Definition: Herbal Medicine is the use of plants to create medicines and remedies for health and well-being.
Plants are the basis for some of the most effective drugs. There are approx. 380 000 species of plants on earth, and probably many thousands yet to be discovered.
Botanists describe a herb as a small seed-bearing plant with fleshy rather than woody parts, referring to a wide range of plants having therapeutic properties. In photosynthesis plants utilise the energy provided by sunlight to manufacture carbohydrates from carbon dioxide and water. Plants have always been used for medicinal purposes, as well as for food and drink, warmth, shade and shelter.
So, What is a Herb?
A herb is any plant used in medicine. Anything that is used to make a remedy may be called a herb. Whether flower, leaf, stem, root or seeds.
How do Plant Ingredients Work?
Herbal medicine differs from compounds isolated or synthesized, in that all ingredients of the plant work together. A pharmacologist may isolate them into active ingredients; however, a herbalist believes that nature knows best.
Each herb, regardless of the group or family it belongs to, or which part is used – has unique constituents, that are as individual as a fingerprint.
The human body is much better suited to treatment with herbal medicine/remedies than with isolated chemical medicines.
The complex action of a herb may be direct – astringent or an irritant, laxative or subtle. Herbal medicines occupy the middle ground between drugs and food. Herbs have no side effects; there maybe indications or contra-indications, but all effects are the result of the plants characteristics and therapeutic strategy.
People who are interested in using herbal medicine/remedies are usually interested in other aspects of healthy living.
Herbs can be obtained in different ways:
- Extracts and tinctures (liquid form)
- Powders (to be mixed with water or juice)
- Dried herbs (usually sold in bulk air-tight containers.
- Prepared teas (Herbal teas)
- Combination herbal products
- Essential Oils (aromatherapy, bath oils, massage oils)
- Creams and ointments (used externally)
- Personal care (without synthetic ingredients)
- Poultice (usually put onto the skin)
There are a few instances where herbs should not be taken, or used with caution.
Herbal medicine combines traditional knowledge of nature with a scientific understanding of how herbs work. With herbal medicine the underlying cause of the patients is treated. Herbs can be nourishing and nutritional.