down in the body too quickly. Capsules are usually made of gelatin and the herb is placed inside the shell. Other ingredients can also be mixed in to make the herb taste better or to prevent it from being digested too quickly. Vegetarians can find capsules made of vegetable cellulose, but check the label to make sure you know you’re not getting any animal products.
Extracts: Herbal extracts may be sold as tablets, capsules or liquid herbal extracts; the herbs contained in an extract are far more concentrated than those in a standard pill. Extracts are made by soaking the herbs in alcohol or water (or a combination) and filtering and drying the herb at low heat. Much like culinary herbs become stronger when dried, herbal extracts are highly concentrated remedies, allowing you to take many fewer pills to get a large dose.
The liquid part of an extract can be taken as an herbal remedy. Liquid extracts are usually taken sublingually, that is, under the tongue. This allows for immediate absorption of the herb.
are incredibly popular, even among people who do not use herbal remedies for the treatment of illness. People like herbal teas because they do not contain caffeine, but herbal teas can also be powerful medicine. Many people use chamomile tea or lavender tea to help themselves fall asleep without really thinking about the fact that they are using herbal medicine. Teas have very gentle and slow effects on the body, and are commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat chronic illnesses.
Tinctures: A mixture of herbs, alcohol and water is known as a tincture. They differ from liquid herbal extracts in that they generally are less concentrated. Glycerol can also be used in tinctures, so read the label if you are sensitive to alcohol or are preparing an herbal remedy for a child. You can make your own tinctures by soaking herbs in alcohol such as vodka or rum, or use apple cider vinegar if you prefer not to use alcohol.
Homemade tinctures should be stored in a cool, dark place for six to eight weeks before being strained. The herbs are then discarded and the liquid stored in air-tight bottles. Tinctures are powerful, concentrated doses of herbs, so the usual dosage is 10 or 20 drops dissolved in a glass of water, tea or juice. Read the label on purchased tinctures to determine how much you should take daily.
Compresses: Another use for tinctures is making compresses, which are simply a piece of cloth or cotton ball soaked in an herbal solution and applied to the outside of the body. Compresses may be cold or warm and are a great way to relieve headaches, tired eyes, muscle soreness and flu.
Other uses for herbs include poultices, where the herb is made into a paste applied to the body; plasters, where a similar paste is placed in a pouch instead of being applied directly to the skin; butters and ointments, where the herb is mixed with other ingredients to be applied to the skin; and essential oils, which can be applied to the skin or inhaled in a steam mixture, also known as aromatherapy.
No matter what kind of herbal treatment you are using, it is important to know that you are getting high quality herbs – preferably organic.
In the United States, herbs and dietary supplements are considered food, not drugs, so their regulation is a lot less than that of drugs your doctor would prescribe. The bottles are not allowed to say that they treat any disease, so you need to do your homework before you go shopping.
Buy herbal preparations from a retailer you trust, or look for the seal of the United States Pharmacopeia on the label. This agency verifies that the ingredients listed on the label are actually in the bottle, that there is not a harmful level of contaminants in the mixture, that supplements will break down properly in the body and that they were manufactured using good practices.
Wishing you good health and happiness your friends,