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An Elementary Herbal Course – Lesson 2 – Alternatives

I have written an Elementary Herbal Course for Preppers who are interested in Herbal Medicine to enable them to prepare for any adverse situation that might arise. Lesson one has already been published as ‘An Introduction to Herbal Medicine‘. It should be twenty lessons. Apart from the herbal lessons, there will be a short course on Anatomy which will only cover the basics, the minimum that you will need to learn. Again, there will be three lessons on Herbal Pharmacy consisting of the manufacture of Tinctures, Fluid Extracts and Ointments.
Depending on the time taken for me to complete this course, I would like to continue with an Intermediate course. There is of course, the risk that before this could be done, that the World as we know it may collapse.
If it is at all possible, at some time during 2012, I may be able to arrange a camp here in Scotland. I have two Herbalist colleagues between here and Glasgow who may be prepared to assist me. I am hoping that others might be prepared to assist as well, if they have time to spare from other commitments. Also, there is an MD whom I know who is also a Homoeopath, who might be willing to undertake to give a brief introduction to Homoeopathy.
I am delighted to be able to write this material for the benefit of preppers.

Here is the second lesson following on from Lesson one : An Introduction to Herbal Medicine.

Dear Student,

In this article I would like to offer some suggestions that may help you to absorb the material a little easier. If you obtain a cheap notebook, and record the common names of the herbs and their botanical names therein, several times throughout the day, refer to these lists. Gradually you will find that you will memorise these lists.

As an alternative to this method, cut up some clean sheets of paper into small pieces; on one side of each piece of paper, write the common name of the herb and upon the other side write upon it the botanical name. Read firstly, the common name of the herb and then turn it over and read the botanical name. After doing this five or six times, try mixing them up and reading them at random. Read the name on the side that appears first. Try to remember what it’s other name is. You will soon find yourself remembering these names. You can get another person to read out the names and to check that you read them correctly.

Should you choose the first method and buy a notebook, in another section of the book, you could record the actions of the herbs. For instance, in the case of Red Clover, you could write in “Alternative, deobstruent, sedative, nutrient, diuretic, expectorant and mild stimulant”.

The lists of Herbal Actions that you have previously been given, should eventually be learned by heart. This will aid you when learning the properties of new herbs. To become a successful Herbalist these will be found to be of great help.

When learning the details of individual herbs, firstly, try to remember the indications that appear in some of the herbal monographs. For instance, in the first remedy listed under Alternatives in this article, we find; ‘a sluggish liver and sallow complexion are good indications for the use of this remedy’. In the second remedy, note that it is very useful, ‘particularly where there is dry scaly skin; useful for clearing acids from the body, etc..’

After taking particular note of the major indications, you can generally fill in the detail, for instance, in Oregan Grape root, note that it is a ‘liver stimulant and tonic, a good remedy for the manufacture of blood; note its influence on the digestive system, etc..’

Carry on analysing all of the remedies in the same way. Where you find in the lessons, a statement such as ‘it has been claimed, or some similar wording, note that this is quoted from some other source.

Here is another point, in the information given for Burdock, in the list of complaints for which it is quoted, is listed syphilis. Nowadays this disease will be treated with antibiotics by an orthodox medical practitioner. However, should you be considering volunteering for humanitarian work abroad, you may find it to be of some value. Particularly should modern treatments be unavailable.

Please commence the study of Alternatives



Botanical Name: Berberis aquifolium.

Natural Order: Berberidaceae.

Parts used: Rhizome and roots.

Common names: Mountain grape, Rocky Mountain grape, Holly leaved barberry, Californian barberry and Trailing Mahonia.

Therapeutic properties and uses: It is one of the best alternative blood purifiers and liver stimulants.

Uses: Weak digestion, flatulence, jaundice, blood impurities and as a general tonic to the whole system. It is a very reliable remedy in impure blood conditions and assists in blood manufacture. It is a peptic bitter and therefore useful in weak digestion, flatulence, jaundice and as a general tonic to the whole gastric system. It is useful in atonic dyspepsia where there is inactivity of the liver. A sluggish liver and sallow complexion are good indications for the use of this remedy. For stomatitis and for intestinal catarrh this is a valuable remedy.

Dose: Fluid extract: 10 to 30 drops.

Tincture: 2 to 5 mils.

