Medicinally, herbs (spices) are any plants or plant parts that are used in a therapeutic way. Herbal medicine is the art and science of using plants for promoting health and preventing and/or treating illness. It has endured over the centuries as the world’s primary form of medicine (today 75% of the population), since the beginning of time. There is written evidence that is more than 5000 years old!
Most pharmaceutical drugs are single chemical entities that are highly refined and are often synthesized. In contrast, herbal medicines are prepared from living or dried plants and contain hundreds to thousands of interrelated compounds. Science is beginning to demonstrate that the safety and effectiveness of herbs is often related to the synergy of its many constituents. Modern medicine is brash, bold and fast in contrast herbal medicine is understated, profound, and slow acting.
The focus of the herbalist (and many other practices like acupuncture or naturopathy) is to treat people as individuals irrespective of the name of the disease or syndrome they have been labeled with. The practitioner has to figure out how they will encourage that person’s innate healing power through the use of such interventions as herbs, diet and lifestyle.
In contrast focus of conventional physicians is to attack diseases using strong chemicals that are difficult for the body to process, or through the removal of organs. Not only does this ignore the unique makeup of the individual, but many patients under conventional care suffer from side-effects that are as bad as the condition being treated. The philosophical difference between herbalists and conventional physicians has profound significance. I firmly believe that we should have choices and if you choose medication that is fine. However, if you are someone who is seeking a different approach herbal medicine can help, as long as they discuss nutritional changes with you.
Like all Alternative treatments herbal medicine can be used in three different ways:
1) To help prevent disease.
2) To help treat disease like arthritis.
3) To maximize your general health.
Take arthritis for instance – the success of herbal treatment always depends upon a variety of factors including how long the condition has existed, the severity of the condition, the dosage and mode of administration of the herb/s and how diligently treatment plans are followed.
Most herbs sold as dietary supplements are very safe. When used appropriately, the majority of herbs used by practitioners have no adverse side-effects. A review of the traditional and scientific literature worldwide demonstrates that serious side-effects from the use of herbal medicines are rare. Bear in mind some people have adverse reactions to peanuts!
If you decide to self prescribe then read product labels very carefully, most manufacturers provide appropriate information. If they don’t, then don’t buy their product.
Most visits to an herbalist begin with a consultation about your past and current health history, your dietary and lifestyle practices, or other factors related to your health issue, like family history. The herbalist, then with your involvement, will develop a comprehensive herbal and lifestyle program that addresses your specific health problems.
Various herbal traditions have developed worldwide. In the West there are a number of different traditions which include folklore herbal practices, clinical Western herbal medicine, naturopathic medicine, practitioners of Ayurveda or Chinese medicine and numerous Native American herbal traditions.
All of these disciplines look at treating the causes and not just the symptoms, improving the quality of your life.