It wasn't long ago that herbs — the leaves, roots, berries and bark of plants — supplied the medicines of the world, gathered throughout history, usually by women, to treat just about anything you can name.
With the coming of aspirin and morphine — both of which came initially from plants — at the start of the 20th century, that all began to change, and we started looking more and more to powerful man-made drugs to treat disease.
But the vast knowledge of herbs was not lost. In fact, more is being learned about herbs everyday, as you can tell by looking at the hundreds of organic herbal tinctures and balms offered in stores such as Ashland Food Co-op, Shop'n Kart, Medford Food Co-op — and even the supplement aisles of grocers such as Food 4 Less in Medford.
In Ashland Food Co-op's wellness section, assistant manager Rosie Dunaway explains that the store's herbal tinctures come from Herb Pharm in Williams.
Tinctures in eyedropper bottles are the most popular form of herbs, co-op workers say. They're mostly priced in the $9-to-$10 range, most come distilled in an alcohol-based solution and most are quite bitter to the taste. Instructions usually call for taking 30 to 40 drops in a glass of water, where you can barely taste it.
Herbs are not silver bullets, like antibiotics, curing conditions in a day or two, cautions medicinal herbalist Eve Campanelli of Ashland. You may take them for weeks or months, giving your body time to adjust to them — and they can become a way of life.