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
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 -
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.