Perhaps you have been thinking about making your own herbal medicine, but you have questions. Isn’t it dangerous? Do you need lots of sophisticated equipment? And what about training? You need to be highly skilled to make your own medicines – right?

Actually, making safe and effective herbal medicines at home is an ancient tradition practiced worldwide. In many cultures, everyday ailments have been treated with handmade herbal medications for generations; in fact, only recently have medicines not been made in the home. Are herbal medicines safe? Yes, they are perfectly safe – especially when you prepare and use them as recommended by an experienced herbalist. The recipes and procedures on this website are ones we’ve enjoyed and tested for years, and the herbs suggested are time-honored and effective.

herbal medicine

All it takes to make herbal preparations like salves, creams, and tinctures is a kitchen with common appliances like a blender, measuring spoons, and saucepans. For the more adventurous, we have included recipes for convenient dried teas, which call for a food dehydrator. If you are an experienced cook, making herbal medicines in the kitchen will feel comfortable and familiar. But even if you aren’t a gourmet chef, there’s no need to feel intimidated – if you can boil water, use a grater, and mix a few ingredients, you’re ready. After you learn the basics of herbal preparations, you can use your imagination to create all kinds of interesting combinations.

To understand how plants heal, let’s review basic plant science and the inner workings of herbs. By weight, plants are composed primarily of starches and sugars {soluble fiber}, which store energy, and cellulose and lignin {insoluble fiber}, which give plants their shape. Like our own bodies, plants also contain a large percentage of water. Together, these elements – the primary constituents – make up more than 95 percent of a plant.

Secondary constituents compromise the remaining 5 percent of the plant, and these are the medicinal ingredients. Even if they occur in very tiny amounts, medicinal constituents can have powerful actions. For instance, the traditional digestive herb gentian contains a compound so bitter that a single drop of the extract can be tasted in a gallon of water.

Constituents occur in different proportions in different parts of each plant. For instance, flowers are typically high in sugars like sucrose, and all above-ground plant parts contain coloring pigments like anthocyanidins and flavonoids, a plant’s own “sunscreens” that protect its genetic material from ultraviolet light damage. Seeds contain unique fats to provide energy for the fast-growing sprout, and roots act as storehouses for food and medicines. Because the useful properties of plants are unevenly distributed, it’s important to know where the medicinal constituents are concentrated. Another important consideration when making herbal remedies is the timing of the harvest of a particular herb because the potency of constituents varies during a plant’s life cycle.

healing herbs on wooden table, herbal medicine

What about the safety of the herbs themselves? Interestingly, when herbal treatments are compared to treatments with pharmaceutical drugs, fewer and milder side effects are usually recorded when an herbal compound is used. The preparations you will make in these articles are some of the most time-honored and effective you can find, consistent with each herb’s history of use when the plant is prepared and taken properly. Many herbs, such as ginger and garlic, are also foods that we take for their healing properties. But herbs can be harmful when misused or taken carelessly. Remember that your current physical condition and medications must be taken into consideration when choosing which herbs to take and which to avoid.

If you are experiencing or have any of the following, we recommend that you consult a qualified practitioner before preparing and using the formulas on this website.

  • Pregnancy, anticipated pregnancy, or nursing.
  • A course of prescription or over-the-counter medications or other drugs.
  • A chronic illness.
  • A history of allergies.
  • Very young or advanced age.

If you are generally in good health and are not taking life-sparing medications, such as Coumadin or chemotherapy, you will find herbal medications to be remarkably safe and free of side effects.

When it comes to making herbal medicines, especially teas, most people are accustomed to using dried herbs. But we hope that you will enjoy working with the beautiful herbs that you grow and will include them in the recipes as fresh ingredients.

Fresh herbs are the most potent and desirable form of these healing plants. When an herb is dried, it loses varying amounts of its active constituents, depending on how it was dried and how long it was stored before use. But when an herb is fresh and consumed directly from the earth, it is full of “earth Qi,” or healing energy. With herbs, as with food, the fresher the better.


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