Originally published August 11 2008
How to Use Herbs Safely and Effectively
by Kal Sellers
(NaturalNews) Starting from some time well before man was placed on earth, or evolved to his present species, the earth was covered with all manner of plant life. These plants had to deal with microorganisms, climate variations and all manner of variety.
When man entered this phase of existence, he found himself dependent on plants for food, shelter, clothing and medicine. Plants were also a source of aesthetics for man and woman.
As problems arose, holy men, shamans, witches and anyone attuned to the patterns of nature became renowned members of society. They were medicine men and women of some sort and who could treat and cure the problems of that society.
Later, animals were consumed for food and it was discovered that they could also be used for medicine. Even though this is true, it was always considered to be more pure and more harmonious with nature's patterns to use plants. Furthermore, the power in plants went far beyond healing the mere flesh (anatomy) of man and was capable of affecting his character, his awareness, his attitude and his ability to travel freely on his spiritual journey.
To be fair, animals were also sometimes eaten, or certain parts of them, for the purpose of adopting certain characteristics of that animal on one's spiritual or other journey.
While this probably seems impossible to the trained so-called "scientific" mind of today, as usual, the over educated often miss the obvious. In this case, we know today that the neuropeptides and hormones of animals work in our bodies and that those neuropeptides and hormones are not just received by every cell of the body, every tissue and organ produces some of its own! This is in addition to the exact ratio of minerals, vitamins and all nutrients needed to make that tissue healthy for that animal in its life element.
In other words, it probably works fine, at least in most cases, to adopt some of the life energy of a certain animal by eating it, or a certain animal part by eating that.
Before you get too excited about eating animals, however, may I suggest that plants are the higher way.
We have discovered that every known vital chemical in the human body is found somewhere in the plant kingdom. Some have observed that this is a good argument for the garden of Eden concept -- the human body as it is today (mortal) was formed from the dust of this earth, via plants, which put every element in our bodies that eventually formed all body processes when, at the appropriate time, a special fruit was taken which transformed all others and put them into action.
Someone observed that there is some cryptic evidence that the "forbidden fruit" was some ancestor of the pomegranate, which contains in it, in usable form, both testosterone and estrogen.
While all of this is very interesting, the practical side of it is that there are plants in every corner of the globe that will replace and restore normal functions of every kind. There are plants that will regenerate every organ.
I had a colleague do some testing for me and my wife for what systems might need help. When he discovered her adrenal glands were low, he was quite insistent that to heal them we would absolutely have to use glandulars (desiccated, or otherwise modified bovine adrenal glands) and that there was no chance that herbs alone would heal them. After a few uncomfortable moments, we managed to thank him and extricate ourselves.
We went home and put her on my adrenal herbal formula which had her adrenal glands stable and rebuilt within two and a half weeks. Generally, I keep people on my adrenal formula for at least three months, however, to keep that system rebuilding the healthiest of cells for a while so that it will continue to be strong for life. In addition to my formula, we also used Genesis brand Goji berry juice (which is a brand that's pure and I find it at least good to very good in potency and quality).
My colleague apparently did not know that herbs could regenerate at least as good as glandular medicines. Perhaps, however, in the reality he was aware of, his point of view was just as valid. Sometimes, the overall "vibration" or awareness of an individual will dictate what sort of medicine works best for him or her. If a person is in a lower state, s/he will need medicines of a secondary sort, unless that person is willing to raise his or her state while healing.
In this case of being in a lower state, glandulars, refined minerals, vitamins or chemicals, or even drugs might be the most appropriate choices.
By lower, I do not mean to condemn anyone, this life is a journey, not a destination, and it is for individuals, not for their neighbors. It does no one any sort of good to compare ground with their neighbor and to find him or herself worse off or better off than the neighbor.
Likewise, if drugs work best for you, or if glandulars do, this is not my business. I am only here to explore the realities of what I know, which are herbal -- meaning whole plant—medicines.
So with that introduction, let's talk about herbs for a few minutes.
Using herbs safely is a worry that many people have, which I often scoff at. This is because any truly dangerous herbs were abandoned many years ago by all responsible herbalists. The "dangerous" herbs in use today are many times safer than the safest of OTC (over the counter) drugs. They are safer, statistically speaking, than strawberries, which kill many people each year due to allergic reactions.
Still, anyone can be allergic to anything. This includes herbs and an allergic reaction should be noticed and appropriate action taken in that event when taking herbs.
People are far less likely to be allergic to herbs, though, because of the scarceness of those substances in the normal diet and because of the other actions of herbs that tend to either inhibit allergies or reduce the cause of allergic responses.
The real questions about herbs in use today are not about overall safety -- anyone who drinks alcohol or uses aspirin has little business worrying about the safety of the herbs in use today. The real questions, instead, revolve around drug interactions with herbs.
This is particularly difficult to answer because little research is done on the subject. Having said that, far more research has been done on it than most people think. One of the resources that I use is Dr. Duke's database of herbs. There you can find nearly all known herb-drug interactions.
Empirically, however, I have had probably two people report actual drug interference in the last eight years. In both cases the drug got stronger and less was needed while taking the herb.
Still, if you are taking a drug that might kill you or if you are taking a drug that your life depends on, you should seek the guidance of someone who has had plenty of experience and training about herb and drug interactions to guide you before you start taking this or that.
For those who are on medications for pain or discomfort, which are not likely to kill you the first time you miss the recommended dose, there are probably few to no real concerns over herb use. Of course, if you notice something, you should talk to someone who can help you.
Generally, herbs (unlike drugs) do not sit around in your body for weeks or longer after you stop taking them. If you have an interaction, stop for a few days and see if it goes away. If it does, you can suspect the herb. If it does not, something else is going on.
