Herbs have been an integral part of our diet and pharmacy since mankind began roaming the earth. Coprophytic evidence points
to herbal use by Cavemen. Early herbalists have practiced their trade since the times of recorded history in all parts of
the world including China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Africa, England, the Americas, and Europe. Many herbs are mentioned in the
Typically, plants were used as a part of unity with nature, their medicinal uses based on an intuitive feel for their application
along with observed results. Early herbal uses often combined with such practices as shamanism, bleeding, fumigation, poulticing,
rubbing, and urtication. Most cultures combined a ritualistic approach to planting and harvest as well as with the collection
of wild species.
There are several aspects to herbology that are key to understanding how the medicinal herbs are used. Following are some
of these keys.
Herbs offer full-spectrum medicinal effects
Herbs may be used simply because they supply vital nutrients. Herbs also provide a full spectrum of medicinal potency — from
having a mild stimulating (or relaxing) effect to providing the practitioner with a highly potent and specific medicinal quality.
Finally, herbs can be potent enough to be toxic to organ systems, even causing death.
Herbs are tonic
Many of our commonly used medicinal herbs are tonics. A tonic is any substance that balances the biochemical and physiological
events that comprise body systems. A tonic herb has the ability to act with the body bi-directionally (see below), and the
body is able to select and utilize what it needs from a tonic herb.
Examples of tonic herbs include: Echinacea, Licorice root, Hawthorn berry, Cayenne, Dandelion root, Turmeric, Valerian root,
Ginger, Red Raspberry, Saw Palmetto, Motherwort, Rosemary, Kelp, Wild Yam, Sarsaparilla, Astragalus, Gingko biloba, etc.
Herbs contain compounds that act synergistically
Each individual herb will often contain several dozen chemical compounds, all of them medically active. What's more, these
compounds act in synergy, creating an end-product medicinal effect that is much greater than the sum of any (or all) of the
single "active ingredients".
The medicinal quality of herbs is often bi-directional
Most individual herbs contain "balancing" chemical compounds — ie biochemically active constituents that work on the body
in opposite directions. An example of bi-directionality exists within ginseng: Ginseng has two fractions — Rb ginsenosides
and Rg ginsenosides which have opposing actions on blood pressure. (Ginseng also contains constituents that raise blood sugar
levels and substances that lower blood sugar.)
It is this bi-directionality that makes the herbs particularly safe to use...if we use the whole herb and not an extract of
one of its chemical compounds.
Herbs may be adaptogenic
At least two herbs, Siberian Ginseng and Licorice root, are adaptogens. An adaptogen has a salutary effect on nearly all organ
systems of the body, enhancing their natural ability to function and their capacity to deal with stress.
Herbs are empowering
As you learn about the herbs, you also learn about your own geography. As you learn to use the herbs for healing, you empower
yourself with the ability to provide for your own health, gathered from your own backyard.
Potency among herbs and between individual herbs of the same species varies considerably
Several factors enter in here: Whether the plants were grown organically, growing conditions, place of growth, time of harvest,
harvest method, processing or extraction methods used, storage procedures, etc. The variables are so numerous it makes it
almost impossible to evaluate herbal potency...unless you specifically know and trust your source. (See Empowerment, above)