If you want to stock herbs for regular use you have two options: you can either grow your own or buy from herbal suppliers.
I would like to encourage you to grow your own, but I recognise that most people are too busy to dry their own herbs or to make their own tinctures. I think that for the majority of people a compromise solution will work best: you may want to grow a few herbs that are easy to cultivate and versatile in use, to maybe make a herbal syrup or ointment, but otherwise you may prefer to buy ready-made herbal products.
HERBS BUYING VERSUS GROWING Photo Gallery
Whichever you choose, there are some important issues associated with both growing and buying. The pros and cons of buying are discussed in this post, while the advantages of growing your own and suggestions for the choice of herbs to grow are given in post 24.
ADVANTAGES OF BUYING READY-MADE PRODUCTS
The main advantages of buying from herbal suppliers are: ready-made tinctures are often superior in quality to home-made versions (some manufactures will check the actual biochemical composition of each batch to ensure consistent quality), you can buy larger quantities if necessary, you can buy herbs in tablet form that cannot be made at home, and you have access to a wide variety of herbs, some of which cannot be grown in the British climate.
PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH READY- MADE PRODUCTS
There are, however, some issues associated with ready-made herbal products. Unscrupulous traders will sell adulterated products, where one plant species has been substituted for another. Such adulteration can be seriously harmful, if potentially toxic plants are used as substitutes. Some herbal preparations on the market are of poor quality and will have little therapeutic value, while others are artificially ‘strengthened’ with a particular constituent and the safety of such products is unknown.
Therefore when you decide to buy ready-processed herbs, consider the points below in order to be safe and not waste your money.
BUY FROM REPUTABLE SUPPLIERS ONLY
This is paramount. You should buy only from suppliers that can guarantee the quality of their products. Please refer to the Resources section for the list of retailers and suppliers to choose from. As a rule of thumb, obtain your herbs from well-known companies: the European and Australian companies making herbal products have the best reputation. Do not buy online unless the site is run by a genuine herbalist who is a member of a recognised herbal association (see post 196). Unfortunately, not all health food shops can be relied on to offer consistent high quality across the herbal product range.
BUY DIRECTLY FROM HERBAL APOTHECARIES
Many bona fide medical herbalists run their own apothecaries, and these are the best sources from which to buy your herbs as you will be guaranteed good quality, plus you will receive advice on the appropriate dosage. To find such apothecaries, contact the organisations listed on post 196.
BUY NATIVE HERBS OR CULTIVATED LOCALLY
Remember that herbs that are prone to adulteration are the imported, rare and exotic ones. Be aware that there is hardly any quality control of Chinese and Ayurvedic preparations at the moment, and there are frequently cases of herb adulteration in China and India. Buying native herbs or those that are non-native but cultivated in the UK reduces the risk of buying the wrong, and possibly harmful, species.
PRICE AND QUALITY
Price is ofen a reflection of quality – beware of exceptionally cheap products. However, an exorbitant price is not a guarantee of extra quality; most likely it means that the herb you are buying is rare and endangered. For ordinary herbs, you should currently expect to pay about £7-9 for 100ml of tincture and about half that for 100g of dry herbs, although that may depend on the actual species.
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