Herbal therapy is called by many different names, Herbal Medicine, Herbalism, Botanical Medicine, Herbology, and Phytotherapy, along with a few others. It is all the same thing, whichever name is given to it.
This is an alternative medicine based on plants in some form and in some cases also includes fungus and products from bees, minerals and certain other animals.
How Herbal Therapy Works
Herbal medicine works on much the same principle and way as chemical drugs, and while this means that, in theory, they can be just as effective, it also means they can do some damage too. Not everything that is natural is healthy. For that reason it is important to learn and understand what each plant does to you. Using the wrong plant can be fatal, and while most people are aware of what the wrong chemical medicine or an overdose can do, few think the same allpies to natural products and take anything available in any dose they feel like.
Over the centuries plants have developed various ways of protecting themselves from predators, (for example animals and fungus) and these substances can be very beneficial to humans. Around 12,000 are known, but it is thought to be only a very small percentage, (10), of the total in existence.
Animals seem to have a “sense” of what is good or bad for them – something we humans lack, and have been noted to change their eating patterns when they are unwell. They will eat plants that have certain properties when they are unwell and research suggests this is because they know they need the substance contained in the plant.
Just about every type of plant eaten around the world has some sort of "good" property that will benefit our bodies.
Plants have been used to treat medical problems just about as long as man has existed.
When “Otzi the Iceman”, (found after spending 5,300 years in the ice), was examined, medicinal herbs were found and it appears these were used to treat a parasitic infection of the intestines.
There is written evidence of the Sumerians using laurel and thyme and ancient Egyptians using garlic, coriander and mint. These are just a few examples of
The earliest use of herbs for treating and healing medical complaints.
In the first Chinese herbal book from about 2,700BCE, there is a list of 365 plants used as medicine and gives uses for each.
Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine, promoted the use of herbs for healing.
There were a few hiccups in herbal medicine – perhaps the most famous being towards the end of the Middle Ages when women who “cured with plants” were persecuted as witches.
On the whole treating ailments with plants continued to grow and as trade was introduced so were exotic spices and herbs from other countries, giving a longer list of medicines.
When printing came into existence, so too did many, many herbal books and this indicates as well as anything just how popular this science was.
By this time there were schools to teach the preparation and use of herbal medicine.
When chemical drugs first came into existence at the beginning of 1500’s they were snapped up to treat those serious illnesses, (the Black Death is one, and it killed an estimated 30-60% of the entire population of Europe), that natural remedies had failed to cure. The chemical medicines included arsenic and mercury, but the illnesses were so serious these medicines were hailed as a saviour. The toxins and dangers inherent in taking these paled beside the alternative of dying of Syphilis.
Herbal Therapy Today
It is believed that over 25% of modern medicine stems from traditional, plant based medicine, and about 80% of the world’s population uses herbal medicine in some form or another.
Many herbs and spices used to season food contain healthy giving properties.
It is estimated that 35,000 plant compounds have health merit.
It is possible to take a university degree in herbal medicine, and that shows it is taken seriously by governments.
The BBC showed a series called “Grow Your Own Drugs” which proved extremely popular. Different health problems were treated with plants found in gardens or growing wild, and “recipes” made up. The participants, who had all found no satisfactory chemical medication, then took the natural cure and reported their results. Just about each person on the programme had some level of improvement, with some saying they seemed cured.
Herbs can be used in many ways. As a liquid, such as tinctures and elixirs. These are generally taken internally. Tisanes, made like tea, by adding hot water to the herbs provides a quick, easy way to ingest the herbal remedy.
Oils, salves, creams and lotions are obviously used for rubbing into the skin, while steam inhalation is for sinus problems.
You can grow your own, making them free
The adverse effects, if used correctly, and much less than scientific medicine
Herbal medicine tends to treat chronic illnesses better than chemical drugs
Plants can cure health problems that “conventional” medicine can not
There are plants that research shows will nearly definitely cause serious side effects, if taken in too large a dose or for a prolonged period, and some of these are:
St. John's wort
This does not mean you should avoid these plants, but do dsue them, and others, with care and caution.
Herbs may cause a bad reaction if you are taking other drugs and can interfere with the effectiveness of other medication, so speak to your doctor before starting herbal treatment.