WHAT IS HERBAL MEDICINE?

What is Herbal Medicine?
Herbal medicine is also known as medical herbalism, botanical medicine, herbalism, herbology and phytotherapy.

Herbal medicine is the most ancient form of medicine.  It refers to using plants for healing and has few side effects.  It uses the plant’s seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers for medicinal purposes. Each plant contains a group of valuable constituents and crucial mineral material in its natural context.

Throughout history, we have depended on plants to provide the essential of life – food, shelter, clothing, fuel and medicine.  Plants have been used for healing and nourishment; making major contributions to human health through curative and rehabilitative properties, revitalizing and balancing well-being and is also used in the prevention of illnesses.  The long traditions of use of many herbal remedies and experiences have been passed on from generation to generation.

There are three commonly prepared bases in Herbal medicines: water, alcohol or oil.

Water Based Preparations These include decoctions, infusions such as teas and syrups, all of which can be taken internally and externally – such as poultices, lotions, and compresses.

Decoctions are generally better for seeds, roots, barks and berries.  This would be like making a tea/infusion however a little more water is added to make up for water lost in boiling.

Infusions – made from any part of the plant that is fine enough such as flowers, leaves, aerial parts.

Poultices – can relieve symptoms and promote local healing. Great for when taking medicines orally is posing a problems

Lotions – water-based herbal preparation delivered by means of lotion

Compresses – soft cloth soaked in a hot or cold decoction or infusion than wrung out.  The cloth is applied to reduce inflammation and pain or/and reduce fevers.

Alcohol Based Preparations These are called tinctures and are one of the most common ways of administrating herbal medicines.  The non-alcohol alternatives are vegetable glycerines.

Oil Based Preparations These include ointments and infused oils which would be used externally.

Other Preparations Creams, Powders, Juices, Steam Inhalations, Pessaries and Suppositories, Mouthwashes, Gargles, Baths and skin washes

At present, the use of medicinal plants for health benefits is increasing.  Advances in clinical research shows the value of herbal medicine in the treatment and prevention of disease. There have been improvements in analysis and quality control of herbal medicines.  Today the majority of the world population rely on herbs for their well-being.

Worldwide Herbal Medicine

World HealthAccording to the World Health Organization, they estimate that 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some part of their primary health care.

Plants have been used globally for medicinal purposes long before recorded history. Ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings describe medicinal uses for plants.  Indigenous cultures such as Aborigines, Africans and Native Americans use herbs in their healing rituals.  Others cultures have developed traditional medical systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine in which herbal therapies are used. Researchers found that people in different parts of the world tended to use the same or similar plants for the same purposes.

Modern Usage of Herbal Medicine

Modern Usage of Herbal MedicineIn the early 19th century, when chemical analysis first became available, scientists began to extract and modify the active ingredients from plants. Later, chemists began making their own version of plant compounds, and over time, the use of herbal medicines declined in favour of drugs.

Today, Traditional use of medicines is recognized as a way to learn about potential future medicines.  In 2001, researchers identified 122 compounds used in mainstream medicine which were derived from “ethnomedical” plant sources; 80% of these compounds were used in the same or related manner as the traditional ethnomedical use.

Indeed, many herbal remedies used traditionally have become modern medicines through drug development.  Some notable examples are as follows;
Digoxin from Digitalis lanata – foxglove
Quinine from Cinchona spp. – Peruvian bark or cinchona tree
Morphine from Papaver somniferum  – poppy
Colchicines from Colchicum autumnale – autumn crocus or meadow saffron

Pharmaceutical laboratories continue to screen plants from all over the world.  Success stories continue such as reports for the use of Wild Yam for its steroid effects and periwinkle for leukaemia treatment.

21st Century Herbal Medicine is now being underpinned by scientific research.  This scientific evidence from research and clinical trails, is leading to an ever-growing acceptance of professional Herbal Medicine as a significant contributor to health.  Many people are turning to it as a safe, gentle and effective alternative to one-size fits-all pharmaceutical drugs.  Herbal Medicine can also work very well alongside other medications and treatments as not only is it alternative but it is also collaborative medicine.

Herbal Medicine Philosophy

Herbal Medicine is holistic.  The word holistic has its roots in the Greek word ‘holos’ which means whole.  It refers to dealing with every aspect of a person, the mind, body and soul.  Herbal Medicine looks to treat the patient, not just the disease and takes into account that each person is an individual.  By doing this, a treatment strategy that addresses the underlying issues, the ‘root’ of the problem is uniquely developed for each person whereby helping the body to correct imbalances and heal.

Macro shot of wild camomiles over white

 

Designed by Silver Lining Web Design .