Getting Started with Herbs: Misinformation

Snake Oil Salesman

The old adage, “a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing”, certainly applies to herbalism!  Dangerous information abounds on the internet and even in books written by experts.  While visiting another website recently, I discovered a recommendation to use pennyroyal essential oil internally to soothe headaches. While it is true that the fragrance of this herb can relieve some types of headaches in some individuals, the pure essential oil should not be taken internally.  It can cause many complications, not the least of which is its action as an abortifacient. *

The fault of this particular webmaster was that he or she had plagiarized an excerpt from a book.  Although the webmaster did not directly copy the passage from the book, he or she had loosely re-written it, and in doing so had omitted important information.

Where Misinformation Begins

Theft:

The glut of dangerous information like the example above stems from plagiarism, copyright infringement or wannabe teachers trying to pass on the knowledge they do not have.  Websites with bad information are used as resources by other webmasters, and the bad information found online gets progressively worse as new pages are made using the information found on disreputable sites.  Social media spreads the misinformation like an aggressive virus, and pretty soon a myth becomes an accepted “fact.”

Fads:

Fads are another source of misinformation. There are many websites touting the latest herbal “cure all”, or emphasizing the dangers of some dietary staple.  Everything from “Herbal Viagra” to “Herbal Prozac” is sold like snake oil through email spam and many thousands of websites.  An herbal yohimbine supplement may increase blood flow to the genital area, but there are many other things to consider before using it as a sexual enhancement. Herbs and plants are wondrous, but cannot be used in such ways without a true understanding of their properties. A healthy respect for the botanicals you will be working with will ensure a healthy body, mind, and spirit!

Friends:

Yet another source of misinformation is the concerned friend or neighbor who has become a fanatic in their diet and wishes to help you.  Their chosen diet may have been incredibly helpful in boosting their health, but they may be misguided by misinformation for the reasons mentioned above.  In addition, their fanaticism in regards to their diet may be displayed with such fervor that they believe their way is the best or only way for everyone.

Such dietary fanaticism can be seen in any type of diet or herbal plan from vegan and gluten-free to daily high doses of herbal supplements.  These entirely legitimate diets can be taken to extremes and pushed onto others by well-intentioned friends who are misguided.  For example, 120mg of ginkgo supplement may increase blood circulation to the brain and extremities (fingers and toes) but if taken in too high a dose or with other blood thinners, it can cause serious medical complications.

Research Thoroughly!

At Wind n Wood, we deal with cold, hard, clinical and scientific facts in regards to herbs and their physical properties.  This is not to say that traditional herbalism or anecdotal evidence is ignored!  In fact, the most recent clinical studies will be utilized alongside the most ancient references to an herb or botanical in our formulas.

Through the process of blending the best of old world tradition along with the best of modern science, we can create a new type of herbalism together, becoming well-informed and successful herbalists.

Notes:

  • * Abortifacient: A substance that causes miscarriage or induces abortion.
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