Is herbal therapy right for me?

People everywhere are using herbs again to maintain health and combat minor ailments such as colds and flu. With the overuse of antibiotic therapy, increased concern and incidence of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria it’s a wise plan to utilize herb therapy for simple colds and flu.

Modern medicine is rooted in herbal tradition; in fact many drugs have been developed by chemically synthesizing the active constituents of plants. Some of the more common examples are aspirin derived from white willow bark, and digitalis for heart irregularities that comes from the foxglove plant.

Here are some common questions I’m frequently asked about the proper use of herb therapy

Q. What is the best way to take herbs — as a tea, a capsule, tablet or liquid?

A. The health food store will present you with a number of choices. Most people choose the form most convenient for their lifestyle- capsules or tablets. But there are advantages to liquids. Liquids either teas or tinctures are easily assimilated and are a more potent way to take an herb. Capsules and tablets sometimes contain binders and fillers that don’t readily break down and may interfere with the body’s ability to absorb the active constituents contained within the herb.

Q. Is it better to take a single herb or combination formula?

A. It depends on the nature of the problem. If you have simple indigestion or nausea, insomnia, minor headache a single herb may be all that is called for. If you have the flu with sinus congestion, aches and pains, headache or low-grade fever a combination of herbs that can act synergistically may restore balance more quickly.

Q. What about the alcohol in a tincture— the label reads 60% grain spirits?

A. Alcohol is the preferred medium to reduce a plant to its active ingredients and preserve it. If you are concerned about the alcohol base, simply heat 1-2 ounces of water, add the tincture and allow it to steep for one minute. This will evaporate the alcohol leaving just the active plant ingredients. Avoid tinctures made with glycerin as a preservative as it can interfere with the healing properties of the herb and in some sensitive individuals cause allergic reaction.

Q. Can I mix herb therapy with prescription medication?

A. Using an herb to address a problem that you are already taking a prescription medication for is not a wise idea. Simple herbs such as ginger, garlic and parsley used in cooking or fresh in salads may be the best way to utilize herbs for those taking prescription medications.

Q. If I’m not sick should I still take herbs?

A. Herbs are utilized in many ways besides just for healing. They can be taken for stress, fatigue, anxiety, sleeplessness, as a preventative or just as a tonic to boost and tonify the system. If you are trying to ward off a cold or flu don’t wait until the symptoms are full blown to begin using an herb.

Herbs give us the ability to take some responsibility for our own health and healing. They are medicines and should be treated as such but if taken as directed they are safe and do not have serious side effects.

Till next time, Rebecca.