Healing Herbs!

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Herbs have caught the imagination of mankind ever since its advent on the earth. They have been admired for their beauty and fragrance, and savored for their flavor, for thousands of years. Moreover, they have been used as medicines for common ailments and injuries like sore throat and battle wounds, as well as more difficult health conditions like hypertension and heart diseases, since the earliest of times.

All ancient systems of medicine have been based upon the use of herbs. All ancient civilizations of the world – Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese, as well as Greek and Roman – are known to have used herbs, not only for the treatment of various diseases but also for revitalizing the body and mind. Plants were even believed to possess mystical or supernatural powers to cure various ailments. It was as a result of these beliefs that many superstitions also grew round plants and herbs, like the belief in witches deriving their power from various herbal potions which was at its peak in Britain in the Middle Ages. Ironically, herbs were used even to counteract the effects of these evil powers. Garlic, hyssop, wormwood, all fell in this category of herbs.

Even in modern times, herbs have taken their rightful place as the ill effects of processed food and prolonged medication have come to be realized. Apart from their use as cures for various diseases in alternative systems of medicines, they are also being used in foods, beverages and cosmetics. In fact, they are a very important part of the shift towards a healthier lifestyle that recognizes their importance in maintaining and enhancing our health.

The way of using herbs may differ, but the purpose of using them always remains the same – to make them interact with our life processes taking place within our bodies. Whether they are used as food or medicine, for fragrance or for beauty, they should be used in a way that the body absorbs their active constituents in order to benefit from their properties. When the body absorbs these active constituents, they are circulated through blood to all its cells to positively affect the whole system. The effect of these active constituents is fundamentally different from that of modern medicine. While modern medicine imposes its effects on the body’s inherent healing mechanism and thus disturbs it, herbal constituents restore and strengthen it so that the healing is natural and does not produce any long term negative effects.

There are several ways to make the active elements of these herbs interact with the life processes within the body. Most commonly, they are orally consumed so that the digestive system may absorb them and take them to the circulatory system. But they can also be taken in by the body in other ways. For example, their aromas can be inhaled through the nose to take in the vapors of their essential oils. They can be applied on the skin or the scalp in the form of poultices or through cosmetic products from where they are taken in by the skin pores. In the form of liquid extracts, they can also be dropped into the eyes or nose for local benefits.

Usually herbs have no harmful side effects, but we can’t generalize the statement. Some people may experience slight problems consequent upon their use. Therefore, when using a new herb, you should try it as a single product, and wait and watch for its effects. If no problem is experienced, you can increase the dosage cautiously. Further, you should remember that everybody is different, and the herb which benefited some may not show the same benefits on you. Finally, you should never replace proper medication with herbs, if you are facing a medical emergency or suffering from a serious chronic condition.

Apart from the medicinal benefits, herbs are of great value in maintenance of general health and well-being. They are rich, natural sources of vitamins, minerals, and other micro-nutrients. Some of them are delicious to taste, like betel leaf or mint, some others extremely difficult to tolerate, yet all of them are full of beneficial properties in their different spheres.

Herbs positively influence blood circulation and aid in detoxifying the system in a natural way. Because of detoxifying effect, they alleviate the effects of food poisoning. Besides, they also aid digestion and thus enhance the body’s ability to absorb various nutrients derived from food consumed.

Herbs improve the functioning of various internal organs of the body which results in correction of the hormonal imbalances. Their regular use improves the functioning of the immune system which results in reduced cases of seasonal infection like common cold or cough. They also soothe the mucous membranes which reduces inflammation and internal pain. On the whole, they strengthen the body in several ways.

Herbs are used both, internally and externally. The internal use involves taking them in the form of tea, or infusion of tinctures, or for gargles and mouthwashes. The external use mostly consists of massage with the essential oils, taking herbal baths or saunas, or applying in the form of creams or poultices.

