1.1 The Myth Of Herbs
The woman was proudly showing me the inside of her medicine cabinet:
“See? No pills, bottles of medicine, drugs or anything! I got rid of them all. I don’t trust doctors or prescription medicines. I take only natural things.”
She reached inside the cabinet and started pulling out capsules, tinctures, and powders.
“This is peppermint oil,” she told me. “I use it instead of an antacid for stomach upset. I’ve got these white willow bark pills for headaches so I won’t need aspirin. I used to take tranquilizers, but now I can use these valerian root extracts to make me relaxed. I just use herbs now when I’m sick. I don’t buy anything from a drugstore.”
“That’s too bad,” I said.
She looked shocked. “Why? Because I don’t buy drugs anymore?”
“No,” I replied, “it’s too bad you’re still poisoning yourself with drugs—that’s what all these herbs are. They may grow wild and naturally, but they’re just as deadly as those pills with the unpronounceable names that the pharmacist sells you.”
Many people can be convinced about the danger of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. They, or people they know, have often suffered side effects from drugs sold as cures. Yet these same people are often amazed that herbs too are equally useless and dangerous in restoring health.
Herbs have an undeserved reputation as “natural,” “organic,” “powerful,” and “ancient.” They grow out of the earth—they must be okay, these people reason. Such people may violently distrust bottles of medicines and pills sold by drugstores, but they will dutifully swallow capsule after capsule that contains the powdered remains of some unfamilar plant.
This lesson is to help you explain to your friends and clients why herbs are not harmless; why they are not safe; why they should not be used. So many myths surround herbs, herb taking, and herbalists that the air must be cleared.
1.2 What Is an Herb?
Most of us have a pretty good idea what an herb is. We generally think of some wild plant that tastes somewhat bad which is used in small amounts for some ailment or the other.
There may be some confusion, however, between herbs and vegetables, or other edible plants. For example, lettuce and salad vegetables are sometimes called “herbs.” Parsley, which may be eaten occasionally with other vegetables, is classified as an herb. Animals, such as horses and cows, which eat primarily grass and greens are called herbivores or herb eaters.
Even the dictionary is no help in distinguishing herbs from vegetables. One definition of an herb is that it is a “seed plant which dies to the ground at the end of a season.” This would mean that lettuce, cabbage, and indeed, almost all garden vegetables, could be classified as herbs. Another definition of an herb is that it’s a “plant or plant part which is valued for its medicinal or savory properties.”
Now we can see the two sides of an herb. It can either be a food (like a salad vegetable) or it can be a drug or a seasoning. For this lesson, an herb will not be considered as a food or as a salad vegetable. If it is safe to eat, a plant is classified as a food. If it has toxic, or “medicinal” properties, than it is classified as a drug.
This lesson is concerned chiefly with the herb as a drug. Mention will be made of herbs as foods, and whether they are proper nourishment for humans.
1.3 Warning: Herbs May Be Dangerous To Your Health!
Some people may not believe that herbs can have any effect in keeping us well and healthy, but few people actually consider herbs to be harmful. Herbs are plants and grow naturally, and it seems that only people like the FDA and AMA have anything “bad” to say about these substances. But herbs are not only ineffective in producing health, they poison the body and may create serious complications in the user of such plants.
All herbs contain poisonous volatile oils and alkaloids. All herbs are fatal when taken in large enough doses. Even moderate amounts of certain herbs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headaches, and spontaneous abortions.
Many people do not realize that the herbs they take are in fact poisoning them. The reason? Herbs are taken in small amounts—usually small enough not to occasion a serious and painful reaction, but still enough to cause the body to react radically and expeditiously to eliminate them. These reactions by the body to eliminate the toxic substances found in herbs are taken as “proof” by herbalists that their potions are doing their job. A job is being done, all right, but the results are not always as advertised.
If herbs are not harmful, why must they be taken in such small amounts? Like pepper, spices, and condiments, herbs cannot be ingested in amounts larger than a tablespoon or so. Even more telling is the taste of herbs themselves. Almost without exception, herbs are bitter, strong, and foul tasting. This is a warning to the body not to eat such substances.
Very few people would chew and swallow a mouthful of an herb. They couldn’t choke such a strong and bad tasting substance down. Instead, they usually grind and powder the herb until it can be stuffed into a capsule and slipped past the sense of taste which is the body’s guardian against poisons and drugs.
