"Ask Charoula"

"Ask Charoula"

  • Herbal Facts: The Safety of Plants by Charoula Dontopoulos Herbal Facts: The Safety of Plants by Charoula Dontopoulos

    0 comments / Posted on by Quantam Health Products

    Before we even start on the wonderful journey of working with/using Herbs medicinally, either internally or externally, we truly must know the herb we think we need to use, much as we should  know a person with whom we want to have a long and lasting relationship!   I consider Herbs my friends, and choose them with the same care and appreciation I choose my friends!

    I have often heard (and read) :

    “Do not use drugs, use herbs instead, they are safe.”

    And while most of our commonly used herbs are, doubtless, much safer, they nevertheless can have reactions, depending on:

    • each user’s specific constitution
    • the nature of the particular preparation (a tincture, a capsule, a cup of tea, a standardized extract—more on these in the next column)
    • the specific herb’s chemical properties, some of which can be challenging.

    Depending on their chemical composition, herbs—quite like pharmaceuticals—can have both multiple benefits AND multiple consequences, some of which might not always be desirable.

    It is especially important to keep in mind that if we are taking an actual prescribed pharmaceutical, it is best to keep away from herbs, as this can and often does carry the risk of contraindications between drugs and herbs.

              Having said the above, it is important to know that Herbs in the US are regulated by the FDA which provides information on the toxicity or safety of herbs.

              Also, The Herb Research Assn. here in the US  provides Safety reviews on more than 200 plants  based on clinical tests, including contraindications, use with drugs etc.

    So to begin with, when picking an herb we saw or heard recommended for a given condition:

    • Always check it either with a qualified Herbalist: Herbalists are trained to provide answers to your questions.
    • Get ample information from a number of reliable Herbal books (Dr. David Winston’s books, or David Hoffman’s the Herbal Handbook, or Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Women—and so many more.)
    • Check it, if necessary, with the FDA but better yet with The Herb Research Assn!
    • Looking it up in the Internet is not always a safe choice!

    Next, study Herbs in general:

    We will be talking in the future columns about:

    • the specific categories and functions of herbs
    • the ways specific herbs work
    • which herbs are for short or long term use
    • the specific properties which make herbs suitable for specific conditions

    All of the above pieces of information are fascinating and extremely important in determining the questions: 

    • “Is this the right herb for my condition?”
    • “Is this an herb I can take daily forever, or for a very short time?”
    • “Should I ask an Herbalist or should I trust this ad/info I just read?”
    • “Should I choose this herb as a pill, a tincture, a tea etc.—which is     the right form for my specific needs?”

    The study of Herbs is huge, exciting, and highly rewarding!

    I hope this Column is just an incentive-- for those who take the time to read it – to go on and study herbs further, feel secure in their choices of herbs, and learn to fully appreciate all the benefits and rewards Plants have to offer us.

    See you next week,

    Charoula

    Before we even start on the wonderful journey of working with/using Herbs medicinally, either internally or externally, we truly must know the herb we think we need to use, much as we should  know a person with whom we want to have a long and lasting relationship!   I consider Herbs my friends, and choose them with the same care and appreciation I choose my friends!

    I have often heard (and read) :

    “Do not use drugs, use herbs instead, they are safe.”

    And while most of our commonly used herbs are, doubtless, much safer, they nevertheless can have reactions, depending on:

    • each user’s specific constitution
    • the nature of the particular preparation (a tincture, a capsule, a cup of tea, a standardized extract—more on these in the next column)
    • the specific herb’s chemical properties, some of which can be challenging.

    Depending on their chemical composition, herbs—quite like pharmaceuticals—can have both multiple benefits AND multiple consequences, some of which might not always be desirable.

    It is especially important to keep in mind that if we are taking an actual prescribed pharmaceutical, it is best to keep away from herbs, as this can and often does carry the risk of contraindications between drugs and herbs.

              Having said the above, it is important to know that Herbs in the US are regulated by the FDA which provides information on the toxicity or safety of herbs.

              Also, The Herb Research Assn. here in the US  provides Safety reviews on more than 200 plants  based on clinical tests, including contraindications, use with drugs etc.

