Traditional and Modern Use of Fresh Herbs

1. Herbs and Plants: Theory
Physicians and Master Herbalists have long known that fresh plants provide the best medicinal action.

A recent advance in herb technology and research (fresh freeze-drying) allows maintenance of the natural potency of most herbs by preserving all the biologically active constituents of the fresh plant. In many instances, improved or unique therapeutic action has resulted. Critical components of fresh plants are often lost in alcohol extraction and common drying methods. Fresh herbs should retain their smell, taste, and color.

The strategies that herbal practitioners adopt to prevent illness or restore health in their patients are different in the many and varied herbal traditions across the planet, but the effects that herbal medicines have within the body to improve health do not vary. There are many thousand of medicinal plants in use throughout the world, with a tremendous range of actions and degrees of potency. Most have a specific action on particular body systems and are known to be suitable for treating certain types of ailments.

Improving the quality of the diet is often an essential starting point in sustaining or regaining good health. The saying "You are what you eat" is by and large true, though herbalists prefer to qualify it, saying "You are what you absorb from what you eat." Herbal medicines not only provide nutrients but when needed they also strengthen and support the action of the digestive system, speeding up the rate of processing food and improving the absorption of nutrients.

The body requires another kind of "nutrient" to function - oxygen. The lungs and respiratory system can be helped with herbs that relax the bronchial muscles and stimulate respiration.

Once taken in by the body, nutrients and medicines are carried to the body's estimated three trillion cells. The circulatory system has a remarkable ability to adapt to an endlessly shifting pattern of demand. At rest, the flow of blood is mainly toward the center of the body; when active, the muscles in the limbs make huge demands. Herbal medicines work to encourage the circulation in particular ways. Some, for example, encourage blood to flow to the surface of the body; others stimulate the heart to pump more efficiently, and others relax the muscles of the arteries, lowering blood pressure.

After the circulation has carried nutrients to the cells, waste matter must be removed. All too often in our polluted world, high levels of toxicity in the body are an underlying cause of ill health, and herbalists use a wide range of cleansing herbs that improve the body's ability to remove toxins. Perhaps the finest example of a detoxifying herb is burdock (Arctium lappa) which is used extensively in both Western and Chinese medicine. Once herbs such as this reduce the toxic "load," the body is able to invest greater resources in repairing and strengthening damaged tissue and weakened organs.

The skin also plays an important role in good health. Antiseptic plants fight infection, and vulnerary (wound healing) herbs such as comfrey (Symphytum offianale) encourage blood clotting and help speed the healing of wounds.

Good health depends on having a healthy balanced nervous system. In order to ensure long-term good health of the nervous system, it is important to adapt well to daily demands, to avoid excessive anxiety, worry, or depression, and to get sufficient rest and exercise.

The latest research suggests that the nervous system does not work in isolation. It is complemented by the endocrine system, which controls the release of a whole symphony of hormones, including the sex hormones, which control fertility and often affect vitality and mood.

The nervous system is also intimately linked with the immune system, which controls the ability to resist infection and to recover from illness and injury. This incredible complex of systems - part electrical - part chemical, part mechanical - must function harmoniously if good health is to be maintained. In health, the body has a seemingly infinite capacity, via its controlling systems, to adjust and change to external pressures. The ability to adapt to the external world while the body's internal workings remain constant is known as homeostasis.

Many herbs work with the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems to help the body adapt more effectively to stresses and strains of all kinds - physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual. They are effective because they work in tune with the body's processes.

Some herbs are adaptogenic, meaning that they have the ability to help people to adapt, either by supporting the nervous system and easing nervous and emotional tension or by working directly with the body's own physiologic processes to maintain health. The prime example of an adaptogenic herb is ginseng (Panax ginseng) which is an effective remedy at times of great mental or physical stress, but in certain cases can also be taken when a relaxing effect is required, for example, to relieve headache or to ensure a good night's sleep.

