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Disappearing art of herbalism

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  • Disappearing art of herbalism

    I have mentioned my thoughts that herbal/ natural medicine is (to me) the most overlooked skill for prepping.
    Doctors can diagnose, but then how will they treat?

    So I have been touting herbalism heavily. Now that I am studying it, I learned something disappointing. It seems that the majority of herbalists are "apothecary herbalist", that is, they purchase dried herbs and prepared oils, and use these to make their home remedies. But there are very few people left who can identify a plant, pick the correct part, prepare it, and then when the need for it arises, make the tea or tincture that they need.

    This is still commonly done in other countries. I am going to go as far as I can here, but I may have to travel to ever get the level of ability I would like to possess. My instructor goes to other countries for this reason, so I may have to see if I can tag along at some point.
    "Oh, America. I wish I could tell you that this was still America, but I've come to realize that you can't have a country without people. And there are no people here. No, my friends. This is now the United States of Zombieland"

    "The constitution does not guarantee our safety, only our liberty!" Robert Steed before congress 3/2013

    Skills Beats Stuff

  • #2
    I'll tell you and the others here again...

    My weakness is in herbalism in general. I need to get with someone like you Bro or take a class to learn. It's my #1 weakness, I believe.

    Perhaps you can advise on books or such?

    I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.


    • #3
      My grandmother (fathers side) still knew and used a lot of practical herbalism that she had learned from her parents. I wish I had taken the time when she was here to have learned more. I think it is something used a lot here in the mountains by the older folks. I know many of the herbs and plants and what parts to use from her and from digging root for sale when I was younger. I realized when I read this thread, I may have forgotten part of what I knew. I think that when I can, I'm going to spend time in the woods and see if I can refresh my mind to what is useful and what is not.

      Most of what I remember does not take complicated preparation's. Usually, just turning the right parts into salves, teas, poultices, etc. was all I remember her doing before use. I wonder if at least part of these skill's aren't regional. From my education, I know plants from all over the country but away from these hills, I don't know many of the medicinal plants.

      Does anyone know of any good native American herbalist books?



      • #4
        I would also like to recommend that if you can find it (found mine on line a couple years ago) get yourself a copy of : Fenner's Complete Formulary. Compiled by B. Fenner in 1888. It was the working pharmacy formulas of most official and unofficial pharmacy manufacturers of that time. Gives very specific formulas and what plants and parts of plants to use and how to manufacture the drugs. Great reference book.


        PS, Make sure to get all 6 parts. The Southwest School of Botanical Medicine
        Last edited by dalewick; 05-04-2014, 01:25 AM. Reason: additional information added.


        • #5
          That website is one of the more highly recommended correspondence schools. As is and

          I am in a local program now, but I am really thinking about doing the distance program for at least 2 of the above also. The local school has a clinic where I can do practicals.

          I guess I was just whining about how few people there seems to be left who really go into the woods to gather plants and use them, but maybe I am just making this opinion based on my local interactions, and in other areas it is still thriving.

          My grandmother had home remedies too Dale. We are Appalachian mountain folks from way back. I think that is part of what is motivating me to pursue this, to reconnect with family roots.

          ***Buggy, anything by Rosemary Gladstar should be good for beginners. I know some experts who critiqued her early program, but they say it is pretty good now, and perfect for folks who are just getting started.

          I might recommend: "Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health" or "Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner's Guide"
          Last edited by myakka; 05-04-2014, 08:39 AM.
          "Oh, America. I wish I could tell you that this was still America, but I've come to realize that you can't have a country without people. And there are no people here. No, my friends. This is now the United States of Zombieland"

          "The constitution does not guarantee our safety, only our liberty!" Robert Steed before congress 3/2013

          Skills Beats Stuff


          • #6
            This is a lost art just like canning. though canning is starting to come back and I am seeing more and more back yard gardens this year. I hope that herb garden for medicine will also start to find it's way back as well. I saved both of those sights and am going to check into them as my daughter and myself are now trying to learn all we can about it.


            • #7
              Thanks for the book recommendations Myakka. I've ordered them both. I've learned a great deal on identification of edibles and herbals but need to learn more about their applications and preparation.


              • #8
                That's great Lady B! Nice to see you active!
                "Oh, America. I wish I could tell you that this was still America, but I've come to realize that you can't have a country without people. And there are no people here. No, my friends. This is now the United States of Zombieland"

                "The constitution does not guarantee our safety, only our liberty!" Robert Steed before congress 3/2013

                Skills Beats Stuff


                • #9
                  before we had modern medicine all we had were herbal medicine and a wise woman in every village who knew how to make remedies from nature, now most of that has been lost due to big drugs companies.
                  there is also this attitude among the general public that anything herbal is "hocus pocus" and is untested.
                  once TSHTF and the pharmacies have been looted we will have to fall back on ancient knowledge.


