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Drop-dose Tinctures, ‘Minimaxes’ & Flower Essences

Herbal practice in the UK is mainly concentrated on use of the tincture, dosed by the spoonful. In the 20th century, a ‘standard’ tincture had a strength of 1:5 – in the 21st, the standard is rapidly approaching 1:2. We still use our capsules full of powdered herbs, but again, we are under pressure to use tablets & capsules of the new enhanced extracts manufactured by the phyto-pharmaceutical industry. This situation moves us towards viewing herbal remedies simply as products, and to assess the therapeutic potency of these products according to levels of drug-like pharmacological action they have on us, side-effects and all.

This is an unwanted departure from the terrain of traditional herbalists, who celebrate an intimate relationship with living plants, and go to great efforts to ‘capture the imponderables of life’. Although we have a good understanding of gross pharmacology we also develop a fine appreciation of the subtle energies of each plant (just as we do the subtle energies of our patients). The more we go on, the more we come to appreciate that subtle effects can often prove more healing than gross ones, and that these effects are not dependent on dose, but on the vitality of the herbal medicine.

Producing the optimum quality from the living plant is in part the function of the body of knowledge conveyed regarding plant condition, harvesting times and techniques, comminution & production processes, and so on. However, one of the biggest single influences on absolute quality is intention. This is a concept alien to western material science but is dignified both by common observation and also the new science, quantum physics. When a herbalist has personally shared a plant’s journey from seedling to full bloom, perhaps many times over, has taken it from harvest to dispensing shelf in an aware and aspirational fashion, and has shared the wish with the patient for a healing union between herb and human, only then can the full potential of plant healing be realised. This is not to say that, for instance, a grower/producer or another practitioner might not play an integral part in this chain of events, but it will rely on a relationship intimate and healthy enough to ‘pass the baton’ intact.

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