Modern science is now confirming what tradition has known for centuries. Herbs have therapeutic properties, which can be used in prevention of ill health, assist in maintaining optimal health and play a valid role in treatment of dis-ease.
Used by over 80 percent of the world’s population, herbal medicine is the oldest known form of healing. While clinical trials should not be considered the only validation of botanical medicine, double blind placebo controlled studies can certainly confirm the role of plant for medicine, a healing modality practiced for centuries.
Botanical medicine, when used correctly, plays an important role in the treatment of ill health and can be used for both acute and chronic conditions.
Both herbal medicine and allopathic (pharmaceutical) medicine can play a valid role in our health.
Herbs can be used as the first choice of disease treatment and herbal medicines consistently have fewer side effects than prescription medication while supporting the bodies’ capacity to heal itself.
Let us not forget that plants are the original source of materials for up to 40 % of pharmaceutical medicines today.
Herbs can be used as the first choice of disease treatment and herbal medicines consistently have fewer side effects than prescription medication while supporting the bodies’ capacity to heal itself. When used under the care of a trained practitioner, the benefits of botanical medicine are numerous. Herbs can be safely combined with allopathic medicine to minimize the side effects of prescription drugs, used to enhance the effect of pharmaceutical medicines, resulting in a lower dose of medication needed, or can be used long term to support the bodies’ capacity to restore its own health. Herbal medicine can be used to wean the body off potentially addictive medications and can be used as an alternative to many habit-forming medications.
The quest for knowledge and understanding in the field of herbal medicine is still growing. There are currently Bachelor of Science and Master of Science Degree programs in Herbal Medicine in Universities throughout the world. Medical schools are adding herbal medicine into their course curriculums, peer reviewed journals are citing the health benefits of nutrition and plant medicine and there is an great increase in funding and research done on botanical medicine.
The recent years has revealed a renewed interest in plant medicine as science seeks to isolate and study the single “thought-to-be” active constituent responsible for the plants medicinal actions. This mentality has led to a number of challenges and misunderstandings, where study of a single constituent in a test tube or lab does not represent the action or safety of the whole plant consumed by humans and instead may confuse the public. A good example is St. Johns Wort, where the thought to be active constituent has changed – frequently- as science learns more about the plant. Other research leads us to understand that it is the synergy of all the chemicals which make up the whole, which is important for its medicinal effect. It is essential to remember that whole herbs often contain hundreds of chemicals, many working synergistically, other chemicals working to enhance or buffer stronger chemicals in the plant.
When viewed another way, drug companies are unable to patent commonly used plants. They can and do however patent chemical constituents from plants. One single isolated chemical – often enhanced or made stronger in a lab- is essentially a drug. When any plant chemical is isolated and made stronger – it can then be patented into a drug and often comes with the risk of side effects that stronger single chemicals allow. Until the 1950’s many pharmacopeias listed plant based drugs in the form of tablets, syrups and liquids in their pharmacy manuals. Remember that up to 40 % of pharmaceutical drugs in use today are originally sourced from plants. Many herbalists hold true to the philosophy that whole herb medicine is far superior than a single isolated chemical and often with fewer side effects.
What is a Medical Herbalist?
When treating the client a Medical Herbalist seeks out the underlying cause of the health problem and, once identified, it is this, which is treated rather than the symptoms alone. A Medical Herbalist can also provide accurate information on any possible contraindications and/or potential drug-herb interactions.
Medical Herbalists are highly trained practitioners that combine the use of botanical medicine, science, nutrition and supplements to restore health. Medical Herbalists are not doctors, nor do they diagnose; they are, however, trained in the same diagnostic skills as orthodox doctors and take a more holistic approach to illness. They have completed at least 4 years of study in Herbal Medicine and have had extensive training in anatomy, physiology, pathology, clinical assessment, pharmacology, biochemistry, botany, materia medica, and philosophy of Herbal Medicine, therapeutics and nutrition.
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