Decoction of Oregon grape root.
Fifty grams of oregon grape root. (cut)
One litre of distilled water.
Boil slowly in a covered saucepan for twenty minutes. Strain through a filter or muslin, and when cool, bottle and store in a cool place.

Dose: One wine glass full three times a day before meals. If it relaxes the bowels too much, reduce the dose, but take regularly. This will be found to be a wonderful blood purifier and will restore health to many who are suffering from a sluggish liver, weak stomach, indigestion and a sallow skin.
For children, the dose is from one teaspoonful to one desert spoonful in honey water. It creates appetite and promotes digestion, increases strength and vitality. It is desirable, as soon as reasonably possible, for students to learn the different ways of extracting the principles of herbs and preparing them correctly. (This will be dealt with in Pharmacy, which will come a little later in the course). Success in their use depends not only knowing what they are good for, but in preparing them for use in the best way, so as to extract all their virtues and lose none.

Boiling some herbs destroys their medicinal properties, while others need boiling. Some must be extracted by what is called the cold process, etc..


Botanical name: Arctium lappa, Lappa minor.

Parts used: Roots of the first years growth, leaves and seeds.

Common names: Burr wee, Clotbur, Beggar’s buttons.

Therapeutic properties and uses: It is alternative, tonic, diuretic, diaphoretic, depurative, and laxative. From very early times, it has been used with great success for all blood disorders.

For skin conditions it is very useful, particularly where there is dry scaly skin, acne, stubborn scaly eczema, skin ulcers, recurrent boils and styes, psoriasis, scrofula. It is useful for clearing acidic conditions and poisons from the body in the following conditions:- rheumatism, arthritis, gout and syphilis.

For urinary gravel and stone, kidney and bladder troubles and catarrh of these organs, it is often of great value, especially in combination with other well indicated remedies.

In colds and fever, give a double dose of the decoction in very hot water with a little ginger added. The patient should be kept well covered in bed, to promote heat and perspiration. It is very effective where there is a dry bronchial cough.

It is a safe remedy for dyspepsia. In spring and autumn it can be used as a safe blood tonic.

Dose: Fluid extract of the root: 2 to 10 mils.

Fluid extract of the seed: 10 to 30 drops.

Infusion of the root: One wine glass full

Decoction of the root: One teaspoonful to one tablespoonful.

The Preparation of the infusion of Burdock.
– 25 grams of Burdock root. (cut)
– 700 mils of distilled water.
Boil the water and whilst boiling, pour over the herbs. Cover, and allow to steep in a warm place for fifteen to twenty minutes. Strain, cool and bottle. Keep in a cool place or a refrigerator.

The Preparation of the decoction of Burdock root.
– 100 grams of Burdock root. (cut)
– 2,250 mils of distilled water.
Place the herbs in the water and let stand for one hour. Bring to the boil and simmer down to 1,125 mils. Strain, return to a clean vessel and slowly simmer down to330 mils. Add four ounces of glycerine. Cool, bottle and store in a cool place.
This strong decoction is three times as strong as the infusion. Large doses may purge the bowels which should be avoided. Regulate the dose accordingly.


Botanical name: Iris versicolor.

Part used: The Root.

Common names: Blue iris, Flag Lily, Water flag, Liver lily, Snake lily.

Therapeutic properties and uses;
Mostly employed as an alternative in blood and skin disorders, although it has a much wider field of therapeutics than is generally realised. It increases glandular activity and promotes the elimination of waste and secretions.

It is undoubtedly one of the best blood cleansers we have. Its action is on the pancreas, thyroid and gastro-intestinal mucosa. It has a toning effect upon the duodenum and pancreas, and if used soon enough, it may well prevent the development of diabetes. It can be used with other indicated remedies in the treatment of duodenal ulcers.

It has an effect on soft granular enlargements and is often employed in simple goitre. It has a favourable action on the scalp as well as upon the skin and is useful to use on dandruff and falling hair. It tones the hair roots.

As a tonic to the thyroid gland it is very useful but, it lacks the power of Bladderwrack as a normaliser of the gland.

It is useful in relieving gastric irritations where there is vomiting, nausea and gastralgia. It is a very useful remedy in sick headaches, bilious headaches accompanied with nausea and vomiting.

Dose: Fluid extract: 2 to 5 drops four times a day. For long standing cases, doses of five drops every two hours until improvement occurs.


Botanical name: Trifolium pratense.

Parts used: Blossoms and leaves.

Therapeutic Properties and Uses: Red Clover is alternative, deobstruent, sedative, nutrient, diuretic, expectorant and a mild stimulant.

This remedy is often used in wasting diseases and spasmodic affections. It stimulates the liver and gall bladder. A very useful remedy for whooping cough, constipation and a sluggish appetite. This is a valuable herb for delicate and weak children. It is useful for coughs, weak chest, wheezing, bronchitis, lack of vitality and nervous energy. Used as a fomentation externally, it is used in rheumatism and gout, and to soften hardened milk glands. An extract of the flowers can be used for persistent sores. It has been used with success in chorea. It has on some occasions proven useful in athlete’s foot applied as a poultice. It is mildly laxative and soothing to the nervous system. The fluid extract in combination with acetous spirit of Lobelia, is especially valuable in the treatment of whooping cough. Equally it can be used with Drosera (Sundew) for the same complaint. The plant is a valuable blood cleanser, and some of the most stubborn skin diseases have responded to its use.

It is one of the remedies that do much to prevent malignancy. Useful for ulcers and burns. Externally it is used as a dressing for malignant ulcers.

It can be used effectively for sore throat with hoarseness, chill with cough at night, cough when going into the open air, hay fever, tingling in the palms of the hands, and for ulcers of the tibia.

Dose: Infusion: 25 grams of the herb is placed within a jug, and 568 mils of boiling water is poured upon it. Leave to cool and then strain. The dose is one fluid ounce four times a day.

Fluid Extract: 2 to 5 mils three times a day.


Botanical name: Rumex crispus.

Part used: The root.

Common names: Curled dock, Sour dock, Garden patience.

Therapeutic Properties and Uses: This plant grows in soil where there is iron and is often referred to as an ‘iron plant’.

Alternative, tonic, antiscorbutic, astringent, cholagogue. The roots of the Yellow Dock have been found to contain as much as forty-five per cent of iron compounds.

This plant has been used from very ancient times for the following conditions, skin eruptions, scorbutic diseases, itch, syphilis, liver congestion, dyspepsia, biliousness, sour stomach and lack of vitality. It is useful as a mild laxative and mild astringent, in eruptive diseases and scrofula. The ointment should be used for itching sores, swellings and scabby eruptions.

Useful for delicate stomachs, given in small doses to begin with and gradually increasing the dosage.. It is useful in ophthalmia, rheumatism, piles, eczema and tetter. A very good remedy for contagious prurigo.

Dose: Fluid Extract 2 to 5 mils.

Infusion: Place 25 grams in a jug and pour upon it 568 mils of boiling water. Leave to infuse until cool. Strain, the dose is one wine glass full, four times a day.


Botanical name: Scrophularia nodosa.

Parts used: The plant.

Common names: Carpenter’s square, Scrophula plant.

Therapeutic Properties and Uses: Alternative, diuretic and anodyne. This plant is essentially a skin medication and is used for eczema, scabies, scurf, tumours, rashes and in Hodgkin’s disease.

It is a powerful medicine wherever enlarged glands are present. It has an especial affinity for the breast, dissipating benign breast tumours. Pruritis vaginae will often respond to this remedy. It is of great help in cases of painful haemorrhoids when they are protruding and bleeding.

As an ointment or fomentation for scratches and bruises, and minor wounds, this will be found most useful. It may be applied as a poultice to abscesses. In liver disease it is a very useful remedy for the glandular system.

Dose: Infusion: Place 25 grams of the herb in a jug and pour upon it 568 mils of boiling water. Strain and cool. The dose of this infusion is 10 mils four times a day.

Tincture: 10 to 30 drops three times per day


Botanica name: Phytolacca decandra.

Parts used: Roots and berries.

Common names: Pigeon berry, Coakum, Inkberry, Skoke.

Therapeutic Properties and Uses: Alterative, emetic, cathartic, slightly narcotic and anodyne.

Poke has been used mainly for its laxative properties in the past. The dried root is useful for relieving pain, reducing inflammations, treating rheumatism and arthritis, and combating skin parasites, and other skin diseases. The juice of the fruit has been used to treat cancer by Herbalists in former days. It has also been used for the treatment of haemorrhoids and other tumours.

It influences the mucous, serous and glandular systems. It is used in scrofulous diseases, for cleansing the glandular system, for cleansing the blood, for increasing the flow of saliva, and for increasing the flow of urine and perspiration.

