When you think of "Herbal Essences", you may recall the popular 1972 Herbal Essence Shampoo. Herbs may harvest a lustrious growth of hair, yet they offer so much more!
"Herbalism is an alternate medicine consisting of plants (you can grow in your garden), trees, bark, leaves, bushes, flowers, stems, roots, nuts and seeds," educates Jennifer Poutruff, Homeopathic Physician and Clinical Herbalist. "Herbology stimulates the body to heal itself. Using a remedy to strengthen the body allows your body to naturally work on its own, without the use of synthetic chemicals."
Predating human existance, these organic properties cured ailments throughout history. "Herbal essences started by people observing animals in the area; checking to see what plants they used for different issues. They created a collection of herbs for various ailments. This lead to the Doctrine of Signatures; the plant helping the associated body part. For example, Lungwart and Mullein (see Verbascum sinuatum below) represent the lungs; Wormwood (the leaves look like little worms) dispells worms."
"Marigold can be used for skin issues and stomach ulcers; typically for healing wounds. For a cut I make an ointment or compress. A quarter teaspoon of Bee Pollen, high in vitamins and minerals, can be taken daily. Chamomile smells nice and is great for the stomach. Lavender is soothing and can be taken as a tea to calm nerves."
"If someone is allergic to ragweed," warns Jennifer, "They'll have a reaction to chamomile or echinacea; being from the ragweed family. If on medication, an herb may interact negatively. This is why you need a qualified Herbalist."
"Herbalists work holistically," explains Jennifer. "We're not just going to deal with symptoms. Looking at the whole individual, we strengthen the body so it may heal itself. Western Herbalists; we tend to use herbs we have access to on a daily basis; anything you can grow here; lemon balm, rosemary, peppermint, dandelion, echinacea (see Echinacea purpurea 'Maxima' below).
"Years spent checking to see what herbs work well with particular systems and aiments, Herbalists go with what we've learnt through training. We also use intuition. When forming a "blend" for someone, I'll go with my gut feeling as to what I want to use; cross-referencing to ensure it doesn't interact with any medication. Chinese Herbalists also use different herbs that accompany various body systems and ailments. In addtion, they incorporate Ying and Yang, hot and cold, dry and wet; using the herbs to balance those systems. It's a different philosophy."
Not all herb types are created equal. "You want to make sure you're getting your herbs from a reputable supplier," Jenn tells us. "If they're wildcrafting, the herbs aren't grown organically. You want to ensure the supplier gives back what they take from the earth. For safety, note where they're coming from. Are there really good regulations in place?" In regards to Green Tea, Jennifer agrees it's known for weight loss and speeding up the metabolism, yet concedes if acquired from the wrong location, it could leave a really bad taste in your mouth.
"It depends on the formula. Using Valerian; a very strong taste and horrible smell, we'll flavour the tea with something, counteracting that taste. Choosing flavourful herbs you want in your formula, like peppermint and lemon balm, ultimately changes the taste. Flavouring a syrup I'll add vanilla, lemon or orange extract to give it a better taste."
"Individualizing formulas is necessary," shares Jennifer. "Everybody is different. If someone is pregnant, there are certain herbs they need to refrain from. Raspberry leaves can be taken prior to and throughout pregnancy. Blue cohosh and black cohosh can be taken 4 weeks before due date; preparing the body. Do not take sooner as it can induce labour. For thyroid issues, you want to stay away from herbs which stimulate the thyroid; adding to the effects of the person's meds. Ensuring you have a qualified herbalist to work with, you can determine which formula is best for you."
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