Herbs are among my favorite remedies. They have been used for centuries as both food and medicine. Herbs tend to be classified by the particular action the herb has in the body. There are herbs that are cleansing, building, nutritive, soothing, calming, stimulating, fever reducing, diuretic, laxative, anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, anti-parasitic, and so on.
What is fascinating to me about herbs is their multiple properties. Each herb has more than one action or property, and many of the properties within a single herb tend to be balancing so that the body is not overstimulated. Also, certain herbs are known for having tonic action, which is an action that will strengthen and tone specific organs or functions in the body, and can be used to balance both overactive and underactive conditions.
We tend to know herbs by their popular usage. However, the range of each herb is usually much greater. For instance, echinacea is an herb that is commonly regarded as an immune building herb that fights infection whether viral or bacterial. However, echinacea has other useful properties. It is a good blood cleaner and is used for blood poisoning, and poisonous spider and snake bites. It is useful for skin problems such as boils and abscesses. It cleans and balances the spleen, pancreas and liver, and has been used successfully for prostate disorders.
Herbs tend to work with the body, not against it. For example, herbs that are used in one of my favorite respiratory formulas address not only the symptoms by alleviating coughs and runny noses, but also tend to strengthen and tone the respiratory system while working to address the underlying cause by cleaning the blood and working against the virus.
Sometimes herbs do something nothing else can do. (Sometimes there are prescription and over-the-counter alternatives.) Some examples follow. Butchers Broom for increasing circulation to extremities, but also great for strengthening veins and capillaries which is useful in some cases of varicose veins. Yucca (I use a combination product, but this is the main ingredient) for arthritis – an excerpt from one of my reference books "useful in restoring the connective tissue of the body to alleviate stiffness in the joints and back." Yucca has been great to keep my old knees able to run.
I have lots of favorites that have worked for customers over the years. I tend to favor combinations over single herbs because they tend to yield a richer / deeper result.
In looking for herbs, be very particular. Cheap is usually not better. Quality is a big issue in getting herbs that will actually contain the active constituents that will get results in your body. There are a handful of companies that actually test all of the herbs they buy – I consider these the only reputable supplement makers. You will find these in health food stores, not big box stores.
Another issue that is important in using herbs is safety. On normal metabolism, herbs are very safe. However, normal metabolism does not include a body on multiple prescriptions. If taking medication, check with your doctor before taking nutritional supplements.
Always use herbs in the correct manner and dosage. Please read labels and/or consult with a qualified health practitioner.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas. www.naturalcowgirl.wordpress.com