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WHY HERBS?

Mankind has depended on Nature's pharmacopoeia for survival since before it became mankind. Until the Industrial Revolution, the identification, preparation and usage of herbs was a common sort of knowledge, shared by many. Every family had a mother, a grandmother, an auntie, a somebody who not only had the knowledge but was also probably in charge of the household medicine chest. If not, there was always the village wise woman, medicine man or 'yarb' woman one could go to.

As the specialization of knowledge and industry moved out of the household and into the factory, the same thing happened (and is continuing to happen) to our herbal lore. People moved away from the family homestead and into the cities. Now, not only did the people not have the time, they no longer had the place either. It doesn't take many generations to completely lose whatever familial knowledge there was.

At the time of this writing, ~25% of all drugs taken in this country are derived from herbs. Until the 20th Century, this percentage was a great deal higher. Many of the remaining 75% were herb-derived until someone figured out how to make them from the base chemicals and compound them without benefit of plants. The reason this is possible is that the plants have useful and powerful chemistries.

I am not here to denigrate the pharmaceutical industry. I'll leave that to others. We all have relatives, friends or perhaps our own selves that have benefitted from the industries' products. The industry has, in general, created the miracles and disasters that it has by identifying the main active (effective) fraction of an herb, extracting and then concentrating it into a new drug. While a drug created like this can deliver knock-out blows to those diseases that threaten our lives, it can also create further difficulties by triggering side-effects and disease processes of its own. Sometimes this is an acceptable outcome, especially if death or further disability is to be avoided. However, when dealing with less critical illnesses, it is important not to create more damage with the cure than the initial complaint. That's why I prefer to use herbs when possible.

Mankind has evolved in the same times and places as the plants that surrounded them. The same influences and forces in the environments that shaped you and I also shaped the other living things around us. Plants developed hundreds of related chemical compounds. It is my contention that these compounds did not develop in a vacuum. Since nature designed the herb to be functional, then all of the compounds have a function. Each of these compounds exist in the plants for a purpose -- probably for the same or a related purpose of the 'super compound' that the drug industry would cheerfully extract.

When we use an herbal extract, we are using this wide spectrum of compounds in those herbs. I believe that while we are not getting the strength of the 'super compound', we are getting the benefit of the supportive role that the related compounds provide. Herbs are usually gentler. They generally need to be used for longer periods in order to benefit the user. However, when used correctly and consciously, there are fewer side effects with less residual damage. This does not mean that you should take herbs lightly. They can kill you if you don't know what you're doing.

WHAT IS AN HERB?

What, exactly, constitutes an herb? I've been asked this question at almost every show that we have done. There appears to be some confusion so let's clear that up right away.

Every part of a plant that is above ground is considered aerial. Seeds, flowers, leaves, stems - all aerial. Underground is root, tuber, rhizome, etc. Officially, a plant whose aerial parts die back in the winter is an 'herb.' This leaves out all wood-stemmed plants, as you can see. This I would rather not do. There are too many useful plants that do not fall into this category. For our purposes, we are considering something an herb if it is a part of a plant - any part, any plant.

BE CAREFUL - BE SAFE

Please be aware that the word 'herb' is NOT synonymous with 'edible.' Just because something is an herb does not make it desirable to ingest. Just as there are 'natural' medicines, there are 'natural' poisons - sometimes from the same plant, sometimes the same compound. Do yourself a favor and do your own research. Don't take my word for it. This site is certainly not the end-all and the be-all when it comes to herbal lore. Educate yourself and become knowledgeable on the subject. Study books, explore the Net, befriend the neighborhood 'Yarb' woman, talk to your Grandma. Above all, pay attention. Herbs that are very useful are useful because they have the ability to impact your health and well-being. This ability to impact your health also makes them dangerous to use in certain circumstances. If you are going to use herbs, it is your responsibility to know what you're doing. Know what, know how, know why.

Nothing on this site should be taken as a recommendation, prescription or guarantee. The recipes and preparations are recorded here for your consideration. Your choice to use herbs or to use them as detailed here must be seen as your personal responsibility and decision. Never take any herbal preparation, either homemade or off the shelf, before consulting with a doctor or healthcare provider familiar with your medical condition and history.

 
 
     
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