The same herb can be used for different benefits by altering the way of its use. For example, flax seeds taken with cold water, morning and evening, act as a good laxative. But when applied on the skin after dissolving them in hot water, the same seeds counter skin infections.

However, care is required in selecting and procuring herbs to be used as medicines. If a herb is not pure, it won’t give the desired benefits. So, always buy them from an authentic and trusted dealer. Further, if a herb is not used in the correct way, it may again not be as beneficial. For example, herbal infusions (teas) should be taken hot and should have been prepared using 1 tbsp of the dried herb with a cup of water. However, if fresh herbs are used, the amount should be doubled. If these instructions are not followed, the tea may lose much of its effectiveness.

Many people believe that herbs, being natural products, will not be harmful even if taken in larger than required quantities. It’s true that the human body is often able to metabolize natural plant constituents even in large quantities, but again we cannot generalize the statement. Some herbs, taken in high doses, may indeed be toxic and therefore sufficient care has to be taken even while using herbal products.

Today, scientific research is increasingly confirming what was known to our ancestors from experience. While plants continued to provide us pleasure with their beauty, color and fragrance, and enhance the taste of our food by their flavor, we seemed to have become oblivious of their importance as medicines. It is indeed a matter of great satisfaction that we have now rediscovered this particular aspect of herbs which has the potential of providing the greatest benefit to mankind.

Herbs – The Basics

Herbs have always been the basic source of medication in all the cultures across the world. We find mention of herbs and their uses in history, literature, the Bible as well as several other religious texts. What is more significant is the fact that the Bible lets us know that ‘God has provided man with all herb bearing seeds that is upon the surface of the earth and all the trees, wherein is the fruit of a tree producing seed, it should be considered as meat by us’. For thousands of years, man has been using the herbs to cure his ailments. Most importantly, compared to other types of medications, herbs are safe for use and very consistent having little or no side effect whatsoever.

First and foremost, it needs to be mentioned that term ‘herb’ denotes plants that of non-woody nature. In contemporary times, the term ‘herbs’ means any plant or part of a plant that is used to flavor foods or in the form of medications. Herbs are almost present everywhere. For instance, they are present even in your kitchen – the mustard on your table as well as several other spices that line your kitchen shelf originate from herbs. Actually, there are numerous instances of herbs in our daily life. Herbs are often described as wonders of Mother Nature.

Since the prehistoric days, people have always been seeking help via the herbs, as they are natural resources. In fact, herbs are dissimilar to contemporary medications that result in numerous side effects and they possess the aptitude to restore the defenses of the body, thereby, assisting the body to heal itself without any side effects.

All herbs are natural medications and they have been the natural medicines for the humans all the times. While writing about herbs, it is essential to mention the different types of herbal medicine systems that are in use even to this day – for instance, European, Chinese, American, Ayurveda, Western and Native are the most established systems. All these systems help to cure the body as a whole and each of them make use of the force of the herbs to function as required in collaboration with the natural energy in every individual. Therefore, it is advisable that you should use herbs to possess natural, vital energy to undertaking things that you take please in, to possess the capability to sustain the normal immune system of your body to protect yourself from different ailments.

Precisely speaking, the herbs provide us with numerous health benefits. Here we shall discuss about a few of them. Herbs are effective in cleansing as well as sanitizing the body with no side effects whatsoever. In addition, herbs help to control and nature the glands so that they function as usual. Herbs also enclose high levels of different vitamins, minerals as well as other nutrients that nurture as well as build the body. Herbs also enable the body to possess additional vigor/ energy so that it is able to heal itself. Last, but not the least important, herbs encourage the good bacteria present in our body naturally.

Herbs actually absorb various substances from the soil and subsequently transform them into minerals, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates and fats that are used by our body for nourishment as well as healing itself. By making use of the herbs or whole plants, we soak in all the essential ingredients they enclose. Almost all herbs enclose numerous active substances, one among which normally dominate and help us to decide on its choice as a medication. Different other curative factors of the herbs ought not to be ignored since they also assist the body to absorb its benefits and safeguard against side effects.

