Today, there is a real craze for the use of plants, whether in alternative herbal medicine or aromatherapy. However, this use requires real knowledge to avoid the risk of intoxication. What is alternative herbal medicine? How to use it best? These are often the questions that come to mind and allow us to define this therapy, which is part of the alternative medicine and may also be used in the form of dietary supplements or associated with aromatherapy.
In short, what aromatherapy is part of so-called “soft” medicines? This therapy with essential oils is very popular in recent years. However, faced with the diversity of oils, it is not easy to navigate.
1 – What is Phytotherapy?
Phytotherapy refers to the use that can be made of plants in different forms – infusions, decoctions, poultices, macerations, etc. – for a therapeutic purpose – preventive or curative – but also aesthetic. Indeed, the plants found in natural cosmetics have increased craze.
At the origin of phytotherapy, there are disciplines such as botany or herbalism.
Depending on the part of the plant used (stem, leaf, flower, root …), herbal medicine offers different effects.
It is important to know the plants well and to know in what environment – environment, season, etc. – harvest them to optimize their use during care.
2 – The Origins of Alternative Herbal Medicine (Phytotherapy)
It is difficult to date precisely when the use of plants began because man has always used plants, and our grandmothers used to pick “simples” (other names of plants) to heal. Even in the Bible, we read that God makes plants germinate for the needs of man (Psalms 104: 14).
We tend to distinguish:
– Aromatic and “food” plants:
There are vegetables and herbs used as an infusion and used on a daily basis, for no particular reason, other than to feed or – in the case of certain spices – give flavor to our dishes, even if these plants, however, have therapeutic virtues.
– Medicinal plants:
They have, in turn, therapeutic properties and contain one or more active ingredients that allow them to prevent or cure diseases.
Some plants are toxic and have contraindications, so it is better to go to a herbalist to buy your plants if you do not have sufficient knowledge.
Today, it can be said that allopathic medicine recognizes more and more the merits of certain plants: the barrier between medicine and alternative herbal medicine is disappearing.
Alternative herbal medicine has its origin in phytology, which studies plants. She also borrows her knowledge from botany. The knowledge of plants is essential to control the therapeutic properties, whether, in herbal medicine or aromatherapy, these two disciplines are often used together.
Know which plant to use in which treatment is not enough. It is important to know which part of the plant to use; each part may have different properties. Be careful, some parts can be curative and others highly toxic.
When you have a good approach to the world of plants and you want to stock up on your own, you have to learn the best harvest periods for each type of plant.
*** Medicinal plants with alternative herbal medicine
Originally, phytotherapy derives its principles from phytology, which is the study of plants. One could not make a therapeutic application of the plants without having first studied them.
Indeed, if well used medicinal plants have many virtues, we must not forget that a plant misused can be toxic, and that part of a plant can cure a particular disorder while another part of this same plant can be dangerous for health.
To heal well with medicinal plants, it is advisable to take advice from a connoisseur, naturopath or herbalist, or to train.
*** The parts and properties of medicinal plants
The name of a plant is not enough if it is not specified whether it is the stem, leaves, flowers, or buds. It is therefore important to know the medicinal plants, that is to say:
– Identify the different parts of the plant and its properties.
– Know how the dosage of plants is done.
– Distinguish medicinal plants from poisonous plants.
– Know the harvest periods according to the plants.
*** When to harvest medicinal plants?
Medicinal plants can be harvested at any time, depending on their type and the part of the plant harvested.
So, we harvest as well:
– In summer
– In winter
– In spring
– In autumn
– and in some cases, throughout the year
However, the ideal is to always choose dry weather, without morning dew and not stormy to harvest.
*** How to harvest plants for alternative herbal medicine?
Here are some great principles of the harvest that are mainly based on the parts of the plant that will be harvested:
– The stems of plants (thin stems, herbaceous) and the leaves can be harvested when the flower appears.
– The stems of plants (thick stems, barks) can be harvested before the buds appear or just after the fall of the leaves.
– The roots will be harvested in the fall or spring depending on whether it is an annual plant or not.
– Rhizomes and tubers: in autumn or spring, like roots.
