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Herbal Basics

     A rudimentary understanding of plants and how they can be processed is a must to effectively apply herbal medicine to a veterinary healing situation. It is my contention that the fresh medicinal herbs found near one are the best to use in treating our animals and ourselves. Sure, one can go to your tack supply store, a health food store, or many other retail outlets and come up with all types of processed herbal remedies, ready to use, but are they potent and cost effective? Unfortunately in many cases, probably not! You will almost invariably find that the most potent and cheapest herb you can use are the ones you can harvest in your backyard, farm, or general locale. On this web page, I would like to cover some of the basics that all herbalists know about growing their own herbs, wildcrafting (harvesting from the wild) and the many processing procedures required to produce an herbal medicine ready to administer.  You may be a bit dazed at first by the scope of plants, their Latin names, and all the other intricacies involved with this new pursuit, but persevere! Only to those that can see the value and can put in the effort will great value be achieved.

   Herbal Medicine can be as simple as digging up and chewing a raw root or can be as complicated as percolating a tincture from an exact weight of plant material with an exact alcoholic/water solvent and, then, prescribing this finished tincture to the patient in specific drops.  This is the beauty of medicinal herbs, it is as useful to the health and well being of simple folk as it would be for the educated medical practitioner's needs alike. No matter how much our governing authorities disdain or may like to ban herbal medicine, it will be impossible to legislate against for exactly the same reasons. I am sure we will never see the day when someone with knowledge cannot go scavenging in a back yard or the back 40 and come up with a useful medicinal that will bring healing.  Knowledge is the key to guidance.   Practice is the key to wisdom in using that knowledge. 

     I.    Plant Identification. . . . . . Unlike the past, we moderns are unlikely to have a mentor in the form of a wise woman, a village shaman, a wizen old Eclectic Medical Physician, or even grandparents to guide us through the intricacies of selecting naturally growing plants in our region which are useful medicinally.  For the most part, no herbal heritage exists in our folk culture except in some very rural select areas.  We will have to seek our knowledge of the local flora by books, principally field guides of various sorts. If you were like me growing up, I had no idea whatsoever of the proper names and uses of the most common of weeds growing everywhere around me and I was a country farm boy! Oh, if only I had a teacher! I remember when I first started trying to identify plants

     II.   Harvesting Wild Plants. . . . . . . . . Medicinal herbs may generally be acquired by three methods. They may be purchased from reliable herbal supply houses usually in a dried form. They may be grown in our own herb plots from seeds, seedlings, and various cuttings. And, finally, they may be what is known as Wildcrafted which simply means that one would go out into natural lands to harvest properly identified plants. Generally, wildcrafted plants are the cheapest and most potent that any herbalist can use.  The Eclectic Medical Doctors of old seem to favor the use of green, fresh herbs in many cases over the dried plant material and for good reason. They are better!

     III.   Processing the Raw Herb. . . . . . . . .Once we have acquired the best possible herb material available to us, the next step is to process this raw plant material into the most useful and potent medicine possible for our patient

 

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