Volume 1, Issue 7: Monday, October 4, 1999

eLetter > Volume 1, Issue 7: Monday, October 4, 1999


Complementary First Aid, Part VI – More on Herbs

Buying Herbs

by Dr. Andrew Weil,”Herbal Medicine Chest

Growing interest in herbal medicine has stimulated the proliferation of both high-quality herbal suppliers and marginal ones. Overall, I think standardized extracts are your best bet. The next best are probably tinctures, and then freeze-dried preparations of particular plants, such as stinging nettles. Whether you buy these in a grocery store or a health food store or an herb shop doesn’t really matter – as long as they’re as fresh as possible.

Herbal products are made from plants that have medicinal properties. Light, air and moisture all speed the deterioration of dried plants and rob them of their usefulness. The most destructive process is oxidation – that is, reactions with oxygen that change the plants’ chemistry.

standardized extract is one that has been assayed to determine the content of one or several key constituents. The label will give a percentage content of these compounds. Standardization is the best assurance that a product contains what it’s supposed to contain in amounts sufficient to produce a desired effect. Standardized extracts may be liquids or solids.

Tinctures are liquid extracts of fresh or dried plants in alcohol. The alcohol content is high enough to preserve the plant material. Tinctures are stable and convenient, but their quality is only as good as that of the herbs that went into them. Tinctures should be shaken before use and diluted in warm water before being consumed; a typical dose is one dropperful in one quarter cup of water, taken three to four times a day with food.

[See more on preparing herbs in the next article]

If you don’t want the alcohol, you can look for other liquid extracts of herbs in vinegar or glycerin, but these are not as good as alcohol-based products.

Or you can buy your herbs freeze-dried. Freeze-drying is a process that uses chemical solvents to extract the plants, then flash-evaporates the extracts at low temperature in a partial vacuum. This process removes the solvents. The solid residue is then packed into capsules. Freeze-dried extracts are far superior to air-dried whole herbs.

Loose herbs sold in bulk are probably not going to be much more useful to your body than grass clippings on a compost heap. If they’re finely chopped and sitting in a bin, they’re likely to have lost all of their medicinal properties through exposure to the elements. This is especially true of leaves and flowers. Roots and bark deteriorate more slowly.

Powdered herbs in capsules are probably just as bad. Because they’ve been ground up, they oxidize much faster, since there is much more surface area exposed to air.

In some cases, you can use bulk herbs to prepare teas – for example, ephedra stems for asthma, blueberry-leaf tea to regulate blood sugar, cornsilk tea as a diuretic or raspberry-leaf tea for menstrual cramps. Again, make sure they’re packaged well to prevent deterioration. You can check for freshness by smelling them – if they smell stale, they probably are not much good.

Another concern is contamination. Herbs may have been grown using pesticides; they might have been fumigated in shipment; and they might contain foreign material. Herbal preparations that have been harvested from the wild (“wildcrafted”) or cultivated organically are better choices. It makes sense to buy brands that advertise the purity of their products. In my book Natural Health, Natural Medicine (Houghton Mifflin, 1998), I mention “herbal” remedies from Hong Kong that turned out to contain powerful – and potentially toxic – pharmaceutical drugs. Look for a list of ingredients on the package, and buy from reputable sources.

Source: by Andrew Weil, MD,”Herbal Medicine Chest“Copyright © 1999-2012, CompWellness Network, Fairfield NJ USA Asklepios Enterprises, Inc. Reprinted with Permission. Also see Dr. Weil’s sections on the best herbs to help you through each season of the year.

How To Make Herbal Remedies

from: Heirloom Seeds eLetter via Chet Day‘s Health and Beyond Weekly.

It seems that more people are becoming interested in the use of herbs as an alternative to store-bought medicine – [read the] various ways herbs can be [prepared] medically. – Chet Day

Refer to our Herbal First Aid article for information on how to use medicinal herbs.


An infusion is made by immersing a herb in either hot or cold water. Use bottled mineral water for best results. For a hot infusion, place the herbs in a canning jar along with the mineral water. Put a canning lid on the jar. Steep the jar in hot water (not boiling). The length of time depends on the individual herb and on whether you’re using the leaves, flower head, seeds, or roots. Use after the liquid cools. Honey may be added, if desired, to improve the taste.

