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“What is that?”
Over the last several years, you’ve probably seen friends, family members, and celebrities talk about “herbalism” and “herbal remedies,” using unfamiliar terms and strange-looking photos. Suddenly, everything herbal started appearing on blogs, social media feeds, and online stores.
If you grew up without practical knowledge of these herbal remedies, however, these posts probably led to more questions.
“What’s an herbal remedy?”
“How are herbal remedies prepared?”
“Where can I learn more about herbal remedies?”
If you’re asking those questions, then you’ve come to the right place. This post will answer those questions, diving into herbal remedies, how to prepare them, and where you can learn more about these exciting “new” discoveries!
What are Herbal Remedies?
When someone says herbal remedies, they’re referring to a preparation that uses primarily herbal material (e.g., a leaf, root, flower, seed, bark).
The American Herbalists Guild describes herbal remedies (which they call “herbal medicine”) in this way:
“Herbal medicine is the art and science of using herbs for promoting health and preventing and treating illness. It has persisted as the world’s primary form of medicine…While the use of herbs in America has been overshadowed by dependence on modern medications the last 100 years, 75% of the world’s population still rely primarily upon traditional healing practices, most of which is herbal medicine.”
In this context, the word “herb” means any plant part, whether it is the actual leaf or another part, like a seed, root, or flower.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Yes, this is the same sage found in stuffing and sausage, and it also has a rich herbal history. Read “Sage Benefits – One Herb, Many Uses” to learn more.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
The pretty flowers from this marigold plant are also popular among herbalists. Watch “Harvesting and Using Calendula” to learn more.
White Willow & Black Willow (Salix alba, Salix nigra)
According to this blog post, willow bark contains salicin, an anti-inflammatory compound. Read “Willow Bark Tea – Natural Pain Relief” to learn more.
Chili (Capsicum annuum, Capsicum frutescens)
Yes, this is the hot pepper found in your favorite spicy meal! Read “How I use herbs: Chilli” to learn more.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Commonly found in yellow mustard and Indian dishes, there’s much more to learn about this rhizome (and related plants). Read “How I use herbs – ginger, galangal and turmeric” to learn more.
How are Herbal Remedies Prepared?
Herbalists use many preparation methods.
Teas are made by mixing water with herbs and allowing the mixture to rest, so the herbs infuse into the water. Usually, these are made with hot water, but cold-brew teas also exist. (Source.)
Tinctures and extracts are made by mixing herbs with a liquid solvent, usually alcohol or glycerin. Once again, this mixture is allowed to rest, so the herbs infuse into the alcohol/glycerin. Finally, the tincture/extract is strained to remove any plant material. (Alcohol and glycerin help preserve the mixture, so these preparations store much longer.) (Source.)
Making infused oils is very similar. Instead of water, alcohol, or glycerin, an oil is used for the extraction process. (Sometimes heat is used, also.) (Source.)
Salves are quite thick, and they are a wax/oil/herb mixture that’s applied externally to the skin. Usually, an herbal oil is used to prepare the salve. (Source.)
Also applied externally, poultices are made by pulverizing plant material and (sometimes) adding additional liquid for binding purposes. (Source.)
I haven’t mentioned all of the preparation choices available; these are just the simplest, most common methods.
Where Can I Find More Information on Herbal Remedies?
Blogs and websites dedicated to herbal remedies and similar topics keep appearing online. Start with these links and work outward.
Using Herbs – Specific Herbs
Using Herbs – Specific Information
Growing & Preserving Herbs
Though the internet has provided a virtual bookshelf, nothing beats a real hardcopy. Here are some titles you can purchase online or borrow from your local library:
- Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification by Thomas J. Elpel
- Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family
- The Herbal Apothecary: 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them by JJ Pursell
- The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook: A Home Manual by James Green
- Peterson’s Field Guide: Western Medicinal Plants and Herbs by Christopher Hobbs & Steven Foster
- Herbal Healing for Children by Demetria Clark
Utilizing more traditional learning methods, many herbal schools and herbalists around the country feature top-notch training courses on herbal remedies.
The Herbal Academy
The Herbal Academy is an international school of herbal arts and sciences, offering high-quality, affordable herbal study programs for students online at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels.
They celebrate the community-centered spirit of herbalism by collaborating with a wide diversity of herbalists and medical professionals to create an herbal school that presents many herbal traditions and points of view.
Their course educators including leading herbalists such as Steven Foster, Matthew Wood, Bevin Clare (American Herbalists Guild President), and Anne McIntyre. Other notable contributors include Pamela Spence, Steve Kippax, Emily Ruff, Katheryn Langelier, and dozens of other medical professionals, clinical herbalists, and family herbalists.
Beyond Off Grid + Other Courses
It doesn’t have to be an herbal school, either. Beyond Off Grid’s online courses focus on topics like homesteading, but they also offer a few sessions on herbal remedies, home medical preparedness, and ways to use herbs in everyday life.
That’s a lot for beginners, yes. But if you start with the resources in this post, you’ll make fast progress. Before you know it, you won’t be a beginner any longer.
Start today…and let us know what you discover!