“Simplers” is what people were called long before they began to be referred to as “Herbalists”. A Simpler tended to be an intuitive person who had developed a trusting relationship with Nature to provide all that they needed to live a self-sufficient life. ~ The Art of Herbalism
When you journey from synthetic cosmetic products into the wonderful world of products made from natural ingredients, you may say you’ve developed (another) trusting relationship with Nature. Natural ingredients, found in natural organic cosmetic products offer a variety of skin treatments.
The same can be said for herbs used as natural remedies for other health concerns: sore muscles, respiratory problems, menstrual problems, fever, sleep problems, nausea, coughing, anxiety and many more.
Tiffany M. Psichopaidas, a certified Clinical Master Herbalist with over twenty years of experience in the field, wrote The Art of Herbalism, a guide suitable for all those, who wish to escape the ever more dangerous pharmaceutical treatments and return to Mother Nature for healing. While I am pretty well versed in natural ingredients used in cosmetic products, I have to say I am pretty much a beginner when it comes to using herbs as natural, healing remedies for other health issues. The Art of Herbalism is thus a good book, a guide explaining the processes when making our own herbal remedies.
“We were dependent on plants then, and we are dependent on them now. They are the reason we have survived and continue to multiply.” ~ The Art of Herbalism
With more and more people returning back to Nature, which is obvious in the case of natural organic cosmetic products being sold more than ever before, Tiffany brings up an issue I’ve been thinking about as well: responsible herbalism.
“When you pause to consider all of the resources available for purchasing herbs, the enormity of the industry and the toll it takes on the very plants we use and love becomes startlingly evident.” ~ The Art of Herbalism
Tiffany touches upon the counter-effect on the environment the enormous harvesting of the herbs has. Some of the at-risk species, due to over-harvesting include American Ginseng, Echinacea and Goldenseal. This is one of the reasons we should learn how to grown medicinal plants ourselves; of course, cultivating these medicinal herbs should be done organically. When deciding you want to have your own medicinal garden, you should make a plan, which includes which plants are appropriate for your location, which plants you need to plant based on your needs and how much time you’re actually willing to spend on your medicinal herb garden – so you don’t give up. While The Art of Herbalism guides you through the process of making your own medicinal herbs, it does not provide sufficient or more detailed information on how to grow each and every of the 75 herbs in the book. It does provide a table with the names, including botanical names, of the herbs, in what climate they grow and how much sun exposure they need; for example: Calendula needs a place full of sun and a temperate, subtropical climate, while, for example, Chamomile needs full sun and a partial shade in a temperate climate.
“The process of making an herbal extract by steeping an herb in a liquid menstruum is called Tincturing. Tinctures are relatively stable solutions that use alcohol to extract the medicinal constituents of the herb used and to preserve against deterioration. An advantage to using herbal tinctures is their rapid absorption into the bloodstream. The body actually begins to absorb their benefits from the moment they are placed in the mouth.” ~ The Art of Herbalism
In a chapter dedicated to tinctures, you will find information which parts of the plants can be used and which not – since some parts of the plants may be even – poisonous! The Art of Herbalism will guide you through the whole process of making tinctures: how to make menstruum, the liquid portion of the tincture and how much of an alcohol and water you have to use. While alcohol in tinctures acts as preservative, it should be noted that alcohol in cosmetic products can be very drying. You will also learn the process called maceration – steeping the herb in the menstruum – needed in order for the solvent to absorb the medicinal constituents of the herb.
In skin care, macerated oils usually consist of various plants macerated in Sunflower vegetable oil. For example, Calendula flower macerated in Sunflower oil is used, on its own or added to other ingredients, to treat acne and in sun lotions. Horse Chestnut seed, macerated in Sunflower oil are used for eczema treatment, while Carrot extract, macerated in Sunflower oil is used for damaged, mature and sun-damaged skin. Rosemary oil, along with other vegetable and essential oils are also added to macerated oils.
Following maceration, the book will guide you through the remaining process of making tinctures: from settling time to what to do if the precipitation (solid particles that appear at the bottom of the jars) occurs and how much of a solvent – glycerite (alcohol-free herbal extract) you should use.
As it is with vegetable oils used in cosmetics being cold-pressed, there are benefits of the tinctures being cold-processed, since this process leaves the active constituents of the herbs intact.
“You must take all of their actions into careful consideration. It is extremely important to be aware of any contraindications, possible pharmaceutical drug/herb interactions, and understand that allergic reactions can occur.” ~ The Art of Herbalism
In The Art of Herbalism you will find important information on the tincture dosages, based on weight, age and metabolism.
When making tinctures, it is important to know the properties of the herbs, as well as tincturing ratios, such as herb:menstruum ratio, alcohol:water ratio and determining the absolute alcohol content, as alcohol acts as the extractor of the medicinal constituents from the herbs. The book will offer you a variety of formulas for your tinctures.
Infusions and Decoctions
“You’ll probably find it interesting that, in spite of the proven effectiveness of alcohol as a solvent, a cup of tea offer far greater medicinal constituents than a tincture.” ~ The Art of Herbalism
“A “decoction” refers to the extraction of the benefits from the seeds, hard roots, and/or bark of your chosen herb(s).” ~ The Art of Herbalism
Herbal oils, Balms and Salves
The Art of Herbalism offers a basic information on how to make herbal oils, when to use dry herbs and when to use fresh herbs, and a simple procedure on how incorporate herbal oils when making balms and salves.
Herbal Capsules and Herbal Pills
I was certain that making your own capsules and pills would be pretty complicated, but Tiffany says they are really easy to do. Making your own herbal capsules and pills is ideal for those who may not tolerate the taste of the herbs. The book will guide you through this simple process, where you’d need just some dry herbs, a bowl, some honey syrup and glycerine. As with other herbal medicines, you should be cautious with dosages of the pills and capsules as well – The Art of Herbalism provides this information.
Before the end of the book, you will find useful information on how to use raw honey and how to make herb syrup, as well as how to make compresses and poultices.
The second half of the book The Art of Herbalism consists of a detailed description of the 75 herbs; along the botanical name and the family, you will find under each herb what it is used for, contraindications/side effects, which parts are used, methods of preparation and dosages. Equally important are the parts what certain herbs are used for and the side effects; some herbs can even cause miscarriage!
Final thoughts on The Art of Herbalism
It’s pretty clear that the author, Tiffany M. Psichopaidas, shared her vast knowledge on the many uses of medicinal herbs. The book is easy to follow, with useful information on the properties of the herbs and formulations, though for the beginners it will take some time before we grasp all the important information on how to make all the concoctions; after all, it’s one thing to make a lip balm in your kitchen, it’s something else to create a potion used as a medicine.
As I previously mentioned, the book maybe comes short in terms of providing a more detailed information on how to grow certain herbs mentioned in the book, although the book does not claim to be a herb gardening one; pictures of the mentioned herbs could also be present. Those, who may wish the book would have contained more recipes for tinctures, such as which herbs to mix together for a specific purpose, should check the follow up book – The Craft of Herbalism; we will review it pretty soon.
All in all, The Art of Herbalism would prove a worthy addition on your natural medicine cabinet shelf.
“Nature is a master chemist.” ~ The Art of Herbalism
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Disclaimer: The Art of Herbalism was provided, free of charge, to Nature of Europe for the purpose of an honest review. The fact that it was provided as such, free of charge, did not, in any shape of form, affect the review. The opinions expressed in this review represent those of Nature of Europe. All information within this review is for informational purposes only.