It may be noted that the herbs always function in synergy and, hence, combining them improves the properties of each herb, facilitating to obtain better curing to the body. For instance, a good combination of herbs like hops, valerian and passiflora works wonderfully to induce sleep. All the three herbs mentioned here possess relaxant attributes, while passiflora focuses on facilitating sleep. At the same time, valerian helps to unwind the tense muscles, while hops have a distinctive impact on calming the nervous system.

In the study of herbs (herbology), herbs are supposed to possess changing combinations of properties and extent of each property also. Herbs have the ability to heat as well as dry or heat and moisturize. In addition, herbs may be cooling and drying or cooling and moistening. For instance, one herb may possess highly warming qualities, while another one may simply be somewhat warming. But, both these herbs would be regarded as heating herbs.

The manner in which these attributes are allocated to the plants is quite simple. The herbs that possess heating properties are thought to generate warmth inside the body. Plainly speaking, all the aromatic herbs, for instance, caraway and anise, are deemed to be warming. Interestingly enough, even several bitter herbs, for example Oregon grape, are also categorized as herbs possessing heating properties.

Conversely, cooling herbs are basically those herbs, which medical practitioners consider, that take away the heat from the body or some body part. Generally, herbs that enclose extremely volatile natural oils, for instance spearmint or wintergreen, are classified as cooling herbs. Borage is another example of a cooling herb and, like other cooling herbs, is also referred to as refrigerants. In order to obtain some notion or awareness regarding what a refrigerant actually is, you may imagine of a scorching summer day and subsequently envisage a slice of cucumber or watermelon. In fact, cucumber and watermelon are among the two best refrigerant foods.

It may be noted that the categorization of an herb as drying or moistening also largely depends on the individual properties of a particular herb. Any herb which is effective in augmenting urine passage, for instance bearberry, is considered to be a drying herb. Similarly, all herbs possessing astringent properties, for instance sage or oak bark, too are also known as drying herbs. Generally, aromatic herbs, such as caraway or anise, are also believed to be drying herbs. However, there are exceptions to this general rule too. For instance, fennel is considered to be a moistening herb – it is known to augment milk secretion in lactating women. If an herb is demulcent (soothing) or mucilaginous, it is also considered to be a moistening herb. Other herbs that are also classified as moistening herbs include marshmallow, flax seed, slippery elm and licorice.

The European herbalists had developed a novel way of understanding the properties of different herbs. What they actually did was to imagine that each herb had a specific activity on the different parts of our body. Precisely speaking, they started defining specific activity hubs within the body for every herb. For instance, cayenne pepper, which was categorized as a heating herb, was identified as having an affect on the circulatory system since it was found to enhance the blood flow, particularly to the capillaries close to the skin’s surface. Possibly this clarifies the reason why people who inhabit extremely hot climatic conditions generally use hot peppers in their culinary. In effect, ingestion of hot peppers assists them to disperse the body heat by flowing it to the surface of the skin, where it results in cooling in the form of perspiration and evaporates, while the heat is spread out into the nearby atmosphere.

Another good example of heating herb is ginger which is said to possess the same properties as those of cayenne pepper. Nevertheless, the center of activity of ginger is described as basically lying in the internal organs. According to the conventional European medicine system, ginger is believed to generate a type of heat that remains within the body. Hence, ginger is often used by people during the winter months and in more proportions in the cool northern climatic conditions. People inhabiting these regions use ginger as a medication to treat colds as well as to reinforce the bladder and the kidneys. The basic dissimilarities between cayenne pepper and ginger are owing to the different activity centers of each herb within the body.

Making issues further complicated, it may be noted that herbs are not confined to merely one activity center. There are several herbs that people use for treating numerous dissimilar problems at the same time and instantly, for instance headaches, acne, weariness, constipation and indigestion. The main activity center for such herbs may possibly be the gall bladder and liver, where they would be considered to result in augmenting bile secretion. In fact, the hypothesis goes something like this: enhanced secretion of bile augments digestion of fats and oils, which, in turn, enhances the complexion. Increase bile secretion will also facilitate in easing chronic constipation. Rinsing out the colon is also a vital function.

