Herbalism, or Herbal Medicine, is the therapeutic use of plants to produce physical effects for wellness and is, in fact, the basis for many drugs in use today. For as long there has been illness there have been attempts to find cures within nature's provision. Each culture has developed it's own methods and application of plant materials to induce health using what's growing close by in their own environment. One of the earliest documented records of plants being used medicinally is in a Chinese Pharmacopeia that dates back 5,000 years.
Differences between Herbal Medicine and Pharmaceutical Drugs
Interest in Herbalism is on the increase for a number of reasons, chief among them being a growing concern with the effectiveness and long term effects of synthetically produced drugs. Other areas of interest include the use of herbs to promote healthy nutrition and herbs to maintain a strong immune system. What sets medicinal herbs apart from their drug counterparts is the natural, bio-available structure of the many active ingredients within the whole herb. These ingredients harmonize with the body's cellular structure as well as provide buffering actions against side effects.
Some drugs are sometimes quite necessary and beneficial in the case of accident or severe infection, and we have largely been better off with them than without. However, in this day of new viruses and super bugs, whole herbs provide a safe, economical way to build up and maintain both immunity and healthy function of all the body’s systems and organs. A healthy body combined with a healthy mental and emotional outlook will go a long way towards decreasing dependence on long term pharmaceutical use.
A very natural and effective way to maintain health is to incorporate herbs into the diet on a daily basis. This is much easier than it sounds but does require that one makes a commitment to whole foods and meal preparation.
Many of the herbs and seasonings we like to use in cooking have been time honored medicinal herbs. They have helped keep us healthy one meal at a time while our focus was on how good they make food taste! One example is fresh Garlic with it's many actions including: antifungal, antibiotic, anti inflammatory, is a blood cleanser, provides vitamins and minerals, builds immunity....and that's just a partial list.
Some other herbs from the seasoning cupboard and their main functions include:
Parsley which contains an oil similar to Garlic that is antimicrobial and tones the digestive system, is a diuretic and contains several vitamins and minerals.
Herbal teas are another easy way to help maintain health. Some examples are:
Chamomile which is not only very mild, safe and soothing for all ages but helps reduce inflammation, eases muscle tension and pain and helps reduce the effects of stress by toning the nervous system.
With wise use, the majority of herbs available are safe and do not interact with most common drugs like antibiotics. Most herbs are safe enough to take daily, however many are suggested for short term use in specific quantities and for specific circumstances. Always, your current condition, medical history and other drugs or vitamins being used should be considered and discussed with your health care professional before starting an herbal regimen.
Another safety issue of growing importance is the results from long term use of pharmaceuticals versus the possibility of receiving similar benefits by changing lifestyle, habits and incorporating herbs and other stress reducing alternatives into a daily routine. Before taking prescription drugs, or starting with herbs, exercise personal responsibility and educate yourself about side affects, long term use issues, safety margins, their actions and interactions with other drugs, and know why you are using them. It's always important to let your health care provider know what vitamins, supplements and herbs you use. And it's of ultimate importance that you address the causes of your health conditions, not just the symptoms.
You may find yourself with a common condition and would like to use herbs as an alternative to over-the-counter medications. There is a casual perception that taking herbal supplements is like 'popping vitamin C' when in truth much more awareness is required. Some questions to think about when considering herbal alternatives:
* Are you addressing minor and common ailments such as flu or cold?
When possible, consider a local source.
Modern medicine is based on Germ Theory. Find out more here: Louis Pasteur vs Antoine Bechamp: Know the True Causes of Disease