– The flowers and the buds will be harvested before their complete blooming.
Once you have harvested your plants, you must rid them of all substance (dust, faded parts, insects …) before drying them: this is called “planting” a plant.
The plant must really be “clean” and rid of any organism that would be harmful to health.
4 – Preparation of Medicinal Plants
Therapeutic plant care can be administered internally or externally. Infusion, decoction, maceration … All plant preparations meet specific criteria. We help you to see more clearly.
Depending on the use that is intended for plants, the preparation will be different: infusion, maceration, decoction, broth or powder – are just a few examples.
To find out and know how to prepare a remedy according to these different modes, it is essential to know some definitions but also to adjust the dosage according to the prescription of the phytotherapist.
An infusion of plants will not be consumed if the local application proves to be more effective. It will, therefore, be necessary to determine:
* Which application (s) internally?
– The infusion
– The decoction
– Powdered plants
* Which application (s) externally?
– The poultice
– The natural mask
5 – Healing with Plants
We will find an answer to each type of problems: circulatory disorders and cardiovascular disorders, nervous disorders, ENT disorders, dermatological problems, bone or muscle disorders … With each pathology, several plants can be proposed.
Each plant may have several properties of which some technical terms may be familiar to you, others not.
6 – Other Uses of Herbal Medicine
In addition to the curative or preventive care it can provide, herbal alternative medicine can be invaluable in cosmetics and beauty care, or for our habitat. […].
7 – Where to Go for Advice or Purchase Medicinal Plants?
When we want to find quality plants or to be confirmed the non-toxicity of this or that plant, it is important to know who to contact. “Organic” stores, specialty stores, pharmacies, herbalism are all possible options for finding advice and buying medicinal plants.
*** Where to buy plants?
Inadequately used plants can cause toxicities and it is important to know a good specialist in case of doubt: on the plant chosen in-store or harvested oneself, on its use, on the recommended dosage…
We help you to make a quick overview of the questions to ask for the purchase of plants and give you some addresses to make your choice or ask for advice.
*** Who to contact to buy medicinal plants?
There are several options:
– The “organic” stores. Most of the best-known franchises offer plants in sachets, ready to be used for your herbal teas or decoctions for example. They even offer the advantage of being labeled “organic”.
– Signs specializing in well-being and alternative medicine offer the same products as the first, although the supply of plants is reduced to essences (essential oils).
– In some pharmacies / parapharmacies, you can find a department offering plants. However, if most develop more and more aromatherapy rays and food supplements, plants in bags are a little rarer.
– Herbalism is undoubtedly the great specialist of the plant as one would like to find it if one went to pick it in the meadows. These shops have tended to become scarce in France whereas they are much more widespread in Germany or Switzerland, but if you address these kinds of shops you will also have the advantage of having the advice of a specialist in herbalism.
– Do not forget your supermarket or the market for all aromatic herbs: thyme, rosemary, linden … that are already used in the kitchen.
*** Who to ask for advice on plant selection?
The choice of medicinal plants is a delicate operation. It is necessary to make sure of the quality of the plant, but it is also necessary to know its properties because some plants can be toxic and others disadvised to the pregnant women or to the children.
In case of doubt, it is therefore essential to take the advice of a specialist. We can therefore contact:
– To a doctor or pharmacist to know the indications and contraindications of the plants. It is also important to consult your doctor if you are also on medication. Some herbs and dietary supplements may alter or cancel an allopathic treatment. Caution is therefore required.
– To a phytotherapist, a herbalist or a naturopath: all three have followed training on the use of plants and therefore have the necessary knowledge to advise you in terms of alternative herbal medicine or aromatherapy.
– In a specialized dietary shop. Check however the qualification of the consultant salesman because some have good training in phyto-aromatherapy, but others have more traditional business training without specialization. So do not hesitate to check the course of your interlocutor.
As a Conclusion
Herbal alternative medicine belongs to the category of alternative medicine because it allows healing naturally thanks to a precise and rigorous use of medicinal plants.
Herbal alternative medicine never dispenses medical advice, and you need good plant knowledge to use it to avoid poisoning. However, measured use makes it a valuable tool for our health.