What is a herb?

A herb is a plant that does not have a woody stem and usually, dies back at the end of each growing season; 2. Any of various often aromatic plants used in medicine or as seasoning.

What is Herbalism?

Herbalism is the system, theory, or doctrine of herbs, usually advocated by those who specialize in herbs, who are called or labeled 'herbalist'

What makes one a Herbalist?

A person becomes a herbalist by claiming the title and diligently, faithfully, and consistently performing the duties of a herbalist. 

What are the duties of a Herbalist?

The duties of a herbalist includes studying and learning about herbs (hands on and from reading material) harvesting herbs, educating people about the many properties (medical or therapeutic and nutritive properties) and uses of herbs as well as properly administering herbs in various forms which includes decoctions, capsules, teas, extractions, balms, pessaries, etc.

How are herbs different from pharmaceuticals?

Most pharmaceuticals drugs are single chemical entities that are highly refined and purified and are often synthesized. In 1987 about 85% of modern drugs were derived from plants. Currently, Only about 15% of drugs are derived from plants. In contrast, herbal medicines are prepared from living or dried plants and contain hundreds  to thousands of interrelated compounds. Science is just beginning to demonstrate that the safety and effectiveness of herbs is often related to the synergy of its many constituents.  


How is herbal medicine different from conventional medicine?

The primary focus of the herbalist is to heal people as individuals irrespective of the disease or condition they have and to stimulate their inate healing power through the use of such interventions as herbs, diet and lifestyle. The primary focus of conventional physicians is to attack diseases using strong chemicals that are difficult for the body to process, or through the removal of organs. Not only does this ignore the unique makeup of the individual, but many patients under conventional care suffer from side effects that are as bad as the condition being treated. The philosophical difference  between herbalist and conventional physicians has profound significance. 


How can I know if a particular herb will work for me?

Medicine is an art, not just a science. No one can predict which herb will work best for every individual in all situations. This can only come with educated experimentation and experience or by seeking the assistance of those who are knowledgeable in clinical herbal medicine. The simpler the condition, the easier it is to find a solution. The more complicated the condition, the greater the need there is to seek expert advice


How long does it take for herbs to be effective?

The success of herbal treatment always depends upon a variety of factors including how long the condition has existed, the severity of the condition, the dosage and mode administration of the herb(s) and how diligently treatment plans are followed. It can be as short as 60 seconds when using a spoonful of herbal bitters for gas and bloating after a heavy meal; 20 minutes when soaking in a bath with rosemary tea for a headache; days when using tonics to build energy; or months to correct long-standing gynecological imbalances. Difficult chronic conditions can often take years to reverse.


How safe are herbs?

It depends on the herbs. Most herbs sold as dietary supplements are very safe. When used appropriately, the majority of herbs used by practitioners have no adverse side effects. A review of the traditional and scientific literature worldwide demonstrates that serious side effects from the use of herbal medicines are rare. According to Norman Farnsworth: "Based on published reports, side effects or toxic reactions associated with herbal medicines in any form are rare. In fact, of all classes of substances reported to cause toxicities of sufficient magnitude to be reported in the United States, plants are the least problematic." 


Do herbs expire?

It is very difficult to pin down an exact expiration date for most single herbs as they do not really expire, they lose potency or strength over time but will still have value. Unlike synthetic material or drugs, herbs can contain many constituents that contribute to their medicinal effects. Even if when we know what the active constituents are, there are often many of them in a single herb, each with different rates of degradation. Some herbs lose their effect more easily. Other herbs that possess more stable compounds such as alkaloids or steroids will last much longer.

A huge part of the degradation rate of herbs depends also on the storage conditions of the herb, & even on the quality of the herb before storage – how it was grown, harvested, dried & processed. If the product is left in hot places or open to sunlight then it will degrade much quicker than if it was stored in cool, dry place & sealed tightly.

A good rule of thumb is that herbs should be stored no longer than 2-3 years but many herbs will have great strength much longer than that. To determine if a an herb is still good you can check the appearance & aroma. Herbs that are no longer acceptable will have lost much of its vibrant color & will instead appear dull & faded. The bigger key though is to smell the raw materials to see if the potent aroma is still present.