If a food or substance cannot be enjoyed—if it does not have a pleasant taste—then it should never be eaten or ingested. Even a perverted sense of taste can protect a person from the foul poisons found in herbs. Yet with pills, capsules, and infusions, the herbalists have found ways to sneak a plant into the body that it would never relish or desire normally.
Still, people who are attracted to a natural way of life and diet defend herbs and their use. Maybe we should ask the question:
1.4 Are Herbs “Natural”?
Of course herbs are natural. They grow in every part of the world without cultivation. Unlike most fruits and vegetables, herbs have not been altered through selective planting or breeding. The herbs growing today are much the same as those that grew five thousand years ago. No one can argue that herbs are not natural plants. But, are they natural for man to eat and use?
The argument for herbs has been that since they grow everywhere, they must be good for something. We should be able to use these wild plants since they must be provided for us by nature or by a divine being.
One of the best known herbalists in America answers the question “why use herbs?” as follows:
“Herbs are nature’s remedies, and they have been put here by an all-wise Creator. There is an herb for every disease that a human body can be afflicted with. Herbs were mentioned in the Bible, and much has been written about them all through history.”
In the words of Dr. Herbert M. Shelton: “Such an argument is specious, false, unscientific, and absurd. It is not sustained by theory nor by results, neither by logic, or analogy, nor by experiment or experience.”
Simply because a plant grows naturally does not mean that it was intended or ordained by a divine being (or nature) for our use. A great many plants grow all around us that are rank poisons. The tobacco plant has large and lovely green leaves. It certainly looks as if it would make a wonderful salad food. If you ate a salad of tobacco leaves, you would not live to regret it.
Animals in the wild refuse to eat many of the plants growing around them. Toxins and poisons are to be found in plants, just as are vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and so on. As Dr. Shelton has observed, “Many of the products of nature are unfit for the entrance into the human body.”
If so many herbs taste so foul and have such detrimental effects on the body, then we might ask how the herbal practice ever got started in the first place.
1.5 The Origins of Herbal Drugging Practices
The herbalists and the medical profession which also derives many of its drugs from herbs have justified the use of such poisons by pointing to the practices of antiquity and primitive tribes.
“For thousands of years,” one herbalist writes in his correspondence course, “herbs have been used in the treatment of disease. From the time of King Solomon, who was reputed to be the wisest man of his time, on down to Hippocrates, Galen, and through the Middle Ages to the present time, there have always been great and famous herbologists or botanical physicians.”
We could also add that there have also always been fools and unwitting dupes who have fallen prey to this mumbo-jumbo about the “glorious” history of herbs.
The romantic picture of remote and ancient men who searched the landscape for herbs to cure mankind is a popular, but false one. Always the herbalist is glorified as a wise magic man that could divine the true nature of the wild plants around him. Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth.
The first herbalists were superstitious witch doctors and shamans who used these plants not for any healing virtues, but for magic rituals and ceremonies for sex and power. The herbs were used right along with snake eyes and frog skins to make magic potions. They were not used as curative agents, but as magical talismans.
Medical historians and students of herbology, however, seek to justify their drugging practices by pointing to the past uses of herbs by primitives as an “instinctive” use of such plants. Neither man nor animals will “instinctively” eat a plant that is full of poisons and toxins. It is very doubtful that any person living in nature would desire to eat a foul, bitter plant that causes the body to react vigorously to eliminate it.
The truth is that herbology, like circumcision, is a dark age ritual that has unjustifiably survived. The primitives had no more success when they used herbs for medical curing than they did when they performed circumcision on their youths to prevent masturbation, or whatever. Both herbs and circumcision are barbaric practices that are still with us in spite of an “enlightened” twentieth century.
The romanticizing of herbs and their effects as being “natural” or “primitive” and therefore established and accepted is a dangerous lie. Herbs are drugs and poisons. They cure nothing.
1.6 Why Herbs Can’t “Cure”
People who believe in the curative powers of herbs think that any disease or ailment can be relieved by the ingestion of the proper herbs in the correct amounts. Some herbs are to be boiled and steeped.
Others need grinding and powdering. Some herbs are to be taken in combination with other herbs.