    So to begin with, when picking an herb we saw or heard recommended for a given condition:

    • Always check it either with a qualified Herbalist: Herbalists are trained to provide answers to your questions.
    • Get ample information from a number of reliable Herbal books (Dr. David Winston’s books, or David Hoffman’s the Herbal Handbook, or Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Healing for Women—and so many more.)
    • Check it, if necessary, with the FDA but better yet with The Herb Research Assn!
    • Looking it up in the Internet is not always a safe choice!

    Next, study Herbs in general:

    We will be talking in the future columns about:

    • the specific categories and functions of herbs
    • the ways specific herbs work
    • which herbs are for short or long term use
    • the specific properties which make herbs suitable for specific conditions

    All of the above pieces of information are fascinating and extremely important in determining the questions: 

    • “Is this the right herb for my condition?”
    • “Is this an herb I can take daily forever, or for a very short time?”
    • “Should I ask an Herbalist or should I trust this ad/info I just read?”
    • “Should I choose this herb as a pill, a tincture, a tea etc.—which is     the right form for my specific needs?”

    The study of Herbs is huge, exciting, and highly rewarding!

    I hope this Column is just an incentive-- for those who take the time to read it – to go on and study herbs further, feel secure in their choices of herbs, and learn to fully appreciate all the benefits and rewards Plants have to offer us.

    See you next week,

    Charoula

    Read more

  • What is an Herb??? by Charoula Dontopoulos What is an Herb??? by Charoula Dontopoulos

    0 comments / Posted on by Quantam Health Products

    Hi there again!

    • Today, we will begin to expand our knowledge of Herbs!
    • Today, we will begin to ask some questions, like, what really is an Herb?
    • What parts of a plant can be considered as an herb?

    Actually, all parts of a plant can possess strong healing qualities:

    The root, the stems, the flowers, seeds, and leaves—as well as the fruits and nuts and bark of, for instance, a tree.

              Of all the parts mentioned above,

              the roots of plants are considered the most powerful:

              They go to the Root of the Problem!

                                          ---------------------

    The plants that can heal us are all around us:

          For instance:

    All culinary spices are herbs:

    • Oregano, marjoram, rosemary, fennel, fenugreek-- these help us digest our food by enhancing stomach juices, or counteracting acids.
    • Rosemary is also a great help if our memory slows down as we age!
    • Other spices like Cumin, turmeric, dill, caraway enhance the taste of our meals, while at the same time they are “warming”, i.e., they raise the energy of our system (more on this later!)

    A lot of Veges could be considered as herbs:   

    • Garlic, for instance, lowers or raises blood pressure/cholesterol, is antimicrobial & pulls out heavy metals (sulfur).
    • Leeks: assist with allergies
    • Brassicas: fight cancer cells because they contain  antioxidant compounds
    • Cabbage: is anti-inflammatory, internally/externally        
    • Mushrooms: fight tumors

    Lots of Flowers are herbs:             

    • violets fight cancer
    • calendulas are cleansing
    • chamomile is anti-inflammatory
    • Johnswort flowers help us overcome depression

    All Greens/spring greens are herbs:

    • kale
    • spinach
    • collards
    • chard
    • mustard greens
    • dandelion greens

    These greens and others are great  for lymphatic cleansing and detoxing, they contain lots of antioxidants, and they provide many minerals we need for strong bones and circulation.

    Many plant roots and tree barks are herbs:

    Dandelion and Burdock roots are our best Liver Detoxers.

          I want to add that they are also considered ‘’weeds”!

          So many so-called weeds are definitely herbs!

    Marshmallow root and Slippery Elm bark relieve pain

    Echinacea and Golden Seal roots are the strongest antimicrobials I know!

    I could go on and on, but you get the picture, right?

    We will be talking a lot about these and other herbs and their specific uses, so keep coming back, and keep sending your questions!

    The subject of Herbs is huge!

    Charoula

    Hi there again!

    • Today, we will begin to expand our knowledge of Herbs!
    • Today, we will begin to ask some questions, like, what really is an Herb?
    • What parts of a plant can be considered as an herb?

    Actually, all parts of a plant can possess strong healing qualities:

    The root, the stems, the flowers, seeds, and leaves—as well as the fruits and nuts and bark of, for instance, a tree.

              Of all the parts mentioned above,

              the roots of plants are considered the most powerful:

              They go to the Root of the Problem!

