Plants feed us, clothe us, house us, heal us, and can help us keep
our breasts healthy, yet they can harm or kill us. Here’s how
to use them safely.
• When you buy herbs, check that they are labeled with the
botanical name (e.g., Trifolium pratense). Common names for plants
often refer to several plants; botanical names are specific to one
plant. “Marigold” refers to two plants with different
uses.Calendula officinalis, or pot marigold, is a medicinal herb;
Tagetes is the marigold usually sold for flower borders.
• Learn about the weeds of your doorstep. Become more aware
of the vitality and abundance of Nature. Eat or use as a remedy one
wild plant that grows near you this year. When you make your own medicines
and healing foods, you control one of the major ways you can come
to harm from using herbs: mistaken identity (or right label, wrong
herb). Not that you can’t make mistakes, but you’re more
likely to catch your own mistake than someone else’s. When you
make your own medicines and healing foods, they are fresh, full of
energy, and in tune with you and your environment. Making your own
herbal remedies is simple and fun; directions begin on page 293.
• The results and safety of any remedy are dependent on the
way it is prepared and used. Notice that I prefer infused herbal oils
(not essential oils) and powerful herbal infusions (not herbal teas).
• Different people can have different reactions to the same
substance, whether drug, food, or herb. If you take lots of herbs
mixed together and have distressing side effects, how can you know
which one is the cause? For safety, I use one herb (sometimes two,
and only rarely three) at a time. Limiting the number of herbs I use
in one day helps me discern my response to the plant allies I’ve
chosen. If I have an adverse reaction, I can tell which herb caused
it, avoid that herb, and try other herbs with similiar properties.
• Side effects from herbs are less common than side effects
from drugs and usually less severe. If an herb disturbs your digestion,
it may be that your body is learning to process it. Give it a few
more tries before deciding it’s not for you. An herb that really
doesn’t agree with you may cause nausea, dizziness, sharp stomach
pains, diarrhea, headache, or blurred vision, and these effects will
generally occur quite quickly. Stop taking the herb or reduce the
dose dramatically. Slippery elm is an excellent antidote to poisons;
see Materia Medica.
• When a dosage range is given, start with the smallest recommended
dose and increase as needed. Note: 25 drops is 1 ml.
• Respect the power of plants to change the body and spirit
in dramatic ways, even when taken in minute doses.
• Increase your trust in the healing effectiveness of plants
by trying remedies for minor or external problems (side effects of
orthodox cancer treatments, for instance) before, or while, working
with your major and internal problems.
• Gather—in person or in books—with others interested
in herbal, homeopathic, and home remedies. Call on them as well as
professionals when you feel uncertain. Develop ongoing relationships
with knowledgeable healers who are as interested in helping you maintain
health as in helping you cure problems.
• Respect the uniqueness of every plant, every person, every
• Remember that you become whole and healed in your own unique
way, at your own speed. People, plants, and animals can help in this
process. But your body/spirit does the healing/wholing. Don’t
expect plants to be cure-alls.
• If you are allergic to any foods or medicines, it is especially
important to check out the side effects of any herb you are considering
Herbs comprise a group of several thousand plants with widely varying
actions. Some are nourishers, some tonifiers, some stimulants and
sedatives, and some are potential poisons. To use them wisely and
well, we need to understand each category, its uses, best manner of
preparation, and usual dosage range.
Nourishers are the safest of all herbs; side effects are rare. Nourishing
herbs are taken in any quantity for any length of time. They are used
as foods, just like spinach and kale.
Nourishers provide high levels of anti-cancer vitamins, minerals (especially
selenium), antioxidants, carotenes, and essential fatty acids.
Nourishing herbs in Breast Cancer? Breast Health! include: alfalfa
herb, amaranth, astragalus root, calendula flowers, chickweed, comfrey
leaves, dandelion herb, fenugreek, flax seeds, honeysuckle flowers,
lamb’s quarter, marshmallow root, nettle herb, oatstraw, plantain
leaves and seeds, purslane herb, raspberry leaves, red clover blossoms,
seaweeds (kelp), Siberian ginseng, slippery elm bark, violet leaves,
and wild and exotic mushrooms.
