Someone asked me recently, "Why herbs? Why not use regular pharmaceuticals?" It's actually a pretty common question. We are so accustomed to using a pill for a headache, another pill for allergies, a syrup or a pill for colds, that we have entire cabinets in our homes dedicated to these bottles of pills, vitamins and syrups. There is no shortage of options whether one is looking to supplement their diet, replace a meal, or have a quick remedy on hand.
But what's the true norm? What common? Sure, a bottle of pills for headaches, aches, pains and fever is what's common for us, but is it normal? Is it really a "gold standard?" Is it really even safe? How do we know? Modern medicine is really still the "new kid." The predecessors to acetaminophen and aspirin were only introduced in the late 1880s. Compare that to herbalism, which is around 60,000 years old. Modern medicine, while it certainly has its place and benefits, has yet to stand the test of time. I can hear the replied now, that many of our medicines began as plants. That's true, however those that begin as plants have been chemically altered so much that the plant isn't really there anymore. A plant is so much more than just its parts, or just its constituents. When I make a tincture of white willow bark, for example, I'm not isolating any one particular chemical within the bark. I'm letting the entire plant part shine and let its chemicals work together. When a chemist makes aspirin, she or he is separating the plant's chemicals, thinking they are isolating only what they need. But what are the results? Aspirin can lead to ulcers, so now we have buffered aspirin, low dose aspirin, and I don't even know what other varieties, not to mention inactive ingredients which have their own effects on the body. And of course, another pill to address ulcers. But this doesn't happen with the herb. Could it be that plant constituents work synergistically to relieve pain and fevers, while not damaging our mucous lining, because the herbalist is not dissecting the plant at the molecular level and discarding what has been deemed useless?
Herbalism also takes a different approach than does western medicine. Western medicine has an ailment-centric approach. It assesses symptoms, provides a diagnosis, and then treats those symptoms or a disease. Herbalism, on the other hand, does not diagnose. It looks at the whole person, their constitution, and looks for signs of imbalance in the body's different systems, and how these all relate. An herbal formula will support the human body's various functions, rather than attack a disease. For example, if someone has a cold, an herbalist might create a formula to boost lymphatic drainage, and help the immune system do the job it already knows to do. Herbalists see the body as an ecosystem, and sometimes that ecosystem needs a little help maintaining its equilibrium.
Herbalism also puts control back into the hands of the people. There is so much we can do for ourselves, and that is something that is particularly attractive to me. I don't just sell preparations and formulas. While I'm still pretty new at this, and will always be learning, I try to also teach as I go, showing friends and family how even the "weeds" in their own backyards can help them with everyday nutrition, or common complaints. There is something very liberating about being able to walk outside and know what plant will help a bee sting, for example.
And I hope I've been as careful as I think I have been in communicating that herbalists are not medical professionals. We do not practice medicine, or diagnose or treat disease. We are not doctors. What herbalists do (and to be clear, I'm still a student) is entirely different.
And this is only a glimpse. I didn't even touch on how the body processes herbs differently than pharmaceuticals or safety track records. Those are blog posts for another day. (But I will quickly say that while herbs are safer, not all are without side effects, and some can be very dangerous if not handled properly).
What's your reason for using herbs? Or maybe you're just delving in. What brought you to herbalism? I'd love to hear your story!
Peace, love and health!!
I want to tackle a topic that comes up very often in chatter groups for naturally minded parents. Let me preface this by saying that I understand where some parents are coming from on this one. We all want what's best for our kids, and for some of us, that means the most natural, and most effective, product we can find. There is a popular teething remedy on the market, and it consists of carrier oils and essential oils. So, people are buying a bottle of diluted essential oils. And, this is not limited to only one brand, so I'm not singling out one brand in particular.
So, first, we need to look at how these teething oils are being used in the first place. Product descriptions state to use these oils on baby's gums. So that's internal use right there. Gum tissue is very porous, and we have to assume that anything we put on our babies' gums is also getting into their bloodstream. Some parents might opt to rub the oil on the jawline near the erupting teeth, instead of rubbing it right on their gums. So, we have to look at dermal use, too.
Let's look at why internal use can be dangerous, since I know that's a point of divergence among parents. First, the mouth is full of mucous membranes. Mucous membranes line pretty much the entire gastro-intestinal system. Essential oils are highly concentrated botanical products, so even one drop of an oil could represent multiple pounds of the correlating herb. So the equation begs the question - if we wouldn't eat that much of any food in an entire dish, why would we use its concentrated equivalent in our mouths or our babies' mouths?? In many cases, it could be toxic. Even water can be toxic in large enough amounts, and it's not uncommon. I've seen it myself a few times. (And yes, it's actually called water intoxication). In the ca of essential oils, depending on the constituents, some can be caustic to our mucous membranes, causing internal burns. People will have varying levels of sensitivity, so it might not burn the first time, or even the tenth time, but it might be that eleventh application in the middle of the night that you or your little one experience the painful cumulative effects of internal use of caustic essential oils. (Which cannot be understated. We are talking about the possibility of second degree burns).
So which oils are mucous membrane and dermal irritants? The lists are a little on the longer side, and you can read what the NAHA has to say on it here. Of these, clove bud is common in teething applications. Clove, as an herb, has many benefits, it's analgesic properties among them. However, essential oil applications are not the same, and cannot be used interchangeably due to their high concentration. So, if you're looking for a teething oil, look for one that uses herbs infused in a carrier oil, rather than one that dilutes essential oils in a carrier oil. There's a big difference. You can also look for teething tinctures - this is when an herb or combination of herbs has steeped in what's called a menstruum - usually alcohol, but not always. These can be rubbed on the gums just the same. Both infused oils and tinctures can bring pain relief for a teething baby - and sleep for the whole family.
It's been a long time,. yet again! And so much has happened in this past year. Early intervention has filled our weekly calendar, we've rolled out new products, new labels, herb school has been in full swing for most of the year, we've been at baby expos and even the International Babywearing Conference. We're adding a baby in the next few months, a weekly blog post, and a seasonal newsletter. I am never more ambitious - or more exhausted - than when I'm pregnant. Ha!
We are nearing the end of our first cycle of subscription boxes (quite the learning experience), and I'm brainstorming for the next cycle. It's honestly hard to choose sometimes, when I'm learning so much, and want to share things faster than the pace I can keep up on social media. There's still time to get in on the last box in December, if you'd like a taste of what could be in store for next year's boxes. Just contact me directly if you're interested. I don't have a listing for those anywhere.
A word on the site shop. These are just a few product highlights. Prices are higher compared to my etsy shop because my listings here have to include shipping. That said, I will absolutely refund shipping overages within 24 hours of shipping, usually right away. I also do custom orders, so if you need a custom tea blend, tincture, salve or oil, contact me here, and I'll help you out. Lastly, I sell bulk herbs, too, so if you're looking for an ounce of this, or maybe even a pound of that, just ask.
Enjoy the new site!
I am the mama who is over the moon in love with her family and green living.