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Seeking herbal remedies can be a frustrating journey. If you are in generally good health, it can be simplified considerably.
Many of us have something going on that herbs can help with. You must be careful about what you take, how much you take and where it comes from. Things do not have to get terribly complicated. In fact, you can start by picking up a few things from your grocery store.
You know how Kentucky Fried Chicken likes to refer to their 11 herbs and spices? Well, you can incorporate herbs and spices into your cooking as well. These spices not only improve the taste. Making some very basic changes to your cooking can have long term benefits. And doing so does not have to cost an arm and a leg.
Herbing on a Budget
As a mother of 5, I rarely have much in the way of spare money. A lot of times I am sweating one bill or another because income can be so far behind outgo. This is why I learned how to be herbal on a budget.
Below I have a list of items I routinely keep in my kitchen. You may have some of these already. This list is by no means exhaustive, and what works for me may not work the same for you.
- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
- Lemon Juice
- Ginger (fresh & ground)
- Chicken pieces (frozen)
- Olive Oil (prefer extra virgin, cold-pressed)
- Mint tea (peppermint, spearmint)
- Chamomile tea
- Vanilla extract (gluten-free)
- Cloves (whole & ground)
- Baking soda
- Orange peels (dried)
- Hot sauce
- Horseradish (root & sauce)
- Jalapeno peppers
- Bell peppers
- Maseca (gluten-free corn flour)
- Cornmeal (no flour, iron-enriched)
Using these items, I can throw together a cough syrup, soup, tea or compress in moments.
This is not the total of what I use in my home. I also keep:
- Witch Hazel
- Petroleum jelly
- Epsom salt
- Essential oils (tea tree, eucalyptus, mint, camphor, lavender)
- Fragrance-free lotion
Using these items, I can make rubs, salves, inhalants and create baths.
Any of these things can be found at your local grocery store. People use them all the time, but perhaps not quite for what I use them for.
In addition to all of this, I also keep a basic supply of common, multi-use herbs.
- Valerian root
- Licorice root
- Lemon Grass
- Lemon Balm
- Red Raspberry Leaf
I must buy most of my herbs because I don’t have a garden at the moment.
As much as I would like to forage for wild herbs, I do not yet know enough about them in the wild to do so. Also, in the middle of urban areas, most wild plants have been toxified by traffic and general human presence. City growers may or may not be using organic, non-hybrid seed. We also cannot be certain of the pesticides or fertilizer used.
In Forgotten Skills of Backyard Herbal Healing & Family Health, Caleb Warnock & Kirsten Skirvin repeatedly caution herbalists on taking the time to be certain:
- The wild-harvested herbs are not adulterated
- The wild harvest does not damage or diminish the native growth
- The wild harvest is not on private property if so, gain permission to harvest
They advocate growing herbs at home, not only to be sure of their origin but to preserve their wild states for future generations.
They do encourage wild harvests (or wildcrafting) but only as much as you need. Because of the recent explosion of interest in herbal remedies, many common herbs are facing extinction in the wild. It is recommended that herbalists attempt to purchase from sustainable growers or grow their own.
United Plant Savers (UpS) is a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving plants facing extinction in the wild. Their Species At Risk list allows herbalists to remain aware of which plants require our attention and protection.
Grow Your Own!
Of course, the ultimate option for keeping your herbal supplies stocked is to grow your own. Warnock has published several books with tips on how to cultivate herbs and produce.
As mentioned in this post, you must take precautions when selecting your seeds.
A lot of herbalists grow their own vegetables & herbs to avoid hybrid, adulterated, GMO, inorganic produce. Even farmer’s market fare is not completely trustworthy unless the grower can show they are organic farmers using non-hybrid, non-GMO seed.
We want to grow and harvest plants as close to their native, wild forms as possible. For this reason, we will often search for seed handlers who offer organic, non-hybrid seeds. You cannot grow organic produce from GMO or hybridized seed.
There are several reputable online outlets for organic, non-hybrid seed. Warnock owns and operates Renaissance Seeds.
Why order from SeedRenaissance.com?
