- Alternative & Natural Medicine
New Herbalist Guidelines
Herbalist Guideline Summary
In this article you will find:
- Revival of Herbal Usage
- Guideline 1: Pick Five Herbs that "Speak to You"
- Guideline 2: Account for Medical Problems and Medication
- Guideline 3: Consider Seals and Certification Labels
- Guideline 4: Follow United Plant Savers Standards
- Guideline 5: Consult Your Medical Practitioner
Revival of Herbal Usage
Over the past few years I have noticed a significant increase in the use of people who are reviving the use of herbs in the form of supplement to their health care. They have become disenchanted with the care they receive from conventional medicinal therapies.
According to the American Botanical Council Press Releases over the past couple of years, there has been a definite increase. In 2013, herbal dietary supplements alone increase 7.9%, $6 billion; and in 2012, a 5.5% increase, or $5.6 billion. (http://cms.herbalgram.org/press/2014/2013_Market_Report.html; http://cms.herbalgram.org/press/2013/2012_Market_Report.html.) These numbers are continuously rising. Individuals are educating themselves so that they can make better health care choices based on advertisements without necessarily performing significant research. There is more to the use of herbal remedy use that just picking up a preparation and using it or creating your own.
I have come from a long line of herbalists and have been a practicing herbalist for many years. I came back to the practice of herbs after a horrible bout with several medical problems and modern conventions were not bringing about healing. I began investigating in many forms of alternative medicine such as acupuncture, acupressure, crystal healing, reiki, and of course, herbs. During that time, I learned some valuable guidelines that I will pass along to up and coming herbalists.
Guideline 1: Pick Five Herbs that "Speak to You"
When you first begin working with herbs as a means to supplement your wellbeing, choose five herbs that "speak to you". Those herbs that seem to "speak to you" often have medicinal, spiritual, or magical attributes that you should apply to your life. Obtain herbal books from a multitude of authors such as Rosemary Gladstar, Susun Weed, Jeanne Rose, and of course, do not forget Nicholas Culpepper.
Study the lore; the plant's habitat; the parts used; how it is used in medicine, spirituality, and magic. Make sure you use the scientific name for the plant as many plants may be referred to by the same common name. Make sure you journal all your findings on the plant. I keep a stillroom book or materia medica with all my information about the plants I work with. See the below table for a sample of how to record your information. (Materia Medica Table for Yarrow)
Materia Medica Table for Yarrow
Gordalo, nosebleed plant, old man's peper, devil's nettle, sanguinary, milfoil, soldier's woundwort, thousand-leaf, thousand seal
Native to the Northern Hemisphere of Asia, Europe, and North America
Herbaceous perennial plant; grows up to 3' with 3-8 ray flowers ovate to round in clusters of 15-40 disk flowers; bysinnate or tripinnate, feathered leaves; flowers May through June
Grasslands and open forests
Aerial parts, flowers, roots
Seeds require light for germination; well drained soil in full sun; plant 12-18" apart; grows well in drought
Stopping flow of blood; chest rubs; abrasions, cuts; inflammation; toothaches; diarrhea; gum disease, gastrointestinal issues
Diaphoretic, astringent, tonic, stimulant, aromatic, antipyretic, antiphlogistic, emmenagogue. Contains isovaleric acid, salicyclic acid, asparigin, sterols, flavanoids, bitters, tannins, coumarins.
May cause allergic skin rash, increase photosensitivity, may cause drowsiness, increases urination, slows blood clotting. Stop use two weeks prior to any surgical procedure as it increases bleeing. It interacts with Lithium and barbituates by increasing their effectiveness by slowing down the liver's ability to remove from the body. It interacts with antacids by decreasing their effectiveness because it increases the production of stomach acid.
4.5 grams per day
Repels insect pests; attract pollinators such as bees and wasps into garden; improves soil quality; flavoring in beer; leaf vegetable
I have used in skin salves and is very effective for healing scrapes.
Planetary: Venus, Jupiter; Element: Air; Magic: love magic, divination, protection, shedding fear and negativity.
Guideline 2: Account for Medical Problems and Medication
One of the most important aspects of herbal use is taking into account medical problems, medical history, and medications. Just because herbal remedies are natural, does not necessarily mean that a particular herb is right for the individual or particular medical condition.
Using the materia medical information provided for Achillea millefolium or yarrow, this herb is not suitable for everyone and all conditions. If an individual has allergies to ragweed, this herb may cause allergic symptoms of running nose, sneezing, and skin rash. If individuals are taking lithium, yarrow will increase the effects of the drug because it diminishes the liver's ability to eliminate the drug out of the body. If one takes antacids, yarrow will increase the production of stomach acid and diminish the antacid's effectiveness.
Other examples are the use of the popular herb Echinacea. Echinacea purpurea, also known as purple cone flower, is a wonderful herb to help the body build the immune system. It is a "go to" herb of mine. During the wintertime I take one capsule or a cup of tea three times a week. When I feel I am beginning to come down with a cold, I take it three times a day in tea form until symptoms go away. When springtime comes, I stop taking it. Echinacea is not an herb meant to be taken daily for weeks and months at a time as it will weaken the body's ability to develop a healthy immune system. If an individual is going through cancer therapy treatments, this herb should not be taken as it diminishes the effectiveness of the treatment and renders the cancer treatment useless.
