Ethics – Making Herbal Medicines

There are no rules set down to be adhered to when making Herbal medicines, although a healthy dose of common sense is possibly one of the most useful tools the herbalist can have.   Having said that, some of what is common sense is better written in rather than left out of this introduction.  It is our choice which ethics are chosen.   Below are ethics I choose, but we all have the right to choose for ourselves.

  1. When making herbal medicines at home, make very sure that the herb you are using is the one you need, recognition is number one.
  2. Keep everything clean, wash utensils, jars, pans, hands, etc. in hot soapy water, rinse and dry thoroughly before beginning. Jars and bottles intended to keep finished medicines in need to be sterilised, either using proprietary sterilisation techniques ie. as you would for sterilising a babies bottle, or after washing and drying heat glass jars etc. in an oven at 160-180 degrees, and maintain the temperature for at least ten minutes.  Medicines made with herbs can go off very easily if bacteria are present.
  3. Measure all herbs, oils, etc. carefully, this maintains a working medicines constituent level.
  4. Buy herbs, oils, etc. from an accredited ‘herbs for medicines’ supplier, this ensures the herbs are fit for purpose.
  5. Keep your herbal diary and/or Monographs together and in a place where you can update them as you use them. This not only helps you remember your remedies and recipes but builds an herbal you can pass on to others.
  6. Label all medicines, creams, etc., you make and it’s very important, put the date of manufacture on the label so you can discard when they are past their best.
  7. Remember that herbs are not a quick fix, they often take longer to work than conventional medicines, mainly because conventional medicines work to remove the symptoms whereas herbal medicines are used mainly to bring the body to its optimum performance. There are exceptions to this in that some herbs can heal cuts, sores, and open wounds much quicker than anything you can buy over the counter.
  8. Before using any herb for healing, do your own investigation to prove to yourself without a doubt that it does what you need, research, and learn by experience is always the best way to go.
  9. Decide wisely whether treatment of the ailment or damage you have before you are better served using your herbal knowledge or by going to your doctor, remember that broken bones, head injuries, and similar problems are better addressed at the local hospital.

The world of making your own herbal medicines and preparations appears to have many limitations that the government of the time would put upon the user.   The problem seems to be that any governing body or rules set down in writing are neither understandable to the general public nor are they freely available in layman’s language.

Try as you will, it’s difficult to pin down what the student or novice herbalist is allowed to do or not to do, this leaves us with again using common sense and personal responsibility to decide for ourselves what to do or what not to do, unless of course you are prepared or able to spend thousands of pounds on courses run by said governmental bodies to prove to them you are capable and knowledgeable enough to use herbs for healing.

Some herbs have been banned from sale, for instance, comfrey root (Sympohytum officinale), simply because it is said to be too dangerous for the general public to use.  And I would agree with this thought, unless, that is, the herb is thoroughly researched properly before using it.  Upon concluding such research, it would become apparent to the user that comfrey root is capable of healing the skin so quickly that if used on an open wound it has the ability to seal in any infection that may be present.  Once this fact is known then common sense should kick in and comfrey used and applied with wisdom in place.  It seems to me that government bodies responsible for banning this type of herbs are inferring that the general population are too ignorant to learn for themselves what the cunning folk of the past knew for certain through her own experiments.

In the same vein, another banned substance is tinctures.

The legalities of buying tinctures changed around a decade ago, when, all of a sudden, Tinctures disappeared from the shelves of shops selling natural remedies and supplements and organic food, this included Boots the Chemist, who had always had a good selection of herbal medications including Tinctures, and some online shops where Tinctures had always been available.

After enquiring, the general public were told that the government had banned the sale of Tinctures, some online shops said they would continue selling the Tinctures they had in stock and then would have to stop as they could not legally buy them any longer due to the law.

So far tinctures are still easily obtainable from online shops which are verified herb retailers, after ten years it’s possible the governmental body has forgotten about the ban, or they haven’t enforced it.

The good news with tinctures is that the ingredients to make them at home are easily available to buy.  Oakenwood covers the making of Tinctures in a later course.

Common sense is applicable in the bucket load when using herbs for making herbal medication, it is the best tool in your box.