First, I literally search the globe for the last seeds of important historic varieties. I am single-handedly keeping alive many critical heirloom varieties. You can read about this in my book Forgotten Skills of Self-Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers. (Learn more at CalebWarnock.blogspot.com)
Second, for every common heirloom I offer, I’ve grown and rejected 30-40 other varieties. I spend huge time and money on these tests because no one else is doing this work. I evaluate how these varieties perform in an organic garden, without petrochemical fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides. I evaluate earliness, flavor, production, storage, cold-soil tolerance, winter harvestability, self-seeding capacity, and more. If I don’t love a variety, I don’t sell it.
Finally, every seed I sell is guaranteed pure, NEVER hybrid, GMO, patented, or corporate-owned. Our food supply MUST remain in the public domain. Join me in creating a renaissance in our backyard gardens :).
(Caleb Warnock, Renaissance Seeds)
What About Organics?
I also previously mentioned that organic produce can often not be worth the price tag. Did you know that there is a difference between “organic” and “USDA organic”?
The Washington Post reports:
It is logical to think that organic food is healthier if it is relatively free of most herbicides and pesticides. The residue of such poisons on conventional food is not supposed to be a danger to human health, but since they kill weeds and pests — and accumulate in human bodies — it makes sense to avoid the chemicals.
Whether organic food is more nutritious is another question. While the American Academy of Pediatrics says that lower pesticide levels in organic foods could reduce the risk of ingesting drug-resistant bacteria, “in the long term, there is currently no direct evidence that consuming an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease.”
And a controversial 2012 Stanford University study reported that it’s a waste of money to pay more for the organic label in an attempt to buy the most nutritious food available. “There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health,” wrote Dena Bravata, the study’s lead researcher. However, critics of that study’s conclusions point out that the researchers narrowly defined “more nutritious” as containing more vitamins.
The USDA explains labeling of organic products here, stating, in part:
USDA certified organic products have strict production and labeling requirements. The U.S. organic industry is regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
Certified organic products are produced without excluded methods such as genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The organic standards are designed to allow natural substances in organic farming while prohibiting synthetic substances.
There are four distinct labeling categories for certified organic food products – 100% Organic, Organic, Made with organic ***, and specific organic ingredients.
So, when you shop for organic products, it is within your best interest to understand exactly what you are buying. Many times, you are paying a higher price to cover the farmer’s cost of going organic, which is an entirely different post altogether.
You may as well check out the farmer’s market. As I mentioned, I look for non-GMO products much harder than I look for organic. The simple reason is that I usually cannot afford the higher price of organic products.
The Herbal Academy also weighs in on organic-labeled products, stating:
Does eating organic really matter?
In 2012, a widely reported meta-analysis of published research concluded that there is no clinically relevant difference in nutrient content between organic and conventionally grown produce, but they did find, not surprisingly, that conventionally grown foods carry a substantially higher risk of contamination with pesticide residues (Smith-Spangler et al., 2012).
The study’s authors concluded that there was little health benefit to consuming organic food, but if you’re concerned about the strong association between pesticide or herbicide exposure and neurological diseases, endocrine disorders, antibiotic resistance, and cancer (Sanborn et al., 2007; Benbrook, 2012) you might well beg to differ!
In a published rebuttal to these conclusions, one pesticide researcher outlined the evidence for his claim that replacing conventionally grown fruit with organic fruit confers a 94% reduction in health risk (Benbrook, 2012)!
A more recent population study also determined that consumption of organic food is inversely correlated with cancer risk—in other words, eating more organically produced food is associated with a lower rate of cancer (Baudry et al., 2018).
In your quest for healthy, naturally produced herbs and produce, do not fall subject to labels. Research your markets and resources to make informed decisions about where you are putting your money.
The Point Is…
I say all of that to simply say we as herbalists or anyone who is seeking a more natural, holistic path cannot blindly dash around on a herbal shopping spree. We especially cannot afford to be ignorant about the sources of our herbs, as these are the very foundation of our lives and/or businesses as herbalists.
We have a responsibility to ourselves, our clients, and the environment to take note of when or where we acquire our herbs. Whether it be purchased online or in-store or wildcrafted, knowing where the plants come from and being certain that we are not acting contrary to nature’s need is paramount.
Do you have any tips on herbing on a budget? Are you looking for resources to begin your journey towards #HerbLife? Drop me a message below!
Take care of yourself 🙂