Build up of toxic substances in the bowels owing to poor decomposition of ingested foods and their elimination from the body also adds to the common toxic condition that may lead to several of the symptoms mentioned earlier in this article. The toxic substances present in the colon are taken up by the blood and, hence, the cleaner the colon will be, the purer will be the blood. It may be noted that the liver being the natural filter of the body, facilitates in straining toxic substances from the blood. If the pace of the liver’s activity is enhanced, it will result in the blood containing lesser impurities or toxic substances. Like Oregon grape, there are a number of herbs that have their activity center in the liver and gall bladder and they influence the body in several ways – most are discussed above.

Hypothesis like these are unsophisticated in contemporary medical terms and mostly unproven by medical research. However, traditional herbology or the study of herbs need not deal with curing from the viewpoint of analysis done in the laboratories. In fact, herbology has always been founded on experimental observation of people as individuals.

It may be noted that the earliest nations or cultures, for instance, the Egyptians, were extremely proficient in using herbs appropriately. An antique text written in 1500 B.C. mentions about over 700 herbal medications, counting herbs like aloe vera, caraway seeds, garlic and poppy. Nevertheless, people in China have been practicing herbal medication for more than 5000 years. In fact, the Chinese are renowned for their understanding as well as use of ginseng. Hence, there is no reason to be apprehensive to use herbs in your kitchen. On the contrary, you should discuss about herbs and their significance in our life. There are infinite other subjects that endorse the gainful consequences of using herbs, inclusive of the quality of herbs, different herbal formulations, procedures to prepare herbal medication, the nutritional content of herbs as well as the dosage of herbal medicines. At the same time, it is important to always bear in mind that using herbs or any product containing herbs, denotes a more vigorous life. Therefore, take pleasure in the herbs, vitamins, aromatherapy and your life!

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Honeysuckle – August Flower of the Month.

Lonicera japonica

Family: Adoxaceae, syn. Caprifoliaceae

honeysuckleThis lovely, cascading, woody vine, with its divine scent, is often planted as a landscape attraction. It dazzles the eye with its gorgeous blooms in warm weather and retreats to a pleasant but unremarkable placeholder at other times of the year. Its name refers to the fact that fairies {and everyone else} love to sip the nectar from the flowers. There are well over 100 different species, and at least 15 are used medicinally.

Description..

Honeysuckle is a perennial, deciduous or evergreen climbing shrub that typically wraps tightly around other plants or a support. It can grow to over 20 feet long and is invasive enough to be considered a noxious weed in the eastern United States. The tubular flowers bloom in the summer and are a pale yellow, sometimes tinged with pink, that turns a darker golden color as they age. Orangish red fruits that are rather nasty-tasting but are attractive to birds occur in clusters following the flowers in the fall.

Preparations and Dosage..

Make a strong infusion by steeping the flowers for as long as 30 minutes, or even gently simmer them, and drink 1/2 to 1 cup twice daily, or as often as desired. Honeysuckle also makes a delicious syrup. It’s found commercially in powder, granule, extract, and tablet form. Follow the directions on the product label.

Healing Properties..

The flowers {or flowers plus young stems} are mildly antibiotic and antiviral and are used to treat colds and flu. They are also recommended in traditional Chinese medicine {TCM} for relief of upper respiratory tract infections, fevers, bronchitis, sore throat, heat stroke, and diarrhea. The tea is also known for healing boils and other skin infections, as it helps to remove “fire toxins” {a TCM description that refers to metabolic waste buildup and inflammation} from your body. Teenagers and anyone who is prone to acne, boils, and sties can drink the refreshing tea daily to reap the strongest benefits.

