PART 2: ARE YOUR INGREDIENTS SAFE? 5 TIPS TO HELP YOU DECIDE!

Choosing the correct ingredients is very important. When I was just starting out, I was just excited to find the right ingredients, I didn’t think much about where they came from or if they were good quality. That was until I thought I might try a remedy on my son. Then I paused.

One of the reasons I moved toward herbalism was because I wanted more natural ingredients to go into our bodies. How careful was I when I decided on these ingredients?

Knowing how to choose not only the correct type of ingredients, but the best ingredients for your herbal creations will save you time, money and a lot of trouble in the long run!

PUTTING THOUGHT INTO WHAT YOU USE.

Finally! My St. John’s Wort flowered in my garden. I had a visual on what the plant looked like in person, not just in a book! It was wonderful. I knew that it grew locally but I was never very sure about the identification of it. Now I could positively pick it out in a field! As my son and I took our daily walk, there she was, growing wild, in a ditch, along side the road! And there she stayed. I smiled at her every morning.

Where’d you find that?

It is never wise to pick herbs from the side of the road or from a field you don’t know much about.
The dust, vehicle fumes and who knows what else have come to rest on those plants. If you don’t know about the field you’re picking from, then you don’t know if it has been sprayed. (And you’re probably on someone’s property with out permission.)

Don’t harvest all the plant’s you see.

This isn’t necessarily a safety thing but it is a respect thing. If you find yourself in a field and there are only a few plants available to you. Don’t harvest them into extinction. If it’s going to take all you see to make what you want then you need to keep looking for a better supply. In this case, if there are a good handful of plants, maybe you could dig one up and take it home, see if you can grow your own supply.

Using your senses is important.

When purchasing dried plants, you can measure the quality by how the plant looks and smells. If the plant is fragrant in its fresh state, it should still be fragrant when dried. Also, most dried plants should still have color to them. Now they won’t all be bright green, but some will. If the plant is more brown than green, it is probably not great quality.

These rules apply when you are drying your own herbs as well. Plants like basil and plantain are easily bruised, so if I’m not careful I do get some brown leaves when drying them. No biggie, it happens. Just take care when handling them.

Learn from my mistake!

Once, prior to finding good suppliers, I purchased beeswax pastilles from amazon. When I received them I thought they smelled funny but I ignored it. EVERY salve I made with that beeswax smelled awful! I could smell it over the scent of my other ingredients. It may have been in my head, but after this, I found my beeswax locally or from places like Mountain Rose Herbs and Bulk Apothecary. 

As a rule I try to buy organic whenever I can. Sometimes it’s not possible to get organic or it is ridiculously expensive. To be certified organic you must jump through some big hoops. Many smaller farms, while they practice organic farming, don’t have the time or money to jump through those hoops. So if you get to know your supplier and you trust their practices then don’t worry if it doesn’t have the Certified Organic label.

Quality of your own remedies

I took a class recently where the teacher shared a story of purchasing burdock root from someone she wasn’t sure she could trust because she was unable to find the root from her trusted suppliers. She came to lack trust in this supplier because no one could answer simple questions about the root. Where it came from, was it organic, how hold was it, etc.

If they can’t answer your simple questions, don’t trust the quality of their supply.

She took the root and started a tincture with them. This was 3 years prior to this class. The tincture was not cloudy and still smelled of alcohol. She compared it to a tincture she had made within the year and it was cloudy and smelled of the root, you could hardly smell the alcohol.

  • When doing root tinctures, cloudy is good, it means the properties are being leached out of the plant and into the alcohol.
  • When working with finished tinctures you should not be able to smell the alcohol but instead it should smell like the herb you used or have a plant like odor.

Oh oils…

Infusing oils is a trial and error art.

There are many things that go into creating your infused oil and ensuring that it doesn’t go bad while it’s brewing. (I hope to go into this in a different post, it’s to much for this one) But the important thing to remember is use your senses.

  • Smell the oil. Does it smell like the oil has gone bad?
  • Look at the oil. Has mold began to grow on it?

If you’re not sure yet, it’s ok, you learn as you go, but don’t worry, mold is pretty obvious. Growing a nose for bad oil may take a few tries, it never hurts to get a second opinion.

Lavender oil smells amazingly like lavender, plantain on the other hand can be hard to decipher by smell. It’s all a learning experience, but trust me there is a difference between plantain oil that is good and rancid plantain oil and I’m pretty sure you’ll know it when you smell it!

So to Recap

  • Get your ingredients from a clean and trusted place or source.
  • Use your senses when purchasing, picking or creating your own ingredients
  • Purchased herbs, dried or otherwise should still resemble the plant in it’s fresh state.

I hope these little bumps along my road and what I learned from them can help you to avoid some of the mistakes I made.

Was this helpful? Leave a comment and let me know. Do you have any other questions about safety? Maybe I can help out!