How To Be Your Own Herbal Pharmacist

How to use Herbs Safely in Herbal Combinations

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Your body has its own unique, wonderful mechanism. It has the ability to bring itself to its own bal­anced and healthy state. Herbs simply pave the way for the body to do its own work, by breaking up toxins, cleansing, lubricating, toning and nourishing. Herbs promote elimination of waste matter and toxins from the system by simple natural means. They support nature in its strive for balance. Herbs work better in combination than they do singly. Like the notes of a symphony, herbs work better in harmony than standing alone.

A good herbal formula gives your body a wealth of subtle healing essences from which to choose. Herbs work synergistically together… one and one can make three.

As I formulate an herbal combination, I work from the point of view of the health condition, and I work with the way herbs combine together to get the desired effect, not just the properties of each herb.

Why Herbs Work Better In Combination

1. Herbs work synergistically and more efficiently in a combination. The value is in the formula, not simply one or two chemicals within it, no matter how potent they are. Synergy plays an important role in safety, too. (Look at what happens when we refine wheat, extract sugar cane, distill alcohol, isolate ephedrine from ephedra or cocaine from coca leaves - incredible health problems for both the user and society.)

2. A good combination contains two to five primary herbs for specific healing purposes. Since all body parts, and symptoms, are interrelated, it is wise to have herbs which can affect each part of the problem. For example, in a prostate supporting formula, there would be herbs to dissolve sediment, anti-inflammatory herbs, tissue-toning and strengthening herbs, and herbs with immune enhancing properties.

3. Herbs are foods, full of nutrients… and nutrients always work best as a team. Thus a combination of herbal nutrients gently stimulates the body as a whole, encouraging body balance rather than a large supply of one or two focused properties.

4. A good combination includes herbs that can work at different stages of need. A good example of this is a PMS formula, which includes herbs for quick  symptom relief, better energy, bloat relief, mood elevation, liver support and long term hormone balance.

5. A combination of several herbs with similar properties increases the latitude of effectiveness, not only through a wider range of activity, but also by reinforcing herbs that were picked too late or too early, or grew in adverse weather conditions. No two people, or their bodies, are alike. Good response is augmented by a combination of herbs.

6. Finally, certain herbs, like capsicum, lobelia, sassafras, mandrake, tansy, Canada snake root, wormwood, woodruff, poke root, and rue are beneficial in small amounts and as catalysts, but should not be used alone.

Want to learn more? Please download this FREE excerpt on "How to Use Herbs Safely," from the bestseling book, Healthy Healing 14th Edition.

To Life-long health,

Linda Page

Healing Traditions from Ancient Egypt & The Middle East

The Middle East offers a rich legacy of healing traditions. The first ever recorded use of herbs was noted by the Egyptian Ebers Papyrus in 1500 B.C., and remains the oldest surviving record of herbal therapies to date. The ancient Egyptians were shaman-physicians who believed disease resulted from supernatural forces. Further, they were skilled surgeons with in-depth knowledge of anatomy due to their mummification and embalming practices. During mummification, they removed the brain, lungs, pancreas, liver, spleen, heart and intestines. They understood the functions of these organs with the exception of the heart and brain (which they believed had opposite functions, similar to the Chinese belief).

Ancient Egyptians strongly believed in the power of body purification for health. Bathing rituals, shaving one’s head, and the restriction of impure foods (like raw fish) were employed as health maintenance techniques and to prevent parasite infection. Dream interpretation was used to find the cause and cures for an illness. Faith healing and magic were the main medicines of the era. However, the Egyptian healing compendium consisted of a wide variety of plant, animal and mineral based remedies, including yeast which was recommended for digestive problems and ulcers.

While there were no medical schools in ancient Egypt, physicians received years of training at the temples. Their specialities included dealing with problems of infertility, contraception and difficult childbirth. Travelling Greek scholars, including Pliny and Herodotus, studied their medical practices and knowledge of anatomy, and incorporated their use in the modern era.

The Development of Unani Medicine

The Arabs were renowned pharmacists and herbalists, highly adept at medicinal herb blending. They were also avid traders, introducing Middle Eastern spices like nutmeg, saffron, and cloves into Europe and Asia. Arab traditions were brought into Europe after the fall of Rome during the Arab invasions and the rise of Islam.

In the 7th century, the Arab physician, Avicenna, expanded upon Galen’s humoral theory of the body and the works of Hippocrates. His book, The Canon of Medicine, was the most important work of the time. Avicenna viewed disease as an imbalance of the bodily humours rather than the result of supernatural phenomenon. Avicenna felt that Allah created four basic types of people who could be characterized according to the humours: sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic. With roots in Ayurveda, an individual was thought to possess elements of each humour, with one humour playing the predominant role. A person’s primary humour was used not only to determine the best modes of healing, but also the best job choices and relationships.

Avicenna’s great works led to development of Unani medicine, still widely practiced in the Arab world and India. Unani medicine relied on detailed patient evaluation, including pulse diagnosis. The air and one’s breathing; food; exercise and rest; sleep and wakefulness; digestion and elimination; and a person’s emotional state were considered key factors in health and disease. The stomach was considered the source of most disease, and utmost importance was placed on proper diet and improved digestion.

The ancient Arab pharmacopeia was extensive, with notes on plant origins, properties and preparation methods.  Arab pharmacists were highly regarded in their society, and were licensed and monitored by the state. They were familiar with an abundance of herbal medicines like senna, sandalwood, camphor, myrrh, cloves and tamarind. They paid close attention to the importance of palatability, introducing novel preparations techniques as herbal syrups and juleps. Further, they employed rose or orange water as pleasant tasting bases for herbal medicines.

Arabian hospitals (called bimaristans) and pharmacies were unsurpassed for their level of care and expertise. By the 11th century, the Arab world offered travelling clinics and dispensaries for those who were too ill to travel. Hospital care was free to everyone and medical salaries were fixed by the state. The Arabs even developed first aid centers for the wartime wounded, and provided specialized medical care for prisoners. Arab physicians also championed the theory of infections, leading to development of quarantines as a way to limit the spread of disease. Their great accomplishments and contributions to modern medicine, especially to hospital care, cannot be understated.

To Life-long health,

Linda Page