Another common herb is goldenseal, Hydrastis canadensis. It has been used and renowned by herbalists for centuries and even my ancestors. It is a great herb for fighting a host of infections. However, there are many medications it should NEVER be taken used with to include cyclosporine, digoxin, clozapine, Prozac, meperidine, and metropolol to name a few. The way the body breaks down these medications in conjunction with goldenseal increases or decreases the drug's effectiveness.
I decided to do a little experiment to test this principle. I will add, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME! I am a cardiac patient and take the drugs losartan and metropolol. Losartan is used to treat high blood pressure and metropolol is used to treat angina, at least in my case. I was fighting an infection and did not want to take prescription antibiotics because they cause unwanted side effects so that I end up taking an additional medication to remedy the side effects. So...I decided to take goldenseal.
I took the appropriate dose of two capsules. Big mistake! Within a couple of hours, to my dismay, my blood pressure shot up and my chest hurt so bad I wanted to die. The goldenseal reacted with my medication by increasing the amount of medication in my body because the liver's ability to eliminate was reduced. So I proved, take heed to herbal contraindications used in conjunction with prescribed medications.
Use of Prescription Medications with Herbal Alternatives
(Fill in the blank.) While using Prescription Medications in combination with Herbal Alternatives...
USDA Organic Seal
Natural Products Association Certification Seal
Guideline 3: Consider Seals and Certification Labels
If you are not organically growing your own herbs, ensure you purchase your herbal remedies form wholesalers and retailers that bear one of the seals from the USDA Organic Seal, NSF International, NPA, Leaping Bunny Seal, the Organic Crop Producers and Processors (OCCP) seal, Fair Trade Certified (FTC), or Certified Naturally Grown seal. Obtainment of these seals requires that organizations are scrutinized intensely. To earn these seals, I have provided a summary of requirements for each.
USDA Organic Seal: To receive this seal, the product must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients; soil and plant tissues are tested for chemicals; feed sources are documented and tested for synthetic materials. All methods for manufacturing, growing, packaging, etc. follow approved standards. These products cannot contain GMO, synthetically altered materials, irradiation, fertilizers, etc.
NSF International Seal: To receive this certification, the product has been independently tested and certified for quality. The certification guarantees that the supplement has met safety guidelines for consumption.
Natural Products Association (NPA): This organization only certifies personal care and home care product ingredients. To be certified, product ingredients must use only natural ingredients that do not cause risks; do not perform testing of products on animals; and packaging is biodegradable or recyclable.
Leaping Bunny Seal: This seal used on products is a certification that testing is performed under cruelty-free standards. However, this does not mean that no animal testing was ever performed, just that no new animal testing has been performed. Testing can be performed without the use of animals by testing on cell and tissue cultures and the use of computer mathematical models.
Organic Crop Procedures and Processes (OCPP) Seal: Now known as Pro-Cert, this organization assists its clients in meeting the organic criteria standards. The organization is known internationally and makes sure its clients are in compliance with USDA, Canada Organic Regime (COR), and the Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS).
Fair Trade Certified (FTC): This certification is a seal that shows that the organizations that bear it compensate workers they employ fairly.
Certified Naturally Grown (CNG): The standards required to receive this seal are based on the USDA NOP; however, the organization has no affiliation with the USDA. The requirements to receive the certification include not utilizing synthetic substances and ingredients; not using irradiation; allowance for runoff from land; and must appropriately manage crop nutrition.
Purchasing products that bears these seals provides some consumer ease of mind that the product you are purchasing meets the standards that you are purchasing a quality product.
Guideline 4: Follow United Plant Savers Standards
Use only products that have met the United Plant Savers Standards. When Purchasing herbs or wildcrafting herbs, ensure that the herbs that have been harvested come from a sustainable stand. Some herbs are endangered or "at-risk" and may be illegal to harvest in some states.
Research the plants that are being harvested to ensure that they are not “at-risk” in any way. As herbalists, we must keep in mind that plants that are "at-risk" should not be harvested unless we know that they are being harvested from sustainable crops. Some "at-risk" plants include American ginseng, black and blue cohosh, bloodroot, Echinacea, slippery elm, and sandalwood, to name just a few. Because of over-harvesting, many of these plants are in danger of becoming of extinct if we are not responsible to their ecology.
If you are wildcrafting your own herbs, DO NOT harvest in parks or government-owned spaces or if they are against the law to be harvested in your state. In the State of Ohio, there is a $500 in parks for harvesting plants, maybe more or maybe less, depending on location. It is also illegal to harvest ginseng and trillium in the State of Ohio.
The bottom line when wildcrafting is to remain ethical in herbal practice by not violating laws and taking into consideration the health of the stand of the plants.
United Plant Savers Video
Guideline 5: Consult Your Medical Practitioner
I cannot state this strongly enough, if you choose to utilize herbal supplements and remedies as part of your healthcare practice, consult your medical practitioner regarding all herbals you are using! There are some medical conditions that one must take medications prescribed by a health care practitioner. Never use herbals contraindicated for use in conjunction with certain medications or certain medical conditions. As I discussed earlier, using some herbals in conjunctions with some medications can produce some serious side effects. Always use common sense and practical knowledge based on research.
Herbal Guidelines Summary
Herbal alternatives do significantly improve the lives of their users. Their main purpose is for prevention of disease and support of body functions and healing when the body is diseased. It is my personal belief that both herbals and modern medicines should be considered for treatment of health conditions and can complement each other if used appropriately.
© 2014 Rev. Candy Lacey-Partlow