Natural Health Care
Therapeutic Teas & Mixtures
Introduction to Herbs
The word "herb" is from the old Sanskrit bharb, meaning to eat. This in turn became the Latin word berba, meaning grass or fodder.
In early English usage the word "herb" was synonymous with vegetables. It later became restricted to parts of vegetables that grow above ground. For example a turnip was a vegetable and the leafy top was called an herb.
The botanical definition of an herb is " a plant with a fleshy not a woody stem, which, after the plant has bloomed and set seed, dies down to the ground." This is not a perfect definition because herbs like sage, thyme, and rosemary have more or less woody stems, although they are not covered with true bark.
An herb is a plant whose properties allow its use as a medicine. Most of the herbs we use today as seasonings were originally medicines. They served for centuries as the principle medicines of the times. They were kept in in pharmacies in dried form for availability all year. The English word "drug" is from the Anglo-Saxon drigan, to dry.
For Wiccans an herb is also a plant capable of producing magickal effects. Methods of gathering the herbs depended on the surround culture. For instance in Babylon magickal herbs were gathered by moonlight. They were considered to have to have the most power of the moon god Sin at that time.
For the cook, an herb is primarily a plant which adds flavor to food and drink, a seasoner. In medieval times it was customary to precede and follow a meal with an herbal drink.
Any plant that has culinary, medical, cosmetic, veterinary or other use of some kind.
The useful part is different with every plant, it can be the leaves, flowers, roots, barks or seeds. The plant can be a tree or shrub, a weed or an exotic flower, or one of the common group of plants known as "herbs." They come from all over the world, but many effective herbal remedies grow right in most people's neighborhood. There are many experts that believe the herbs best for you are the ones that grow in your general neigborhood and bioregion.
Do Herbs work for medicines?
They have been human medicine for all of our history and are still the main medicine for much of the world. Some are well researched and proven effective, others have been around for hundreds of years and stand on empirical evidence. Yes, herbs work. However, you must have the right herb for the right situation, for the right body, at the right time. Okay?
Are Herbs safe?
Most common herbs are as safe as food. However, many contain potent chemical constituents that can harm if used carelessly, and some of the most virulent of poisons come from plants. There is also the fact that for every substance in the world, there is someone who is allergic to it. So all herbs should be used with caution and respect.
What about Dosages?
This should be checked out for each herb in a reliable herb book. As a rule of thumb, however, for acute illness, less herbs are used, and they are taken frequently, as much as every couple of hours for a limited amount of days. For chronic problems, often more complicated formulas are used, and they are taken once or twice a day for a fairly long period of time.
Dosage for children and pets: divide their weight by 150 lbs and that will equal the fraction of the adult dosage.
weight of child or pet/150 (adult weight) =fraction of adult dose
Herbs for Health and Healing
Humankind has been blessed with plants to eat, plants for shade, plants to keep the landscape pretty, to keep the wind away from dwellings, and plants that have been used as medicines since the time before written history. The Druids, the Celts, the ancient Egyptians, and many of our ancestral cultures have used the plants around them for their medical properties. It has been noted that the ancient Sumerians, Assyrians, and Greeks knew of the medicinal properties of herbs. It has been written that Alexander the Great made many expeditions into far-off lands for the purpose of gathering herbs from those places and bringing them back to used in local potions and medicinal remedies.
My personal interest and studies in nature and its healing components have revealed to me the importance of medicinal herbs. I am fully committed to the fact that man and nature walk hand in hand upon this planet and that our relationship with our environment is the key to personal satisfaction and health. The works of natural healing pioneers can be found in any library. I am a proponent of their works and have tried their experiments on myself and my family. When I use herbs in medicine, I find positive results each time. I do not have to encounter any of the side effects of chemical medications.
I believe that there is an innate intuition that speaks to man of the healing properties of plants, as opposed to the ingestion of chemicals. We are, indeed, a part of the Nature of this planet, and it is my firm belief that Nature takes care of her own. We are contained in Nature, sustained by Nature, and healed by Nature. We are alive, and that spirit of life is in tune with the constant rhythms of the world in which we find ourselves.
Herbs of Today
Herbs are generally defined as any plants of a non-woody nature, which die after blooming. This definition has been expanded to encompass any of the plants of which part or whole can be used in medicinal treatments, culinary preparations (as seasonings), nutritional supplementation, or in use as a coloring or cosmetic agent.
Fresh herbals and medicinal plants can be acquired by gathering them in the wild, growing them in your own personal garden, or buying them from other herb gardeners and health food stores.
Gathering herbs is probably the most inexpensive and natural way to get them. If you are going to gather herbs, it is best to do so in the mid-afternoon, as the plants are at their peak of activity during the warmest part of the day.
However, it might be safer to grow them yourself, for then you know exactly what you are getting and what has been used on them during the growing process.
If you make the choice to purchase herbs, then it is always a good idea to do a bit of research on the people from whom you are buying.
Fresh herbs can be used as they are, as an integral part of daily diet or can be administered after they have been dried. There are several way to prepare herbs for consumption and use in medicinal remedies. When herbs are prepared by steeping then in boiling water to be drunk as a tea, they are known as an infusion. If dried herbs are simmered in hot water, they are called a decoction. If incorporated in with other ingredients and made into a cream, they are viewed as an herbal ointment. Sometimes, a piece of gauze or cloth is soaked in an infusion or decoction and is wrapped and applied externally. This is known as an herbal compress. If herbs are used to water to cleanse and heal externally, they are called an herbal wash. Herbal infusions and decoctions can also be used as an herbal bath for relaxation and healing.
There are a few simple rules to follow when working with herbs for food, nutritional supplements, or medicinals:
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