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Something Old is Something New Again!

When the little red hen planted her one grain of wheat and made her one loaf of bread, it was whole wheat that she ate. Her master was probably enjoying his white loaf. When the refinement process was created to take the bran from the wheat only wealthy masters could afford the light and fragrant pure white loaf. The peasants were relegated to heavy dark bread. White bread was the beginning of refinement processes of many diverse foods. We now know that the little red hen was better off with her whole grain than her masters were with their melt in your mouth, no nourishment treat.

Refinement is starting to progress into the age old traditions of healing with plants. Never before has there been such enormous effort put into standardizing, isolating and selling herbal pharmaceuticals. There is such controversial and contradictory information being published every day that it is difficult to know who is correct about what. An item in the news recently explained how researchers are finding that people who take anti-oxidants in tablet form, like beta-carotene, are actually at a greater risk of cancer than those who do not. Their explanation is that in the laboratory only one of the chemicals present in the plant is isolated and administered.

Scientists admit they don’t know how the other compounds present in vegetables interact. The point was don’t rely on a pill, eat your fresh vegetables. The same applies to herbs. Just as gasoline alone can’t get you to work, just one constituent of a healing Herb isolated in the laboratory will do little to promote your health. The sum of the parts does not equal the whole.

Somehow it just seems like you ought to be able to trust the market that sells things for your health. Not only is over processing a problem, but growing and collecting the right species of plants can be difficult to insure. Often there are no controls or governing bodies for testing what is sold. Freshness and purity of whole herbs are questionable when dried and stored. We all know there is a big difference between fresh Basil and powdered Basil, surely there must be a big difference between fresh Marsh Mallow and powdered Marsh Mallow. That these plants are worthy is not in question. That we should allow growing, collecting and processing of our herbal remedies by others is. We are growers. We have confidence in what we grow and serve to ourselves because we know how the plant was grown and harvested.

Please check with your doctor or other qualified herbal practitioner before you take anything. Just as aspirin can adversely affect some and help others so can herbs. Be careful when you harvest to make sure you collect correctly and never take chances with unknown plants.

A few examples of ancient herbs with renewed interest

St. John’s Wort Hypericum perforatum

You may know St. John’s Wort as Red Oil, an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory. This 2 foot spreading, hardy perennial throws multitudes of yellow flowers. These flowers, along with all above ground parts contain active ingredients. Recent research shows that St. John’s Wort is an effective treatment for depression. It’s amazing to see the correlation of the Old World ‘commended against the melancholy and madness’ to the current terminology and use as an ‘antidepressant’.

Fo Ti, He Shou Wu Polygonum multiflorum

The history of this ancient herb goes back to 713 AD when it was first written about in China. The roots of 3-4 year and older plants are unearthed in the autumn and dried. Current research is showing that Fo Ti can lower cholesterol and increase blood sugar. Traditionally it is thought to promote general health and fight aging. I’m adding these leaves to my salad becaue they are tasty and, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to age more gracefully.

Feverfew, Tanacetum parthenium

Culpepper said it is ‘effectual against all pains in the head’, but was not researched until the 1980’s, when the wife of a doctor ended her 50-year bout with headaches. The working of Feverfew is still not known, even after extensive tests. It works best for migraines and should be taken regularly. (All this writing is giving me a headache, excuse me while I take a quick walk through the garden.)

Valerian, Valeriana officinalis

In ancient times, and even in some places today, this herb was and still is referred to as All Heal. Like most medicinal herbs it is a bit on the weedy side. This makes it pretty easy to grow. Used mostly for its sleep inducing qualities, it tends to relax more than knock out.


These are some of the most talked about and healthful herbs; something old is new again. From the writings of the Ancients to the most recent trends in health care to the latest discovery from the Rain Forest, herbs are there.

Health benefits come from many other herbs, including the standby culinary herbs like Thyme, Sage, Peppermint, Hyssop, Dill, Garlic, Celery, Cayenne Pepper, Chamomile, Cinnamon, Lemon, Clove, Licorice, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Nutmeg, Onion, Angelica, Chervil, Horseradish, Tarragon, Asparagus, Cabbage, Tea, Basil, Caper, Caraway, Carob, Chicory, Coffee, Cilantro, Saffron, Cumin, Lemon Grass, Bay Laurel, Lovage, Lemon Verbena, Myrtle, Marjoram, Oregano, Anise, Allspice, Pepper, Pomegranate, Radish, Raspberry, Winter Savory, Sesame, Cocoa, Grapes, Rosemary, Fennel and others. This has to be some of the most delicious medicine imaginable.

Here is your prescription: Plant an Herb Garden, make it big and use your herbs fresh daily.

For more information regarding the plants mentioned here and how to use them, refer to the following publications:

We hope that you continue to grow your own herbs whatever you use them for in the knowledge that for centuries they have provided sustenance and health.