If you’re a beginner to natural remedies, you might want to consider a few things before you purchase or concoct different recipes. Alternative medicine, especially when using herbs, can be just as complicated as conventional medicine because it incorporates Eastern and Western concepts of medicine and examines the individual from a holistic point of view. For instance, some holistic health practitioners and N.D.’s use a diagnosis method based on the Chinese principles of yin and yang constitutions. They also examine the individual’s energy levels, whether they have an internal or external condition, an excess or deficiency, etc. The diagnosis and treatment process can become very extensive if you are new or lack the expertise in treating acute and chronic ailments. However; you can empower yourself with a few helpful tips when deciding how to treat common illnesses such as colds, the flu, headaches, and more.
[Sidebar: this article is not meant to treat or diagnosis any diseases or illnesses. It is provided for educational purposes. I am not a trained medical professional or registered herbalist, so please consult your health care physician before considering treatment for acute and chronic illnesses]
1. Know the condition that you are trying to treat. This is probably the most important tip you should consider because many symptoms can be misdiagnosed for other aliments. This is where you definitely want to consult a professional health care physician to make sure you are treating the right condition. With that said, do not completely disregard any pertinent treatments or medicine the doctor gives to you. Most beginner herbal remedies are used to aid in the body’s natural healing process and should not be the main source of treatment if you are treating something serious like pneumonia or the flu. If you want to choose a holistic approach over a conventional, please consult a Naturopathic Doctor, a registered medical herbalist, or a holistic healthcare provider.
2. Choose herbs that will aid in the individual’s natural healing process. One of the most difficult aspects of natural medicine is choosing the right herbs and right remedies for the condition you’re treating. Write down all of the symptoms you or the individual are experiencing (both internal and external symptoms). This list will help you analyze which herbs you are going to need and how they interact with your body. Another Chinese method you can consider is determining if you or the individual have an excess or deficient condition.
An excess or deficient condition can be cold or hot natured. Excessive conditions occur when there is an excessive amounts of foods, attitudes, weather, etc. that brings the body into an imbalance. Deficient conditions usually occur with most chronic conditions (such as anemia, allergies, etc) and are usually caused by nutrient or organ deficiency. Choose herbs that will complement the body’s natural healing process. Check out the following table for more information:
|Excessive Cold Condition||Excessive liquid intake, cold weather, too many raw foods like fruits, leafy greens vegetables (not enough raw hardy foods like seeds, nuts, carrots, etc), drugs that expand the consciousness and emotions such as fear and sympathy tend to harm the functions of the organs and cause them to decrease in activity||Coldness, body aches, low body temperature, bloating, digestive disturbances, darkness under the eyes, sluggishness, cold hands and feet, muscle cramps and spasms, and the desire for warmth, white coating on tongue||Generally treated with cooked foods, broths, warm baths, stimulating and tonifying herbs that have an acrid, aromatic, and sweet flavor. Treatments to treat excessive cold conditions are used to increase body heat and improve circulation, digestion, and elimination in order to facilitate nutrient oxidation and toxin elimination|
|Excessive Heat Condition||Diet high in meat, salt, tobacco, coffee, and other acid causing foods, hot weather, excessive excitement and grief, pathogens like bacteria, mucus and excessive toxins and lack of nutrients that cause the body to become overactive and stimulated||High fevers, thirst, recurrent sore throats, nervousness, painful sores, red face, red eyes, strong body orders, hypertension, gallstones, heart disease, dry skin, inflammation, burning hands and feet, infections, and desire for cool foods and water, yellow coating on tongue||Raw foods, fruits and vegetable juices, cool baths, anti-inflammatory herbs with a bitter taste, enemas, and a calming environment in order to reduce body head and eliminate excessive acid conditions|
|Cold Deficiency||Low energy and chronic conditions, deficient body heat and organ activity, injury, not recovering from sickness properly, nutrient deficiency, lack of exercise, drugs, depression, and basically any extreme that weakens body,||Low resistance to disease, lethargy, chills, poor circulation, poor eyesight, neuralgia, mucus discharge, frequent urination, weak bladder control, impotence, lower back pain, diminished hearing, weakness, etc. tongue generally has no coating and is moist with a pale tint||Treated with tonic, astringent, stimulating, nutritive, and warming herbal therapy. More nutrients and protein.|
|Heat Deficiency||Alternating hot and cold conditions with no clear cut symptoms like excessive heat condition. Usually caused by lack of protein, vitamin and mineral deficiency, poor blood, low calorie intake, and loss of blood.||More acute conditions, constipation, dry skin, ringing in ears, sore throats, skin eruptions, itching and alternating chills and fevers, premature aging, anemia, allergies, and loss of vitality.||Treated with tonic, cooling (antipyretic), and astringent herbs. Avoid using astringent herbs during dry conditions like dry coughs, dry skin, mouth, and throat because they contain tannic acid that is drying to the tissues. Also avoid stimulation because it will only worsen the problem when trying to tone and build the body|
3. Research the side effects and contraindications before use. Examining the side effects and contraindications is another important procedure before using a herbal remedy. If you are pregnant or taking medications, consult with your healthcare provider before attempting to use a herbal remedy. Some herbs can break down certain medications rendering them ineffective. For example, the herb comfrey should not be used in combination with any medications that might cause liver damage. Comfrey itself might cause liver damage if taken in large amounts because it contains chemicals called pyrrolizidine alkaloids or PAs. It can also increase the risk of liver damage if taken with with other medications that may harm the liver. Individuals with high blood pressure should avoid herbs that stimulate the heart and restrict the blood capillaries and arteries, like licorice root or ephedra. Make sure you are aware of any chronic illnesses that might counteract with your herbal remedy. WebMD is a great resource to find out more about herbal side effects and interactions.
4. Determine the proper dosage. Research the proper dosage for each herb you plan to use. You should also consider the age, gender, and disposition of the individual using the remedy. People who are older might require a smaller dosage than younger people. Women usually require smaller dosages than men due to their average weight, as well as people who are highly nervous.
5. Consider the proper preparation for different herbs. Some herbal remedies call for tea made from several herbs. According to The Doctor’s Book of Herbal Home Remedies, mix the herbs first before making the tea. If you are using the root (rhizome), bark, or hard parts of the herb, you will want to decoct the herb first and then steep the flower, leaves, and soft parts. A simple decoction involves simmering the hard parts of the herb in water for at least 5 to 30 minutes. Afterwards, use the decoction to steep (also called an infusion) the dried leaves or flowers.
You can also buy tinctures of different herbs that are used for most acute ailments. Tinctures are alcohol-based derivatives of plants and herbs. Alcohol is a great extractor of an herb’s natural healing properties and are usually more potent than teas. You can find these at your local health food store or pharmacy.
These are some very basic concepts to consider when searching for your herbal remedy. There are many other factors that come into play like the time of day, the primary and secondary symptoms, the individual’s diet, and more, but these tips will point you into the right direction when using herbal remedies for acute conditions. If you have any questions or are looking for a more intensive herbal remedy, be sure to contact a qualified healthcare professional or registered herbalist.
Santillo, H. (1984). Natural healing with herbs. Prescott: Hohm Press
The Doctors Book of Herbal Home Remedies, Forward by Varro E. Tyler