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The collection of herbs


Santana Enterprises
Uppala 670322, Kerala. India


In India, there exists two main forms of herbal preparations, namely, the classic, and folk medicine practices. These are dictated by the theory that exists between nature and the human body linked by taste, the latter considered to be a determining factor during the collection of herbs. This paper highlights on the Indian experience in the collection, identification and storage of herbal remedies.


The collection of herbs is very essential for herbal preparations. In this short communication, we will discuss some of the essential points regarding the collection of herbs, in the context of his experience in India.

Herbs are gifts of nature. Our ancestors completely depended upon this nature only. They developed a way of life in which they explained the maintenance of health by using nature only. In this, the ancients explained some of the secrets of life, and also how one could live without ill-health. Many herbal preparations were used to maintain health.

In India herbal preparation practice exists in two forms. The first one is the preparation of the herbal medicine according to classical texts, e.g. Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, Homeopathy, etc. The second is in accordance with folk medicine practices. The latter one is more popular in villages and exists in some of the families only.

In nature we can get abundant raw materials. We can select proper food and herbs to maintain health. There is a strong link between man, herbs, food and nature.

Nature and the body

Nature and our bodies are linked by six tastes: sweet, sour, salt, pungent, bitter, and astringent.

The body is maintained by food using the six tastes. Generally we can divide people into three categories: the lean; the medium, and the stout.

Keeping in mind the nature of the body, one should use herbs and food containing these six tastes. The lean person should use sweet sour and salty food, and adjust the preparations to maintain health.

The medium person should use sweet, astringent and bitter tastes. The stout person should use herbs and food containing more pungent, bitter, astringent tastes. Thus the taste is also very important during the collection of the herbs.

Parts of plants used

Now let us see which are the collected parts of a herb. Even though the whole plant is useful, in some of the plants, the following parts are more useful: the root, stem, bark, latex, leaves, flowers and, fruit. Some of the examples of herbs which are popularly used in Indian Herbal Preparations are shown in Table 1:

Table 1: Examples of Medicinal plants used in India

Part of plant

Indian name

Botanical name



Withania somnifera Linn.



Tinospora cordifolia Willd.



Holarrhena antidysenterica Linn.



Commiphora mukul (Hook ex-Stocks) Engl.



Centella asiatica Linn.



Woodfordia fructicosa Kurz.



Punica granatum Linn.

Criteria for the collection of the herbs

(a) These must be grown naturally or cultivated in normal natural conditions.

(b) The place and season are also very important, because the quality of the plant differs from place to place, and also according to the season.

(c) Always one should collect sufficiently grown herbs, or collect part of the herb. Otherwise we cannot get the expected results from that herb.

(d) Herbs should be clean, free from insects, dust, etc. One should thus clean it before use.

Some limitations

There are some limitations regarding the collection of herbs. The main problem is that of identification. This is mainly because of different local names in different places.

Another difficulty is shortage of skilled persons for taxonomic identifications. Additionally the herbs are not available in all the seasons, and are also of insufficient quantity. One should thus cultivate some of the herbs for his use. There are also some seasonal criteria for collecting herbal parts. The root should be collected in summer. The leaves should be collected in the rainy or spring season; and the latex in winter.


Storage is another point to consider. The herbs should not be used after one year of collection. The storage must be done in a proper place, free from insects, moisture, heat, etc.

One should consider all these points when preparing the herbal preparations.