If kept cool in the refrigerator, the infusion can be saved for 2 to 3 days. Some herbs (e.g. common yarrow) give off a bitter taste when infused with hot water. Make a cold water infusion for these varieties. (Time needed varies with the variety of herb used).


This is more potent than an infusion. Place the dried herb in an enamel or glass sauce pan with cold water and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the volume is reduced to 1/4 of its original volume. Will keep 2 to 3 days if refrigerated. The amount of herb and water used depends on the variety of herb.


Chop dry plant parts, such as roots, bark or large stems into small pieces. Crush the pieces with a mortar and pestle into powder form (a coffee bean grinder can also be used). The powder can then be added to drinks and soups, or sprinkled on food.


A tincture is made by immersing a herb in alcohol, which acts as an extractive. Place 4 oz of dried herb in a container with a tight lid. Add 1 pint alcohol that is at least 60 proof (brandy or vodka). Do not use treated ethyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol. Let this mixture sit for 2 weeks, shaking daily. Strain and store the liquid in a dark jar. Add 5 to 10 drops of the tincture to a cup of hot water or tea.

Ointments and Creams

Prepare a strong decoction or infusion and add this to a small quantity of olive oil. Boil until the liquid from the infusion has evaporated (bubbles cease to appear). This will leave the herbal principles in the oil. To make a cream from this, simply stir in melted bees wax. Amounts of wax and oil vary depending on the variety of herb. These are a few of the ways herbs can be used medicinally from the garden.

For exact amounts of herbs to be used and complete directions for using herbs, refer to one of the many books on this subject. We recommend The Reader’s Digest Handbook – HERBSHerbal Antibioticsby Stephen Harrod Buhner and Natural and Herbal Family Remedies by Cynthia Black. All of these can be purchased from our web site or found at your local bookstore or library.

Source: Heirloom Seeds eLetter, September 12, ©1999 via Chet Day’s Health and Beyond Weekly, No 31, September 17, ©1999.

Books (Send books to review to the address on our website)

Courtesy of Amazon.com – CLICK FOR WEBSITE

Your Top Health Concerns (Ask Dr. Weil) by Andrew Weil, MD (90 pp, $2.99 or less, with index) If you like your books short and sweet, you’ll like this one. Dr Weil has compiled several questions from his website. There are several wellness questions that will be helpful to reach tip-top shape before 2000 challenges start to take their toll on our body systems – which may start in December. You can find many of these questions and answers in the “Previous Q & A’s “Section of his”Q & A Library“on his website. However, this will be easier to read away from your main computer. We’ll reprint a few in upcoming Q & A sections.

Questions & Answers (Email your questions to us at Info@CompWellness.org)

Healthcare in the year 2000 and beyond will be as much prevention and preparation as it will be responding intelligently to symptoms. Building strong body systems involves learning some new ways to deal with old problems. Here are some straight-forward methods from member practitioners in Boulder, Colorado.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome by Jennifer WorkmanMS, RD

I’m a 26 year old male, and two years ago I developed a minor case of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I have found that eating regularly helps minimize symptoms, but inevitable stress can cause the symptoms to flare with all their fury. IBS controls my life, and I’m wondering if there is a cure

Statistics show that almost 80 percent of the American population is suffering from some form of IBS. However, it’s manageable once you better understand your body’s response to foods and stress.

Ayurveda has many of the answers. The cornerstone of Ayurvedic diagnosis and treatment is dosha, a description of three groups of people. In very simplistic terms:

  • Vata – lighter build, quick moving
  • Pitta – medium, steady mover
  • Kapha – heavier, easy-going

People who have more Vata and Pitta in their system or constitution will respond to stress with symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, fear, heat, frustration, annoyance or aggravation. These emotional symptoms will manifest somewhere in the body. In a Vata, it may cause gas, constipation or bloating. In a Pitta, it may cause irritation, diarrhea or bleeding stools.

