processing herbs

gringojayMarch 20, 2009

Modern attitude to herbal usage may account for some of the confusion over their suitability. Stores are filling up with powders, pills, tinctures, teas & chunks of herbs; labels tease with sellers hints of benefits.

Traditionally herbs were the province of a select individual. This is only partly due to the fact that technical literacy has not always been common. Power to produce "cures" was not given away readily.

In many instances there was/is the societies' healer; and in clans an elder who were/are practitioners of their herbal craft. Those situations indicate that an apprenticeship was/is the original way to gain experience.

A significant part of learning just what to do was learning what to use. This includes the obvious aspects, such as exactly when to harvest curative plants, precisely which parts to use in different instances & how to process them.

Herbal processing may be more important than western students think. A scientific inclination to look for an active ingredient, to parallel drug pharmacological action, is what drives current scientific herbal research. In other words the herb must be put to test.

Yet when an herb is tested, it may have been with plant tissue that does not really correspond to what an indigenous herbalist would use. The most accessible non-western herbal pharmacology might be from China, where centuries of written herbal records exist.

Some Chinese medicinal plants collected have their unique technique for processing, they are not all just dried for storage until infused or powdered. Ingredient lists are common, but the traditional way to process them is rarely considered.

Internet searches/books can tell us what, markets are ready to give us where, yet we may not always be doing things how.

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>> The most accessible non-western herbal pharmacology might be from China, where centuries of written herbal records exist.

Might be. I would say that herbology from India is easier to understand and is more 'accessible' from that standpoint. The ideas of the doshas and general effects (along with prabhava, or special properties of an herb) are easier for the average westerner to understand than some of the metaphors and patterns of traditional Chinese medicine. Both systems are highly developed, to be sure, and contain a great deal of embedded information about plants. I think that Ayurvedic herbology stands between western and eastern systems of herbology.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 11:41AM
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Foster's old book "Herbal Emissaries" has some examples of unique Chinese herb processing.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 6:48PM
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What type of processing do you want to do & for what herb? For what application?

Each herb is "processed" according to 1) what part of the plant it is 2) what you want the resulting "processed" herb to do; and 3) how you want to ingest/apply the herb.

Various, differing plant characteristics & components come to the fore depending on how you prepare the herb for use. Using the wrong plant part or the wrong process (or doing the process wrong) may render the herb ineffectual for its intended purpose. Even harvesting at the wrong time can affect the plant's efficacy.

David Hoffman's Holistic Herbal is a good primer on herb preparation. As you become more familiar with particular herbs you will find there are "degrees within degrees" of preparation-- % of water in alcohol-based extractions, for example-- but the basic knowledge Hoffman provides-- and plenty of others-- will make usable preps for beginners.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 9:23PM
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Can this stuff be made up?
NY Times 26 March, 2009 Op-Ed by N.D. Kristof:
" In one experiment, clinical psychologists did no better than their secretaries in their diagnosis. In another, a white rat in a maze repeatedly beat groups of Yale undergraduates in understanding the optimal way to get food dropped in the maze. The students over analyzed and saw patterns that didn't exist, so they were beaten by the rodent."
(This is stepping on an original thread; but the original poster careth naught.)
Possibly, skewered interpretations of psycho-physical health goals occur from super-imposing constructs that don't exist on natural processes.
Similarly, analyzing symptoms read in popular books/internet/texts can lead even smart people to anxiously believe they have "it".
Sophistication & education do not necessarily surpass innate insight.
Makes me really wonder if a Witch Doctor smeared in "woo" could beat the rat to the maze food; or if Granny could fix up her patient just as reliably as the doc, in non-life threatening circumstances.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2009 at 3:18PM
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"Skewered interpretations"??

Surely you mean 'squewed'?

There is such a thing as spurious correlation, but it shouldn't happen if experiements are properly designed and performed. To assess the validity of test results, it's important to read first the description of the test's design. It helps if you can understand it, too, but that takes professional training!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 4:20AM
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Hi daisyduckworth,
You are kind not to skewer me for my faulty proofreading.
The author did say the Yale University students "repeatedly" were no match for the amateur rat.
I assume these tests (plural) were designed & conducted at Yale University. I hope they are smart enough there to be scientific about experiments.
Of course, if the human subjects had not graduated yet & had not received a diploma in their chosen profession it wasn't a fair match up.
O.K., I am just having a little fun with words & don't want you to mistake this for a semantic debate; the jokes on Yale.
(The editorial author Kristol's subject was: how statistically valid is an expert's judgement.)
Based on reports of (so called, self-styled) studies in many circumstances it is often an illusion that top people in their field actually know what is the correct choice.
When an experiments successful outcome is statistically no different (ie: the margin of error is negligible) than what, say, a monkey achieves it is humbling.
Many people I know seek 2nd opinions from different medical professionals & even 3rd opinions.
Professional hubris in health care is the subject of a book published over 35 years ago, in English, called "Medical Nemesis."

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 9:44AM
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"Is the human condition becoming a medical condition?"
Maybe scientific theory has made medical some normal states of being.
10% USA children estimated to be offered Ritalin.
10% UK children have clinically diagnosable medical condition.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 7:53AM
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84% of statistical evidence is false.

Including this.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 12:20AM
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    Bookmark   April 15, 2009 at 1:37AM
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