Tonifiers act slowly in the body and have a cumulative, rather than
immediate, effect. They build the functional ability of an organ (like
the liver) or a system (like the immune system).
Tonifying herbs are most beneficial when they are used in small quantities
for extended periods of time. The more bitter the tonic tastes, the
less you need to take. Bland tonics may be used in quantity, like
nourishing herbs. Side effects occasionally occur with tonics, but
are usually quite short-term. Many older herbals mistakenly equated
stimulating herbs with tonifying herbs, leading to widespread misuse
of many herbs, and severe side effects.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, potentially poisonous herbs are used
as tonics by women at high risk of developing breast cancer. (The
herbs are taken daily, for one week only out of every six months.)
Tonifying herbs in Breast Cancer? Breast Health! include: barberry
bark, burdock root, chaga, chaste tree berries, cronewort (mugwort),
dandelion root, echinacea root, elecampane root, fennel seeds, garlic,
ginkgo leaves, ginseng root, ground ivy, hawthorn berries, horsetail
herb, lady’s mantle herb, lemon balm, milk thistle seeds, motherwort
herb, mullein leaves, parsley, pau d’arco, peony root, raspberry
leaves, redroot, schisandra berries, self-heal, sundew, St. Joan’s
wort, turmeric root, usnea, wild yam root, and yellow dock root.
Sedatives and stimulants cause a variety of rapid reactions, some
of which may be unwanted. Some parts of the person may be stressed
in order to help other parts. Strong sedatives and stimulants, whether
herbs or drugs, push us outside our normal ranges of activity and
may cause strong side effects. If we rely on them and then try to
function without them, we wind up more agitated (or depressed) than
before we began. Habitual use of strong sedatives and stimulants—whether
opium, rhubarb root, cayenne, or coffee—leads to loss of tone,
impairment of functioning, and even physical dependency.
The stronger the herb, the more moderate the dose needs to be, and
the shorter the duration of its use.
Herbs that tonify and nourish while sedating/stimulating—especially
oatstraw, motherwort, and peppermint—are among my favorite herbs.
I use them freely as they do not cause dependency.
Sedating/stimulating herbs that also tonify or nourish are used frequently
in Breast Cancer? Breast Health! including: boneset flowers, catnip,
citrus peel, cleavers, ginger, hops, lavender, marjoram, motherwort,
passion flower, many mints (e.g., lavender, rosemary, sage, and skullcap),
and sheep sorrel.
Strong sedating/stimulating herbs used in this book include: angelica,
bayberry, blessed thistle root, cancerweed, cinnamon, cloves, licorice
root, marijuana, oak, osha root, passion flower herb, shepherd’s
purse, sweet woodruff, turkey rhubarb root, uva ursi leaves, valerian
root, Venus’s flytrap, wild lettuce sap, willow bark, and wintergreen
Potentially poisonous herbs are potent medicines. They activate
intense effort on the part of the body and spirit. Potentially poisonous
herbs are taken in tiny amounts and only for as long as needed. Unexpected
side effects are common when potentially poisonous herbs are used
without regard for their power. To increase your sense of security
when contemplating the use of a potentially poisonous herb, consult
other herbal references and several experienced herbalists.
Potentially poisonous herbs in Breast Cancer? Breast Health! include:
arbor vitae, arnica, autumn crocus root, belladonna, blood-root, celandine,
chaparral, comfrey root (not leaf), foxglove, goldenseal root, henbane,
iris root, Jimson weed, lobelia, May apple (American mandrake) root,
mistletoe, poke, poison hemlock, stillingia root, turkey corn root,
wild cucumber root.
Cancer? Breast Health the Wise Woman Way
by Susun S. Weed
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