                  • #10
                    I agree with bug out. I was raised on a farm in Wisconsin and now live in Florida. Different plants and I still cannot id most of them.


                    • #11
                      Here are a few items to take a look at. I'm going to pick up the books and I want to check in to the course as something to do this winter.

                      I've heard this referred to as the one book to have if you can only have one on herbal medicine

                      and this lady, Cat Ellis is to have some great books and an online herbal course. Cat is a prepper and comes at life with that mentality and the course is to be designed to take a complete novice and fairly quickly give them a substantial level of skill and understanding. Her website is:

                      2 of her books:

                      I also have a book I have in my collection, though I've not read thru it all but seems to have a lot of great and fairly simple info. It's by Bradford Angier so like his other books a load of common sense wisdom

                      The Herbal Medicine-Maker's Handbook: A Home Manual [James Green, Ajana] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. THE HERBAL MEDICINE-MAKER'¬?S HANDBOOK is an entertaining compilation of natural home remedies written by one of the great herbalists
                      I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you!


                      • #12
                        Does anyone know any herbal remedies for asthma? I have not been able to find anything.
                        The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.

                        Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is you are stupid, and make bad decisions.


                        • #13
                          This might help:

                          Asthma is an episodic constriction of the bronchial tubes, and winter's cold may aggravate it. Here are also natural remedies that may provide relief.

                          Lobelia and other herbs for asthma are reviewed. They safely help various respiratory ailments by stimulating breathing, supporting the cough reflex, promoting expectoration, and improving vascular tone.

                          To purchase herbs:

                          Shop bulk herbs and spices at Mountain Rose Herbs. Our herbs are trusted for their unmatched quality and freshness and are hand-selected from the finest harvests each year.

                          At Frontier Co-Op, we provide a variety of natural spices and organic herbs all around the world. Start browsing our selection of botanical products today!

                          Buy discount vitamins, supplements, health foods, beauty products & more. is your place for healthy living & eating!


                          • #14
                            Hi ! It's been a while but, when I started work in the mid-1970s, a lot of our pharmaceutical ingredients were 'natural' rather than synthetic. We'd run mini-extracts on the purchase sample to determine how much active ingredient was in the crop, check for adulterants, pests etc.

                            As we worked on a 'Trust but Verify' basis, we also tested representative samples of the bulk materials which subsequently arrived...

                            For eg the hyoscine that went into cough mixtures, we'd steam-distil and report the few percent of essential oils. We'd also ash a quantity, check there was no added salt, clay or whatever. In the production area, they'd mash a suitable quantity with an alcohol blend, then pressure filter the juice. Thing was there could be a 50% variation of drug content between crops, often only partly due to the moisture content. which we also determined, and for which the production area also allowed. A wetter crop needed a stronger alcoholic extraction...

                            Other drugs needed 'hot mashing' and/or centrifuging...

                            Liquorice for flavouring came as gnarly twigs with, IIRC, drug content ranging from ~1% up to 6~7% of dry. Again, we had to determine the active content, and the production people factored this into their mix...

                            We also did a lot of 'Thin Layer Chromatography' to check for 'look alike' contaminants...

                            Some plants often 'took up' arsenic and heavy metals from ground water, we tested for such...

                            Must be said that extracting perfume essences from flower petals could be a valuable trading asset. A few drops added to simple soap or candles will multiply their value. A small bottle of wild-rose essence may charm your son's sweet-heart's reluctant mum...

                            An important point: A LOT of these extractions and tests rely on high quality ethanol or ether. The tech to make these solvents is non-trivial, and the results are potentially very valuable. The specialised thermometers and hydrometers to run a good still will be priceless. Discarding that 'first cut' with its toxic methanol is what turns moonshine into the good stuff. Didn't a bad batch of hooch recently clobber hundreds in Iran ??
                            The small temperature difference between toxic and safe will vary depending on atmospheric pressure, so change with weather and altitude. You'll need a barometer and conversion tables, too...

                            And, yes, ether allows for surgical intervention with less risk of pain-induced shock...

                            The glass-working skills to contrive these mini-stills will be valuable, too...


                            • #15
                              Nik, that would be 100% my dream job!

                              You are right about extracting plant essences being a valuable trading asset... In fact, your post reminded me of something that is on my wish-list, a tincture press:

                              Organic growers of medicinal herb seeds, medicinal herb plants, organic vegetable seeds and organic garden seeds

                              That is SO out of my price range, so I will have to resort to the next best thing, and "make do" with other resources.