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Selecting Herbal Products

Herbal knowledge does not work like science in all respect, yet is an integral part of our culture. Much and variegated interest in herbal remedies has stimulated both high-quality herbal suppliers, more common ones; and marginal ones.

  1. Learn to prepare fresh herbs yourself. It takes time and effort, however.
  2. Maybe standardized extracts are your best general choice. Extracts offer essentially the same advantages and disadvantages that tinctures do.
  3. The next best after that could be tinctures.
  4. Then freeze-dried preparations of particular plants.
  5. Etc. See below.

On plant products in general

Plant products should be as fresh as possible. This is so because dried plants and extracts may deteriorate (go bad) through time, light, air (oxidation) and unwelcome moisture. In such cases they will not be so useful any longer, maybe not at all.

You want to get at preparations that are OK. And if you do not master all that goes into making herbs work for you all by yourself, you can buy. Buy first-class products and drop the rest.

The standardized extract

comes in the form of a liquid or a solid, roughly said. The extract contains several key constituents as stated or determined on the label, and that statement should be according to research. The label will give a percentage content of the compounds included. Careful standardization may be the best assurance you can get of a healthy product nowadays, all things considered.

Tinctures

are liquid extracts of fresh or dried plants in alcohol. The alcohol content is high enough to preserve the plant material. Tinctures are generally stable and convenient, but may not be better than the quality of the herbs that went into them -

Tinctures should be shaken or stirred before use and diluted in warm water before being consumed.

Other liquid extracts: You may get herbs in vinegar or glycerin, but they are seldom as good as alcohol-based products.

Freeze-dried herbs

are okay. Freeze-drying is a process that uses chemical agents to make plant extracts, then remove these agents through a certain process, thus getting a dry product. This solid residue can then be packed into capsules.

Air-dried herbs

Freeze-dried extracts are thought to be far better than air-dried whole herbs. But carefully dried herbs should work well too. It depends in part on what sorts of herbs are into it, and a time factor is into the picture.

Finely chopped herbs

sold in bulk may have lost all of their medicinal properties throughout. This can ruin the values of leaves and flowers especially. Roots and bark deteriorate more slowly, however. In some cases, then, you can use bulk herbs to prepare herbals teas.

Powdered herbs

in capsules have been ground up, and therefore prone to oxidize ("rust"), since what is ground up, is much more exposed to air through its much enlarged surfaces (as seen by studying how the ratio between area and volume of ball changes as the radius gets smaller: The smaller the object, the less its content as compared to its surface. This is why small stones can fly with the wind as dust, while big boulders do not).

Contamination

HERBS may have been grown using artificial fertilizers that slowly derange good soil; grown using pesticides and other odious chemicals one hopes is not in them; they may be fumigated (subjected to gas or vapours) in shipment; and may contain foreign material.

So, herbal preparations that have been harvested from the wild ("wildcrafted") or cultivated organically are to be preferred.

It's good to buy brands that declare their products' purity along with that. Check the package's list of ingredients with care and buy from reputable sources.

Storage

Herbs need to be packaged well, and also kept well in the home. You can check for freshness by smelling - if they smell stale, they may not be much good.

General competent guys also take into view the individual in his sets of circumstances and adapts dosages etc. correspondingly.

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Using Herbal Remedies

Learn to make sure first

There are over 750,000 plants on earth, and quite few of the healing herbs have been studied scientifically. Folk medicine, though, makes ample use of some of the herbs. Plant freshness, the content of active ingredients, and potency often varies.

There may not be good enough reasons to simply trust all involved in the herbal industry:

One study showed that 60% of the ginseng products sampled contained so little ginseng that they were essentially inactive. In another study, researchers found that 2 out of 3 feverfew products tested contained no feverfew.

How do herbal remedies work?

Scientists are still unable to name every chemical component of herbs, and they have not been able to reproduce most of them synthetically. Herbs contain such as vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. They also contain trace elements and other helpful and healing agents. Granted that many of them work together in a herb (in synergetic ways), derived or isolated parts may or may not work so well as a successful synergetic (co-working) blend, or whole samples.

Why use herbal remedies, this gentle, effective form of health care?

Many people appreciate that herbs and herb parts may be called natural substances. All cultures on earth include herbs as medicine in their historical records, and pharmaceutical companies derive 75% of all patented prescription medicines from herbs.

Are herbs safe?

Perhaps the best short answer is "no, but . . ." It depends on many things.

POTATO FINDINGS: Some plants are eaten at the dinner table day after day, but even the wrong potato can be dangerous. For if the potato is exposed to light instead of being hidden in the soil while it grows and ripens, the exposed parts turn greenish or green, not brown (peelings) or pale yellow, and in the green potato parts a certain poison, solanine, is developed. The same poison is found in the potato's "apple" - a relative of the tomato. It is rarely seen in Scandinavia nowaways, due to cultivation of the potato plant, but earlier the "potato apple" was more common. The poison in it is very rarely lethal, though.

This is to say that a certain harmful substance may develop in the potato plant and that it is found in "potato apples" - the greenish relatives of tomatoes and occasionally found in the leafy parts of the potato plants, that is, above the ground. But in carefully cultivated potatoes we hardly ever find these "green potato tomatoes".

According to a Norwegian medical doctor who studied potato apple poisoning, a little child once died from eating a "potato apple" somewhere after 1900. Small children are more easily poisoned, and so may aged people be too, because main internal internal organs like the lungs, kidneys, and the liver, tend to become less effective after 55, to give a hint.

