In your herbal pharmacy you transform fresh and dried plants into herbal medicines. Learning to identify and use the common plants around you is easy and exciting, beneficial and safe. Making your own medicines saves you money if you follow the Wise Woman Tradition of using local herbs, free for the taking.
Even one day"s work in field, forest, and kitchen can provide you with many years" worth of medicines. When you make your own, you know for sure what"s in it, where it came from, when and how it was harvested, and how fresh and potent it is.
Dried herbs are best for infusions. Stock your herbal pharmacy with your own foraged or cultivated dried herbs; expand your resources and experiment with new herbs by buying dried herbs from reputable sources.
Fresh herbs are best for tinctures and oils. If you can"t make your own, buy from sources who wildcraft or grow their own herbs to use fresh in preparations.
Whether you buy or make your own medicines, remember, herbal remedies may not work or may work incorrectly if they aren"t prepared correctly.
Knowing how to buy herbs is a necessary skill, just like learning to identify them. It is my personal goal to find or grow all the herbs I use. But even with access to a garden and hundreds of acres of Catskill country, I haven"t yet achieved my goal. I, too, buy herbs collected, grown, and prepared by others.
In the last few years I have become aware of many practices in the commercial herb trade which appall me. Grossly substandard wages are paid to harvesters in Third World countries. Pesticide and herbicide chemicals banned in the United States are used on herbs grown overseas (and 80% of commercial herbs are imported).
Dried herbs may be legally irradiated with the equivalent of hundreds of chest x-rays, yet there is no labeling as to which herbs have been so treated. All commercial herbal warehouses, even those storing organic herbs, must legally be fumigated several times a year with chemical sprays.
I protect myself by purchasing herbs from individuals I know and trust.
Whatever the source, dried herbs should be brightly colored, fresh smelling, and as whole as possible. Powdered herbs and herbs in capsules lose medicinal value rapidly, with some exceptions, like Ginger, Slippery Elm, and Golden Seal.
When you look at a dried herb, envision it as it was when alive. The only thing that should be missing is the water content. Red Clover blossoms are a vibrant purplish-pink, not brown. Raspberry leaves are white on one side and green on the other, not a uniform brown. Witch Hazel bark shows the lighter color of the cambium along with the darker grey of the bark; it doesn"t look like leftovers from the woodpile.
Smell dried herbs carefully and reject those which lack scent and those which smell of chemicals or molds. Peppermint and Licorice, for instance, should fill your head with their scent. Comfrey root should smell clean and fresh, not musty and moldy.
The energy, or life force, of an herb can be sensed even when the plant has been dried. Absence of energy means that the herb is old, or has been handled incorrectly. If you can, hold the dried herb in your hands: feel for tingle, look for sparkle. A pendulum will react to the life force present in dried herbs; dowsing can confirm your sensory impressions.
If you are buying by mail, return herbs that do not look, smell, and feel alive. If you buy from a store, bring poor quality to the attention of the owner and demand unpowdered and unencapsulated herbs. Say what you want and what pleases you. Consumer desires do have power in the herb market. Interest in organically grown herbs has resulted in increased availability of organic medicinals.
Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.
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Author Bio :
Susun Weed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and health. She is the voice of the Wise Woman Way, where common weeds, simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish health/wholeness/holiness.
Susun is one of America's best-known authorities on herbal medicine and natural approaches to women's health. Learn more at Susun’s site and get info on workshops and correspondence courses.