While reading Judith Berger’s rich and eloquent book (and one that is rather hard to find), Herbal Rituals, I came upon this passage ~
“The tradition of herbalism in which I trained discouraged the use of concentrated and heavily processed substances on the grounds that the further away a plant is from its organic form, the more stress it incurs upon the digestive and absorptive channels. This idea made sense to me, for it confirmed my body’s emphatic refusal to accept both food and medication offered in “extra-strength” and “convenient” forms.
When one is taking an herb which has somehow been made into a pill, or powdered and stored in capsule form, one is dealing with the equivalent to processed food. As with most mass-produced food substances, the consumer does not know who gathered the plant, from where, the conditions the plant was growing in, if it came into contact with any other substances, and how long the powder or pill was sitting around.”
This passage confirmed what I know about herbs found in commerce: that there is a lot of contamination and “fillers” and that plants lose their vital essence the further they are processed from their whole plant nature. So, her association with “junk food” seems fitting.
At Sweet Gum Springs Apothecary, we mostly tincture and prepare our herbal preparations with whole, fresh-plant material that we grow and harvest or wild-craft with our own hands. We are intimately familiar with the plant stands, the time of year, and proper harvesting and processing techniques. Let me tell you that it is RARE to find an apothecary that does this in the Southeast and we are proud to be offering people fully potent and safe herbal preparations from the source.
A recent conversation with a customer echoes Berger’s words, as well. A woman came up to our table at market in Jackson this past weekend and said that she had almost given up on herbal medicine because she was taking powdered herbal capsules and “they were not working.” She looked at me squarely and said, “your stuff works.” I expressed to her the difference between capsules and fresh and whole plant material and she definitely got where I was coming from.
Further, when you make your own medicine at home, to me, this is the most potent form of medicine-making. Being in relationship with plants and making medicine for you or your family is one of the sweetest gifts you can offer yourself and the ones you love. And, when you touch plants close to their source and realize how much they offer we humans, you’ll only want to give back. Your garden will grow in size, your medicine cabinet will expand, and your appreciation for the plant kingdom will deepen.
A side note is that certain plants are only tinctured in their dried form. It is the exception and not the rule…