Some herbs must be taken alone to “work” properly.
There are dozens and dozens of books that list herbal formulas for every conceivable illness. No matter what bothers us, the herbalists have a list of plants we can take to “cure” ourselves. So simple and so appealing.
Every herb has its own healing properties, its own virtues, its own potencies. Reading a book on herbs is like reading an encyclopedia of diseases and cures. No wonder herbology is so seductive. We need do nothing to change our living habits to regain our health; we only need to take this or that herb in some amount or combination.
There is no curing power in any herb. All healing power resides in the tissues of the individual. An herb can cure nothing. Herbs, like all drugs and poisons, are inert substances. They perform no actions. They stimulate no healing. They remove no cause of illness. They cannot rebuild the body. They are inactive and incapable of initiating any constructive action within the body.
But herbs do “work” in a certain way. When they are introduced into the body, the vital organism attempts to expel these poisons as quickly as possible. The body protects itself from drugging and poisoning, whether these poisons come from a pharmacist’s shelf or from nature.
These protective efforts by the body are misinterpreted as beneficial actions of the herbs. For example, the herb called mandrake has long been used for liver ailments. When ingested, mandrake causes vomiting, purging, and griping. The herbalists view these reactions as beneficial; they say that the mandrake is causing the body to clean itself out.
What is actually occurring is that the body is making a heroic effort to expel the mandrake by any avenue possible. The purging and griping are signs of a vital organism trying to eject a poisonous substance. It is not a “curing crisis” brought on by the herb.
Different herbs may occasion different bodily reactions. Fevers, sweating, diarrhea, increased or decreased circulation are all signs of a body trying to eliminate herbal toxins and are not indications that an herb is working some cure or the other.
1.7 Can Herbs Help At All?
The use of herbs is often defended because they are not as strong as chemically-derived medicines. In other words, they seem to do less harm than prescription drugs. But is this really true? Are herbs the lesser of two evils? And is there ever any reason they should be employed?
Even if herbs possessed no toxic or poisonous properties, they would still be dangerous. Why? Because the use of herbs, or any “curing” agent, simply perpetuates the ignorance that enslaves so many people.
Herbology promotes the idea of a “cure.” As such, it does nothing to remove the true causes of disease and illness. Herbs deceive people. Many people think that by swallowing some plant or the other, they can improve their health. Such thinking can be dangerous.
For example, high-blood pressure is a very common ailment among Americans because of the tremendous amounts of salt they eat in their heavy meat and processed food diet. A vegetable alkaloid found in certain herbs called reserpine has been used to reduce blood pressure. Garlic, long touted as a wonder herb, is also a supposedly effective agent in reducing blood pressure.
What sometimes occurs is that people with high-blood pressure ingest garlic and other herbs to correct this condition. At the same time, however, they continue with their old diet and eat large amounts of salt.
When this happens, the symptom of high-blood pressure is hidden by the symptoms of the herbal poisoning. At the same time, the old habits and diet that kept the blood pressure high are not modified. The high-blood pressure is simply a signal by the body that something is wrong—like diet or lifestyle. By taking an herb for this symptom, nothing positive is being done; indeed, a poison has just been added to the body which it now must eliminate.
Herb taking, then, is simply symptom masking. In other words, a symptom of a diseased or disordered body is hidden by the eliminative efforts of the body to rid itself of the herbal toxins. The causes of the initial symptom remain, and indeed, continue the destruction of the body.
Garlic and other herbs may mask one symptom of a high-salt diet, but they can do nothing about the kidney damage and cellular destruction that also accompanies salt eating.
All pill and drug taking is dangerously deceptive, whether the drug comes from a plant or from a factory. The symptom-ridding approach to health is a short-ended one, and the bills for a disease-producing lifestyle always come due. Herbs and the symptom-repressing attitude toward health only deceive and delude the true health seeker.
1.8 Are Herbs Good For Food Supplements?
Not only are herbs promoted as cures and remedies, but they are often given as dietary supplements. Herbs often have a high concentration of minerals (usually iron, calcium, and trace elements.) Some have a high vitamin C content as well.
Because of this concentration of nutrients, herbs are also used as nutritional supplements. For example, there are herbal formulas that are reputed to have the proper mineral combination for building bones or increasing the red corpuscle content of the blood. Many people who dislike supplements made in a laboratory will use these herbal formulas to “improve” their diet.
