Published: 10/24/2005 - Updated: 08/08/2019
Author: Prof. Dr. Luis Ruiz-García
The use of plants for therapeutic purposes has always been present in the life of man, and is still valid despite the vast power and responsibility of the pharmaceutical chemistry, mainly based on active principles of synthesis. However, phytotherapy is not an activity that can improvise.
The enormous development of the pharmaceutical industry, with its huge economic interests throughout the world, as well as the obvious advantages offered by many industrial products, have almost erased phytotherapy of the practice of modern medicine. The availability of active ingredients in preparations perfectly stable, carefully pre-dose, easily transportable, with therapeutic effects in short enough recognized, had in fact relegated to a narrow window of herbal use.
The recent awakening of interest in this ancient art healing can be considered as part of that general movement of contestation of the most alienating aspects of contemporary industrialized societies, towards an attempt to recover human values that were crushed by the machinery of consumption.
With other therapeutic forms, which criticism comfort is defined as alternative or unorthodox, phytotherapy has very peculiar characteristics, especially for specific indications and for the experienced strength of these that have passed the screening of a tradition rather than old.
It must be admitted that much of the so-called unorthodox medical practices are based on theoretical principles often quite disparate, and in any case, in contrast to the widely accepted views of modern science, while some negligible in their operational resources are characterized by a charge difficult to accept.
Validity of Phytotherapy
Teas, herbal teas and tinctures have undoubtedly been defeated by the chemical pharmacology, yet generally recognized scientific validity thereof, but denies and not only conflict of interest, the possibility of using the same scale in daily medical practice. In hypertension, for example, would be criminal to trust the fate of a patient in mistletoe and garlic instead of using synthetic hypotensive drugs that have recently revolutionized the therapy of this pathogen. However, herbal medicine could be a bulwark against the excessive and dangerous use of drugs, detectable especially in more developed societies. Phytotherapy is not so much the resort in the herbal pharmacy, but rather to accept and nurture a new approach to existence, based essentially on a recovery of nature and its resources, among which are also but not only, medicinal plants. It is, ultimately, to break through the stereotypes of the consumer society to appreciate the things around us and their applications.
In this case, phytotherapy is the first need to regain the ability to recognize and distinguish, based on the experience of our ancestors and not to abandon the action, often suspect, who was devoted to commercial plants, therefore, to the extent possible, we must personally come to the collection of useful plants, their conservation and extraction of active principles, rebuilding a communion with nature that is the primary basis for a better life.
Collection and storage
The best time to collect and preserve medicinal plants begins is in April and May and lasts until autumn. To remove them from the largest possible amount of active ingredients is necessary to choose a clear day, sunny, starting the collection at end of the morning, so that stems, leaves and flowers are completely dry, and giving preference to the most beautiful. Some plants are collected from flowers and leaves at the ends of other flowers, some are used only a few roots, rhizomes or bulbs, This depends on the gender of the plant and its parts which are richer in active ingredients.
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Collecting, not destroying
Everything has to be taken with sensitivity, so that the plant does not suffer. The result will be booted only when we have collected roots, rhizomes or bulbs. The leaves are collected when they appear on the stem of the flower buds, since before flowering are very active because they contain too much water after flowering are also insufficiently active, because the flowers have the best of themselves.
The flowers are collected immediately after bloom, because that's when having a greater wealth of active ingredients. Only the flowers of chamomile and arnica can be collected when they are still buds.
There are plants like rosemary and sage, which have stems, leaves and flowers are rich in essential oils, these plants will have to pick up the ends flower. On the other hand, if the plant jealously hides its active principles in the roots, the collector must make a distinction between annual and biennial plants. In the first case the root has to be collected in spring, time of awakening, when it is plump and full of humors. If, by contrast, is an annual plant or a bulbous plant, root and bulb must be collected in autumn or after the fall of the leaf, when it saps nutrients from the plant back down to the base before the onset of winter makes it die. As far as the plants from which the branches are used because they are richer in active ingredients, the time of collection varies from one species to another. The leaves, carefully selected and cleaned, are left to air dry and the shade, spread on mats, reed bed, etc. The bulbs, flowers and flower ends are dried in the sun, covered by sheets of paper so it does not fade. The roots and rhizomes, previously selected and separated from roots and several fragments are exposed to direct sunlight. In the evening, you should put everything at home, away from dampness of the night.
Products, perfectly dry, are kept in tin boxes or glass jars were cleaned before use, each with its label to avoid confusion, and finally stored in a dry place. All them must be according to the Plant health controls.
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These are, in short, the general rules to be followed by the person wishing to collect medicinal plants for their personal use. However, it must be remembered that anyone cannot suddenly become a collector or a herbalist, you must have some notion of botany and know for sure the plants you want to collect. It is very easy to get confused.
Natural remedies, herbal roots, flowers and leaves, require careful selection and preparation of medicinal plants if you wish to obtain a preparation effective from the therapeutic point of view, since only thus will remain intact all the principles active drug.
Medicinal plants can be treated according to three different methods of decoction. The operation involves baking the rich in active ingredients (flowers, leaves, fruits, seeds, roots or whole plants) for a few minutes. To prepare the decoction or tea, the selected plant part is put in the boiling water and let it cook over medium heat in a covered container, for the time indicated in each case in the recipe.
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