Harvesting barks / 1996

To: herbal.crl.com
Subject: harvesting barks
From: Christopher Hedley
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 1996 18:27:00 -0700 (PDT)

Michael Moore wrote:
> Much grief has and will continue as the herb trade follows blindly the practices of a hundred years ago...selling roots when foliage is usable, demanding rootbark when the bark of peripheral STEMS can be used...following practices that SEEMED to hold no risk a century ago when much of the criteria was based on "Shelf Life", not on renewable resources, and the "Yard Went On Forever", anyway, so why worry.

I don't remember ever having been taught how to harvest barks - the consequence, no doubt, of the growing trend towards academic education in UK herbal medicine.

Our main source of practical herbal knowledge is Mrs Grieves' modern herbal which was written in the 1930s and, of course our own direct experience.

We learn that rule no. 1 for harvesting herbs is that there are no rules.

Each plant has to be treated differently, according to what the plant wishes and to what we wish the plant to do. My own experience agrees with Howie's ie. I harvest barks when it peels off most easily, usually early summer.

Sap is taken in early spring, when it is most abundant, by boring about 2 inches into the wood. Sap is taken for making wine and syrup, when all that sugar is needed.

Barks are harvested for their inate properties; healing, laxative, astringent etc, and constituents; resins, tannins, mucilage etc.

Mrs Grieves gives late spring and early summer except for Elder bark, which is used for its laxative resins and is harvested in the autumn. This practice must come from direct observation.

Willow bark is a bit of a problem as it can vary a lot, but more between spp and strains than over the year. I go by taste and tend to cut the older suckers from white willow. I am reluctant to cut from main trunks - except when the tree has been cut down for other reasons.

I also have a tendency to harvest herbs when the spirit gives me a clear indication. A patient of mine showed me a photograph of a fever bark tree in the grounds of Lagos university which had blown down in a gale. By the next day all the bark had been stripped by local people.

love to all from Christopher Hedley greetings to our new members.
I hope you enjoyed Michael's piece we usually do.