Herbal Medicine sometimes referred to as Herbalism or Botanical Medicine, is the use of herbs for their therapeutic or medicinal value. An herb is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, aromatic or savory qualities. Herb plants produce and contain a variety of chemical substances that act upon the body. Herbal medicine has a long tradition of use outside of conventional medicine. It is becoming more mainstream as improvements in analysis and quality control along with advances in clinical research show the value of herbal medicine in the treating and preventing disease.
Herbal medicine is the oldest form of healthcare known to mankind. Herbal Plants had been used for medicinal purposes long before recorded history. Herbs had been used by all cultures throughout history. Ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings describe medicinal uses for plants as early as 3,000 BC. It was an integral part of the development of modern civilization. Primitive man observed and appreciated the great diversity of plants available to him. The plants provided food, clothing, shelter, and medicine. Much of the medicinal use of plants seems to have been developed through observations of wild animals, and by trial and error. As time went on, each tribe added the medicinal power of herbs in their area to its knowledge base. They methodically collected information on herbs and developed well-defined herbal pharmacopoeias. Indeed, well into the 20th century much of the pharmacopoeia of scientific medicine was derived from the herbal lore of native peoples. Many drugs commonly used today are of herbal origin. Some are made from plant extracts; others are synthesized to mimic a natural plant compound.
In 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 favor of drugs. Almost one fourth of pharmaceutical drugs are derived from botanicals.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 billion people, 80 percent of the world population, presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care. Herbal medicine is a major component in all indigenous peoples’ traditional medicine and a common element in Indian Ayurveda, Unani, Electro Homeopathic Herbal, Naturopathic, Traditional Oriental, and Native American Indian Medicine. WHO notes that of 119 plant-derived pharmaceutical medicines, about 74 percent are used in Modern medicine in ways that correlated directly with their traditional uses as plant medicines by native cultures, major pharmaceutical companies are currently conducting extensive research on plant materials gathered from the rain forests and other places for their potential medicinal value.
Substances derived from the plants remain the basis for a large proportion of the commercial medications used today for the treatment of heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, asthma, and other problems. For example, ephedra is an herb used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than two thousand years to treat asthma and other respiratory problems. Ephedrine, the active ingredient in ephedra, is used in the commercial pharmaceutical preparations for the relief of asthma symptoms and other respiratory problems. It helps the patient to breathe more easily.
Another example of the use of an herbal preparation in modern medicine is the foxglove plant. This herb had been in use since 1775. At present, the powdered leaf of this plant is known as the cardiac stimulant digitalis to the millions of heart patients it keeps alive worldwide.
Herbal Medicine can be broadly classified into various basic systems: Traditional Chinese Herbal medicine, which is part of Traditional Oriental Medicine, Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine, which is derived from Indian Traditional Medicine, Unani Herbal Medicine, which is derived from Greek and Arabic system of Medicine, Herbal Spagyric therapy, popularly known as Electro Homeopathy Herbal Medicine, which is derived from Italian system, Western Herbal Medicine, which originally came from Greece and Rome to Europe and then spread to North and South America.
Ayurvedic and Unani system of medicine have developed into highly sophisticated systems of diagnosis and treatment over the centuries. Western Herbal medicine is today primarily a system of folk medicine.
Herbal medicine is used to treat many conditions, such as asthma, eczema, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, menopausal symptoms, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer, among others. Herbal supplements are best taken under the guidance of a trained health care provider. For example, one study found that 90% of arthritic patients use alternative therapies, such as herbal medicine. Be sure to consult with your doctor or physician before taking any herbs.
Buying standardized herbal medicine helps ensure you will get the right dose and the effects similar to human clinical trials. Ask your doctor or physiciandiarrhea, constipation about which herbal supplements are best for your health concerns.