Herbal medicine is widely used to maintain and improve health the world over. You can buy medicinal herbs as teas, tablets, capsules, tinctures, powders, extracts, fresh plants, dried plants, or as ingredients in a prescribed medicine. In fact, about 40 percent of pharmaceuticals are either derived from plant extracts or synthesized plant compounds.
Despite prevalent use and a reputation for being safe and effective, Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and other traditions of herbal medicine remain a mystery to most people. Many in the United States have trouble differentiating medicinal plants from drugs.
Herbs Are Plants with Therapeutic Value
The world is home to an estimated 250,000 higher plant species. Between 14 and 28 percent of them are utilized for their medicinal properties. Traditional Chinese Medicine makes use of over 5,000 plants. In North America, Native Americans have used a documented 2,564 plants in herbal preparations.
Herbal Medicine Relies on Herbs to Promote Well-Being
Professional herbalists have been concocting herbal preparations for several millennia. The first known guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shen-Nong-Ben-Cao-Jing, describes 365 herbal preparations. It was written more than 2,200 years ago. In the United States, The Pharmacopoeia of 1820 consisted mainly of herbal medicines.
Herbal medicine continues to play a vital role in the development of pharmaceuticals; 70 percent of the new drugs introduced in the United States between 1984 and 2007 were derived from herbs.
Herbal Medicine Is Not Drugs
Four crucial differences:
Drugs: Although many prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines are made from plants, they are never labeled as “herbal.” Most drugs are refined and purified chemicals and contain only the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved ingredients.
Herbal Medicine: The FDA classifies herbal medicine as “dietary supplements.” It was only a few months ago that the FDA recommended physicians to consider complementary and alternative medicine products.
Drugs: As they can be patented and sold at high cost, a huge body of research exists to support pharmaceuticals.
Herbal Medicine: In the United States, researchers are only beginning to uncover the effectiveness of herbal medicine, but a substantial body of research already exists if you look at research in Europe and Asia. Herbal medicines have proven to be effective through trial and error, as they have been utilized by medical practitioners for millennia.
Drugs: Illnesses are perceived through a “reductionist” perspective. These synthetic chemicals are prescribed to all patients to treat a symptom, and often lead to undesirable side effects. Little attention is paid to the cause of the disease or an individual’s unique physical and mental makeup.
Herbal Medicine: Highly individualized and holistic. There is no single “herb” for a headache or fever. A professional herbalist will consider several factors unique to an individual before prescribing medicine. Herbal medicines are often utilized to treat the “cause” of a disease pattern, and thus prevent future illness.
Drugs: Well-documented side-effects. Opioids are particularly notorious. They can lead to drug addiction.
Herbal Medicine: Fewer known side-effects. “Based on published reports, side effects or toxic reactions associated with herbal medicines in any form are rare. In fact, of all classes of substances reported to cause toxicities of sufficient magnitude to be reported in the United States, plants are the least problematic.” (Medicinal Plants: Their Role in Health and Biodiversity)
Herbal Medicine Can Treat Many Diseases
High-quality herbal medicine can be used in the treatment of:
- Bacterial Infections
- Blood pressure issues
- Intestinal ailments
- Sore Muscles
- Sore throat
- Upset stomachs
Herbal products can also prevent disease and optimize your vitality and resilience.
Herbal medicine is a safer alternative to pharmaceutical drugs. Rooted in ancient medical practice, it has a bright future in mainstream healthcare. It is safe and effective, and has fewer side-effects and is capable of treating a wide array of ailments.