All information given on this site is for educational purposes ad should not take the place of your own research, and a doctor’s care. I am not a doctor, but rather, an aspiring herbalist who has been studying and using herbs for 25+ years. Please research beyond this site to determine if herbal and natural remedies found on this site are right for you.
Imagine getting sick and knowing just which cold or flu remedies will help you best? Now imagine getting a cut that becomes infected and knowing exactly how to manage it successfully? These two scenarios are quite common amongst most of us, and sometimes get us running to the doctor. However, learning powerful herbal home remedies can provide a simple fix to these and many other minor medical issues.
Herbalism is making quite a comeback for many of us struggling against the need for so much outside help from doctors, grocery stores, and any other entity that beckons us to rely on it exclusively for our care. Despite that beckoning, it’s so difficult to make an emergency doctor appointment, or even one within a week of calling. The system is failing us where quick medical care is concerned. That is, unless you don’t mind spending a few hours in a waiting room with many others with who-knows-what-is-wrong-with-them.
Learning how to make your own medicines for things like sore throat, minor wound healing, simple skin conditions, and the common cold is right up the alley of those who are concerned with becoming more self-sufficient overall. It’s not only a fantastic way to manage your own simple medical care and keep you out of the doctor’s office, it’s also a wonderful place to begin to incorporate herbs into your daily life, making you more self-sufficient.
No Need for Nervousness When Using Home Remedies
Have you been afraid that you’re going to hurt yourself or your family with herbs? Don’t worry, herbs have a nice long history of safety. Not to mention, the truly dangerous herbs are not available to us on the market. Still, that doesn’t mean that you don’t have to be careful.
As long as you understand how to use them properly, you can use natural remedies to manage many issues right inside of your home, safely and effectively. I have a few resources available to help you secure some understanding and help you move forward in victory regarding use of herbal remedies. You’ll be able to get those at the end of this article.
When you’ve done your due diligence in researching the herbs you want to use, there’s no need to be nervous. Herbs have a very long history of safe use, and studies have shown that many herbs we are familiar with have been proven effective for common issues, without the type of side effects we can suffer when using prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Most herbs available to us are safe to use, with some caveats. However, there is a group of “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) herbs, all of which are powerful for various different issues we may face. These herbs would be great to start with, and are on the FDA’s GRAS list:
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
- Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
- Dandelion (Taraxicum officinale)
- Elder Flowers (Sambucus niger)
- Garlic (Allium sativa)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
- Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
- Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
- Valerian Root (Valeriana officinalis)
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Here’s another article you may be interested that recommends a larger list of herbs that you may start with. It’s by my trusted herbalist and friend, Heidi, author of the course I’m taking, The Confident Herbalist: A Complete Guide to Home Herbalism.
I have a couple of cheat sheets on common safe herbs and low dose herbs available in my resource library, and you’ll be able to get the password to access to them at the end of this article.
Understand That Herbal Remedies and Allopathic Medicine Work Differently
While most herbalists are not against allopathic medicine, there are some very distinct differences in attitude and action when it comes to how they operate. Respected herbalists like Rosemary Gladstar and others feel that allopathic and herbal care can go very well hand-in-hand. Because we have forgotten the old ways of herbalism and replaced them with the modern medical advice for how to treat medical issues, most tend to “poo-poo” the power of herbs. But that’s a mistake!
Allopathic is a big word for what we all recognize as medical care. Some believe it is a term used by those of us who disagree with or hold contempt for the way medical care is administered. According to Merriam-Webster, it simply means:
“relating to or being a system of medicine that aims to combat disease by using remedies (such as drugs or surgery) which produce effects that are different from or incompatible with those of the disease being treated “
Very generally speaking, allopathic medicine:
- works faster
- focuses on treating symptoms
- uses drugs and/or surgery to remedy medical issues
Regardless of any ill effects we may experience with allopathic medicine or methods, it is still a much needed system. This system is full of professionals that study for years so that they can help us through some of the most hairy medical situations that we could imagine.
Still, it is not necessarily needed for every issue, whether it be a doctor’s visit, or just an over-the-counter medication. You can choose to be gentler on your body by replacing some allopathic medications with powerful herbal remedies.
That is not to say that you should go off any medication you have been prescribed by your doctor. I am simply saying that many issues and ailments such as colds/flus, minor injuries (cuts and abrasions, and some infections), headaches, and other minor issues can be managed at home by the use of proper herbs and herbal preparations.
When contrasted with allopathic medicine, you’ll find that this is a very different method to managing illness and injury. Of course, herbalists do leave major injuries and surgery to the medical experts. However, herbal home remedies can be quite useful in not only managing symptoms, but benefiting the whole body.
Basically, herbal home remedies:
- can work slower than prescription or over-the-counter medications
- but, can manage symptoms relatively quickly, and well
- support the whole body, including the symptom
- use a natural approach to balancing some acute and chronic conditions
Learn Where to Obtain Good Quality Herbs and How to Recognize Them
When getting started with herbs, you may be tempted to head over to the coffee and tea aisle at the grocery store. There are so many choices, surely you’ll be able to find a good tea to help with what ails ya, right? Maybe not.
