Mother Earth Living

Primer Choosing and using medicinal herbs

Botanicals tend to support the body's natural balance.
The Herb Companion Staff
January/February 1998
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The Meaning of a Drop

Liquid herbal extracts often are prescribed by the drop. But for a nation accustomed to ­teaspoons and premeasured pills, envisioning a drop of medicine may run against the grain. And who has time to count all of those drops, anyway?

This chart offers you a guide to your dropper. Note: While droppers can vary by size, manufacturers often mark the dropper with measurements (usually given in milliliters). Generally though, a standard dropper holds 1 milliliter of liquid.

Preferred Herbs

Echinacea and garlic are U.S. consumers’ favorite herbal medicines, a recent survey of health-food stores shows.

The two herbs, known for their cold-fighting abilities —and garlic for a host of other benefits—also were ranked numbers 1 and 2 in 1995 and 1996, according to the survey, conducted by Whole Foods magazine.

Bumped off the top ten list from last year are ma huang (ephedra), psyllium, Siberian ginseng, and cascara sagrada.

Here is the complete top ten list of list of consumers’ favorite herbs for 1997, with each herb’s 1996 ranking in parentheses.

1. Echinacea (1)
2. Garlic (2)
3. Ginkgo (4)
4. Goldenseal (5)
5. Saw palmetto (9)
6. Aloe* (12)
6. Ginseng* (3)
8. Cat’s claw (14)
9. Astragalus (21)
10. Cayenne (11)
* tied

“Chamomile Tea . . . has a wonderfully soothing, sedative and absolutely harmless effect.

It is consider­ed a preventive and the sole certain remedy for nightmares.”

—Mrs. M. Grieve
A Modern Herbal
(Tiger Books International, 1993;
first published by Jonathan Cope Ltd., 1931)

An Easy Beverage to Make

January marks the beginning of the year and the seemingly endless wait for spring; even though the days are becoming longer, nighttime darkness still begins early.

When the night seems too long and you can’t sleep, think of chamomile, which has been used for centuries as a mild sleep aid. A tea is easy to make. One caution, though: If you’re allergic to pollen of members of the aster family, such as ragweed, you may also be allergic to chamomile, which belongs to the aster family. For more ways to quell seasonal sluggishness, see “Fading the winter blues” on page 34.

Chamomile Tea

• 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried chamomile flowers
• 1 cup boiled water

1. Place the dried chamomile flowers in a strainer or teaball and put into a cup. Add the boiled water and let steep for five to eight minutes. Remove the flowers and sip.

Capsules, By Hand

Herbs for Health readers often ask about making their own capsules. This is easy to do, provided you have ready access to a ­natural or health-food store that sells powders in bulk along with empty capsules.

If you do, you may discover the advantages of making your own herbal capsules. For one thing, if you’re fairly experienced and/or are working with your health-care provider, you can make capsules to suit your specific needs. For another, by making your own capsules, you can make just the right number and avoid purchasing more than you need.

To fill a capsule, put the powdered herb in a shallow, flat dish or pan. Pull the capsule apart, then, using two hands, move each half of the capsule through the powder and toward each other, filling them as you go. Gently but tightly, push the capsule halves together and store in a dark glass bottle.

Drugs of Different Kinds

If you’re new to herbal medicine, you may be confused about the difference between botanical and pharmaceutical medicines, or the “natural versus synthetic” drugs. Knowing the difference between the two may help you make more effective decisions about your health care.

Based on the Botanical Medicine Status Manual, Central Canadian Herbal Practitioners Association, 1996

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