Therapeutic Herb Manual: A Guide to Safe and Effective Use of Herbal Extracts by Herb Pharm
Herb Pharm Therapeutic Herb Manual: A Guide to the Safe and Effective Use of Liquid Herbal Extracts by Ed Smith (2011 Edition)
The purpose of Herb Pharm's Therapeutic Herb Manual book is to serve as a “ready reference” on the safe and effective use of liquid herbal extracts. Although much of the language used throughout this text is in the vernacular of modern orthodox medicine, and diseases are often referred to by specific medical names, it must be understood that in traditional herbal medicine disease is not seen as a separate entity and therefore is not treated as such. Disease is actually an interrelated set of underlying conditions manifesting as a specific set of symptoms. Modern medical science classifies these symptoms into collective categories, gives each category a name (e.g., eczema, allergies, hypertension, etc.), and then tries to cure the patient by treating the symptoms. The herbalist, however, is more concerned with treating the patient, not the disease, and does so by improving the overall health of the patient and by removing the underlying causes of the disease.
Herbs by themselves can only be expected to do so much. For optimal results they should be used in the context of a natural wholesome diet, ample exercise and rest, a positive attitude, fulfilling work, and a simple lifestyle. This combination will almost always have a favorable influence on one's health and often induces healing where modern medicine has failed. The information presented in the following pages has been gleaned from 30 years of experience as a medical herbalist and from extensive academic research of herbal literature that ranges from ancient herbal texts to modern phytopharmaceutical journals. However, it must be understood that there can never be any guarantees that herbs will always help or heal every health problem for which they are indicated. There is no form of medicine, herbal or otherwise, that can make such a guarantee.
The Price of Freedom is Responsibility
It is every American's inherent right to freely choose for themselves whatever type and source of healthcare he or she deems appropriate. However, it must be emphasized that practicing such medical freedom requires the responsibility of acquiring valid health information and skills, having the wisdom to recognize when professional healthcare is needed, and to choose that healthcare wisely.
About The Author
Ed Smith, popularly known as "Herbal Ed," has been working as a medical herbalist for 30 years and is founder and owner of Herb Pharm, an organic herb farm and herbal extract company located in Williams, Oregon.
Ed is an internationally respected teacher and lecturer on herbs and herbal healthcare, and appears at many herbal gatherings, symposiums and expositions throughout the world. His work and teachings incorporate old-world herbal folk wisdom with modern herbal science, and also express his love for Nature and her healing plants.
In his constant search for herbal knowledge, Ed travels frequently throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific seeking out medicinal herbs and information about their health-promoting powers. It is this worldly perspective, his integration of old and new herbal knowledge, and his vast experience that make Ed such a highly respected herbal resource.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a liquid herbal extract?
A liquid herbal extract is a concentrated liquid containing an herb’s chemical constituents dissolved into a solution of alcohol and water. They are made by extracting (“washing”) the herb’s chemical constituents out of the inert herb fiber (cellulose) with a solution of alcohol and water. A good liquid herbal extract should optimally preserve the aroma, taste and biological activity of the herb from which it is made. Vanilla extract is a commonly known liquid herbal extract.
Are extracts made from fresh herbs better than ones made from dry herbs?
Many people assume that a fresh herb extract is superior to a dry herb extract, but this is not necessarily true; it really depends upon the unique biochemical, biophysical and energetic properties of the specific herb being extracted. While some herbs do indeed make a superior extract when extracted while still fresh and succulent (e.g., Shepherd’s Purse, Corn Silk), there are also many herbs which make a superior extract when extracted after the herb is dried (e.g., Hops, Grindelia). Also, some herbs are best extracted when semi-dried (e.g., Saw Palmetto),
or fermented (e.g., Wild Cherry, Sweet Clover), or some are toxic when fresh and must be dried and aged one year before they can be used safely (e.g., Buckthorn, Cascara Sagrada).
For thousands of years people have been successfully using hundreds of different herbs for healing, and while some are used fresh, the vast majority are used in their dry form. Remember that each herb has its own unique properties and therefore must be extracted accordingly. There are no universals when it comes to herbal extraction.
What is the purpose of alcohol in liquid herbal extracts?