Western herbalists recommend taking the flower tea or extract to relieve hot flashes, to prevent and promote healing of urinary tract infections, and to treat skin conditions like acne, boils, and eczema. The whole vine, including the leaves and twigs, can be decocted and used as a compress for treating burns, sores, and acne.

Safety..

The flowers and twigs are considered nontoxic by traditional Chinese medical practitioners.

In the Garden..

Honeysuckle is frost hardy, heat tolerant, and sturdy; it’s an easy plant to have around. If you want to create a hedge or fence-row, plant honeysuckle vines 3 feet apart, and expect them to push those bounds unless you trim them back during the dormant season. Honeysuckle likes moist, rich soil but is adaptable and somewhat drought tolerant once it’s large, and it will do well in full sun {or even partial shade, in hot climates}. Start it from seed, if you’re willing to wait a month or two for germination {stratification helps}, or take stem cuttings in the spring or woody cuttings in the fall. Easier yet, try layering a neighbor’s plant. Be sure to provide a trellis or fence for it to climb. Stems will trail along the ground, and you may want to prune them back for a tidier look.

Harvesting Honeysuckle..

Collect the flowers when they are just starting to open and are lovely, fresh and have a creamy hue. {Older, orange flowers will dry to a brown color.} Be sure to pick them every few days. As with all flowers, honeysuckle blooms are fragile and will bruise easily, so gather them in the morning, before the warmth of the day has compromised their freshness. Dry them immediately after harvest, at a low temperature and out of the sun. Tender stems may be collected also; they contain many of the same compounds.

Let’s Create Some Herbal Remedies – When Cold and Flu Season Arrives.

These two recipes are prepared as teas but are not taken in your tea cup – they help with the discomfort of flu season in other ways.

Winter Inhalation

living-herbs-for-cold-flu-thymeThis traditional herbal steam helps open your sinuses, discourages bacterial and viral growth, and reduces pain and inflammation. Remember to stay a comfortable distance from the steaming pot to avoid burning your face.

8 – 12 teaspoons fresh or 4 teaspoons dried eucalyptus leaf {Eucalyptus globulus}

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried peppermint leaf

2 – 3 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried thyme herb

3 cups purified water

Essential oils of the herbs above {optional}

Place the eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, and water in a saucepan and stir to thoroughly combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and uncover. Drape a large towel over your head and the saucepan, forming a steam-filled tent, and inhale the medicated steam deeply for 5 minutes or so. Repeat several times daily as needed, warming the decoction each time just to the boiling point.

You can enhance the inhalation by adding 6 or 7 drops of essential oil to the brew after you remove it from the heat. Try oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, and thyme, and add one or more as desired. {Because essential oils can cause dizziness and light-headedness, do not use enhanced inhalations more than two or three times a day, and discontinue use if redness of the mucous membrane develops.}

A Soothing Throat Gargle

herbs for cold and fluThis decoction soothes throats that are sore from illness or hoarse from overuse; it’s ideal for public speakers or teachers even when it isn’t winter. You will notice that this recipe calls for simmering above-ground portions of the plant that are usually steeped; this is because you will be extracting deeper compounds that are only somewhat water-soluble.

5 -7 tablespoons fresh or 2 1/2 tablespoons dried echinacea leaf

4 – 6 tablespoons fresh or 2 tablespoons dried lemon balm herb

3 – 5 tablespoons fresh or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried sage leaf

3 – 5 tablespoons fresh or 1 1/2 tablespoons dried licorice root

2 tablespoons dried witch hazel bark {Hamamelis virginiana} or marshmallow root

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh or dried usnea lichen, if available {Usnea spp.}

5 cups purified water

Place the echinacea, lemon balm, sage, licorice, witch hazel or marshmallow, and optional usnea in a saucepan. Pour the water over the herbs and stir to thoroughly combine. Cover the pan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and steep for 10 minutes, covered. Strain and compost the herbs. You can make a larger batch and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Gargle with 1/4 cup of the warm or room-temperature tea four or five times a day; swallowing the liquid after gargling will provide extra benefits. For portability, put some in a little dropper bottle, and gargle with 3 or 4 droppersful for 30 seconds as a quick fix for an irritated throat.

