Many people who do not want to become dependent on prescription drugs, begin a cycle of economic dependenace government financial asssistance or endure long stays in hospitals are turning to naturopathy and herbalism. Records of Native American, Roman, Egyptian and Hebrew medical practices shows that herbs have been used safely to cure almost every known illness for centuries. However although herbs are considered to be natural keep in mind that they are also in a sense dherbsassortedrugs. After all, all that the pharmaceutical industry really is a business that is solely based on their ability to isolate the powerful ingredient in these plants and sell them for a lot more money. In Europe prescribing herbal remedies is as common as the prescribing of pharmaceutical drugs.

Although it is true that herbs are less likely to cause side effects realize that many of them are very potent. You should also be aware that the compounds in some herbs also interact with other medications. For instance you would never take valerian in combination with a drug lorezapam unless you wanted to end up in a stupor that could lead to a coma. Always consult with a physician or naturopath if you are on long-term medication and wish to take herbs as well.

Most herbal preparations should be used with the same type of caution that you would use when you buy any kind of over the counter preparation. Read the labels. Many of the better manufacturers will tell you on the label what the herb’s side effects might be.

The fresh leaves, barks and roots of herbs can be used n their natural form or they can be found in the form of capsules, tablets, liquid supplements, bark pieces, teas, powders, extracts, tinctures, cream lotions, oils and salves. You can also buy the whole leaves of herbs, berries, flowers, seeds and bark in some health food stores.

There are numerous ways to safely use herbs –

Compress – A compress is a cloth soaked in a warm or cool herbal tea that is applied directly on the injured area. Never use a compress on an open bleeding wound!

Decoctions and Infusions – A tea is made form the bark root, seed or berry of a plant. Never boil a herb or you will remove healing compounds. Decoctions made from herb pats should only be simmered for twenty to thirty minutes.

Essential Oils –Essential oils are derived from herbs or other plants through the process of steam distillation or cold pressing. They are usually mixed with vegetable oil or water and are used as a mouth, ear or eye wash or as an inhalant, douche or tea. You can also use these oils as massage oils. There are two very important things to remember when using essential oils. First of all – essential oils should always be used diluted before you apply to them to the body and second of all – never apply essential oils to a cat, as the results could be fatal.

Extracts – Extracts are made by pressing herbs with a heavy hydraulic pres and soaking them in alcohol or water. Excess alcohol or water is allowed to evaporate and this yields a concentrated extract. Extracts are very effective for people who are severely ill or who have malabsorption problems. Keep herbal extracts out of the reach of children especially if they are packaged in a formula that tastes good.

Herbal Vinegars – Herbs are immersed into raw apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar or malt vinegar and left to stand for two weeks. Herbalist say that you can use this concoction for years however to be on the safe side – use all herbal vinegars within three months.

Ointments and Salves – An extract, tea pressed juiced or powdered form of the herb is added to a salve that is applied to an affected area. Never apply an ointment to an open bleeding wound.

Poultice – A poultice is a heated moist mast of herbs combined with mustard or flour that is spread on muslin or a similar cloth and then worn on an inflamed or sore area of the body for up to twenty-four hours. The purpose of a poultice is to relieve pain and inflammation.

Powder – Perhaps this does not need explaining but it is when the useful part of the herb is ground up into powder, which is then made into capsules or tablets. When taking capsules or tablets that contain herbs make sure that you are taking the correct dosage of effective compounds or active ingredients.

Syrup – Herbal syrup is made by adding the herbs to sugar and water and boiing it down. When taking syrup be sure to take the recommended dosage or you could overdose or not get enough of the active ingredients. Diabetics may not want to take herbs.

Tinctures – Tinctures are a well preserved formed of fresh herbs. The herbs are preserved in alcohol, brandy or vodka. There are also no-alcohol tinctures available. There are a couple of things that you should know about tinctures in order to use them safely. First of all – never touch the tincture dropper to your tongue or mouth and replace it in the bottle as you could contaminate the solution. Secondly – alcoholics or people who are sensitive to alcohol should not use alcohol-based tinctures and thirdly – non – alcoholic tinctures should be stored in the refrigerator or the ingredients could spoil and make you sick.

If you are in a position where it is recommended that you take several herbs at once for a certain disorder it is best to alternate them so that you obtain the benefits of each. Also do not store herbs in clear glass jars or colored glass jars as their potency can be destroyed by light.

For more information about herbs natural pain relief care and the various options we offer such as naturopathic testing, iv therapy and mesothrapy feel free to visit the Pinewood Natural Healthcare Centre website that has a list of full services and products at or call our Toronto Office at (416)-656- 8100. We also have an office in Pickering, Ontario at (905)-427-0057. You can also email us at and we would be happy to answer any question that you have about our holistic health services.

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