As can be seen, an herb is not a "magic bullet" with a single action, but a complex natural medicine composed of many active constituents that work on different body systems. By combining scientific research into active constituents with clinical observation and traditional knowledge of the whole plant, we can develop a rounded picture of each herb's range of medicinal uses.

3. Herbs and Plants: Practical
The following information on fresh and freeze-dried herb use is compiled from traditional modern herb books and various articles and research. This information is summarized for its educational value and should not be used for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of disease. It should not be used to promote the sale of any product nor replace the services of a physician.

Burdock: Blood Cleanser, good for skin eruptions, mild immune stimulant. 1-2 capsules, 1-3 times per day.

Cayenne: Stimulant, improves circulation, aid utilization of other herbs, stimulates digestion and appetite, has been used in asthma.

Chaparral: Liver cleansing, skin problems, arthritis, tumors, (freeze-drying retains oils, saponins, resins) 1-3 capsules, 1-3 times per day.

Comfrey: For gastrointestinal (and other mucous membrane) disorders including ulcers and irritable bowels, aids digestion and relieves gas, soothes respiratory passages, good topically on wounds. (Freeze-drying uniquely maintains mucilaginous properties for good coating action).

Dandelion: Excellent diuretic (leaf) and liver tonic (root), aids in weight loss, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, (freeze-drying retains the milky sap giving stronger diuretic action). 1-2 capsules, 1-3 times per day.

Echinacea: Stimulates the immune system in colds, flu, sore throat, allergy, chronic viruses and immune deficiency, (freeze-drying maintains anti-microbial and immune stimulating properties best by preserving the important volatile oil and mucopolysaccharide). 1-2 capsules, 1-4 times per day as needed.

Feverfew: 1 capsule per day to prevent migraine headaches, 2 capsules for headaches or rheumatic inflammation (only works freeze-dried or fresh).

Goldenseal: Immune stimulation, for colds, flu, infection, appetite stimulant; can be used topically or as an eyewash when diluted. (Freeze-dried is very potent). 1-2 capsules, 1-3 times per day.

Hawthorne: Strong heart tonic, strengthens heart muscle and improves coronary blood pressure. 1-2 capsules, 1-3 times per day.

Horsetail: Good diuretic, lowers blood pressure and edema, flushes kidneys. 1-2 capsules, 1-3 times per day.

Nettles: For relief of allergies to pollen (hayfever) molds, dust and animal hair; for food allergies or sensitivities, take 2 with each meal; also helps allergic headaches, asthma, and candidiadis. (This dramatic new allergy relief action occurs only with freeze-dried nettles because the critical biochemical components of the stinging hairs have been preserved). 2 capsules, 1-4 times per day.

Oat: Nutritive herb that soothes the nervous system, rebuilds energy in a weakened system - good aid for breaking addictive habits. (Fresh freeze-drying preserves the nutritive qualities). 2 capsules: 1-4 times per day.

Passion Flower: Antispasmodic and strong nerve sedative; good for worry, anxiety, menstrual depression/anxiety, induces restful sleep. (Very potent in freeze-dried form). 2-4 capsules as needed.

Red Clover: Strong blood purifier and cleanser, nutritive to nervous system; aids spasmodic cough, ulcerations and tumors. (Fresh freee-drying is very potent).

Red Raspberry: Relieves nausea, improves uterine tone and blood supply; may prevent premature labor and improve milk production - good overall pregnancy herb in small daily does. 1-2 capsules, 1-3 times per day.

Valerian: Strong sedative for anxiety, insomnia due to excessive worry or depression, mild pain relief. (Freeze-drying preserves the critical volatile oils). 2-4 capsules as needed.

  • Hutchens, Alma R., INDIAN HERBOLOGY OF NORTH AMERICA, Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1991


  • Chevallier, Andrew, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MEDICINAL PLANTS, D.K. Publishing Inc. 1996

  • Dence, Calvin, YOUR HEART'S DESIRE, Dixie Printing Co., 1979

  • View Video on Herbs and Plants

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