                                          ---------------------

    The plants that can heal us are all around us:

          For instance:

    All culinary spices are herbs:

    • Oregano, marjoram, rosemary, fennel, fenugreek-- these help us digest our food by enhancing stomach juices, or counteracting acids.
    • Rosemary is also a great help if our memory slows down as we age!
    • Other spices like Cumin, turmeric, dill, caraway enhance the taste of our meals, while at the same time they are “warming”, i.e., they raise the energy of our system (more on this later!)

    A lot of Veges could be considered as herbs:   

    • Garlic, for instance, lowers or raises blood pressure/cholesterol, is antimicrobial & pulls out heavy metals (sulfur).
    • Leeks: assist with allergies
    • Brassicas: fight cancer cells because they contain  antioxidant compounds
    • Cabbage: is anti-inflammatory, internally/externally        
    • Mushrooms: fight tumors

    Lots of Flowers are herbs:             

    • violets fight cancer
    • calendulas are cleansing
    • chamomile is anti-inflammatory
    • Johnswort flowers help us overcome depression

    All Greens/spring greens are herbs:

    • kale
    • spinach
    • collards
    • chard
    • mustard greens
    • dandelion greens

    These greens and others are great  for lymphatic cleansing and detoxing, they contain lots of antioxidants, and they provide many minerals we need for strong bones and circulation.

    Many plant roots and tree barks are herbs:

    Dandelion and Burdock roots are our best Liver Detoxers.

          I want to add that they are also considered ‘’weeds”!

          So many so-called weeds are definitely herbs!

    Marshmallow root and Slippery Elm bark relieve pain

    Echinacea and Golden Seal roots are the strongest antimicrobials I know!

    I could go on and on, but you get the picture, right?

    We will be talking a lot about these and other herbs and their specific uses, so keep coming back, and keep sending your questions!

    The subject of Herbs is huge!

    Charoula

    Read more

  • An Introduction to Obtaining and Using Herbs by Charoula Dontopoulos An Introduction to Obtaining and Using Herbs by Charoula Dontopoulos

    0 comments / Posted on by Quantam Health Products

    Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for reading the column and asking questions.

    I have already answered Mary Jo’s comment in an abbreviated way, but this seemed a good enough subject to expand on further, so here it is!

    So, one question was: Do I grow my own plants?

    • The answer is: I grow a lot of my own herbs, but not all of them.
    • I also collect a lot of different herbs growing on the farm.
    • A lot of plants I use may also come from regions other than my own, or even from other Continents, like Africa, South America, or even icy Siberia!
    • Herbs are everywhere!

    Another question: can everybody grow some of their own herbs?

    • Εverybody can really grow some of their own herbs!
    • There is no bigger pleasure for an herbs user than growing our own little “pharmacy”!!
    • Whether we live in a city apartment with a good southern window, or a suburb with a small yard, or out on a farm (where I live), we can all experiment with growing anything from a humble Dandelion to a more demanding Angelica tree!  
    • Μost of the time, I start with a small plant I bought at a Nursery.  It is the easy way!
    • But it is much more fun to start with seeds and watch it all happen!

    And learning how to use herbs is a whole art and science in itself.

    To answer your question in an abridged way (more in a future column), herbs can be used in many different ways: 

    • As teas and as tinctures for internal use
    • As healing oils or salves for external use.
    • And, in the last few years, as extracts, mostly Standardized extracts for internal use. 

    We can easily make our own teas, even our own tinctures and oils and salves in our kitchen for our personal use, 

    An extract, however, is done in labs, and sold as capsules or tablets.

    I prefer my teas and my tinctures!

    Herbal Teas are my first priority:

    Chamomile, Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Dandelion leaves and roots (and many more, but those are my favorites.)

    Culinary herbs are very important if one likes to cook:

    Oregano, Dill, Parsley, Basil, Thyme,

    Spices are great to grow, depending on where we live:

                Friends in the South grow Ginger and Turmeric.

                Here we can grow Hot Peppers in the summer and make Cayenne seasoning!

    As to where we can buy tinctures, several Herbal suppliers make them and sell them, I prefer the tinctures made by Dr. David Winston (Herbalist-Alchemist.com).

    But there are many more wonderful herbalists out there who make very good tinctures, like Traditional Medicinals, Jeans Greens, and more.

    In a later column, we will discuss how to do different herbal preparations beyond teas, and we will talk about how to make our own tinctures then.