Most people have some food sensitivities – usually to wheat, gluten, or soy. These will exacerbate the symptoms and cause even more irritation and stress on the colon. These are usually easy to identify. Adding more variety and less repetition of the foods that aggravate them can make a huge difference.

Jennifer Workman, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition and exercise physiology. She is becoming well known throughout the US and Canada, as a practitioner and owner ofThe Balanced Approach, a nutrition and weight-management consulting company based on the principles of Ayurveda and sports nutrition, in Boulder CO at (303)447-9484.

Injuries with Age by Erik Hansen, CFT, CMT

The older I get, the more injuries I suffer and the longer they take to heal. Why is this? I like to run, ski and play volleyball – is there anything I can do to avoid giving up my sports.

Some people suffer from more injuries and have longer healing periods because of lifestyle and sports equipment. How many times in volleyball can we dive onto hardwood floors? How many steps can we take with shoes incorrectly designed so that our heels strike the ground first with every step?

If you understand the nature of your sports, it is easy to develop a program to maintain your body’s composure. Learning how to dive for a ball or to fall with the least amount of impact will greatly preserve your body. Find professionals who can provide a systematic approach to evaluate the nature of each sport and how to maintain harmony with the body.

Healing is also lengthened by Western lifestyle – not enough sleep and meditation as well as poor nutrition and training routines. I recommend you have a stool, urine, hormone and blood analysis done. They will tell you how to adjust your eating and lifestyle. Next, have your musculo-skeletal system evaluated by a personal trainer who is proficient in manual muscle testing and has extensive background in postural and biomechanical functions. Then begin a systematic program to attain your goals.

Erik Hansen, CFT, CMT, has been training athletes of all ages for 20 years and is a former professional triathlete. He is the owner of Paradigm Therapies Inc, Boulder CO, at (303)440-3301.

Reader Comments (Email your comments to us at Info@CompWellness.org)

Water Purification – Update from Issue No 6

Suzanne, an essential oil user suggested, “To purify the water we drink, we add a couple of drops of lemon oil to a glass of water. This is enough to purify it, and also to take away the ‘flat’ taste the distilled water has.”

Laraine Kyle, RN, MSN, CS, CMT, Co-Founder Institute for Integrative Aromatherapy and the author of our Aromatherapy First Aid article, responded,”… people do this with lemon oil and it is actually OK … Some of the aromatic molecules are water soluble, though if too much is put in the water, the essential oil will float on top and cause burning to lips, mucous membranes [so only use a couple of drops per glass]. Lemon oil is an excellent anti-bacterial.

Sharing the eLetter

Emi Miller, RN, HNC, ND, (LAc), the President of the Idaho Acupuncture Society wrote, “Great Job! I will distribute the eLetter to my colleagues.” (Her state’s acupuncture law passed in July, and they’re waiting on the Board to be established. Progress takes time.)

Potassium Iodide

Mick Winter of Napa Valley Y2K wrote in May, “Congratulations on the website … it has great potential. … Here’s a general … not a holistic/complementary question: which is the best substance to take to prevent radioactive iodine from entering the thyroid: potassium iodide or potassium iodate?” Given the nuclear accident in Japan, it has become a very important holistic/complementary question since we need this substance as a preventative measure. The answer is iodide and our WebMistress and well-prepared country woman, Leslie Varnicle, says “it may be available locally, but we found it for $4.95 per 2-week-supply per person at BePrepared.com.”

Y2K Connections

Jan Nickerson, creator of Y2K Connections, a community-building game, thanked us “for offering such a great service, “and pointed out a couple of the game’s Healthcare scenarios:

  • “How do the uncertainties of Y2K breakdowns present an opportunity to create what you want for your health? … It sounds to me like your eLetter and philosophy go well beyond Y2K, to creatingopportunities for one’s health.”
  • “What first aid supplies and manual do you want to have on hand, in case you aren’t able to get to a drug store or medical clinic for some time to come? – again, it sounds to me like your email eLetter and website information are exactly the kind of ‘manual’ we had in mind when we crafted this scenario.”

