Fresh herbs can be grown in your own garden, either from plants bought from a herb nursery or from wild-plant seeds from specialist suppliers. By growing the herbs one can be certain of having exactly the right plant. Small plants such as thyme and parsley can be grown in pots on a windowsill.
Some wild plants such as dandelion, nettles, plantain, coltsfoot, vervain, chamomile and agrimony could be allowed to grow in the garden if space allows.
Herbs may be gathered in the wild, but certain precautions must be taken. Make sure that they are free from insecticide sprays, traffic fumes and other chemicals, and that the plant is precisely the one that is wanted. Plants should be gathered only in wild, uncultivated places, away from roadsides and frequented canal or river banks. If there is any uncertainty about the plant a good botanical the plant should be dry (so do not gather in the early morning or late evening) and any withered leaves, damaged parts or insects should be discarded.
Plants have periods in their life-cycle when their active constituents are at the optimum. This is normally when they are growing and reaching full growth, therefore plants should be collected just as they reach maturity. A patch of plants should be thinned, not cleared completely, so as to leave growth for subsequent years.
Rare or uncommon plants should never be gathered.
Flowers need to be gathered just as they have fully opened, and should be dried quickly away from sunlight.
Dry in the dark if the colour is to be preserved. Small flowers can be spread on paper, large ones hung in bunches in a dark, airy dry place.
Leaves are at their best when just at full maturity, a fresh, good green. The leaves, or the whole plant above ground if required, should be gathered just as the plant is on the point of flowering, and should be spread on clean paper, hessian or fine mesh trays, or hung in loose bunches away from sunlight and where the air can circulate, and should be turned or separated frequently.
Seeds should be gathered when ripe, spread out on clean paper and left for a few days.
Roots are at their best either in the spring or in the autumn. They should be cleaned of soil and chopped or sliced finely for drying either in sunlight or in the gentle heat in an oven. Large roots should be split lengthwise before chopping.
Plants which contain volatile oils should be gathered in the late afternoon of a sunny day, and should not be exposed to any heat whilst drying. They may be spread out and turned frequently or hung in small, loose bunches.
Herbs should be stored only in glass jars or in paper bags, not in plastic containers, and must be protected from light.
Aromatic plants especially should be stored carefully, as the volatile oils they contain are absorbed into plastic, rendering the plant much less useful. Dried herbs may be obtained from some health food stores and from a number of suppliers.
If something more sophisticated than herbal tea is desired, the many compounds and tablets available from health food stores and other suppliers will be found to be effective.
They are the result of practical experience with herbal medicine, and are produced in conformity with modern laboratory standards. The majority of the formulae have been prepared by practitioners for their patients during many successful years in practice.
This volume is not intended to replace professional attention, diagnosis and comprehensive treatment and is not a manual of totally independent self-treatment. If the condition to be dealt with is straightforward, then much can be done by using herbal remedies properly prepared in the form of infusions, decoctions or poultices.
Herbal remedies used regularly at home may also be an adjunct in the case of more serious conditions, as they stimulate the body’s defence mechanisms and accelerate the healing process. However, if there is any doubt about the condition, if it is serious or if there is no response to herbal tisanes, then help should be sought from a qualified practitioner.