The grain alcohol used to prepare liquid extracts serves three specific purposes. First, alcohol is the only edible solvent that will extract and preserve many of the naturally occurring herb constituents that are poorly soluble in water, such as essential oils, resins, balsams and many alkaloids. Second, alcohol is an excellent natural preservative, which maximizes the shelf life of the extracts. Thirdly, alcohol is a great carrying agent that facilitates the absorption of the herb’s constituents into the bloodstream.
Why is there so much alcohol in liquid herbal extracts and how much am I really taking?
The amount of alcohol in individual liquid extracts can vary from 20% to 90% depending on the herb being extracted and its content of alcohol and water soluble constituents. For example, to fully extract Cayenne’s alcohol-soluble pungent resins and orange-red pigments requires at least 82% alcohol. A Cayenne extract made with a lower amount of alcohol will contain smaller amounts of Cayenne’s resins and pigments, and therefore will be of lower quality than the higher alcohol extract.
The amount of alcohol you consume in a dose of liquid extract is actually very small. For example, taking 30 drops of Echinacea liquid extract (alcohol content of 45% to 50%) amounts to consuming 1/65th of a can of beer or 1/85th of an 8-ounce glass of wine. Also, if you mix those 30 drops of Echinacea liquid extract into 2 ounces of water, that mixture would contain only 0.59% alcohol.
Can I evaporate away the alcohol in liquid herbal extracts by mixing the extract drops into hot water?
A small amount of the alcohol can be removed this way but most of it will stay intimately mixed with the hot water and will remain so even if the water is boiled. That’s because alcohol and water are chemical azeotropes and therefore are extremely difficult to separate once they
have been mixed. While adding extracts to hot water will not eliminate their alcohol, it can, in some cases, actually damage the extract. Many extracts are heat stable (e.g., Goldenseal) and adding them to hot water does no harm. However, other extracts are damaged by heat (e.g., Valerian) and can be weakened by adding them to hot water. Also, essential oils and other non-water-soluble aromatic compounds found in certain extracts (e.g., Lemon Balm, Chamomile) do not mix well with water and can therefore evaporate away from the hot water. Here you are left with a compromised extract, but the alcohol remains.
How is the best way to take liquid herbal extracts?
Generally I prefer to mix the prescribed number of extract drops into 2 to 4 ounces of water. You can also add the drops to warm tea (not hot) or juice. Certain herbs, because of their stronger action, require more water and these have been so noted under “Dose” in this manual. For optimal results sip the mixed drops so you can savor the extract’s flavor and aroma, although you may not always like the taste.
How many times per day should I take a dose of a liquid herbal extract?
Most of the doses in this manual recommend taking the extract “2 to 5 times per day.” Normally 2 to 3 times per day is sufficient in chronic, ongoing conditions (e.g., poor memory, varicose veins). However, 4 to 5 times per day may be needed in acute, immediate conditions (e.g., fevers, colds). In a condition like chronic asthma, 2 to 3 times per day could be used on an ongoing basis, but could be increased to 4 to 5 times per day when there is an asthma flare-up.
What is the proper dosage of liquid herbal extracts for children?
Unless otherwise noted, all doses given in this manual are for adults, but Clark’s Rule can be used to convert the adult dose to a child’s dose.
- Clark’s Rule: Divide the child’s weight (in pounds) by 150 to get the approximate fraction of the adult dose to give to the child.
- Example: For a 50 pound child give 50/150 (or 1/3) of the adult dose. Therefore, if the adult dose is 30 drops taken 3 times per day, the child’s dose will be 10 drops taken 3 times per day (not 30 drops taken 1 time per day).
How many drops are in a one-ounce bottle of liquid herbal extract?
The number of drops in a bottle of liquid extract will vary depending on the viscosity (thickness) of the extract and its molecular weight. For example, one ounce of Goldenseal liquid extract contains 1,243 drops, Echinacea liquid extract contains 1,184 drops, and Comfrey liquid extract, which is very viscous, contains only 1,000 drops. In general, most extracts fall within the range of 1,000 to 1,300 drops per ounce.
How can I compare the dosage of herb capsules or tablets to the dosage of liquid herbal extracts?
