Before we even start on the wonderful journey of working with/using Herbs medicinally, either internally or externally, we truly must know the herb we think we need to use, much as we should know a person with whom we want to have a long and lasting relationship! I consider Herbs my friends, and choose them with the same care and appreciation I choose my friends!

I have often heard (and read) :
“Do not use drugs, use herbs instead, they are safe.”
And while most of our commonly used herbs are, doubtless, much safer, they nevertheless can have reactions, depending on:

  • each user’s specific constitution
  • the nature of the particular preparation (a tincture, a capsule, a cup of tea, a standardized extract—more on these in the next column)
  • the specific herb’s chemical properties, some of which can be challenging.

Depending on their chemical composition, herbs—quite like pharmaceuticals—can have both multiple benefits AND multiple consequences, some of which might not always be desirable.
It is especially important to keep in mind that if we are taking an actual prescribed pharmaceutical, it is best to keep away from herbs, as this can and often does carry the risk of contraindications between drugs and herbs.

Having said the above, it is important to know that Herbs in the US are regulated by the FDA which provides information on the toxicity or safety of herbs.

Also, The Herb Research Assn. here in the US provides Safety reviews on more than 200 plants based on clinical tests, including contraindications, use with drugs etc.

So to begin with, when picking an herb we saw or heard recommended for a given condition:

  • Always check it either with a qualified Herbalist: Herbalists are trained to provide answers to your questions.
  • Get ample information from a number of reliable Herbal books (Dr. David Winston’s books, or David Hoffman’s the Herbal Handbook, or Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Women—and so many more.)
  • Check it, if necessary, with the FDA but better yet with The Herb Research Assn!
  • Looking it up in the Internet is not always a safe choice!

Next, study Herbs in general:

We will be talking in the future columns about:

  • the specific categories and functions of herbs
  • the ways specific herbs work
  • which herbs are for short or long term use
  • the specific properties which make herbs suitable for specific conditions

All of the above pieces of information are fascinating and extremely important in determining the questions:

  • “Is this the right herb for my condition?”
  • “Is this an herb I can take daily forever, or for a very short time?”
  • “Should I ask an Herbalist or should I trust this ad/info I just read?”
  • “Should I choose this herb as a pill, a tincture, a tea etc.—which is the right form for my specific needs?”

The study of Herbs is huge, exciting, and highly rewarding!

I hope this Column is just an incentive– for those who take the time to read it – to go on and study herbs further, feel secure in their choices of herbs, and learn to fully appreciate all the benefits and rewards Plants have to offer us.

See you next week,