Herbs as medicine. Is that a good idea?

Herbs as medicine. Is that a good idea? Will an herb a day keep the doctor away? We all know that many plants have medicinal values. But many are poisonous. To further confuse the situation, some plants have both beneficial and poisonous parts. Eaters, beware!

There’s always been a debate about supplements. Botanical supplements are not regulated by the USDA.  The companies that sell them sometimes make outlandish claims. Claims that aren’t backed up by proven studies. Still, since herbs are plants, many of them likely have benefits we are only beginning to understand.  But keep these points in mind:

  1. There’s no standard dosage for any herbs when used medicinally. Their strength varies by plant variety. It varies according to the area where they are grown. It can vary by the richness of the soil, or the length of the growing season. There are just too many variables to account for. And since they aren’t regulated, there are no consistent conditions set.
  2. Some herbs interact negatively with other herbs. They can cancel each other out. Worse, they can bring out the bad qualities of one another.
  3. You might ingest an herb that seems to have no effect. But with repeated consumption you may develop symptoms. That’s because some herbal toxins have a cumulative effect.
  4. Very few studies have been effectively concluded regarding herbal supplements. For that reason, caution is advised. Do your research carefully before ingesting any product–whether regulated or not.
herbs as medicine
herbs as medicine

There are some herbs that have been used medicinally. But you wouldn’t want to grow them and ingest them yourselves. Leave preparation and experimentation of these to the professionals!  They include:

  • Aconite
  • Deadly Nightshade
  • Foxglove (digitalis)
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Lobelia
  • May Apple
  • Pennyroyal

There are also herbs that are suspected carcinogens. Others that may cause stomach cramping or abnormal heart rhythms. These include:

  • Sassafras
  • Comfrey
  • Coltsfoot
  • Broom
  • Bloodroot
  • Tansy

But there are a variety of herbs that should cause no harm, taken in small amounts.  (That is, of course, if you have no allergies to them). They include:

  • Agrimony
  • Catnip
  • Chamomile
  • Echinacea
  • Fennel
  • Feverfew
  • Garlic
  • Hops
  • Peppermint
  • Valerian

And though you should NOT ingest them, there are a few that are used externally to ease burns or promote healing. They are:

  • Aloe vera (burns)
  • Arnica (ease aching muscles)
  • Comfrey (said to make a healing poultice)

Let us hope that some real scientific study will give us more information in the coming months/years. In societies where popping a pill has replaced health and diet as solutions, I would welcome a more back-to-nature approach.

© Wade Kingston


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