Thanks Jan – keep an eye on both the eLetter and the website for the compilation of our first aid information into the “manual” you seek. – KJ

News (Email news leads to us at Info@CompWellness.org)

News report summaries on Healthcare and Y2K follow. We have most of the articles on file in case you look for the web references after they are cleared.

The 100-Day Report by the US Senate Special Committee On The Year 2000 Technology Problem describes the state of the country and the world at 100 days from end of the year. It paints a poor picture of our readiness, with healthcare included in the least prepared sectors along with local governments, small business and education. The Executive Summary reports:

Y2K compliance is mixed in the healthcare industry, which is characterized by extensive decentralization of operations. Some segments, such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, wholesaling and distribution, and large-scale hospitals, have invested the managerial and financial resources to remediate and test for most Y2K problems. Conversely, rural and inner city hospitals, nursing homes, and physicians’ offices have particularly high Y2K risk exposure due to limited technical/managerial resources and lack of awareness.

The Committee remains concerned about the hundreds of different types of electronic biomedical devices used by all healthcare providers. Most in the medical device industry have identified the Y2K compliance of their products, but end-to-end testing within a facility has not been the norm. The difficulty in testing and limited resources available for replacement of devices at some institutions contributes to the Committee’s concern and raises serious patient safety questions.

Healthcare is the nation’s single largest industry, generating $1.5 trillion annually. The US has 6,000 hospitals, 800,000 doctors in 50,000 offices and 16,000 nursing homes, as well as 2,000 biomedical equipment manufacturers and numerous healthcare insurers in the public (Medicare/Medicaid) and private sectors. All of these entities are highly automated and, thus are highly exposed to Y2K risk. On a positive note, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), the federal agency that oversees Medicare payments, has made a nationwide effort to ensure that its health claims payments system is Y2K compliant.

Worries About Medicare Providers (Stephen Barr, Washington Post) via Sanger & Shannon’s Review of Y2K News Reports In testimony by the General Accounting Office before the House Government Reform subcommittee chaired by Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), the GAO says that “Forty of 69 Medicare contractors – usually insurance companies – have tested with less than one percent of the doctors, hospitals and health providers who submit claims for payments.” Separately, “The Health Care Financing Administration, which oversees the Medicare program, has sent letters to more than 1.1 million health plans and providers stressing the importance of Y2K readiness … But it appears that doctors, hospitals and nursing homes have been reluctant to engage in Y2K tests and demonstrate their compliance, according to congressional auditors. Gary Christoph, the chief technology officer at HCFA, acknowledges in his draft testimony that ‘we now see our greatest risk to the program as the uncertainties in the readiness of our partners, namely, our Medicare providers … Virtually all of the surveys of provider readiness have fairly low response rates, and the anonymous responses are self-reported data, which may be overly optimistic. … We continue to have serious, ongoing concerns about the ability of some Medicare providers to successfully meet this challenge.’”

AIDS Pandemic Predicted To Worsen In 21st Century (September 30, Reuters Health/InteliHealth Professional Connect) Global efforts aimed at preventing HIV infection must be intensified, as effective treatment becomes a less and less feasible option for controlling this disease on a worldwide scale, according to Dr. Anthony S Fauci. “Unless methods of prevention, with or without a vaccine are successful, the worst of the global pandemic will occur in the 21st century, “the director of National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland, predicts in a special article in the September 30th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Many Diabetes Patients are Harmed when they Skip Their Oral Medication (The Medical Tribune/InteliHealth Connect) In the news article last issue,”Vegan Diet Helps Control Type 2 [adult-onset] Diabetes “we learned that a strict vegetarian ‘vegan’ diet can help improve blood sugar control. Some people, however, prefer oral medications, but, according to this article, “an alarming number of diabetes patients [such as those in this] United Kingdom [study], aren’t taking[their oral medications], risking their health and even their lives… Discontinuing oral medication can cause blood sugar levels to rise [which over time] can greatly increase the risk of diabetes complications such as eye diseases and kidney problems. The risk of heart disease is increased two to four times in people with diabetes.” Therefore, if you or your loved ones are on oral diabetes medications, stock up for an extra week or two before the end of the year.

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