Should you use wild herbs, or store bought?
If you’re using herbs for your health, you may have wondered whether it’s better to use wild or store bought. The truth is that both can be good.
I have been using herbs for healing for over a decade, and I know that many people wonder whether it’s better to use herbs bought in a store or ones gathered from the wild. Both can be good, but there are several things that you need to take into account when making your decision.
Fresher when wild. When you pick an herb from the wild, or even from a garden, it’s going to be much fresher than anything you could buy even at the best herbal store. You’re collecting and using an herb that was alive just moments ago. Because it’s fresh it may have a higher concentration of the healing components you need. Depending on the location where the herb was collected you may also be able to ensure that no chemicals or pesticides have been used on the herb. However, you do need to be careful not to pick herbs that have been soiled by animals or damaged by insects.
Free when wild. Picking herbs in the wild has the benefit that you usually don’t have to pay. As long as it’s not posted property, you’re not stealing. It’s like picking wildflowers; no one is going to charge you or get angry with you. If you do happen to see herbs you want and they’re on private or posted property, it’s always best to ask permission from the land owner and offer compensation. Luckily, what we herb users know to be medicinal are what many people consider to be nuisance weeds, so they’ll probably be glad to have you get rid of them.
Dangers of misidentification. One of the biggest worries when picking herbs in the wild is the danger of misidentification. There are healing plants that look remarkably like poisonous ones. If you’re picking herbs in the wild, it is recommended that you really know what you’re doing. Get a good illustrated guide to local herbs and plants, and do your research to find out if there are similar looking herbs that are dangerous. If you’re in doubt at all, either don’t pick the herb, or bring a qualified person with you to identify the plants.
Wider variety in stores. One of the benefits of buying your herbs in a store or online is that you can get a much wider variety. No matter how much land you have access to, the fact is that many plants simply don’t or can’t grow in your area. A store, especially an online retailer, is going to have a far wider variety, and will be able to provide you with even the most exotic herbs.
One way for you to try to get the best of both worlds it to find or create an herbal trading circle online. Herbal trading circles are made up of people all over the world who are willing to trade herbs that are available in their local area with people in other areas. Some years back I was part of one, and it was wonderful. I would harvest more than I needed of locally available herbs, and trade through the mail with other people who had herbs I couldn’t find. Do be aware that if you’re trading outside the US, you need to know each country’s policies on shipping plant matter in and out of the country. Shipping plants, especially seeds, into other countries is illegal in some areas.
If you do buy herbs in a store or online, I do recommend that you buy raw. That is, buy actual plant matter rather than capsules or tinctures. When you buy raw you can do a lot more with the herb than if you buy it already prepared. In addition, bulk raw herbs are vastly less expensive than already prepared herbs. For example, at my local herb shop a bottle of herb capsules is $16, but I can get the same volume of herb seed and grind it myself for about $7-8. And by buying raw seeds, I can also grow my own sprouts. Versatility of use and lower price make raw the way to go.
So, whether you use wild or store bought is up to you, but as long as you make an informed decision, you’ll always be able to get what you need to improve your health and enrich your life.