We previously talked about Essential oils, but there is the plant itself. It can be dried, pressed, eaten, drank, or ingested in capsules.
Short history on plant based medicine
When compared to the timeline of human history, modern medicine hasn’t been around that long. Medicine has a much longer history than the modern pharmaceutical industry. Humankind has used medicines for thousands of years. But the medicines used before our modern knowledge of science were natural medicines, making use of the medicinal qualities of what nature provides for us.
The herbal medicines that have always existed still work today, just as they have throughout history. What was once our sole medicine still exists, even though the number of people who have knowledge of these natural remedies has dwindled. It is our hope that this book will help you relearn and pass on this lost knowledge.
Herbal medicine is often scoffed at by the pharmaceutical industry and yet it is the grandparent of much of that same modern medicine.
Many of today’s pharmaceuticals try to replicate what nature provides. Most of what we call “medicines” are artificial creations that have been slightly chemically altered from nature. This is necessary, as patent laws don’t permit filing a patent on something that exists naturally.
Thus, the large pharmaceutical labs have to come up with a suitable alternative and many of their products have serious side effects. This isn’t to say that modern-day medicine and herbal medicine can’t coexist. They can. But many new medicines can be easily replaced by herbs at a fraction of the cost and risk – to both our wallets and our bodies.
What if there were only plants available?
In a post-apocalyptic world, these herbal medicines may be the only thing available to us. If modern manufacturing and distribution methods become unavailable, we will have to rely on what can be grown locally. Many of those who have knowledge of herbal medicine are already growing and tending the necessary plants and have learned how to turn those plants into usable medicines.
One of the advantages of growing and using your own herbs, as opposed to buying herbal supplements at the local health food store, is that you know how fresh they are and how they’ve been grown. The sooner you can prepare and store your herbs for use, often the more potent they are. At the same time, you will know exactly what is in any herbal mixture that you create, giving you the peace of mind that there are no additives or fillers, and only the herbs you want and need.
All herbal medicines start as living beings. They are not always what most people traditionally think of as herbs. Medicines come from trees, flowers, roots, mushrooms, lichens, and more. While those who are interested in herbal medicines tend to grow an herb garden, some are harvested from plants that grow in the wild. It is a useful skill to learn how to identify medicine in the wild. When looking at pictures for plant identification, be sure to look at pictures that depict plants in the various stages of their life cycle. A good plant identification guide for your area is essential. Many people know flower identification; but when the plants are not in flower, they can’t identify them. Considering how short the flowering season is for
most plants, that severely limits the amount of time for harvest.
Before even thinking about harvesting herbs, it is necessary to understand how the herb will be used; specifically, what part of the plant will be used for medicinal purposes. Never assume that the whole plant carries the same chemical compounds. Often, only the leaves or the flower will provide what you need; but in some cases, it will be the bark of a tree or a piece of root that you will need to harvest.
It is best to harvest herbs early in the day, after the dew has gone, but before the hot sun can dry out the essential oils. Whenever possible, avoid harvesting the whole plant, unless it is a plant that needs to be collected whole.
If you are harvesting leaves you will usually cut off small branches, making it easier to dry them. For flowers, wait until they develop fully and harvest them as soon as possible after they have fully opened. If you are harvesting only the seeds, you’ll need to wait until the seeds mature and the seed pod dries on the stem before harvesting. We give harvesting instructions for almost every herb in this book.
If you are cutting part of a stem, such as harvesting stinging nettle, be sure to leave at least a few inches of leafy stem, with at least two sets of leaves on it, so that the plant doesn’t die. Always cut right above the point where the leaves are. With many plants, like basil, you can cut the plant down to a third its original size without killing it. Always reseed, replant, and tend the wild when possible. Harvest ethically and with great care.
Your Wellness Cabinet
In our next discussion we can cover different methods to dry Herbs and/or Plants
† These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice and treatment from your personal physician. Readers are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither the publisher nor the author takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person reading or following the information in this book. All readers, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition or supplement program.