Choosing Herbal Products


There are many herbal products and cures available. With the advent of more and more natural food stores, more herbal goods are commonly accessible. Herbs are used in many types of products, and they can be taken orally or used topically. Specific herbs have specific uses or cures associated with them. These are uses that have come to be known over years of use and handed down from generation to generation. In recent times, scientific studies have been done which prove that certain herbal cures work for specific illnesses.

Topical herbal remedies are available in several forms. These are forms used for external use.

  • Salve- Salves are healing preparations that are applied to the skin. They are generally thick creams that last a long time on the skin, helping to keep moisture in. Salves have protective qualities that shield the skin from harsh effects of sun and wind. Popular salves are those made with calendula, St. John's wort and comfrey.
  • Poultice - A poultice is a traditional preparation of fresh or dried whole herbs. The herbs are mashed into a pasty consistency and applied topically to the affected area. Herbs can be moistened and heated and then applied to the skin. Poultices are the way your great-grandmother would have applied herbs and it's still a useful method today. A crude method, poultices are great for instant use and can use parts of the plant that aren't normally used, such as the root and stems.
  • Compress - A compress is similar to a poultice. Fresh or dried herbs are mashed and combined with water to make a paste. The paste is then applied to the skin or put into a small bundle, often in fabric, to be held against the skin.
  • Oils - Infused oils are made by combining herbs with oil, usually extra-virgin olive oil, and heated on a slow heat. The mixture is then steeped for at least two weeks, then strained and put into jars. Oils can be used for skin irritations and is commonly used as massage oil.
  • Ointment - Similar to salves, ointments are thicker in consistency. They are used topically on the skin and are particularly good for minor skin irritations and burns.

Ingestible herbal remedies are taken orally. These include various forms.

  • Infusions
  • Decoction
  • Tinture
  • Syrup
  • Tea
  • Capsules or Tablets

These can found in our book of remedies.

When choosing herbal products there are some things to keep in mind. First, make sure you understand what you want the product to do. Read the label. Sometimes there are additional ingredients that may be unnecessary for your ailment. Always choose a product that most closely identifies with your disorder.

Smell the product. That will tell you how much of the herb is actually in the product. This is especially true with creams and salves. If you can't smell the herb chances are there is not enough of it in the product to help you. Because herbal products are not governed the same way as food products, the user must take more caution in purchasing and using these items. Check for an expiration date on the item.

To keep herbal products good always store them in a cool, dry area. Also, try to store them in a dark area. Light often will break down the mixture and will change the strength. Many products come in dark containers to help keep light from affecting the products.

If you have herbal products that you haven't used in awhile, always smell them before using them. If they smell rancid, they have probably gone bad. Although this won't affect the topical cures, you certainly don't want to ingest herbal mixtures of questionable freshness. Most products manufactured by large companies have a long shelf life. However, homemade products may last only weeks to several months. Keep homemade products in the refrigerator to make them keep longer.

Know what you're taking and why. Even though the products are herbal and natural does not mean that they are all safe. Interactions can occur and you should be aware of these possible interactions before taking any herbal remedy.

Purchase your herbal products from a reputable source. Health food stores and many drug stores carry herbal products. Your local health food store will be able to answer many of your questions as they are trained in this area. If you buy herbal products over the Internet, be sure that the company is reputable. The FDA or any other agency does not control herbal products, so the quality can vary greatly between brands.


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