In this case, the herb is being used as a concentrated food instead of a “medicinal cure.” But can such a practice be justified?
The human body can only utilize a certain amount of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients during a given time period. Any excessive amounts of nutrients are eliminated by the body in the urine and feces. For example, brewer’s yeast is sometimes used in the diet for a high B-vitamin supplement. The body can only use a limited amount of these B-vitamins; the rest comes out in the urine.
The high and concentrated amounts of nutrients in most herbs cannot be totally used by the body. Only so much of a mineral or vitamin can be used, and the excess in the herbs must be eliminated. Taking in nutrients in excess of the body’s needs is not “insurance”; instead, the body is burdened by minerals which are in excess of its needs.
Fortunately, most natural foods suited to man’s physiology (like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) are well-balanced nutritionally. Herbs, however, do not have a balanced array of nutrients for human needs because they are not properly a food for man to eat.
Our vitamin and mineral requirements can be more than met with a diet of natural and unprocessed fruits and vegetables. Herbs are not needed food supplements, and indeed, they may serve as a dangerous substitute for a proper diet of fresh and wholesome foods.
Then, too, you must remember that along with any minerals or vitamins the herb may possess are also alkaloids and poisons that the body cannot healthily metabolize. Herbs are not a safe supplement. In fact, no supplement is safe because all such unbalanced additions to the diet disrupt the body’s metabolism arid force it to eliminate the unneeded substances and excesses.
1.9 Why Herbs Appear To Work
Even after people have been told about the harmful effects of herb taking, they often persist in the practice because they insist that the herbs are working and helping them. An elderly man of about ninety has dutifully swallowed a capsule containing an herbal laxative every day for the past several years. “It keeps me regular,” is his only comment and justification for the herb-taking habit.
Herbs do have an effect on the human organism. There can be no question about that. When certain herbs are taken, headaches do disappear and constipation seems to vanish. Are the herbs “working” as the herbalists would have us believe?
In a discussion on herbs and their seeming ability to “cure,” Dr. Shelton has stated:
“Only poisonous herbs are thought td have medicinal qualities. If an herbal substance does not occasion actions of expulsion and resistance when taken into the body or applied to it, it is not vested with any power to cure. If the body ejects the herb by vomiting, diarrhea, diuresis, or diaphoresis, and this is accompanied by some pain and discomfort, then the herb is regarded as beneficial and it is used to “work.” If the patient then recovers in spite of the herb taking, full credit for recovery is given to the poisonous plant, and the self-healing power of the body is completely ignored.
Shelton and other Hygienists have stated that for any substance to have a so-called medicinal effect, like herbs do, it must be a poison. This is because the alleged medicinal effects of a substance are nothing more than the efforts of the body to expel and resist poisons. Herbs and other drugs, instead of being digested and utilized by the body, are expelled.
What does all of this mean? Let’s take a simple case where an herb appears to do some work. Peppermint, a rather mild herb by most standards, is sometimes used to “cure” a headache by herbalists. Your head hurts, so you drink a cup of peppermint tea. Your head stops hurting. Did the peppermint work?
Yes and no. Most headaches are caused by swelling of the intracranial blood vessels around the scalp. These blood vessels swell because of toxic matter in the bloodstream and body, and they then press against sensitive nerves. When peppermint is taken, the body recognizes its oils as harmful. Circulation is rapidly increased by the body and the heart speeds up. At this point, the body is attempting to eliminate the peppermint toxins as quickly as possible by increasing circulation so elimination can proceed.
The increase in circulation, due to the toxic nature of the peppermint oils, has an effect on the swollen blood vessels in the head. The vessels are dilated so that the circulation can proceed rapidly and the peppermint poison can be eliminated. As a side result, the headache disappears temporarily.
So is the headache cured, and did the peppermint work? No, the body did all the work. It worked to eliminate a poison, and these efforts also masked the symptom of a toxic body—in this case, the headache.
The cause of the headache—toxicosis—was not removed by the peppermint. The conditions that brought on the toxicosis—poor diet and lifestyle habits—were not improved by the herb. The headache may have disappeared, but the underlying cause remains. This is the case with all herbs—symptoms are depressed by the eliminative actions of the body which are directed toward the herb.
