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The importance of herbal preparation

Trationally raw herbs were mixed and cooked to form herbal medicine
Trationally raw herbs were mixed and cooked to form herbal medicine

Most consumers are familiar with herbal products provided in an easy to use pill form. Large manufacturers produce these pills for sale in the United States. These manufacturers are trying to sell a product by inspiring confidence in the buyer. While many of the tactics result in high sales volume, it does not necessarily produce a herbal product that is better medicine.

Traditional herbal medicine was reliant on the proper preparation of herbs as medicine. Traditionally herbs were harvested and often cut and dried in specific ways to preserve the herbs for future use. The herbs were mixed by a herbalist based on the diagnosis of the patient and then the herbs were cooked, or soaked in wine, or powdered or prepared in ways that were specific to the problem. The herbalist always adjusted the herbal formula to the patient needs. While some herbalists still custom formulate herbal medicines for their patients, often it is easier to use pre-prepared herbal pills. Many of these herbal formulas are made in what is called a teapill. Teapills are standard formulas cooked on an industrial scale. The herbs are sourced from quality suppliers and tested for correct species and contaminants. The herbs are cooked and the resulting material formed into pills.

Many herbal products companies take a different approach. They often create herbal mixes based on consumer popularity rather than a proper medicinal formulation. The herbs are often bought from suppliers and middle men rather than sourced at the farm. As a result many of these herbs are not dried in the traditional way, but are quick processed with sulfur to preserve the herbs. Often the herbal companies standardize the herbs based on chemical composition of the herbs rather than traditional quality or species of the herbs. The herbs are often powdered, mixed and encapsulated. While there are many herbal formulas that utilize raw and powdered herbs, cooking the herbs is essential to proper function of many herbs.

These practices by many herbal products companies appeal to doctors and consumers. The manufacturers can claim that the products are made in the U.S., even though many overseas manufacturers operate at pharmaceutical quality levels far above the supplement/food levels of processing often used here in the U.S. Many herbal companies can claim they do more testing and have standardized the pills for chemical content. In many cases they have to do more testing because they are buying from middlemen and herbal fraud is very common. Many herbal mixes are just that- random mixes of ingredients with no thought or process for determining whether the mixed herbs will have the desired medicinal affect.

For the patient who wants to get the most out of their use of herbs, it is important to seek out the advice of a herbalist who can identify what medicine is needed and recommend or supply herbal medicines that can be trusted to be the best medicine available.