5 Reasons to Consider Herbs
Written By: Linda Blankenship
There are a number of reasons for using herbs, as they are a more natural substitute to medications. But it’s always a good idea to weigh the facts before starting any herbal regimen, such as: which one should you take; what is the best way to take them; how often should they be used; are they safe; and what makes them different than any other supplement on the market today?
Before making your final decision, you may want to consider the pros and cons. And of course, discuss any new treatment with a trusted professional first.
PRO: Let’s talk cost. Herbs tend to cost less than prescriptions or over the counter medications on the market today.
CON: Although an herb can be labeled as therapeutic, it should NEVER be used as a replacement for more serious conditions that require diagnostic testing, or the treatment from a specialist.
PRO: They are considered a “natural” product, coming straight from Mother Nature herself. An herb is the part of the plant that can be used to heal, such as the flower, leaf, aerial or root. You can buy them fresh, dried, powdered, in the spice aisle, or even in the form of essential oils.
CON: Just because it is natural, DOES NOT mean all herbs are safe to use for everyone. It should not be used as a substitute for treatment that you are seeking while under the care of a physician, nor should they become a replacement for medication that you are currently on without speaking to your healthcare team first. Some herbs can counteract if mixed with other medications, which can would make them unsafe for you to use together.
PRO: There are very few side effects. Because herbs are considered natural, they generally pose no, or very little threat. However, they can be harmful if taken with certain medications and should be avoided if you have an allergy to that certain herb.
CON: They take a bit longer to see and feel the results. We live in a fast paced world and generally, we’re looking for quick results to achieve instant relief. Herbs typically provide a slower process for relief. However, patience and persistence often prove beneficial in the long-run, without the nasty side-effects.
PRO: Herbs have the ability to treat more than one condition. Most herbs carry more than one ingredient, which give them the ability to help treat multiple ailments. A perfect example is the all-powerful: garlic. Garlic is your anti-everything herb. It’s antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. Because of this, using it is beneficial for not only the common cold, but also to help prevent excess inflammation.
CON: It’s important to choose wisely when it comes to the environment you’re plucking your herbs from (when fresh, especially). For example: dandelion may be good for maintaining good liver health, but not if you’re using pesticides, weed-killers or other chemicals to keep them from growing rampant in your yard/garden. For this reason, you should definitely reconsider using that particular plant for personal use, as you then run the risk of poisoning yourself.
PRO: They are readily available (for most) , found abundantly around the world. Plus, you don’t need a prescription. Take a look in any supermarket, farmers market or health food store and you will most likely find an assortment of herbs. Some may be a bit difficult to find, but for the more common herbs, you’re likely to find fairly easily.
CON: Unfortunately, herbs are not government regulated. If you are doing this research on your own without guidance from a knowledgeable professional, keep in mind that you are purchasing and consuming at your own risk.
The good news is that there is plenty of information available in your local markets and online these days. Always consider the risks, but get to know the benefits as well.
5 Tips When Choosing Quality Herbs
Once you make that decision to start taking herbs, it can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to which form to use. There are many options, including fresh, capsules, tablets, dried, tinctures, teas and then there is your spice aisle… So how do you know which one is best for you?
Here are five tips to help you confidently choose quality herbs.
Tip #1: Fresh is ALWAYS best. Fresh should always be your first choice. And using them shouldn’t be complicated. You can add fresh herbs to your salad, run them through your juicer, or steep them as a tea. If you choose fresh, there are some things to consider. Inspect your herb. Make sure that the stems are stiff and the leaves look vibrant, not limp and dull. Don’t be afraid to give it a sniff. If this herb has a strong scent, it most likely has the same tasty effect. If it is moldy, has any dark spots, or yellowing leaves, choose another bunch. The goal here is to buy the freshest herbs, that will give you the most benefit.
Bonus Tip: Fresh is great, but choosing fresh and organic is even better. Make it a point to buy organic as often as possible.
Tip #2: Capsule or tablets? These are both convenient and easier for those that don’t have the time to prep fresh herbs. If you go this route, here are some things to consider:
- You will get what you pay for. DO NOT think that because it is cheaper than another brand that it works the same. Read the label and look for the purest form possible.
- Does it contain anything else other than the herb that it advertises? If so, don’t you know what those ingredients are?
- Are they a reputable company? Google is a great tool when checking resources for efficacy and standardization. If there is any doubt, do your research, call the company and ask questions
Tip #3: Dried. Dried is another great option. This form is easy for teas, however, unless you are good at drying your own herbs (which I am not), I would recommend buying them from a reputable company. They will be shipped to you in a vacuum packed light sealed bag. Take out what you want and store the rest away for later use.
Tip # 4: Tincture. Tinctures are the easiest way to get the herb into your system and work faster than any other form. However, a disadvantage is that most tinctures contain alcohol. Even though it only requires a few drops in water, or a little bit placed on your tongue to get the healing effect, often people avoid alcohol in products, especially in the case of systemic candida. If not labeled as such, be sure to ask the vitamin department manager if it does in fact contain alcohol, as there are some on the market today that are made with glycerin instead.
Tip #5: Spice Aisle. These are your cooking herbs and spices. They have a shelf life and an expiration date. I would only use these resources as your last resort if you are looking to use herbs as a healing modality.
I know it may sound like a lot of information, but I encourage you not to let this overwhelm you. With a little bit of research and asking the right questions, you’ll be a expert in herbs in no time!
Linda Blankenship is a Certified Master Herbalist, with a mission to educate people on the benefits of using herbs as a healing tool. Her hope is that through her knowledge and personal experience of herbal use, she can change the lives of others and make believers out of even the toughest skeptics.
Living with osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis, Linda didn’t want to be reliant on medications for the rest of her life. It was during the time of her diagnosis that she realized that there had to be another way to help her get back her sense of normalcy. Through her daily intake of herbs and some lifestyle changes, she has been able to keep her psoriatic outbreaks under control and reverse her chronic inflammation.
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