1.10 Living an Herb-Free Life
Almost without exception, herbs have been used to treat the sick. They are rarely used as food, although occasionally herbs have been used as seasonings or condiments. A lifestyle without herbs is both easy and healthy.
First, you should realize that most people resort to herbs in an effort to cure themselves of some illness. As a student of Life Science, you already know that there can be no “cure” for any disease. Poor health can only be improved by healthful living practices—not through drugging, treatments, or cures. The proper response to an illness is a complete physiological rest—fasting, if possible. Following a complete or modified fasting regimen, the individual should adopt a healthy diet of primarily uncooked fruits and vegetables which are eaten in as whole a state as possible.
Herbs, and other drugging agents, are often used by people who desire a quick “fix” of their problems without any change in their lifestyle. Since it is an unhealthy lifestyle which created the disease in the first place, this approach always fails. The use of herbs may produce different symptoms or masked symptoms, but the herbs themselves cannot remove the underlying cause of the symptoms.
Therefore, to live a life without herbs, we must realize that their use in times of sickness is deceptive. We must understand that total health can only be regained by fasting, proper diet, and a healthy lifestyle. Herbs have no power and no capacity to effect these changes in our lives.
Swallowing herbs is like swallowing any other pill or drug. The fact that they grow naturally does not give them any extra or safe curative properties. Indeed, all curative properties reside within the human organism. No outside agent, including herbs, can instigate any healing capabilities of the body.
Besides medicine, then, what else are herbs used for? Some people use them as food supplements. But if you are following the biologically-correct diet of chiefly raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouts, then there is never a need for herbal supplements or any type of nutritive additive. Many people are wont to blame their health problems on some deficiency or the other, which they then seek to correct by herbal or chemical supplements.
In reality, most illnesses are not caused by any deficiency, but rather by a sufficiency, or excess, of toxic materials in the body. Taking supplements merely adds to this toxic level, and no causes of the illness are removed.
Finally, herbs are sometimes part of a meal. The culinary herbs, such as garlic, onion, parsley, rosemary, cumin seed, caraway seed, and so on are probably the most common herbs used in most diets. Let’s look at these herbs and seasonings in closer detail to see how we can also live without them.
1.11 Herbs That Taste Good?
Herbs that are foul and bitter tasting, as are most of the medicinal herbs, can be easily explained as unsuitable for the human dietary. Who would want to eat them anyway? Other herbs, however, have enjoyed a reputation as seasonings and flavorings in cooking and food preparation. Since this is where herbs are often used in everyday living, we should understand their use better. First, almost every herb used as food in the diet is done so as a seasoning or flavoring for cooked food. Few people desire to eat rosemary or caraway seeds with their raw vegetables. Most such herbs, then, are used to season cooked foods.
Why are seasonings or herbs used in cooked foods? Because the natural flavors and taste have been destroyed in the cooking process. The aromatic herbs are simply used to disguise the insipid taste of the cooked foods.
A predominantly raw food diet does not need aromatic or culinary herbs to “spark” up the flavors. Only in cooking have these herbs gained a foothold. But are they harmless seasonings?
No, because many of the herbs used as seasonings have strong oils and alkaloids that disrupt digestion. Ginger, for example, causes the digestive system to hurry the food through before being completely digested. Thus, these seasoning herbs have gained an undeserved reputation as “digestive aids.” Instead of aiding digestion, their use occasions the body to rapidly expel them along with the food they seasoned.
What about some herbs that are relished in a raw state, such as garlic, onions, parsley, and so on? In general, these types of herbs are not needed and may prove harmful to the organism. Garlic and onions, two of the most popular flavoring herbs, are full of noxious toxins, like mustard oil and allicin. Parsley is also a strong herb whose use can overstimulate the kidneys. It is a very concentrated green herb which should probably not be a part of the regular diet.
The cooking and seasoning herbs are not harmless additions to the diet as is popularly believed. Their use disrupts digestion and places an added load on the eliminative system. They are used chiefly to flavor and spice up foods that are probably best not eaten anyway (that is, overcooked foods, meats, and so forth). A diet of fresh fruits and vegetables require no seasonings, herbal or otherwise.