Medicinal herbs: When are they good for you?

As more and more people are turning to natural medicines as a way of protecting and improving their health, the use of medicinal herbs and home remedies is becoming ever more widespread. Scientific studies back their benefits for boosting health and well-being but, even though many folk remedies date back to ancient times, not everyone is aware of some of the traps and pitfalls that their use can entail.

Many of us have wondered whether we are using the medicinal plants in our store cupboards correctly and whether those that we keep for great lengths of time continue to retain their usefulness and potency.

Answers to some of the above questions were given by Thessaly TEI Technological Agricultural Sciences teacher Eleni Vogiatzi-Kamvoukou at a seminar in Larissa on Sunday, during an ‘EcoFest’ held in the city.

Among others, Vogiatzi emphasised that the importance of knowing where and especially when medicinal plants are harvested, since the essential oils they contain decline over time. She also warned that, in order for a medicinal plant to be sold commercially, “there has to be some standard regarding its essential oil content.”

“In order, for example, for chamomile to be useful to our body it has to have an essential oil content of 0.4 pct. If it has less, it is useless,” she pointed out. She also warned that not all preparations of medicinal plants are created equal: “An important element is also the form that the preparation takes. For chamomile, when this includes the whole flower, we have a 30 pct reduction in essential oils over six months, whereas when it is in powder form, the reduction in essential oils is 50 pct in six months. Therefore, the date of collection is very important for the consumer to know,” she said.

AMNA

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