Herbs 101

by karen on March 5, 2013

Jillian is one of our practitioners at the center and provides some information to often-asked questions about herbs… enjoy!

People have lots of questions about herbs ranging from their efficacy to their safety. One day the media can cause an herb to be so popular that the market cannot keep up with the demand, and then the next day scare the public out of using any herbs at all based on how dangerous they are. The balance has been lost in understanding when an herb is an appropriate choice, and when it is not.

Do herbs really work?

Many people think that for herbs to work, you must “believe” in them. While power of intention is certainly helpful while on the road to recovery, I do not think that one must “believe” in herbs to see their efficacy. One need only take a good dose of Senna to observe the laxative effect. While it is true that many herbs have subtle effects, not as easily observed as some powerful pharmaceuticals, medicinal herbs have real physiological effects on organs and tissues in the body. These effects have been observed by science, as well as empirically over time. The word “drug” actually derives from the French word “drogue,” meaning dried plant.

Why should I see an herbalist?

An herbalist can guide you to making choices that support your health in a very individual way. Rather than using a generic herbal product off the shelf, an herbalist can custom formulate an herbal product based on you as an individual, taking into account your specific strengths and weaknesses. An herbalist can also make a difference in the areas of quality and dosage. The three main reasons herbal medicine doesn’t work for people are: 1) The herbal product they used was of poor quality. 2) The dose they used was inappropriate. 3) They chose the wrong herb. A clinical herbalist can help with all three of these issues.

Are herbs safe?

Herbs have an excellent safety record over thousands of years of use by people for healing, but today there are modern concerns that need to be considered in terms of safety and herbal medicine. First of all, herbs are active principles in the body and can interact with other medications. This is extremely important if the medication being taken is essential for life or if the medication has a narrow therapeutic index. Even with these concerns, it is rare for an herb to interact in a severely negative way with a pharmaceutical medication. Another modern concern is that herbs are being concentrated and processed in a more “drug-like” way. These types of herbal medicines have different effects than the original herb in its whole form and can cause unwanted side effects. All of these concerns can be addressed by a well trained clinical herbalist.


Greenspring Herbs, LLC is the clinical practice and herbal apothecary of Jillian Bar-av, MS, RH(AHG), CNS. Greenspring Herbs provides one-on-one consultations for people to address a wide variety of health issues and offers clients customized herbal formulas to address individual healing goals.

“Plant Medicine For Healthy People And a Healthy Planet.”



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