All of the ingredients for the remedies in this chapter can be found at natural food stores. With the increasing popularity of natural medicines, you can probably find most of them at many pharmacies and large supermarkets as well Although medicine cabinets are generally located in the bathroom, heat and humidity are damaging to herbs, essential oils, and supplements. Find a cool, dark, dry cabinet or closet in which to store your natural medicines.
When you are buying essential oils, always look for the best quality. The oils are distilled from particular plants and are at their most potent when pure, undiluted and unadulterated. They evaporate easily, so store them in tightly capped, dark glass bottles, and they will retain their potency for about three years. Caution: Unless indicated, do not apply essential oils directly to the skin (some oils can burn). Never take an essential oil internally unless a trained professional directs you to do so.
Many of the recipes in this chapter require you to make your own herbal remedies, so always select the finest quality herbs. Your herbal medicines will only be as potent as the herbs with which you make them. Look for herbs that are brightly colored and fragrant. Store each herb in its own tightly lidded glass container. Properly stored, herbs will retain their medicinal properties for one year. Herbal salves and oils will stay fresh for approximately six months if stored in the refrigerator.
Taking Herbal Remedies
Herbal medicines come in three forms: teas (infusions), capsules, and tinctures (extracts).You will gain the most benefit from herbal remedies if you know the best ways of preparing and taking them.
Caution: Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and women trying to conceive should consult a healthcare practitioner before taking any herbal medicine.
Herbal teas are the traditional and time-proven way to use herbs and are inexpensive. Teas are excellent for treating digestive upsets because the herbs quickly come into contact with the gastrointestinal tract. They are also useful for treating urinary tract infections because the fluids help flush the bladder. On the other hand, making a herbal tea is more time-consuming than taking a capsule or extract. Teas do not extract all of the medicinal properties of certain herbs, such as golden seal and kava, and some herbs have an unpleasant taste.
When You Should See Your Doctor
Natural remedies are effective for most of the common conditions that you would ordinarily self-treat. The following health problems and injuries require immediate medical attention:
- Bones that are fractured, broken, or dislocated
- Bites from animals or humans
- A high fever (equivalent to 40.5°C (105°F) in adults; 39.4°C (103°F) in children; 37.7°C (100°F) in infants under six months old), or any fever that persists for more than three days
- Injury to the head, neck, or spinal cord
- Unexplained lumps
- Puncture wounds and other severe wounds
- Third-degree burns or extensive second-degree burns
- Unconsciousness or recurrent dizziness
- Vomiting blood, vomiting that Persists for more than two days, or vomiting and diarrhoea in infants
Capsules are convenient and familiar. They provide exact doses and are an easy way to take herbs with less¬than-pleasant tastes. On the other hand, capsules contain dried herbs which are finely ground-a process that exposes more of the surface area of the herb to damage from heat, light, and oxygen, and speeds up loss of potency. Always buy capsules from a reputable manufacturer and use them within three months.
Tinctures, also known as liquid herbal extracts, contain a broader spectrum of the healing properties of a plant than teas. This is because certain compounds will dissolve in alcohol but not in water. Tinctures have a shelf life of between three and five years. Convenient to take, they are highly concentrated a quarter to half a teaspoon of extract is roughly equivalent to 250m1 (8fl oz) of herbal tea and are absorbed quickly by the blood. On the other hand, tinctures contain alcohol, which you may wish to avoid. Alcohol-free tinctures are made with vegetable glycerin, which is less effective at dissolving some compounds. Most of the alcohol in a tincture will evaporate if you measure the dosage into a cup and add a 60m1 (2fl oz) of boiling water. Allow to cool before drinking.
Standardized extracts are capsules or tinctures that are processed to contain a specific amount of what experts believe is the herb's primary active ingredient. But there may be other ingredients in the herb that are just as important. If you're treating a serious condition, such as high blood pressure (hypertension), it's a good idea to use a standardized extract. For general use, try a whole-herb extract first. If you don't get the results you want after a month, switch to a standardized extract and see if there is a noticeable difference. When in doubt, always consult a medical herbalist for guidance.
When to Take Herbs
Take liquid extracts in a small amount of warm water about 15 minutes before meals the herbs are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream on an empty stomach. Capsules are best taken after meals to reduce the possibility of stomach upset. Herbal teas can be taken either before or after meals.
Determining Dosages for Children
To tailor a dose of a natural medicine to a child.
Follow this Guidelines:
All the adult doses recommended in this chapter are for a 68kg ( I 501b) person: a child's dose should be adjusted in proportion to the child's weight For example. if the adult dose of a remedy is one teaspoon, the dose for a 23kg (50Ib) child would be one-third of a teaspoon. In general, teenagers can take adult doses. But always adjust the doses of medicines for children under 12 years of age. When in doubt, check with a qualified medical herbalist.
Your Natural Medicine Chest
The following herbs, essential oils, and other items are those that I consider indispensable for a basic natural medicine chest for the home:
- Arnica as a gel or cream for muscle strains and bruises.
- Calendula as a gel, cream, or salve for burns, cuts, scrapes, and insect bites.
- Chamomile as dried flowers for stress and stomach upsets.
- Echinacea as an extract or capsules for colds, flu, cuts, infections, and scrapes.
- Elderberry-as an extract for colds and flu.
- Epsom salts-for muscle soreness, relaxing, and relieving tension.
- Eucalyptus-as an essential oil for respiratory congestion and muscle soreness.
- Ginger-as fresh root for colds, respiratory congestion, nausea, and stomach upsets.
- Lavender-as an essential oil for stress, insomnia, and headaches.
- Sea salt-for sore throat gargles and for bath salts.
- Tea tree-as an essential oil for skin infections and insect bites.
- Valerian-as an extract for mild pain relief and insomnia.