While the leaves, roots, flowers, barks, and seeds we know as herbs are derived from plants found all around us, this does not mean that everyone can and should ingest every herb. It can be challenging to know what is safe, what dosages are recommended, and where to turn to find the answers. Finding trusted sources of information or knowing when to consult an expert can seem overwhelming, but it is so important to research before charging full steam ahead!
Turn on the television or open a magazine, and you will likely hear great hoopla about the latest “miracle herb.” Over-exuberant promoters and well-meaning health gurus seem to constantly be touting the “miraculous” properties of everything from Turmeric to Green Tea. As consumers, we can be lulled into a false sense of security—assuming that just because something is natural (or organic or non-GMO), it is perfectly safe to consume as much as we want. Caution, respect, and education are key!
Here are some general tips & guidelines for conducting your research and making informed choices:
- Start with identity and pay attention to Latin names. We list the plant family, genus, and species for all of our herbs because while common and folk names may be more well-known, these names are often shared among several plants across different regions, so the scientific identity of a particular herb becomes very important. It will help you in your research for possible allergens, contraindications (an herb that might not work well when taken with another herb or for people with specific conditions or symptoms), and sensitivities.
- Know your possible allergies and sensitivities. If you know you are allergic to specific foods, oils, or other natural ingredients, be sure to check the genus or family of plants of any herbs you are considering using medicinally. Some common plant families that can present sensitivities for people include: Asteraceae, Solanaceae, Fabaceae, Poaceae, and Juglandaceae. The Solanaceae, for example, encompasses foods like tomatoes (S. lycopersicum), potatoes (S. tuberosum), eggplant (S. melongena), and goji berries (Lycium chinense), and also many other shrubs, trees, and vines. The Fabaceae are commonly known as the bean, pea, and legume family. This may mean that if you have allergies to edible beans or peas (including peanuts, which are in the legume family), you might also be sensitive to alfalfa leaf, mesquite, or carob!
- Research uses, precautions, preparations, and dosages. This is where the work comes in! We do our best to provide as much information as we can regarding precautions, constituents, possible preparations and the like for products we carry, but this is by no means comprehensive. Since we are an herbal supplier and not qualified healthcare practitioners, we are unable to provide medical advice or recommendations by law - and for good reason! Each of us has unique needs and health histories, so doing our own research for healing is crucial. Mountain Rose offers many wonderful books written by experts and herbalists we trust and also share many resources for herbal education on our website. Remember, herbs are not one size fits all and it is possible to take too much or too little, or to make mistakes in the preparation.
- Consult an expert. We often suggest people consult a trusted health care professional for specific advice. This can be an herbalist, midwife, doctor, or another trained and educated resource. It can be tempting to try to self-diagnose or go DIY, but when it comes to one’s health, consulting those who know more can help decrease risk. If you are taking other medications, it is imperative to find out how herbs will interact. A skilled healer can help you tailor your healing journey to your individual needs.
Plants can provide gentle healing and promote a healthy lifestyle, but they can also be powerful medicine. By respecting the plants and knowing our bodies, we can live more harmoniously with our natural world.
AUTHOR: Kori is our Public and Media Relations Coordinator. A West Coast native, Kori is a seasoned nonprofit activist and community organizer. Having launched five adult kids, she spends her free time in her burgeoning organic and very urban “farm”—taming Heritage chickens, building top-bar beehives from reclaimed materials, baking, brewing, and preserving.