Chemistry of Herbs


Carotenoids are yellow or red pigments found in all photosynthesizing plants. With anthocyanins they contribute to autumn foliage shades when chlorophyll is lost. There are two types of carotenoids: the carotenes and xanthophylls. Carotenes are hydrocarbons (tetraterpenes), which are converted to vitamin A in the body. Xanthophylls are oxygenated derivatives of carotenes; they have no provitamin A activity.

How to avoid Mineral-Depletion in your food

by Henk Niermans

As dr. Sarah Myhill explained in Nutritional Supplements we now know why there are not enough minerals in our food and the next question is;
How can we improve this?

The answer is quite simple;

Use homemade compost

    The benefits of using your own compost

  • You have the minerals back in your food and therefore back in your body!
  • After about 2-3 years you will see that there is less weed and the soil is more loose and easier to work in
  • The time you can keep the fresh vegetables in your larder/fridge are longer
  • Also over the years you will notice an improvement in taste
  • By using compost for a number of years you will have less weed in your garden. (Is less work)
  • Less waste for the tip

Growing your own vegetables with a lot of minerals can be easy.
People who have a garden can be growing their own vegetables and fruit.
For those who have no garden, can grow fruit and vegetables in pots, simply use big flower pots or anything else you can think of. Having no garden doesn’t have to be a problem because there are very small compost makers available which you can feed with all your kitchen waste.
You not only give yourself the best possible food but also you are reducing the amount of waste that goes to the tip.

What goes in the compost?
Every-thing that can rot;Making your own compost

    • kitchen waste,
    • garden waste
    • some grass clippings

Also when you are weeding, leave a bit of soil on the weed and bring that to the heap. The more different weeds/plants that come in the compost-heap the better it will be.

You can put egg-shells in your compost heap but try to break them down as much as possible. When you don’t break them down you will find pieces of egg-shells in your garden and the calcium is not completely added to the soil/compost, it is up to you. You cannot go wrong here.

Never put citrus peels in the compost heap because most of them are treated with an anti fungus liquid. We need fungus to brake down the plant waste and do not forget the worms, they are very important in compost making.

Worms travel from top to bottom the whole day. Eat upstairs; go to the toilet downstairs and so on. This means that the best compost is in the bottom of the heap. Moist is also important and the way we are building our heap.

Now we know what to put in the compost heap, we can start making compost.

Making the compost

      1. Make 3 spaces (3= minimum, 4 is better) next to each other.
      You can use some post as corners and nail some old boards to it.
      Every space has 3 sides and because they are next to each other you need only 4 sides and one long back connecting the 3 bins together.
      2. In the first space we deposit all the garden and kitchen waste. Make sure that the garden waste is not bigger than about 2 inches or 5 centimetres.
      Cut bigger bits from scrubs because when scrubs grow older they are getting woodier.
      3. We leave it there for about 2-3 months and turn it round every 2-3 weeks because by turning it round we bring air into the waste. This can be hard work but the results are rewarding. Without air we will get a stinking wet substance but with turning it round on regular basis we activate the process.
      4. After about 3 months, we bring it all to the second space. In the first space we start again with fresh waste.
      5. The second space has to be turned also every 2-3 weeks and after about 3 months moved to the last space. We now move space 2 to space 3 and space 1 to space 2.
      6. After about 3 months, space 3 is ready to spread over your vegetable bed. It will be a very loose soil and gives a lovely smell. Also in the compost you will find lots of worms who are the most imported part of the whole process.

Make sure the compost heap is not to wet. When you see a lot of wood louse the compost is too wet. You can solve this by covering the first 2 heaps with a plastic sheet. However do not cover it 100% because than the air cannot circulate.

Growing comfrey is also a good way to bring minerals from very deep to the surface. The root system from comfrey goes very deep; some people say as much as 2-3 meters. By using the leaves in the compost or spread them out on your vegetables bed and let them rot away, we are improving the mineral content of the soil and therefore the minerals in our food.

By making your own compost you reduce your waste, have less weed and in the same time you have the minerals back in the food for you and your family.

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Herbs – Minerals

Medicinal plants contain varying amounts of mineral substances, but they are rarely prescribed to replace minerals that have been lost from the body. Silicic acid is especially characteristic of horsetails and grasses, and some members of the Labiatae (mint) and Boraginaceae (borage) families (for example, Hemp nettles and Common Gromwell). Common Gromwell also contains abundant calcium salts, and nettles and Watercress iron. Potassium salts are found in Dandelion, Kidney Bean and Nettles, and in some fruits. Plants rich in potassium may be useful in low-sodium diets.

Herbs – Vitamins

Few plants contain sufficient amounts of any vitamin for them to be medically prescribed when there is a deficiency, but any vitamin-rich herb is an excellent addition to the diet, especially during the winter months. As examples; Carrot, Dandelion and Watercress are sources of carotenes, which are precursors of vitamin A; many cereals, including Common Oat, are good sources of vitamin B complex; vitamin C is abundant in fruits such as Black Currant, Green Pepper and Sea Buckthorn, and in the leaves of Dandelion, Nettles, Parsley and Watercress; vitamins D and E are found in Watercress; and nettles are a source of vitamin K. The vitamin content is always greatest in fresh, uncooked plant parts.

Herbs – Mucilages and Pectins

Plant mucilages are amorphous mixtures of polysaccharides that dissolve in water to form extremely viscous colloid systems. In cold water they swell and form a slimy gel; in warm water they dissolve into colloid systems that gel when cooled. Most are formed by the plant cell walls.[ Members Only Content - please sign up to view it... ]

Herbs – Volatile Oils

Most of the volatile oils are based on simple molecules like isoprene or isopentane, which can combine in many different ways to form terpenes, containing multiples of the basic 5-carbon molecules, sometimes with slight variation, making up the volatile oils. We can find the volatile oils in the aromatic plants such as Peppermint or Thyme,[ Members Only Content - please sign up to view it... ]

The Chemistry of Herbs

Here we show you how things work.
The Chemistry of Herbs

Plants contain a vast range of chemicals, ranging from water and inorganic salts, sugars and carbohydrates to highly complex proteins and alkaloids. We will focus here on the role these substances have to play, not in the plant itself, but in the body. We will mainly concentrate on the groups that act medicinally, though we shall look at some which are important nutrients and thus influence the body.

We will look at plant pharmacology, briefly examining the various groupings that the numerous constituents have been divided into, looking at their function, and giving some examples of where they occur. These groupings are referred to throughout the newsletters, website and the encyclopaedia and, as far as they are known, the relevant constituents are given in the Medicinal herbs explained. The groupings followed here are based on the structure of the constituents rather than on their function, which is dealt with in the section on The Actions of Herbs.

Knowledge of plant pharmacology is not essential to a herbalist, but is a great help in understanding the plant.

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