Liquid herbal extracts are much easier to absorb and assimilate into the body than herb capsules and tablets. Herb capsules and tablets made from crude herb have to be digested (i.e., extracted) by the body before the herb’s chemical constituents can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Since many herbs are very woody, digesting and absorbing them can be very difficult, especially for people with health problems. Therefore, much of the capsule or tablet remains undigested and never gets absorbed. However, the chemical constituents in a liquid herbal extract have already been “digested” and can therefore be readily absorbed into the bloodstream. Because of these differences, liquid herbal extracts are a much more efficient means of getting the chemical constituents out of the crude herb and into the bloodstream where they can do their healing work. Because of the widely varying amount of hard-to-digest woody fiber in various herbs and the efficiency of absorbing and assimilating liquid extracts, I always recommend using the dosage listed on the liquid extract’s label or in this manual.
What is the story with “pyrrolizidine alkaloids” in Butterbur, Coltsfoot and Comfrey?
About 3% of flowering plants contain a group of chemical compounds called pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs); Comfrey, Coltsfoot and Butterbur are in this group of plants. PAs can have a toxic effect on the liver when taken orally in large amounts or for extended periods of time. The amount of PAs in plants can vary greatly depending upon the botanical species and variety, growing conditions, plant part, and time of harvest. Occasional, small amounts of PAs are harmless to the body, but they can be cumulative. Children, the elderly and those with liver disease are more easily harmed by PAs, and the fetus is particularly susceptible.
Because of safety concerns, Canada, Australia, England and several European countries have banned the sale of PA-containing herbs, although Germany and Switzerland do allow their sale if the PA level is less than one part-per-million (1 ppm). The PAs can be removed by a chemical-free process (ion exchange) which removes nothing from the extract but the PAs and 2 to 3% of its minerals. The quality of these PA-free extracts is not compromised by this process and they can be used without concerns about PA toxicity. To assure safety, only consume Comfrey, Coltsfoot or Butterbur extracts that are PA-free (i.e., contain less than 1ppm of PAs).
What were the sources of information used in writing this Therapeutic Herb Manual?
Besides the author’s many years of personal experience as a medical herbalist, much of the medical information about the herbs and herbal compounds in this manual was gathered from a broad array of ancient to modern texts on Traditional Herbal Medicine (THM). Unfortunately the conventional medical science community misunderstands THM as being only folkloric and anecdotal, and therefore they consider it unreliable. However, while traditional folk medicine has a lot to offer, THM has even more.
THM is a more reliable body of medical knowledge developed over centuries from practical clinical experience by professional medical practitioners, including medical herbalists, midwives, medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists and doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine, doctors of Indian Ayurvedic Medicine, doctors of Traditional Unani (Greco-Arabic) Medicine, and others.
The World Health Organization (WHO) supports the incorporation of THM in modern healthcare, and states that “Traditional use of herbal medicines refers to the long historical use of these medicines. Their use is well established and widely acknowledged to be safe and effective, and may be accepted by national authorities.” Unfortunately, although most countries of the world support WHO’s efforts with THM, the United States is one of the few that do not.
Has the medical information in this Therapeutic Herb Manual been proven by modern medical science?
While medical and pharmacological research has been done on the individual single herbs in this manual, most of that research is in vitro and few clinical trials have been done on herbs in humans. There are some exceptions, however, as with Saw Palmetto, Milk Thistle, Valerian, Ginkgo, Ginger, Echinacea, and others which have been proven by many clinical medical studies to be therapeutically effective.
While there have been many scientific studies on the individual herbs in the herbal compounds in this text, there have been only a few clinical studies on the compounds themselves. However, years of clinical use of these compounds by a broad array of medical practitioners have shown them to be safe and effective when used properly.
The First Years
On March 8, 1979, Herb Pharm was officially established as a bona fide business in Williams, Oregon. From the beginning, Herb Pharm's mission has been unwavering:
Herb Pharm is committed to providing the highest quality herbal products possible, educating people on the safe & effective use of medicinal herbs, & inspiring a love for plants and respect for Nature.
Back in the early days, Herb Pharm's "lab" was the home of Ed Smith and Sara Katz, the company's founders and owners. Bottles were filled one-by-one with a beaker, and labels were manually typed. Accompanied by a handful of apprentices, days and nights were spent planting, harvesting and grinding the roots, leaves, flowers and seeds that grew in our garden and the surrounding mountains to make our liquid herbal extracts.
Serving a Need
In those days, Herb Pharm's little company was the alternative to the rather poor quality and limited array of medicinal herb products available. Back then, Herb Pharm spoke constantly and emphatically of the importance of using organic, high-quality herbs as opposed to the over-dried plant fiber that the few existing companies were using in their products.