Sometimes, there is an overlap that can be confusing. For example, an herb might clean out the lymphatic system and toxic debris can travel to the heart and a heart arrhythmia can develop. At home, I would simply start using a heart herbal formula or maybe just motherwort tincture, but for some this can be quite upsetting. The herb might get the blame, though it was really trying to do you a favor.
After all, the herb did not put the toxic debris in your lymphatic system -- you did that!
This gets us ready for using herbs effectively.
There are three categories of using herbs that we shall discuss here:
1. Allopathy replacement: This means you use an herb to replace a drug, like using St. John's wort instead of an antidepressant or using fava beans to prevent breast cancer instead of Tamoxifen.
2. Modulation: This means you are trying to change a pattern or level of activity in the body. This would be like using burdock root for skin eruptions or ginkgo to increase circulation to the brain or Echinacea to activate or normalize the immune system.
3. Regeneration: This is where you actually attempt to rebuild the tissue in an area or organ or gland that is damaged, malformed or depleted.
Allopathy mixed with modulation is a very common way to use herbs. This is what most herbalists do. Using herbs this way requires some method of establishing a dosage. For this reason, many herbalists use muscle testing. While hugely subjective, muscle testing, when done prudently, allows the bodies of the practitioner and the client to communicate some preferences about how the herbs are used.
Another option is to research, as Dr. Duke does (mentioned before) what percentages usually exist of chemicals in plants and what the effective dose of that chemical probably is. In his books, Dr. Duke does a marvelous job of making recommendations based on this kind of research.
This concern might be easily overstated, however, since when the body is given larger doses of herbs (which have much food value) the excess is either easily excreted or the use of it is modified. Indeed, some herbs become less effective in larger doses because the body will tend to use the herb differently.
This might not produce the desired result, but it probably will not hurt you.
Some of my favorite allopathic and modulating herbs are:
* Rosemary for elevating mood and for brain electricity -- I usually recommend three capsules twice-thrice daily.
* Ginger for nausea or digestive aid -- I usually recommend doses of 5 capsules all the way up to two tablespoons or an ounce of the fresh juice.
* Ginger for chronic pain -- I usually recommend at least a table spoon of ginger twice daily, or at least 16 capsules daily. Often this is an effective cure, as well as a palliative treatment.
* St. John's wort for low serotonin -- low serotonin leaves the person feeling unable to deal with the basic difficulties of life without feeling overloaded. I usually recommend a high quality St. John's wort tincture (I like Herb Pharm and Herbs Etc.) taken by the ½ dropper full three to five times daily.
* Motherwort for heart arrhythmia -- this is usually a tincture (as above) and is taken in ¼ dropper full doses as often as needed, sometimes in excess of 8 times daily.
* I-Charge (my recipe, found on www.kalsschool.com downloads page; consists of equal parts habanero, garlic and Echinacea tincture) for any respiratory congestion or any acute infection -- this formula is very powerful and it is not uncommon to only need a half-dropper full to completely manage symptoms of congestion. For stubborn cases, I recommend 3 droppers full, five times daily.
* Celery seed for gout prevention -- while celery seed might help allay gout, especially mild cases, it really shines for prevention. We are indebted to Dr. Duke for this very effective remedy. I recommend 2-3 capsules daily.
* Yucca stalk for joint inflammation -- this takes about 10 capsules to work as well for me as one Aleve, but then again, yucca is not going to harm me in any way and will actually help improve most conditions of acute inflammation or even chronic inflammation.
* Milk thistle for liver diseases of all kinds and as an antidote to liver poisoning (such as from mushrooms) -- this is one place where you might want to use standardized extracts. Usually, I get a high quality milk thistle seed (the darker the color of the seed, the better it is supposed to be) and give it out by the tablespoon one time daily. Milk thistle also protects the liver.
* Ginkgo biloba for increased circulation to the brain -- this herb helps keep neural synapses synapsing as they should. In spite of the amazingly promising research on ginkgo for Alzheimer's and senility, it still gets overlooked most of the time by practitioners and physicians. Two capsules per day will probably work for most people as a prevention or treatment. I like this coupled with two or three ounces of apple cider vinegar in a gallon of distilled water per day for Alzheimer's disease.
Regeneration of organs and tissues is another matter. This requires an understanding of how to combine herbs. For regeneration, the herb that regenerates the tissue/organ has to be combined with an herb that will go to that specific area and another herb or multiple herbs that nourish the tissue specifically as well as support the processes that tissue is supposed to be doing while the organ heals.
This last part is important in order to give the organ or tissue a break without causing great distress to the person who is healing. The body will tend to give the break, whether there is support to replace the action of that organ or not, whenever the nutrition and medicine is present to heal a particular organ.
This is traditionally known as a healing crisis. It feels like a crisis because the body goes on hiatus -- or at least the targeted part of it does -- while the opportunity to heal a weak/damaged tissue is seized by the very wise body.
The combining of herbs is both an art and a science that is too lengthy to deal with here in any detail, but suffice it to say that if an organ needs anything more than a kick-start, wise formulation is indicated.
Often I consult with people using cascara sagrada all by itself for bowel problems, for example. If the bowel just needs a quick awakening, that is fine, but otherwise, if the bowel has a long term problem, a good healing and regenerating herbal formula is needed for the bowel.
Thank you for reading and sharing this journey with me.
Until next time,
Kal Sellers, MH
About the authorKal Sellers, MH currently operates KalsSchool.com and teaches a 2-year curriculum for Natural Medicine, via live teleclasses.
Kal is a Master Herbalist and holds several other certificates and licenses for hands-on healing modalities. He maintains a current practice in the Atlanta area.
Kal and Traci have six children, the last four of which were delivered at home. They live now in Powder Springs, GA where they teach live classes on food and medicine. Kal is also a full time Chiropractic student.
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