How are herbs taken?
Herbs can be incorporated in the diet. Herbs such as garlic and ginger can be liberally added to foods; spices such as fennel and dill can be used for digestive support. Aromatic spices such as rosemary, thyme and oregano have medicinal properties.
Infusions are liquid preparations, such as teas, made by covering fresh or dried herbs with either cold or hot water to extract constituents for desired benefits. The herbs are steeped and not boiled. Above ground parts of the plants are used. Many medicinal teas are pleasant tasting and child friendly.
Decoctions are infusions made from the harder plant structures such as roots, barks and seeds. They are simmered to extract the desired constituents. Many decoctions are stronger in taste and action than teas.
Herbal powders are dried herbal parts ground very finely. They can be mixed in liquid or other foods. A specific amount (in grams) is recommended daily. They are relatively inexpensive.
Herbal capsules or tablets are finely ground herbs encapsulated in gelatin or cellulose or pressed together with binders. Specific amounts can be taken and many people find them convenient. Cost can vary widely.
Herbal glycerites and tinctures are glycerin-based or alcohol-based extracts and are used for their abilities to extract important ingredients from the herbs. Glycerin is the sweet principle of oils and is used for many children's formulas. Tinctures use alcohol as the solvent, which is a more effective extractant than glycerin for certain plant constituents.
Herbal syrups are made from sugar, honey or other concentrated sweet liquid. Syrups appeal to children and can be used to give herbs in a more concentrated form than teas.
Herbs can be applied topically as creams, salves and oils.
What is herbalism?
Simply defined, it is the art and science of skillfully collecting, preparing and utilizing plants to nudge the body towards wellness.
Herbal medicine has been used by many cultures for thousands of years. Many of today’s pharmaceuticals are derived from plants or based on their chemical structures. However, herbs have a wonderful complexity and balance that isolated chemicals do not. Our bodies have had a relationship with plants for a long time. Herbs can enhance our natural ability to recover from illness and return to vitality.
The focus is not on herbs fixing problems but on the use of herbs to enhance the healing capacity of the body. Herbs are one part of the approach to optimal health, which includes attention to the body, mind and spirit.
Why should I see an herbalist?
An experienced herbalist can assist you to better understand herbal therapy and in making wise choices on specific herbs. We are aware of issues regarding herb safety and quality as well as using herbs in combination with pharmaceutical medications. The herbalist will also help you to understand the limits of herbs and will recommend a visit with a licensed practitioner when necessary.
Another benefit to seeing an herbalist is that treatment is individualized to address your unique constitution. We consider the whole person when treating with herbs. One size does not fit all.
The herbalist also uses herbs in blends that may enhance the overall effects of the herbs. This “synergy” may result in the whole blend offering more benefits than the sum of its parts.
Linda Baldaia MS RN
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner