Diary of a Student Nutritionist - Week 4 - Herbal Medicine

Updated: Dec 15, 2021

Herbal Medicine

This was the most practical lecture so far as we were taste testing herbal tinctures. We get told time and time again to try out the things we would like to recommend to our clients. This was one of those times when you got to see why that is so useful. Each tincture was very strong as they were all made in 90% medicinal alcohol and every herb had its own unique flavour and effect.

We all had a shot glass and the lecturer would fill the glass with about a teaspoon of the tincture. With the first tincture, the lecturer got us to all try it at the same time; this was good fun as we all pulled faces and raised our eyebrows at the same time....it was a ginger tincture. The alcohol alongside the heat of the ginger was very very powerful and hot. This was good to know as it made you think that if you were to recommend a hot herb of any kind to get the client to water it down a bit first.

We then worked our way through a range of herbs tasting each one and seeing what effect it had. Some tinctures made your tongue tingle, some made you feel awake or calm, some made you feel hot, some made your eyes water, some tasted awful and others would taste good initially with a bad after taste or vice versa. This did get quite overwhelming by the end of the day, as we had tried so many different herbal tinctures with all their different flavours and effects.

I am glad that I have now tried these tinctures before looking to recommend them to clients, as I have now got a list of what I thought. I can then pre-warn clients about how it will taste and double-check if they are ok with that, or I can recommend how to make certain herbs way more palatable.

It is sad that unless you are a herbalist you cannot make herbal tinctures for clients, it would have been good fun creating my witches brew from things I have grown in the garden. However, as a nutritionist, you can have them made up for you or buy pre-made tinctures that you can recommend to clients.

Tinctures are great as they allow you to absorb nutrients straight into the bloodstream without having to go through the full digestive system. They also seem a very natural and wholesome remedy as they can be made by hand at a kitchen table. I will certainly do some more research and self-experimentation, I will also find a local herbal walk in the spring!

Herbal medicine is not just about tinctures though as it also involves teas, powders, essential oils, creams, syrups, lozenges, etc. Over time these will become a very useful set of tools that I can use with both my clients and my family.

One thing to be clear about though is you really do need to know what you are doing!

Herbs are very powerful and you need to be able to check for which one is right for who by taking a very thorough case history, knowing their allergies, medications, etc. Some recipes will suit almost everyone such as body lotion or room spray but others you need to be careful with such as a tincture or therapeutic-grade tea.

I find it crazy that before training to become a nutritionist I would have purchased a supplement, tea, herbal tincture etc and mixed them all up without even thinking about it.

A recommendation from a friend or the internet saying it worked well seemed good enough. Knowing what I know now I am slightly horrified at just how easily you can get hold of products without being asked just a few questions, such as are you on Warfarin or are you breastfeeding. It also saddens me that there are so many poor quality products out there that people buy thinking it is good for them, such as Vitamin D supplements with loads of fillers and hardly any Vitamin D to have any effect or liquorice products without any of its therapeutic qualities and just the flavour.

Overall, what an interesting lecture and I am certainly going to look more into herbal medicine. It could be a brilliant tool for clients (or family) who struggle to swallow tablets or when I would like even more ways to help support my clients.

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