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| Conflicting Information on Making Home Herbal Remedies |
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Bill Young
Posted on: October 14, 2007
I’ve been trying to make my own herbal remedies. Information I have found on the ‘net and in several dozen or more books has been conflicting and confusing. Can you recommend a book that explains reliably and clearly what parts of a plant are used and when they are harvested? I have books by Rodale; Green; Cech; and others as well as web pages and magazine articles. Is there any clear and simple source?
Even professionals get confused by all the varied and complicated information that is found in the body of knowledge of medicinal herbs. Herbal medicine is never going to be a precise science because there are conflicting factors at play that affect everything from what, when and how to harvest, how to process, and how and when to use herbs and herbal medicines. Leafy aromatic herbs, for example, are typically harvested when the plants are just beginning to flower and oil content is highest, while roots are generally harvested in the fall when the plants are naturally moving resources to the roots in preparation for winter. So a plant like echinacea -- with medicinal leaves and roots -- must be harvested at different times depending on what part of the plant is being harvested. And each of these parts have different properties and uses, so the way they are used is different. Just about any "rule" in the herb world (e.g. harvest leaves at incipient flowering; harvest roots in fall) has many exceptions and capture only part of the story. And each herbalist has his or her own personal preferences based on their personal and clinical experiences which can affect the choice of harvest method, timing, plant part etc. It becomes a bit dizzying to try to make sense of it all.
There are, however, some good books that attempt to simply things for home herbalists. They do a good job capturing a useful but simple body of knowledge that amateurs can easily get a grip of. But don’t expect these books to offer describe methods that are necessarily the same because each book reflects a different simplified subset of knowledge.
With these caveats in mind, here are two books we find are well suited for home herbalists: The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual (James Green); and Growing 101 Herbs That Heal: Gardening Techniques, Recipes and Remedies (Tammi Hartung). Both are available from Richters.