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The Practical Herbalist

Strange Brew

A while back there was a funny commercial on TV for orange juice. The spokesman explained that to get healthy nutrients you could use fish, various meats and other things that he would drop whole into a blender to create a really disgusting looking concoction. Then he explains that you could instead just drink orange juice. The ad is funny, and is obvious in its set up. Grinding together different foods based on nothing more than a few chemical constituents makes for bad food and violates everything your parents taught you about food preparation and good eating. Yet many people are buying herbal products based on this principle.

Many companies are taking advantage of the limited knowledge of consumers to cash in on herbal products. There are many products on the shelves that are simply mixtures of herbal products based on one or more chemical constituents. These products are generally not harmful but are essentially vitamin pills disguised as herbal medicine. To the eyes of an herbalist the "recipes" of these pills look just as strange as the concoction in the orange juice ad.

Traditional herbal formulas were always mixed in ways that were similar to cooking traditions. Certain combinations of herbal materials go well together and others just do not. For example many people like chocolate sauce and they like pizza, but they don't necessarily like their chocolate sauce on the pizza. Lettuce for example, is better raw and rice is better cooked. Similarly herbs also need to be prepared properly. Some companies simply powder and capsulate the herbs with no consideration of how those herbs should be prepared. Many of the best herbal formulas have complicated recipes that require cooking the herbs together to meld the flavors. Some herbs require a short cooking time, others need to be cooked for hours, or specially processed before they are added to other ingredients.

So remember to always investigate the products you are taking. If you are not sure of what the product does or how it is made, you should talk with a trained herbalist. Someone who can not only answer questions about the product, but also understands how those products may or may not be appropriate for you.

David Bock

This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"

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David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine

Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066