    Charoula

    Hi Everyone,

    Thanks for reading the column and asking questions.

    I have already answered Mary Jo’s comment in an abbreviated way, but this seemed a good enough subject to expand on further, so here it is!

    So, one question was: Do I grow my own plants?

    • The answer is: I grow a lot of my own herbs, but not all of them.
    • I also collect a lot of different herbs growing on the farm.
    • A lot of plants I use may also come from regions other than my own, or even from other Continents, like Africa, South America, or even icy Siberia!
    • Herbs are everywhere!

    Another question: can everybody grow some of their own herbs?

    • Εverybody can really grow some of their own herbs!
    • There is no bigger pleasure for an herbs user than growing our own little “pharmacy”!!
    • Whether we live in a city apartment with a good southern window, or a suburb with a small yard, or out on a farm (where I live), we can all experiment with growing anything from a humble Dandelion to a more demanding Angelica tree!  
    • Μost of the time, I start with a small plant I bought at a Nursery.  It is the easy way!
    • But it is much more fun to start with seeds and watch it all happen!

    And learning how to use herbs is a whole art and science in itself.

    To answer your question in an abridged way (more in a future column), herbs can be used in many different ways: 

    • As teas and as tinctures for internal use
    • As healing oils or salves for external use.
    • And, in the last few years, as extracts, mostly Standardized extracts for internal use. 

    We can easily make our own teas, even our own tinctures and oils and salves in our kitchen for our personal use, 

    An extract, however, is done in labs, and sold as capsules or tablets.

    I prefer my teas and my tinctures!

    Herbal Teas are my first priority:

    Chamomile, Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Dandelion leaves and roots (and many more, but those are my favorites.)

    Culinary herbs are very important if one likes to cook:

    Oregano, Dill, Parsley, Basil, Thyme,

    Spices are great to grow, depending on where we live:

                Friends in the South grow Ginger and Turmeric.

                Here we can grow Hot Peppers in the summer and make Cayenne seasoning!

    As to where we can buy tinctures, several Herbal suppliers make them and sell them, I prefer the tinctures made by Dr. David Winston (Herbalist-Alchemist.com).

    But there are many more wonderful herbalists out there who make very good tinctures, like Traditional Medicinals, Jeans Greens, and more.

    In a later column, we will discuss how to do different herbal preparations beyond teas, and we will talk about how to make our own tinctures then.

    Charoula

    Read more

  • Welcome to "Ask Charoula" by Charoula Dontopoulos Welcome to "Ask Charoula" by Charoula Dontopoulos

    2 comments / Posted on by Quantam Health Products

    Hello and welcome to our column devoted entirely to Plants!

    Plants, i.e. Herbs!

    In this column, we will

    • explore the role of Herbs in our lives
    • discuss different plants, their uses, and their effect on our health in general
    • talk about their specific benefits
    • discuss their safety:
      • i.e. when, how, and how much of each herb it is safe to take for specific conditions.
    I hope you explore this column, send me your comments and questions, and I will do my best to answer you!

    Herbs have been used by Humans (and animals!) forever!  

    Before there were drugs, there were herbs. Yes, Herbs go back to Prehistory!

    Yes, we have always collected herbs everywhere around the world, in every culture, and geographical area.

    And we have dried seeds, dried plants, roots, twigs, in caves from Europe to the Middle East, south to Northern and Central Africa, east to India and China, west to the this       continent of ours, i.e. everywhere on this planet, to prove it!

    Yea! Herbs have been a part of human life from the very beginning.

    Our ancestors communed with plants, worked through trial and error, and came up with astoundingly similar herbal answers over the millennia across all continents, cultures, and races. 

    They also observed the animals, where they went for comfort and healing, and learned a lot from them.

    Women healers were instrumental in the practice of herbalism and healing and according to Folk Herbalist and great teacher of many of us Susun Weed:

                “ the Wise Woman tradition is the oldest herbal tradition, yet was never identified as such!”

    Over the centuries, Herbal knowledge was transformed into the science of Herbalism.

