Herb Basics: A Beginner's Guide to Herbs

From seeing an herbalist to understanding standardized extracts, we've got you covered.

| March/April 2000

  • Peppermint leaf helps soothe the stomach.
    J. Coca
  • Ginkgo is added to many foods on the market today.
    J. Coca


Even though homeopathic products are often found right next to herbal products on store shelves, homeopathy is a healing system entirely different from herbal medicine.

On homeopathic product labels, a product’s strength is expressed as a combination of a number and a letter, such as 1x or 1c. The strength refers to the dilution of the original substance in water or ethyl alcohol. For example, if 1 part of the original substance is added to 9 parts of water or ethyl alcohol, this is called a 1x (decimal) dilution, or 1 part in 10. Dilutions are also made on a centesimal scale, or 1 part in 100, yielding 1c, 2c, and so on.

Both forms of dilutions, also known as potencies, can be repeated many times. The higher the number on the bottle, the stronger the homeopathic product. Low potencies (1x to 30x, or 1c to 15c) are sufficient for most ailments.

Herbalists prescribe therapeutic doses of herbs to stimulate healing, somewhat like taking an aspirin for a headache. Homeopathy is based on the idea of “like cures like,” the belief that minute amounts of a substance can eliminate the symptoms that large amounts of the substance create.


Seeing an herbalist is a lot like seeing a doctor—a doctor fifty years ago, that is.

Many herbalists liken their approach to that of physicians of the past: Herbalists listen patiently and try to determine symptoms, and they use time-honored diagnostic techniques such as checking reflexes, ­palpating the ­abdomen, feeling the pulse, and looking at the tongue.

7/29/2016 3:45:33 AM

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