Growing Herbs.

herbsThe healing herb garden: It conjures up images of lush landscapes that indulge your eyes, sun-baked golden pathways that guide your spirit, and cool breezes that make your skin tingle.

Spend some time in these lovely natural settings and you’ll find it’s therapeutic just being among plants. Allow the green world into your sensual realm and you’ll experience healing. Science shows that, of all the colors, green is the most soothing and rejuvenating as it passes through the retina of your eye. Just touching and smelling aromatic herbs bring minute quantities of the medicinal molecules into your body. We need moments and days of quiet reflection and contemplation to hear what the plants have to say to us, particularly because our increasingly fast-paced and multifaceted world disconnects us from nature.

You can be part of the world of healing herbs wherever you are. No matter how you choose to enter into this ancient form of self-care, you’re taking an important step that can lead you in new directions. Some of us have a patio or deck with room for decorative pots, and some of us have a sunny windowsill or corner of a kitchen – you can grow herbs in all of these places. Starting a garden, indoors or out, allows you to connect with the soil, to nurture healing plants, and to grow your own medicines. When you grow herbs yourself, they’re conveniently at hand when you need them most.

A Garden Of Healing Herbs.

culinary herbsNatural medicinal gardens can be cultivated in four stages and it is possible to undertake these all at the same time – following their gradual development over a period of several years. The first stage involves growing herbs in beds laid in rows, circles, geometric or in a haphazard pattern – almost in the manner in which we cultivate vegetables. This aspect was discussed in some detail as the garden bed has a specific role in several landscapes. In fact, it is very simple to develop and look after a medicinal garden. It is also easy to protect the herbs by erecting fences around the garden and so is the harvesting process.

These types of properly laid-out medicinal gardens are also eye-catching and may be located near your house, as this will not only be convenient for you, but also offer you a pleasing visual. In fact, plan and arrangement of any herb garden can be of various types – as much as the herbs in the garden itself and also the types of people who are cultivating such gardens.

The backyard as a landscape of herbs

The integrated landscape forms the second stage of developing a natural herb garden. The different elements of design, for instance, the ground covers and the lawn, borders, hedges, walls, flower beds, trees, orchards, streams, pools and screens – everything is viewed as possible sites for cultivating herbs. In other words, the plan is to set your herbs free from the traditional herb garden bed and disperse them all over the garden. In this way, a hedge is converted into a bed of hyssop or lavender; a mixed group of herbs like calendula, borage, parsley or yarrow form the borders. Alternately, they may comprise any single species like mints, comfrey or aromatic plants. Similarly, the lawn may be substituted by herbs, such as thyme, bearberry, German chamomile or pennyroyal. You may plant larger trees like the slippery elm, poplar, and elderberry or birch the length of the edge of your property to form the screen of your untamed herb garden.
Your natural herb garden will look more attractive if you have a small pool with wild ginger, licorice, chickweed and horsetail around its periphery, while you may plant watercress in a small stream that drains the water into the pool. In addition, you may also plant Mediterranean herbs, such as marjoram, sage, rosemary and/ or thyme on the frontage as well as the top of a wall built with stone in one part of your property. The flower beds may have herbs like yarrow, Echinacea, peony, and elecampane together with a number of traditional ornamental plants. You may also include a petite orchard which will have medicinal fruit trees or trees producing nuts, such as butternut and apple. In addition, the orchard may also include other herbs like alfalfa, garlic and clover. If you have a grand basswood tree in your yard, it will help to draw bees to your untamed herb garden and, at the same time, offer relaxed shade as well as a refreshing floral tea. You may also plant a number of other trees that provide shade, such as oak, bay and beech.
Developing a landscape as described above is obviously resourceful for it provides several ‘edges’. Talking in terms of ecology, an ‘edge’ is a location where one specific kind of plants or geological aspects convenes with another type. The main edges can be generally found in places where a grassland or field meets a forest the length of the river banks or periphery of lakes; on any seashore; at a place where a meadow develops into a marsh; or at any mountain woodland.