    Three major traditions developed throughout the ages:

    • The Chinese Tradition, in the Far East.
    • The Ayurvedic Tradition, based in the Indian peninsula
    • The Western Herbalist Tradition, which started out in the countries around the Mediterranean basin (Egypt/Northern and Central Africa, Middle East, Ancient Greece and Rome).
    • The Western Tradition eventually travelled to the Americas and blended with the great Native American knowledge and use of native plants.
    • The Western Tradition was, originally, a tradition of folk medicine, practiced in the Ozarks, and other areas of this continent, combined with the Native knowledge of plants.

    Today, however, Herbalism is taught in colleges and universities, herbs are studied diligently and their use is spreading from the “kitchen/folk” herbalist to medical doctors, i.e. from home made tinctures and salves etc. to the laboratories. 

    Do I think that is progress? Well, to be honest, I will always prefer the homemade products of the folk herbalist to the mass production of lab extracts and pills.  However, when well made, these are easier for many folks to take, and so herbal use is spreading to people who would probably never have taken them otherwise.

    This in brief is the history of Herbals throughout the ages.

    In the next column we will begin looking at how different categories of herbs have developed for different conditions and ailments.

    The main thing to consider and remember is that each herb is a special plant, with unique chemistry, unique effects, and unique powers.  Each plant is a small kingdom of its own, to be respected, studied, understood real well, and used with care and the full knowledge of its powers.

    Till next time, go outdoors, see if there is a small plant popping up even in the middle of winter, and bless it for its presence and its willingness to help us heal.

    Charoula

    Hello and welcome to our column devoted entirely to Plants!

    Plants, i.e. Herbs!

    In this column, we will

    • explore the role of Herbs in our lives
    • discuss different plants, their uses, and their effect on our health in general
    • talk about their specific benefits
    • discuss their safety:
      • i.e. when, how, and how much of each herb it is safe to take for specific conditions.
    I hope you explore this column, send me your comments and questions, and I will do my best to answer you!

    Herbs have been used by Humans (and animals!) forever!  

    Before there were drugs, there were herbs. Yes, Herbs go back to Prehistory!

    Yes, we have always collected herbs everywhere around the world, in every culture, and geographical area.

    And we have dried seeds, dried plants, roots, twigs, in caves from Europe to the Middle East, south to Northern and Central Africa, east to India and China, west to the this       continent of ours, i.e. everywhere on this planet, to prove it!

    Yea! Herbs have been a part of human life from the very beginning.

    Our ancestors communed with plants, worked through trial and error, and came up with astoundingly similar herbal answers over the millennia across all continents, cultures, and races. 

    They also observed the animals, where they went for comfort and healing, and learned a lot from them.

    Women healers were instrumental in the practice of herbalism and healing and according to Folk Herbalist and great teacher of many of us Susun Weed:

                “ the Wise Woman tradition is the oldest herbal tradition, yet was never identified as such!”

    Over the centuries, Herbal knowledge was transformed into the science of Herbalism.

    Three major traditions developed throughout the ages:

    • The Chinese Tradition, in the Far East.
    • The Ayurvedic Tradition, based in the Indian peninsula
    • The Western Herbalist Tradition, which started out in the countries around the Mediterranean basin (Egypt/Northern and Central Africa, Middle East, Ancient Greece and Rome).
    • The Western Tradition eventually travelled to the Americas and blended with the great Native American knowledge and use of native plants.
    • The Western Tradition was, originally, a tradition of folk medicine, practiced in the Ozarks, and other areas of this continent, combined with the Native knowledge of plants.

    Today, however, Herbalism is taught in colleges and universities, herbs are studied diligently and their use is spreading from the “kitchen/folk” herbalist to medical doctors, i.e. from home made tinctures and salves etc. to the laboratories. 

    Do I think that is progress? Well, to be honest, I will always prefer the homemade products of the folk herbalist to the mass production of lab extracts and pills.  However, when well made, these are easier for many folks to take, and so herbal use is spreading to people who would probably never have taken them otherwise.

    This in brief is the history of Herbals throughout the ages.

    In the next column we will begin looking at how different categories of herbs have developed for different conditions and ailments.

    The main thing to consider and remember is that each herb is a special plant, with unique chemistry, unique effects, and unique powers.  Each plant is a small kingdom of its own, to be respected, studied, understood real well, and used with care and the full knowledge of its powers.

    Till next time, go outdoors, see if there is a small plant popping up even in the middle of winter, and bless it for its presence and its willingness to help us heal.

    Charoula

    Read more