More specifically: A health encyclopedia says that poisoning caused by consumption of green tubers or (and) new sprouts of the potato plant is due to the poisonous ingredient solanine, which is very toxic even in small quantities. The toxin is found throughout the plant but especially in the unripened potato tubers and in the new sprouts. So do not eat potato tubers that are spoiled or green below the skin, and always throw away the sprouts. There is no problem with the completely ripe potato that has not been exposed to direct sunlight while growing.

We have learnt that potatoes are normally completely safe and may be eaten much and often - but as we have been into, "never say never" - there are exceptions to many a rule of the thumb as well.

In part it boils down to this: If a root is poisonous and you eat another part of the plant - one that is hardly poisonous, that is - it could work well, but never try if you are not very, very sure. In some cases when the raw (fresh) plant is more or less poisonous, the cooked vegetable is not. You have to know how to handle things.

In going for beneficial effects, in some cases it is a matter of dosages, in other cases of handling possibly edible food well, even expertlike. If you overeat, you get digestive problems, and something similar takes place if you ingest over-much of a plant . . . it could be a very common plant, even. So you have to learn to take care. There is much to consider, all in all.

Also, herbs can be powerful medicines and should be treated as such. But do not take the identity of a herb for granted - make sure.

Besides, much depends on your dosage and tummy (the size and work of inner organs are much individual), and age is another complicating factor: organs work less effectively when we get over ca. 55.

It stands to reason that if you are inexperienced in this field you must never use potent herbs to self-treat for serious medical conditions or persistent symptoms. Do not use potent herbs in place of medicines prescribed by a healthcare provider. Do not take more than the recommended dosage of any herbal preparation.

And as a general rule of the thumb, it is best to stop taking all herbs at least 2 weeks before surgery, as herbs can interact with medicines used before, during, and after surgery. Any herbal remedies taken should be mentioned to the surgeon and anesthesiologist. Otherwise, inform the healthcare provider and pharmacist about any herbal remedies being taken.

Otherwise - self-care is hardly prohibited

  • Start with low dosages because it is not uncommon to be sensitive to (some) herbs.
  • Stop taking an herb right away if there are any side effects - some herbs do have some.
  • Report side effects at once to whom it may concern.
  • Prefer products that give the Latin botanical name and the quantity of herb contained in them.

You should promptly report improvement, lack of improvement, or any side effects to your medical expert, if he or she is a herbalist.

Which problems can herbal remedies help?

Herbal treatment could be useful for both acute and chronic conditions. A herbalist may assist in finding individual herbs or herbal combinations known to be beneficial (in general, or according to hearsay or tradition) for a particular condition. He will often recommend herbs or herbal combinations while aiming at strengthening the underlying system or organ and relieving symptoms.

Herbs are often prescribed to support body systems rather than to relieve symptoms of disease. Herbs may be chosen for the person, not wholly for many an illness.

Herbs may or may not relieve symptoms of alarming or disabling diseases. Herbs may or may not support the immune system, and improve feelings of well-being. That can be worth trying.

More specifically, some herbal remedies can be used against skin conditions such as eczema. Others again are used for urinary problems such as urinary tract infection and digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.

How are herbal remedies prepared and taken?

When treating anyone with herbal remedies, use your judgement and common sense. For example, even if an herb is beneficial for a chronic condition, it is not usually recommended that an herbal remedy be given on an ongoing basis, but rather that it be used for set periods of time, or alternated with another remedy or remedies.

Herbal remedies are taken internally (orally) or applied to the skin. Fresh herbs can also be incorporated into the diet. Some methods of herbal treatment.

  • Tinctures are made by soaking the flowers, leaves, or roots of the chosen herbs in alcohol. Tinctures keep well and are easy to store.
  • Infusions are less concentrated than tinctures. Infusions are made by soaking an herb in hot water for 10 to 15 minutes. The resulting infusion can be used as a tea, or it can be applied externally to the skin.
  • Cold infusion involves soaking an herb in cold water for a long period, from 2 to 12 hours. It can then be either swallowed or applied to the skin.
  • Decoctions are similar to infusions but are made from roots, barks, nuts, and seeds.
  • A wash is an external application of cooled tea.
  • A poultice is a paste made from bruised fresh herbs or dried herbs moistened with hot water. It is placed first on a clean piece of cotton and then on the affected area.

How much is enough?

Before preparing herbs for medicinal use, why not consult a healthcare provider? Much good could come out of it.

Some plants or herbs have a powerful effect on the body.


Herbal products, Literature  

There are many books on fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs; finding them in the field, growing them in the backyard, cooking with them, and so on:

Twig

Cam: Jensen, Bernard. Creating a Magic Kitchen. Provo, Utah: BiWorld Publishers, 1973.

Cbh: Garland, Sarah. The Complete Book of Herbs and Spices London: Frances Lincoln Ltd., 2004.

Chs: Claiborne, Craig. Cooking With Herbs and Spices. New York: Harpercollins, 1984.

Emp: Chevallier, Andrew. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants: A Practical Reference Guide to over 550 Key Herbs and Their Medicinal Uses. London: Dorling Kindersley, 2001.

Hci: Herbs: The Complete Illustrated Guide: An Ancient Science in a Modern World.. Emmaus, PA: Rodale, 2006.

Tih: Hoffmann, David: The Complete Illustrated Herbal: A Safe and Practial Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies. Bath: Mustard/Parragon, 1999.

Vfh: Harrison, John. Vegetable, Fruit and Herb Growing in Small Spaces.. London: Constable and Robinson, 2010.

Vhf: Biggs, Matthew, Bob Flowerdew, and Jekka McVicar. Vegetables, Herbs and Fruit: An Illustrated Encyclopedia.. Richmond Hill, Ontario: Firefly Books, 2009.

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