The semi-wild herb garden

The second stage of a natural medicinal garden only comprises the integrated and well-designed landscape. The next stage includes the partially natural or semi-wild area of the garden. This stage could obviously include an orchard having herbs growing at random. Alternately, it may also be an unoccupied field, a bog; any abandoned privately owned woodland; any marshland; or any place that is rather off the beaten path. In fact, the size of the area is not all that important in the case of a semi-wild garden, but it is definitely important to allow nature to follow its own course. When you are developing a semi-wild garden, it is important that while you let the domestic herbs to return to their original and primeval patterns, the native plants too should be permitted to grow and thrive with equal importance. In the event of the semi-wild garden being a field, you need to plant a wide assortment of herbs like yarrow, mugwort, dock, catnip, chicory, alfalfa, anise, mullein, horseradish, nettles and mustard in a very haphazard manner and leave it up to the plants to grow naturally. On the other hand, if the semi-wild garden happens to be woodland, the ideal partially wild plants for it would be goldenseal and ginseng. If it is a marshland, you would be doing better by planting herbs like pennyroyal, licorice, wild ginger, horsetail or spearmint in a scattered way and leave them on their own.
When allowed to grow and flourish in their natural manner, you will find that majority of the herbs will follow specific succession patterns. A number of herbs, such as yarrow, mullein, plantain, chamomile, and dock are significant in establishing these types of distinctive successive patterns in the new neighborhoods. These herbs facilitate others in becoming stable, enriching them and also enter open areas that are actually extremely peripheral for other plants. On the other hand, you will notice that herbs like gravelroot, dandelion, catnip, blackberry, mugwort and wild sage will tend to follow their original pioneers in forming colonies in the new grounds. After some time, you are able to grow herbs like clover, alfalfa, and burdock as well as the aromatic varieties when the soil becomes more enriched. In addition, a number of herbs, such as mustard, nettle and holy thistle would only grow on soils that are comparatively more enriched.
Generally, most semi-wild gardens begin with a wide variety of herbs growing independently. In fact, the sort of native or indigenous plants present in the garden may help to provide clues regarding the possibilities of the success of other species which are yet to be introduced. For instance, if there are only pioneer plants in any field, when you introduce new herbs in the subsequent stage, they are very likely to be successful. However, it will perhaps be a waste of time, effort and plants if you introduce plants that need to be brought in at a later state and then let them grow on their own in an untamed medicinal garden. Hence, it is always advisable that you first enrich the soil in your semi-wild herb garden and only then start planting the later-stage herbs. Then again, if a field is packed with plants like thistles, nettles, and wild alfalfa, they are likely to be mature enough for the subsequent succession stage – i.e. bushes and trees.
When the garden is ready for growing bushes and trees, it is considered to be the third stage of any untamed medicinal garden. However, it is not essential that the third stage of the garden would have to begin in an area that is wild from before. This phase of the garden can be developed without any difficulty from an environment that is already tamed. In effect, when landscaped yards are just left to themselves, most of them easily turn out to be semi-wild. But then, everything needs to be done in a systematic manner and you also need to follow certain guideline for developing a semi-wild garden – it cannot just be allowed to happen. For instance, when you are developing a wild or deserted area into a semi-wild herb garden, you may even augment the pace of its ecological succession. In effect, this is actually one of the objectives of natural farming. You begin to work on a site that is comparatively simple and has a very fragile ecology, and subsequently develop the land to maturity by means of several stages of succession. This type of natural farming, which is also referred to as primitive agriculture is also an extremely complicated method to cultivate natural therapeutic herbs.

