The family of botanical's referred to as herbs have played in important role in medicine around the world for thousands of years. From Native Americans to Stone Age hunters and gatherers herbs and of late, herbology, have played a role. As far back is 5500 years ago it has been shown that the European cultures employed herbs for medicinal purposes. The recently discovered remains of a 5500-year-old European referred to as The Ice-Man, had in his possession a leather pouch which has been determined to be the oldest yet discovered first aid kit. In his first aid kit and The Ice-Man had in number of herbs which are known for their effective medicinal properties.
Many people around the world are avid believers in the powers of herbal medicine. Indeed, many of the pharmaceutical products are derivatives of natural substances and compounds found in herbs around the world. Even today, the rainforests of the world are being scoured for clues to hidden and until now undiscovered herbs containing powerful medicinal properties.
Because herbs can and often do have powerful compounds, they ought to be viewed and handled and used with respect, care and caution. Indiscriminate use without regard for interactions between multiple herbs taken simultaneously, can often lead to too dangerous medical conditions. Individuals who wish to employee the powers of herbs in their pursuit of their own and/or their families medical care, should first seek the guidance of experts well versed in the use of herbal medicine.
There are many ways in which herbs can be prepared to be used to medicinal purposes:
Decoctions are a of tea prepared from the bark, seed, root, fruit, or leaf of the plant. In order to preserve the integrity of the compounds within the herb, the decoctions should be simmered for about 20 minutes and never boiled.
Compresses are merely cloths soaked in a warm or even cool herbal solution and applied directly to the injured area.
Essential oils are obtained through steam distillation and/or cold pressing. Cold pressing is often considered the desirable process. Mixed with vegetable oil or water the oil can be used internally and externally for various medicinal purposes.
Extracts are obtained by compressing herbs typically with a hydraulic press while soaking them in alcohol or water. The alcohol or water is allowed to evaporate, the remaining substance is a concentrated extract. Extracts are the most common forms of herbal remedies found on the shelf of health food stores in the U.S.. They are also the most effective form of herbal substance used as a remedy. Alcohol free extracts a desirable to individuals who are recovering alcoholics, concerned about being exposed to alcohol and/or the alcohol solution to which the extract is packaged. Alcohol free extracts are also considered to be more desirable because of quality. Since extracts are highly concentrated amounts of the chemical composition, care should be taken to avoid over use.
Herbal vinegars are merely herbs which a put into various types of vinegar preparations and allowed to steep for several weeks.
Infusions are prepared by taking the flowers and leafy parts of the plant and steep them for 5 to 10 minutes in hot water in order not to destroy the benefits of the compounds. Care should be taken never to boil the compound as boiling will often destroy the effectiveness of the delicate chemicals within.
Ointments can be prepared by taking any of the previously discussed preparations and mixing them with a salve which can be applied externally to the affected areas.Poultice is a preparation of soft moist herbs spread between muslin cloth or another comparable cloth and placed over the affected area of the body for typically 24 hours.
Powder is prepared by grinding up the desirable portion of the herb into a powder. The powder can be then placed into capsules all made into tablets.
Syrup is prepared by joining herbs and various types of sugar which is then boiled into syrupy compound.
Tinctures are prepared from fresh herbs placed into a container with an unspecified amount of alcohol; the resulting liquid is a concentrated herbal extract. This form of herb extract referred to in herbology as tincture and can be kept for prolonged periods of time. Typically, the method of taking the tincture is usually under the tongue.