Usefulness of herbal medicine in modern times

Natural plant products have been used throughout human history for various purposes. In fact, written records of the use of herbal medicine date back more than 5000 years, and for much of history, herbal medicine was the only medicine.

Today, plants are being used to treat a number of health concerns and conditions, including allergies, arthritis, migraines, fatigue, skin infections, wounds, burns, gastrointestinal issues and even cancer, proving that it’s true that food is medicine. These herbs are less expensive and they’re a safer means of treatment than conventional medications, which is why so many people are choosing to go back to this traditional idea of medicine.

What is herbal medicine?

Herbal medicines are naturally occurring, plant-derived substances that are used to treat illnesses within local or regional healing practices. These products are complex mixtures of organic chemicals that may come from any raw or processed part of a plant.

Herbal medicine has its roots in every culture around the world. There are many different systems of traditional medicine, and the philosophy and practices of each are influenced by social conditions, environment and geographic location, but these systems all agree on a holistic approach to life. Well-known systems of herbal medicine like Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine believe in the central idea that there should be an emphasis on health rather than on disease. By using healing herbs, people can thrive and focus on their overall conditions, rather than on a particular ailment that typically arises from a lack of equilibrium of the mind, body and environment.

Although botanical medicine has been practiced for thousands of years, it continues to be of use in the modern, Western world. The World Health Organization recently estimated that 80 percent of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some part of their primary health care
People have become more interested in herbal medicine because of the rising cost of prescription medication and the returning interest in natural or organic remedies.

Whole herbs contain many ingredients that are used to treat diseases and relieve symptoms. Herbal medicine, also called botanical medicine, uses the plant’s seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark or flowers for medicinal purposes. The biological properties of these plants have beneficial effects. Other factors are responsible for their benefits as well, such as the type of environment in which the plant grew, the way in which it was harvested and how it was processed. The plant is either sold raw or as extracts, where it’s macerated with water, alcohol or other solvents to extract some of the chemicals. The resulting products contain dozens of chemicals, including fatty acids, sterols, alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, saponins and others.

Benefits of herbal medicine

1. More affordable than conventional medicine

Modern medical science certainly comes with a high price tag, and pharmaceuticals are no exception. One reason why herbal medicine is becoming more popular recently is because people simply can’t afford to pay for their medication month after month.

2. Easier to obtain than prescription medications

Herbal products, such as herbal extracts, essential oils and herbal teas, are available in most health food and even grocery stores, so you don’t have to see a doctor to get prescriptions before purchasing them. This certainly makes it easier to obtain herbal products and avoid additional health care costs.

Herbs are classified as dietary supplements, so they can be produced, sold and marketed without going through the FDA. Although this makes it easier to purchase and use these beneficial products, it’s our job as consumers to choose among the competitors. Make sure to read the ingredients and labels carefully before using any herbal supplement. Purchase from a reputable and trustworthy company that verifies the product is 100 percent pure-grade.

3. Beneficial healing properties

Herbs are used for the treatment of chronic and acute conditions and various ailments, including major health concerns like cardiovascular disease, prostate problems, depression, inflammation and weakened immune system. Herbs are used around the world to treat conditions and diseases, and many studies prove their efficacy. In fact, of the 177 drugs approved worldwide for the treatment of cancer, more than 70 percent are based on natural products or chemical imitations of natural products.

10 most popular herbs

1. Raw garlic


Garlic contains vital nutrients, including flavonoids, oligosaccharides, selenium, allicin and high levels of sulfur. Consuming cooked or raw garlic, by adding it to food or taking a capsule, can help treat diabetes, fight inflammation, boost the immune system, regulate blood pressure, fight cardiovascular disease, relieve allergies, fight fungal and viral infections, and improve hair loss.

2. Ginger

Ginger is the most widely used dietary condiment in the world today. The therapeutic benefits of ginger come from gingerols, the oily resin from the root that acts as a highly potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Gingerol, among other bioactive agents present in ginger, are able to relieve indigestion and nausea, boost immune and respiratory function, fight bacterial and fungal infections, treat stomach ulcers, reduce pain, improve diabetes, prevent malabsorption, and may even inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

3. Turmeric

Turmeric is a plant that has a very long history of medicinal use, dating back nearly 4,000 years. Modern medicine has begun to recognize its importance, as indicated by the over 3,000 publications dealing with turmeric. This powerful plant can be added to any recipe or taken as a supplement. There are a range of turmeric benefits, including its ability to slow and prevent blood clotting, fight depression, reduce inflammation, relieve arthritis pain, manage diabetes, treat gastrointestinal issues, regulate cholesterol, and fight cancer.

Several studies indicate that turmeric has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimutagenic, antimicrobial and anticancer properties. As an antioxidant, turmeric extracts can scavenge free radicals, increase antioxidant enzymes and inhibit lipid peroxidation.

