Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Herbals - A Commentary

A comment from Robert regarding comfrey prompted me to talk about herbals. 

Herbals have been used as seasonings, medicine, and foodstuff since man has been on this earth.  The value continues today in all those areas.

I enjoy reading Sharon Brown's stories on Dave's Garden.  Sharon was raised in a family where her grandmother was a herbalist to area families.  A herbalist was basically a combination pharmacist and lay physician.  They grew or collected their plants, processed them and prescribed or treated the neighbors and their families.  Sharon often weaves the powers of those herb treatments into her colorful stories. 

Some, such as our Native American Shaman, use herbs in the roll as spiritual advisers.  The use of plants and herbs in spiritual services is more about providing a path for the spirit than as a treatment for physical - although that's way too simple a description.  That's where I'll stop on this aspect because it's a large and many faceted topic. 

Herbalist deal with a large array of plants not necessarily just herbs as we have come to know in our gardening terminology.  As a minimum, plants used by herbalist can be simply an additive for taste enjoyment. At the other end of the ruler are plants that are physoactive and poisons.  In between is an array larger than you want to read.

So why do I bother to mention?  I have never been around the qualified Herbalist and I don't believe the unschooled should prescribe.  For all the benefits plants and herbs provide in our diets or in medical treatments, doing it wrong, can in some instances, actually harm or kill.

Herbal remedies, for the most part, are not USDA inspected.  Those advertised on the net or TV may work or they may not.  Many are imported and have less validation.  Some are merely an expensive hoax.

Contrary to a lack of reading on my part it is actually the opposite.  I've read enough to put out a warning when there is a valid question about an herb use.  I've read about the problems and the benefits.  What I don't know is your particular health, the other medicines you take, if you will follow directions, and if the products you buy or gather are reliable, toxin or pesticide free.

I may recommend using many plants and herbs as foodstuff, but, you won't find me advocating the use of same for health remedies.  I'm not qualified and that's not what I wish to do in this garden blog.  There are other Herbalist or Alchemist blogs and sites for those that wish to delve into it further.

Thanks to Robert for inspiring me to write about my method for handling the question of herbals.  It may not please those who have a particular herb or plant they use for health treatments, but alas, it pleases me to let you decide and for me to stay out of the subject. 
Herbs in photos from top to bottom:  chives, mint & dill. 

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