Focus on Quality
Herb Pharm collected the best quality herbs they could, hand-picking the most medicine laden plant parts at their peak of readiness. They even drove 100 miles round trip to fill their jugs with solar distilled water for their extracts!
Herb Pharm's Traditional Roots
Before starting Herb Pharm, Ed lived for five winters in the South American jungle learning about plants from the native healers. He practiced herbal medicine at a missionary clinic in Guatemala, and studied every herb book he could get his hands on. Early on, Herb Pharm used formulas from traditional American herbals, the writings of the Eclectic Physicians, and the U.S.Pharmacopoeia.
Ed Smith began formulating proprietary compounds, using knowledge from his studies and extensive travels. Always paying close attention to worldwide medicinal herb research, Herb Pharm introduced to the American herb market valuable medicinal herb products such as Ginkgo and Vitex (Chaste Tree).
Today at Herb Pharm
Ed and Sara are still owners of Herb Pharm, and are involved in the operations of the company. Herb Pharm now has an 85-acre certified organic herb farm (called the "Pharm Farm"), employ over 75 people, and sell products to health food stores, Herbalists, Naturopathic Physicians, and Medical Doctors worldwide.
Attention to Detail
Herb Pharm is as picky as ever about the plants they use and their meticulous extraction. They extract each herb according to its own unique physical and biochemical characteristics at their FDA-inspected, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Williams, OR. As years go by, Herb Pharm constantly looks for ways to improve the quality of their herbal medicines.
Committed to Principles of Traditional Herbal Medicines
Herb Pharm's broad-spectrum extracts seek to mirror the flavor, aroma and natural plant chemistry found in Nature. This is in stark contrast to the ever-increasing trend towards isolating plant constituents, thus modifying their natural array and balance. Herb Pharm is still committed to herbal extracts that represent the whole plant, and to the fundamental principles of traditional herbal medicines. Herb Pharm is sincerely grateful and thank all of their customers who have used Herb Pharm products throughout the years. As they continue to sink their herbal roots deeper and deeper, Herb Pharm will constantly strive to bring their customers the finest herbal extracts available anywhere.
A Healthy Farm Yields Healthy Herbs
Herb Pharm grows most of their herbs on the "Pharm Farm" – their certified organic farm located in a rural valley of the Siskiyou Mountains in southern Oregon. Herb Pharm typically grows between 65 and 70 different medicinal herbs for the dual purposes of meeting their production needs and as experimental crops in an effort to bring wild growing, overharvested varieties under cultivation.
As organic farmers, Herb Pharm never uses synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, nor do they use genetically modified seeds. Instead, Herb Pharm employs fundamental, time-honored sustainable agriculture techniques including crop rotation, cover cropping, natural weed control, and composting to condition their soil.
Located only a few miles from our herb extraction facility, Herb Pharm's Pharm Farm also gives them the advantage of timely delivery of freshly harvested herbs. This is a critical aspect in maintaining a plant’s potency and natural chemistry since many herbal constituents rapidly lose strength and must be immediately extracted while still fresh and succulent.
Custom Wildcrafted Herbs
Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting a plant in its natural habitat. Herb Pharm's environmental commitments also include harvesting wild herbs in a responsible and sustainable manner – what they've termed "Custom Wildcrafted". Herb Pharm's strict protocols assure proper identification of plant species and optimal time of harvest, and insure conservative harvest yields and habitat protection in order to facilitate conservation of these valuable plants for future generations.
Global Growing Partners
For those cultivated herbs Herb Pharm can’t grow themselves, they procure directly from other certified organic farmers who they personally know, and trust to “do it right.”
To continually expand on their repertoire of medicinal herbs, Herb Pharm’s founder, Ed Smith, personally travels throughout the world in search of new medicinal herbs and knowledge of their traditional uses. Ed’s enviable job has taken him to such exotic places as the remote Pacific islands of Vanuatu in search of Kava root, to a 16,000-foot high Peruvian altiplano sourcing Maca root, and to the foothills of the Himalayas to procure Darjeeling Green Tea.
Throughout these travels Ed, and members of Herb Pharm's Quality Assurance team, routinely inspect fields and herb processing facilities to ensure good agricultural and manufacturing practices. Upon receipt at their facility, all of Herb Pharm's herbs are tested for purity, identity and potency as further assurance and control of their herb supply.
