Understanding Herbal Medicine

Nature has provided an abundance of remedies and cures for many different medical conditions and ailments. Before pharmaceuticals, herbal medicine was the standard form of healing, not the alternative form we know today.

When modern medicine first began the use of prescription drugs, most of the medicines created were based on therapies from the plant kingdom. Aspirin, which is made from the bark of a willow tree, is one good example. Heart medicines were first made from digitalis purpea, or foxglove, before moving into nitroglycerine and other compound medicines available more recently.

Today, we have a variety of pharmaceutical pills, potions and lotions. Many contain synthetic ingredients. If you listen to the advertising for these medicines, the possible side effects are worse than the ailment they are attempted to treat. For this reason, many people are turning back to herbal and other natural remedies.

Many people, who do not understand how herbal medicines work, quickly abandon their use and return to prescription drugs. These people are looking for quick fixes and instant results that, in most cases, are not available in the herbal world.

Some herbs have an almost immediate effect, such as chamomile to soothe frayed nerves or valerian root to promote a good nights sleep. The key to using any herbal remedy is time. Other herbs work slowly, such as St. Johnswort, taking a month or more to see any appreciable results.

Herbal preparations usually come in three forms: capsule/pill, tincture or dried herb.

The pill or capsule herb can be purchased at most health food stores and many grocery and department stores. It is important to read the labels on these, as many manufacturers do not label their products honestly. For example, you many see a bottle that says valerian on the label, but if you read the ingredients, you may find that the pill is made with the leaves and stems of the plant. The medicinal value is only in the root of the valerian plant.

Tinctures are the most concentrated form of the herb. They also can be purchased at most health food stores. Most tincture manufacturers are reputable, reading the label is still important in understanding exactly what you are buying.

Dried herbs are considered the best way to purchase herbs if you are not going to grow them yourself. Dried herbs are also the most economical to buy. Usually sold loose and in bulk at heath foods store, you need only purchase the amount you need at the moment. Most dried herbs are used in teas, infusions and homemade tinctures. The difference of each method is described below.


Teas are made by putting the correct amount of either fresh or dried herb into a tea bag, basket or even loose into a cup and pouring boiling water over the herbs. Allow the herb to brew in the water until cool enough to drink. Remove the tea bag or strain the tea through fine mesh screen and drink.


Infusions are made by pouring an equal amount of hot water over the same amount of dried or fresh herb. Stronger than teas, infusion are used when small amounts of herbs are not enough.


Tinctures are made by soaking the necessary part of the herb in alcoholic spirits (usually vodka) undisturbed for a period of three to six months. After the determined time, the tincture is rebottled by straining the herb out of the mixture. Tinctures are extremely potent and are generally taken by the drop or dropper full.

Before using any herb product, research to find the correct dosage using a good herbal reference book or searching on the web. Many of the most reliable sources are linked to major medical facilities.

It is also important to determine the timetable of expected results and what those results may be. By knowing this going into herbal therapy, disappointment by lack of overnight results can be avoided.

Many herbal therapies can be purchased online. As with health food or grocery stores, make sure that you can read a list of ingredients before clicking to buy.

Another investment to think about, besides a good herbal remedy book, is taking an online course in herbal medicine. Several online schools offer such courses, many offering different levels of study.

If you are currently taking any type of prescription medicine, be sure to check with your health care provider before beginning any herbal medications. Many herbs react adversely with modern pharmaceuticals, so research heavily before adding herbal remedies to your wellness solutions.

Simple herbal remedies include:

Echinacea for the immune system, especially during cold and flu season.

Chamomile and St. Johnswort for their calming effects.

Black Cohosh and Motherwort for symptoms of PMS and menopause.

Feverfew for migraine headaches.

Dandelion leaves for the calcium content, helping to strengthen teeth and bones.

By studying different herbs and their properties, you may find that you have the cure for what ails you growing in your own backyard. If not, herbal therapies are still a fraction of the cost of many pharmaceuticals and work as well if not better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

− five = 1