Guest article by Ann Cue, Master Herbalist
Herbs and Your Health
Questions You Should Be Asking
By Ann Cue, MasterQ--Why should I be asking questions about herbs?
A--Because your future health depends upon how well you supply your body with the nutrients required for daily maintenance, and for protection from pollution and disease. Herbs, chosen wisely, provide thousands of nutrients (phytochemicals) not available in even the best of diets. These important nutrients cannot be efficiently supplied by the chemical isolates which are in common use today.
Q--I have heard of herbs for cooking, and , but I do not know much about herbs for nutrition. Should I be cautious when adding herbs to my daily diet?
A--Yes. Many well-meaning "experts" recommend herbal preparations for daily use that are actually medicinal, and should be prescribed by licensed and experienced health professionals, for short-term use only. Get your advice from those who know the difference between herbal foods and herbal medicines.
Q--Are there some herbs that I should not be taking on a daily basis?
A--Some of the currently popular herbal preparations with known side effects include green tea, various algae, ginkgo biloba, ephedra (ma huang), psyllium, , pau d'arco, echinacea, guarana, melaleuca, and goldenseal. Given the absence of quality control standards in the herbal industry, there are many others that can cause problems, depending on how they are handled. For example, soybeans, a rich herbal (plant) source of many important nutrients, are usually handled in a way that destroys their benefits and actually makes them harmful to health. The same is true of many essential oils used in today's skin care products.
Q--How can I recognize which herbal products are good for my health?
A--It helps to understand how important the preparation process is. We take this for granted when we use more familiar foods: we know what parts to keep and what parts to throw away; we know whether a food is under-ripe, spoiled, or just right; and in general we know how to fix the food to make it edible. When it comes to herbs, especially unfamiliar ones, it is even more important to have understanding of preparation processes. For this knowledge, most of us need to rely on herbal health food experts. Whoever prepares the herbs for nutritional purposes must know what parts of the plants to use, how to harvest at the right stage, and how to customize the herbal food for balance and assimilation. This is a very exacting science.
Q--Does anyone know how to do this?
A--While some "folk wisdom" exists, most cultures experienced in the use of herbs did not keep adequate written records. There is one exception. The ancient Chinese kept very precise records for thousands of years, detailing hundreds of thousands of herbs that could promote long life and maximum health. For the last 2000 years, these records were lost. However, they are currently in use as the foundation for the restoration of herbal nutritional science by the herbal experts at in Torrance, California. At this time, we know of no other company with Sunrider's level of information, technical expertise, and resources. They now have 15 (It is now 27) years' experience combining the best of ancient herbal knowledge with modern technology.
Q--Is this the same as the Chinese Traditional Medicine I have heard about?
A--Definitely not. Herbal nutrition is a separate science from herbal medicine. Herbal medicines correct symptoms, and should not be self-administered. Herbal nutritional products are foods that supply what your body needs but your ordinary diet cannot provide. They can be used safely, the same as regular foods. Even if you are using medications, herbal or pharmaceutical, herbal foods will help you overcome side effects and improve your total health picture. They do not require a doctor's supervision.
Q--What should I expect in herbal nutritional supplements designed by "experts"?
A--You should look for these things:
- Evidence that the company distinguishes between medicinal and nutritional herbs. A product that makes claims that it will "cure" a certain symptom or disease is always an herbal medicine, and ought to be labeled as such.
- Control over the growing, harvesting, and storage conditions of raw plant materials.
- Rigorous quality control and scientific testing of contents and potency of all raw materials and consumer-ready products.
- Expertise in combining various herbs to provide the consumer with a final product where the weaknesses of some herbs are balanced by the strengths of others. Combination is a basic principle of effective herbal nutrition, but it is often done without accurate knowledge.
- Concentration processes to assure that the consumer gets enough of the required nutrients to allow the body to actually improve itself
- Absolutely sterile conditions in processing and packaging, with zero allowance for chemical or bacterial contamination.
A--Because herbs will immediately begin to supply nutrients your body has probably never had before, you never know what to expect! Your body will use these long-forgotten foods to restore various functions, cleanse and purify, balance various systems, and in general improve your health. Some benefits are immediately apparent; some appear after long and regular use. What people report regularly are benefits such as:
- More energy
- Less sickness, and improvement in chronic conditions
- Better emotional balance and clearer thinking processes
- Looking younger
- Strength, endurance, and improved muscle tone
- Health-centered weight loss
- Control over addictions and food cravings