When procuring herbs in other parts of the world, Herb Pharm thoroughly ensures that cultivation or harvesting methods meet their sustainability standards and that working conditions are suitable. Herb Pharm always agrees to pay a fair price to encourage adherence to these principles.
Broad Spectrum Extracts
After 30 years of working with herbs Herb Pharm is convinced that, with few exceptions, broad-spectrum liquid herbal extracts are the most potent and effective way to ingest herbal medicine, and are superior to so-called "standardized" extracts which often use toxic industrial solvents and exclude many of an herb's chemical compounds which are erroneously considered inert.
In producing their herbal extracts Herb Pharm uses precision scientific instruments to analyze each herb's many chemical compounds. However, Herb Pharm does not focus entirely on the herb's so-called "active compound(s)" and instead treat each herb and its chemical compounds as an integrated whole. This holistic approach to herbal extraction produces a broad-spectrum extract that's rich in the color, aroma, flavor, and bio-activity of the original herb itself, but in a form that's easily ingested and optimally assimilated by the body. It's an approach that Herb Pharm's customers agree with, and is a key reason why Herb Pharm is the best selling line of liquid herbal extracts in America.
When all is said and done, the broad-spectrum extracts Herb Pharm creates are easily and optimally absorbed and assimilated by the body, and therefore their health-promoting effects are promptly felt.
Why "Liquid" Extracts?
- Optimal Absorption - Unlike herb capsules and tablets, Liquid Herbal Extracts are readily absorbed, digested, and assimilated by the body to assure the herb's optimal therapeutic benefit.
- Multiple Ways to Use - Liquid Herbal Extracts can be taken internally with water, juice or tea; and they can also be applied topically as a wash or liniment. Several different Liquid Herbal Extracts can easily be combined together to quickly create your own custom formulas.
- The Taste Difference - The taste and aroma of an herb often increase its therapeutic benefit. For example, the taste of certain bitter herbs increases the body's digestive juices, and this helps improve appetite and digestion.
- Fresh Herb Extraction - For their full therapeutic effect, some plants must be extracted while fresh; others only after careful drying. Unlike dry capsules, Liquid Herbal Extracts allow the option of conserving the herb in its fresh or dry state.
After years of working with herbs, Herb Pharm remains convinced that broad-spectrum Liquid Herbal Extracts are the most effective way to administer therapeutic herbs.
Social & Environmental Values
As their company began to grow and prosper, Herb Pharm's founders, Ed Smith and Sara Katz, realized that they and their company had an important role to play in their local community, in the herbal and natural products community, and in the stewardship of the planet itself.
One of Ed and Sara's greatest joys is providing right livelihood, comprehensive health and medical benefits, and a profit sharing and retirement plan for employees and their families.
Herb Pharm was awarded the Socially Responsible Business Award in 2006 by a panel of leading natural products manufacturers, and in 2008 received the Herbal Industry Leader Award from the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) for laudable business practices. Ed and Sara believe that the herb and natural products industry should be a model of social and environmental responsibility. Just as the industry has changed the way millions of people view their food and healthcare, we also strive to be an inspiration for how businesses can positively contribute to society and the environment.
Organizations & Programs Herb Pharm Supports
Herb Pharm offsets 100% of their electricity consumption impact through our participation in the Blue Sky Renewable Energy Program. By purchasing their electricity from off-site wind generators and geo-thermal heat capture, Herb Pharm helps minimize the release of carbon dioxide and other detriments to the environment.
Herb Pharm's "Pharm Farm" is recognized as a Botanical Sanctuary by United Plant Savers (UpS) because of their work in the conservation and propagation of endangered native medicinal plants. Herb Pharm cultivates, rather than wild harvests, the following herbs on UpS's "At-Risk" and "To-Watch" list: Echinacea, Goldenseal, Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Bloodroot, Gentian, Lobelia, Pleurisy Root and Stoneroot among others.
Herb Pharm's "Pharm Farm" has received Salmon Safe certification for developing a long-term strategy to enhance and preserve riparian (stream and creek) areas on their farm and wild lands, and for their ecologically safe farming practices.
Herb Pharm achieved Bee Friendly Farming certification for providing honey bee nesting habitats and for designating sizable portions of their cultivation acreage to pollinator-beneficial plantings.
Each year, Herb Pharm sponsors or donates a portion of their profits to a variety of national and local environmental, social and educational organizations.