Herbs from the wild

The fourth and final stage of developing a natural medicinal garden comprises of all the locations where the herbs grow on their own. Although it may be quite exciting to describe this as ‘wilderness’, in reality, this is not correct. Actually, the unique feature is wildness and not wilderness. Well, how does one describe the wild herbs? Precisely speaking, they are fresh herbs devoid of the manipulations of cultivation. You may find such herbs in several locations, including forests and fields; the length of the banks of streams, rivers and ponds; pastures and on mountains; in marshlands, swamps or bogs; in out-of-the-way places; and also on the peripheries of urban areas.
If you wish to harvest wild herbs, you ought to be acquainted with a few things which are not very important for the domestic gardeners. First and foremost, you will have to identify exactly where you can find them. And the simplest way to find this is to simply start exploring. While this method may appear to be too naive to many, it is actually the starting point for harvesting wild herbs. Practically, the wild herbs exist everywhere, but we are not aware of this or unable to recognize them because we have never tried to find them. Henceforth, whenever you go for a walk, ride, hike or drive, keep a vigilant eye for the herbs or the herb environments. In case the herb itself is not visible to you, search for a place where the herbs may possibly be growing in the wild. When you pass by a breezy, shaded stream in the midst of open woodland and you have a gut feeling that some wild ginger or horsetail may be growing there, just stop and see if your hunch is correct.
There is one more technique to collect wild herbs and that is to memorize the picture of the herb. This will make it very much easy for you to recognize the herbs and gather them. As you discover the first specimen of the herb in any field, take some time to observe it carefully. Observe the plant from various angles and try to perceive the manner in which it conforms or shows up to the foliage in its environment. Next, take some time to mull over the appearance of the plant. Employing this technique will be of great help if it is one herb that is very difficult to identify. In fact, if you apply this technique, you will find that it is much easy to find as well as identify several other herbs too. When your eyes have become accustomed to perceive the attributes of the plants and identify them, you will be surprised to know that there are so many additional herbs of the same species just at the place around you.
It is very important to correctly identify an herb after you discover it and only then you should go in for harvesting it. This is all the more important, in fact, very vital, especially when you are collecting herbs for therapeutic uses – irrespective of the fact that they would be used internally or applied topically. It is definitely useful when you have a common idea regarding the appearance of the herb prior to leaving home to collect it. The simplest method to achieve this is when some other reliable person talks to you about the appearance and other features of the herb. In case you are personally not certain about the identity of the herb you are looking for, it is extremely essential that you should get the herb identified by someone who is familiar with it when you discover it growing somewhere. Alternately, provided you have some basic knowledge about botany, you may also utilize the keys in any botanical text or field guide to identify the herb in question.
In addition, you will also benefit by keeping a journal of all the wild herbs found in your locality. It is advisable that whenever you go through the journal, you prepare small notes regarding the appearance, life-cycle, environs as well as the locations of the herb mentioned in it. If you wish, you make take out a map of your locality and plot the areas where any precise herb is found. When you maintain such records carefully, gradually you will be able to develop a deep knowledge regarding the curative herbs that are found in your area. Accumulation of such information will bear fruit when you plan to harvest the bounty of the medicinal plants growing in the wild.
Before concluding, it may be mentioned that the whole subject about harvesting herbs from public land is a very indistinct and uncertain one. Technically speaking, without a valid permit it is not legal to get anything from places like the national forests. Despite this, expert wild crafters harvest several thousand pounds of wild herbs from the public land and sell them to pharmaceutical companies and others every year. For instance, several tons of the bark of cascara sagrada is gathered from public property in the Pacific Northwest each year. This bark is marketed to the pharmaceutical companies and herb distributors for use in manufacturing laxative formulations. Frankly speaking, this is a very peculiar situation that lies somewhere between the legal and regulatory intermediate state. It may be noted that the Federal agencies do not have any category for providing permits to harvest medicinal herbs from public lands and, usually, they also do not impose any regulations against doing so.