4. Ginseng

Ginseng is one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world, and it’s been used in Asia and North American for centuries. Native Americans used the root as a stimulant and headache remedy, as well as a treatment for infertility, fever and indigestion, for instance.

Ginseng is also used to reduce stress, help with weight loss, treat sexual dysfunction, improve lung function, lower blood sugar levels, boost the immune system and reduce inflammation.

5. Milk Thistle

Milk thistle extracts have been used as traditional herbal medicine remedies for almost 2,000 years. Milk thistle contains high levels of lipophilic extracts from the seeds of the plant, which act as bioflavonoids that increase immunity and slow down oxidative stress. The herb is also used for its anti-inflammatory properties. It can aid digestive function, increase bile production, boost skin health, fight the appearance of aging, lower cholesterol levels and help detoxify the body.

6. Feverfew

For centuries, feverfew has been used for fevers, headaches, stomachaches, toothaches, insect bites, infertility, and problems with menstruation and labor during childbirth. Feverfew’s pain-easing effect is said to come from a biochemical called parthenolides, which combats the widening of blood vessels that occurs in migraines. The herb is also used to prevent dizziness, relieve allergies, reduce arthritis pain and prevent blood clots.

7. St. John’s Wort

St. John’s wort has been used as a medicinal herb for its antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties for over 2,000 years. It produces dozens of biologically active substances, but hypericin and hyperforin have the greatest medical activity. St. John’s wort uses come from its antidepressant activity, ability to relieve PMS symptoms, improve mood during menopause, fight inflammation, relieve skin irritations and improve symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder.

8. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba, is an ancient plant extract that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to heal various health ailments for thousands of years. Current research shows that it’s linked to improvements in cognitive function.

Other ginkgo biloba benefits include its ability to improve concentration and memory, reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, fight anxiety and depression, help maintain vision and eye health, relieve ADHD symptoms, improve libido, and fight fibromyalgia.

9. Saw Palmetto

Saw palmetto supplements are some of the most commonly consumed supplements by men with prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia. Saw palmetto has been shown to slow the production of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts the male hormone testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a sex steroid and androgen hormone. While DHT is important because it plays a role in male development, it also contributes to many common health issues in men, such as loss of libido, an enlarged prostate and hair loss.

Aside from its ability to relieve conditions triggered by DHT, saw palmetto is also known to fight inflammation, boost immune function, treat respiratory conditions and promote relaxation.

10. Aloe Vera

In traditional Indian medicine, aloe vera is used for constipation, skin diseases, worm infestation, infections and as a natural remedy for colic. In Chinese medicine, it’s often recommended in the treatment of fungal diseases, and in the Western world, it has found widespread use in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries.

Studies have proved the antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antifungal properties of aloe vera. The plant has also proved to be non-allergic and very good in building up the immune system.

Other aloe vera benefits include its ability to soothe rashes and skin irritations; treat burns and cold sores; moisturize the skin, hair and scalp; provide antioxidants; and reduce inflammation. Aloe vera can be used topically or orally.

Herbal Medicine Precautions

Herbal supplements are classified as dietary supplements, which means that they’re not tested to prove they’re safe and effective, unlike prescription drugs. This is why some manufacturers can get away with selling herbal products that aren’t completely pure. When buying herbs to be used for medicine, make sure to purchase 100% pure-grade products from a reputable company. This ensures that you get the highest quality product that’s not weakened with less expensive additives and isn’t grown with pesticides or contaminated with heavy metals.

Botanical medicine may also cause allergic reactions or interact with conventional drugs, which is why you should consult your health care provider before beginning any herbal treatments. Herbalists, naturopathic physicians, pharmacists, medical doctors can provide information about herbal medicine and help you to choose what herb is best to address your health concerns. Be sure to do your own research on the herb you use and check for possible side effects and appropriate dosage.

Summary

Natural plant products have been used throughout human history for various purposes. In fact, written records of the use of herbal medicine date back more than 5,000 years.
Herbal medicines, or botanicals, are naturally occurring, plant-derived substances that are used to treat illnesses within local or regional healing practices.
Today, herbalism is being noticed for focusing on overall wellness and prevention rather than treating a disease or ailment once it arises.
Herbal medicine is more cost-effective than modern medicine, it’s easier to obtain and it has several health benefits that are comparable to modern pharmaceuticals.
Some of the most well-known and most used herbs include garlic, ginger, turmeric, saw palmetto, St. John’s wort and aloe vera.
While research suggests that herbal products have less adverse side effects than conventional medications, it’s important that consumers choose pure, high-quality products. If you’re planning to take herbal products for an extended period of time, see an herbalist or health care provider for guidance.
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