Poke produces a fine ointment for ulcers. It relieves neuralgia, sciatica and lumbago. It is taken internally for bony and cartilaginous swellings. It is useful for mammary abscess, orchitis and ovaritis. It is used to treat aphthae of children and for treating peptic ulcers.

It has been used with success for conditions of the pharynx and tonsils, and for the following conditions Mumps, psoriasis, ringworm and tetanus.

Dose: Fluid Extract: 10 to 30 drops three times per day.


Botanical name: Stillingia sylvatica.

Part used: The root.

Therapeutic Properties and Uses: Alterative, laxative, tonic, diuretic, emetic.

This remedy stimulates the glandular system. It is of value in the treatment of secondary syphilis, eczema, ulcers and scrofula. It is of value in chronic cases of the conditions previously mentioned and should be combined with other remedies less stimulating.

It is most useful for chronic periosteal rheumatism, for torpor of the lymphatics, torpid liver with jaundice and constipation. For chronic laryngitis, chronic bronchitis, chronic bronchial catarrh, enlarged glands and scanty elimination.

Dose: Fluid extract: 10 to 30 drops three times a day.


The Materia Medica is that part of medicine which records the details of medicinal remedies. It records the doses employed, the methods of using the drugs and how the drug influences the constitution. The information on alternatives in this lesson, and on anodynes in the next lesson will contribute towards a vast Materia Medica by the end of this course.

In medicine the agents employed in the treatment of disease come from the three kingdoms of nature, the animal, the vegetable and the mineral. The greatest proportion of the agents we use are from the vegetable kingdom. These consist of flowers, leaves, seeds, barks, roots and fungi. Unless these are gathered at the right season, and are properly cured, they will lose their medicinal powers.

The different parts of the plants should be gathered, when there is an abundance of their healing juices.

The ROOTS OF ANNUAL PLANTS are at their best just before they come in to flower, they should be gathered at this time.

The ROOTS OF PERENNIEL PLANTS should be gathered in the spring before they start to grow. Before drying, the solid parts of the roots should be cut into thin slices, after being washed. The small fibres should be discarded unless these are the portions directed to be used.

The ROOTS OF BIENNIEL PLANTS should be gathered in the autumn, after the first years growth.

BULBS OR BULBOUS ROOTS should be gathered at the time their leaves decay. The outer skin should be rejected. They should be sliced, strung up on strings and hung up in a warm, well ventilated room to dry. After drying, they should be packed into boxes and kept free from moisture.
BARKS, whether root bark, bark from trunk or branches, should be collected in the autumn, or very early in the spring, when they will be found to peel off most easily. The dead portion outside and all the rotten and blemished portions, should be removed. The barks must be dried in the same way as the roots. The most active bark remedies are usually obtained from young trees.

LEAVES should be gathered when they are fully grown and before the flowers fade. The leaves of bienniel plants should not be collected until the second year of growth. For drying leaves, they should be spread on the floor of a room or in trays, through which a current of warm air passes. To preserve them, they should be packed in boxes or airtight jars, and kept free of moisture and insects.

FLOWERS should be collected about the time of their opening, either a little before or just after. They should be dried as quickly as possible, but not in direct sunlight. They may be preserved in the same manner as leaves.

FRUITS, BERRIES, ETC., may be spread thinly on the floor or in trays, or hung up in bunches to dry.

In this lesson, I have given you detail regarding the action of the plant drugs known as Alternatives and have taken a brief look at those which have an action as blood purifiers. You can see that Alternatives often have an action on the blood, but the true blood purifiers are called Depuratives. As you progress, you will learn all about these and many other remedies and their actions.


The blood consists of very minute bodies called corpuscles. These are mainly red and white in colour and they float in a fluid called plasma. The red corpuscles are formed mainly of albumin and they contain a substance termed haemoglobin.

Haemoglobin is composed mainly of iron, salts of potash, phosphorus and fat, plus the previously mentioned albumin. These red corpuscles give the blood its red colour. Should there be a deficiency in the number of red corpuscles, paleness of the skin is noted and a condition known as anaemia is the result. To counteract this condition, we administer herbs that contain iron, fat and potash salts as a remedy. Along with this treatment we should advocate a nourishing diet, fresh air, sunlight and exercise. Many herbs are capable of supplying iron, etc., but the one that immediately springs to mind is Yellow Dock Root. Because the blood contains albumen, soda and potash salts in both the red corpuscles and the liquid portion, the blood is not acid but alkaline. In certain diseases, such as rheumatism and gout the alkalinity is diminished.

