Common Herbs and Herbal Preparations

Herbs are available in a variety of forms, including fresh, dried, in tablets or capsules, or bottled in liquid form. You can buy them individually or in mixtures formulated for specific conditions. Whatever type of product you choose the quality of an herbal preparation-be it in capsule, tablet, tea, tincture, bath, compress, poultice, or ointment form-is only as good as the quality of the raw herb from which it was made. Generally, herbs fall into two categories: wild-harvested or farm-grown. A wild-harvested herb is one that grows naturally, without human intervention. As a result of natural selection, plants tend to be found in environments that optimise their growth. For example, horsetail grows best in moist, swampy areas, while arnica thrives at high altitudes in alpine meadows. The process of gathering herbs from their natural habitats is called wildcrafting


Administering Herbal Treatment

If the label says tincture, the preparation contains alcohol. In a tincture, alcohol is employed to extract and concentrate the active properties of the herb. Alcohol is also a very effective natural preservative. Because the body easily assimilates a tincture, it is a very effective way to administer herbal compounds. Tinctures are concentrated and cost-effective. However, the full taste of the herb comes through very strongly in a tincture. Children and adults may find the taste of some herbs unpleasant. Goldenseal, for example, is bitter tasting. Another concern when using tinctures is the presence of the alcohol. If you wish to lessen the amount of alcohol in a tincture before giving it to your child, mix the appropriate dose with one-quarter cup of very hot water. After about five minutes, most of the alcohol will have evaporated, and the mixture should be cool enough to drink.

Fluid Extracts
Fluid extracts can be made with alcohol, like tinctures, or the essence of the herb can be leached out with water. When purchasing a liquid extract of a herb, the only way to be certain of the extraction process (alcohol or water) is to read the label. Extracts offer the same advantages and disadvantages that tinctures do. They are the most concentrated form of herbal treatment and therefore the most cost-effective. They are easy to administer, but have a strong herbal taste.

Capsules and Tablets
Capsules and tablets contain a ground or powdered form of raw herb. In general, there seems to be little difference between the two in terms of clinical results. With the exception of certain herbal concentrates in capsule form, both capsules and tablets tend to be much less strong and potent than tinctures and extracts.

There are many delicious blends of herbal teas. You'll find loose herbs ready for steeping, herbal formulations aimed at specific conditions, and convenient pre-bagged teas. Some are just for sipping; some are medicinal. When your child is ill, a comforting cup of herbal tea (medicinal or not) is a wonderful way to give additional liquids.
Ointments, Salves, and Rubs

Herbs can be effectively combined into base creams consisting of beeswax, lanolin, cocoa butter, shea butter and various oils. Both Marigold and Comfrey are commonly found in cream preparations along with warming herbs such as Chilli and Rosemary.