Herbalism is the study of herbs for their healing properties. Herbs have been used for their medicinal properties for thousands of years. Herbs can be found growing in the natural world. The term Herb refers to any plant with leaves, seeds, roots, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume.
Herbalists are people who have studied the uses of herbs and are knowledgeable in the properties and qualities in order to approach each individual situation and provide a holistic option to support the system in healing and finding balance. Focusing on the underlying cause of the condition, instead of the problem, herbalists are able to recommend herbs that support the body as a whole.
Herbal medicine is plant-based medicine and is the oldest form of medicine we know of. Archaeological evidence indicates that the use of medicinal plants dates back to the Paleolithic age, approximately 60,000 years ago. Written evidence of herbal remedies dates back over 5,000 years to the Sumerians, who compiled lists of plants.
A huge variety of plants can be used in a medicinal way, with each part of the plant having different medicinal qualities and requiring different approaches. Often, both fresh and dried plant parts can be used, but this will depend on the herb. See the botany database at Wondrous Roots, Keene NH: https://shopwondrousroots.com/rebeccas-medicinal-herb-database/.
Herbs are made up of complex constituents that have unique qualities. These qualities can support the body to heal and overcome illness. All herbs will have their own uses and trained herbalists will be able to recommend the appropriate herb for the condition you’re seeking help with.
Herbs can be used singly (known as ‘simples’) or mixed with other herbs to create a formula. Herbalists may recommend a formula they’ve made and used before, or they may make something unique to you.
It is important that when seeking advice and engaging in the services of an herbalist to confirm their base of knowledge by asking for their experience and who they have studied under.
Teas – soaking herbs in hot water for up to 15 minutes.
Infusions – steeped herbs in boiling or almost boiling water for a set amount of time.
Syrups – a thick liquid made with herbs
Poultices – moistened herbs wrapped in a cloth and pressed on local site
Decoction – similar to infusions, typically soaked longer and using the harder parts of the plant.
Lotions – infusions or decoctions made into a smooth liquid
Compress – a wrung out cloth that’s been steeped in an infusion or decoction
Steam inhalations – heating water with herbs to create steam and carefully inhaling the steam produced
Tinctures – soaking herbs for an extended period of time in alcohol, water or glycerin. Measurements are specific and length of time is important.
Oil-based – soaking herbs for a specific period of time in oil for topical applications.
Powders – dehydrated herbs
Gargles and mouthwashes
Pessaries and suppositories