The red blood corpuscles, because of the haemoglobin they contain, act as distributors of the oxygen gas to the tissues of the body. Without oxygen the tissues would die. When the blood circulates through the lungs, the haemoglobin forms a chemical compound with the oxygen and thus the oxygen is carried to the tissues. If the corpuscles lack sufficient oxygen, then the oxygen content of the tissues is diminished, the person becomes weak, depleted and sleepy. This causes the heart to increase its action and the breathing becomes hurried whenever the person exerts him or her self. This is due to the lack of oxygen in the blood. The body mechanism by its increased breathing and heart action, is trying to make up the oxygen deficiency by circulating the blood more quickly; in order to gain the extra oxygen required for normal functioning of the body. By the administration of the appropriate herbal remedies, with a suitable diet, the increase in the haemoglobin and the red corpuscles is encouraged and the bloods condition returns to normal.

The treatment of anaemia and other blood conditions will be dealt with later.

There are probably words in this lesson which you will not understand. Try to find them in a Dictionary. If you cannot find them then contact me for the definition. By searching yourself you will most likely retain the word in your mind.

15 comments to An Elementary Herbal Course – Lesson 2 – Alternatives

  • JD1

    Great stuff Kenneth. Thats something I need to learn a bit of, though I need to improve my plant id skills before attempting any of it

  • roncdivico

    Very interesting!Amazing article!

  • Hey Kenneth, I really liked the part about Burdock as a remedy for conditions such as rheumatism, arthritis, gout and syphilis. I recently had gout and would like to read more about gout home remedies; you think you could make a post about it?

  • Kenneth Eames

    JD1, Many of these herbs come from abroad and will only grow in Britain in certain districts. This means that in a Survival situation you will have to rely upon native herbs. It is possible to grow many of the foreign species in the UK. Seeds are available from many seedsmen. The great problem is you need a large garden or you use odd patches of land that is unused. There are books that will guide you in the cultivation of herbs. I will endeavour to write some cultivation details sometime in the future. Kenneth Eames.

  • Skean Dhude


    Goof post. It is always interesting.

    My only comment though is regarding the words that you don’t understand there will be many people who will be reading this after an event. How do they look them up? We need everything in one place and I would suggest a glossary for these posts as part of the series.

  • Kenneth Eames

    ND, I will find time to write an article on Gout, probably over the holidays. SD, I will be posting a glossary, but I wanted people to try to find meanings from a dictionary, if possible. I like people to do some work for themselves. At the end of the 20 lessons if we can arrange a meeting place, people who study the lessons will be able to answer questioins on what they have learned, orally and written. If they recieve a 70% mark,they will recieve a certificate. Elementary certificate of course. Kenneth Eames.

  • Skean Dhude


    I meant Good.. it was a typo.

    I understand what you are saying but remember although tis is meant to be educational the intent it to make a one stop show.

  • Ellen

    I think God mentioned something in his book “The Bible” about giving us every herb of the field. Seems he does know more than us.
    Them spices ain’t to shabby either.
    Love it when I run across information that is useful.

  • Luddite

    Hello Kenneth. With regards to the Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium), is this the same as the garden plant Berberis I plant to deter burglars, or does it need to be the wild variety?

  • Kenneth Eames

    There are two Berberis that we use that grow in Britain. There is the Berberis officinalis and the smaller plant the Oregon Grape. I take it that this is the plant that you are talking about. Yes you can use the cultivated plant. How tall is your plant? It might be the officinalis if its used to deter burglars, does it stand about 6 feet tall? If it does, it’s officinalis. Let me know its height. They are both used in Herbal medicine. Kenneth Eames.

  • Will

    What is an ulcer of the tibia? I can’t work it out…

  • Kenneth Eames

    Will, The tibia is the inner bone in the lower leg, beneath the knee. Are you being treated for this condition?
    Luddite, I think this is the Berberis officinalis but cannot be sure because you keep it low. I hope this is a help to both of you. Kenneth Eames.

  • Will

    No not being treated, just can’t make sense of it. The rest of you’re article i understand but not sure what a tibial ulcer is?

  • Kenneth Eames

    Will, It’s an ulcer of the tibia bone. Kenneth Eames.

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