The reason for this is that the herbs that are found in tea bags are often powdered herbs. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with powdered herbs, they do have the shortest shelf life of any form you can purchase them. Because they are ground (or even in small pieces), there is more surface area to be exposed to oxygen, which will shorten the shelf life of the herb.
Another reason you may want to avoid tea in teabags is the material they use in them. Just doing a quick google search will yield many articles covering the topic of what materials are used in tea bags, be it plastic, PVC, glue, or some other material you probably don’t want to heat and drink along with your healthy herbs!
Good Herb Suppliers
So where do we get good quality herbs? It’s not hard, if you know some herbalists with experience in purchasing herbs! Luckily for you, I do have some experience that I can share, but my recommendations aren’t the only ones out there, so do some more research.
I like to get my herbs from Amazon.com, because I pay for Amazon Prime which most times means that I can get the herbs I need inside of two days. The two companies I tend to stick with are Starwest Botanicals and Frontier Co-op. The options on Amazon are plentiful, but you have to purchase a full pound of herb if you go through them.
If you’d like to get smaller amounts of herbs, you can go directly to the website for Starwest Botanicals, or even to Mountain Rose Herbs or Bulk Herb Store. These are all fantastic options, and they all have great quality herbs.
If you choose to try another supplier, here are some guidelines to judging whether your herbs are good quality or not:
- Is the color of the dried herb similar to the color of the plant before drying?
- Does the herb smell vibrant?
If the answer to these two questions is yes, then you’ve likely got a good quality herb that is still going to be potent enough to use. If you happen to get some herbs that are not as vibrant or colorful as they should be, consider using them in a different capacity where the medicinal qualities don’t have to be at their most potent.
Grow Your Own
The very best way to get good quality herbs is, of course, to grow your own! You can start with herb seeds from Botanical Interests, as they have a good variety of basic culinary and some medicinal herb seeds. However, if you want any of the less common medicinal herb seeds, you can try Strictly Medicinal Seeds.
If you haven’t yet ventured into seed starting, you will want to familiarize yourself with that process. I have a few articles on this site covering varying areas of this topic, but if you’d like to have a quick start guide that will take you from starting seeds to planting them outdoors, my Super Easy Guide to Seed Starting eBook can help!
Storing Your Herbs
Once you have chosen a few herbs to start with, you will need to know how to store them properly for maximum freshness. I like to store mine in glass jars that have airtight lids. I have a cupboard in my laundry room that is dark and dry, and keeps them cool enough, even through the summer.
Keeping your jars in a cool, dry place is important, and if you are using clear glass jars, it should be a dark place as well. Feel free to use oxygen absorbers to further prevent oxidization with your herbs.
The shelf life of herbs varies depending on what form of herbs you buy. Here’s some guidelines:
- powdered herbs: 6 months
- leaves and flowers: up to 1 year
- roots and bark: 2-3 years
But like Rosemary Gladstar says, “They are good for as long as they are good,” (though I may have botched the quote a little). Basically what is she is saying is not to just throw them away when the time is up on an herb. Use your senses (as I mentioned above) to determine freshness of the herbs on your shelf.
Follow Safety Practices for Using Herbal Home Remedies
Using herbs in home remedies is simple and easy, but there are some rules that you will want to follow in order for herbs be a safe and effective way of supporting your health.
A responsible herbalist will always encourage you to check with your doctor before taking any herbs while on medication, so this is me giving you that encouragement. I also want to encourage you to become well-versed in a few other things so that you can always feel safe using herbs.
What are contraindications? That’s just a big word for “anything that would indicate that a certain herb should not be used”. Pretty simple. A good example would be a pregnant woman avoiding certain herbs during pregnancy. Another example would be
Check Herb to Drug Interactions
If you are taking prescription medications, it is important for you to know whether the herb you are thinking of trying will interact with your current medication. For example, Todd was on Warfarin for a while last year, which is a blood thinner. At that time, he would have needed to avoid any herbs with an anti-coagulant action, like willow bark.
Before I went off my anti-depressant (SSRI), I couldn’t take St. John’s Wort because it is considered an herbal SSRI. Basically, you don’t want to take an herb that does the same thing that your medication does. You can check herb to drug interactions on Drugs.com‘s interactions checker.
Know Which Herbs to Use Freely, Use with Care, or Avoid Altogether with my FREE cheat sheets!
Subscribe below and get access to my resource library which has some handy cheat sheets that will help you proceed with herbs safely!
The Confident Herbalist: A Complete Guide to Home Herbalism Online Course by Heidi Villegas
The Foundations of Herbalism Online Course by Rosemary Gladstar
Module 19. Botanicals Generally Recognized as Safe, Michigan State University