Herbal medicine refers to medication extracted from plants. It is, however, used loosely and very commonly to stand for any treatment that is natural, including the use of minerals, bee products and others.
Today Phamacognosy; the study of all natural medicines, has identified around 12,000 phytochemicals. Phytochemicals refers to disease fighting substances occurring naturally in plants. Of the thousands identified, scientists believe that this only constitutes about 10% of all available ones which implies that there is still room to reap more benefits from herbal medicine as research continues.
History of Herbal Medicine
In ancient days, the use of herbal medicine was most prominent in Asian countries, the Middle East and Africa. Certain old people of past generations had knowledge regarding the medicinal plants and their usable parts. They also knew how to prepare herbs and different parts of various plants into a consumable form. As they advanced in age, they groomed the younger generation who would take over from them on their demise.
Some ailments were cured using the bark of certain trees, leaves and others were treated using roots. There were also different methods of preparation. Sometimes they boiled the parts and the liquid became the medicine for the patient to drink. While other instances the patient just rubbed plant parts between the hands and sniffed.
The history of herbal medicine was strengthened by SushrutaSamhita, a text by the Ayurveda practitioners that lists about 700 plants with medicinal value. ShennongBencao Jing, the first Chinese book on herbal medicine, also describes 365 plants with medicinal value. Among those plants is ma-Huang, the ephedrine producing shrub. Ephedrine is still used as antihistamine in today’s modern medicine.
The Romans and the Greeks also used plants for medication. Hippocrates, a Greek who is now popularly dubbed the father of modern medicine, indicates, in his writings, the importance of plants as a source of healing. Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Western Europe was catching up with the rest of the world in appreciating herbal medicine. The first literature on herbal medicine in English was the GreteHerball of 1526, whose author remains anonymous. Other renowned texts were The Herball (1597) by John Gerard and The English Physician (1653) by Nicholas Culpeper. English history also has the existence of a Belgian herbalist, Dodoens, and mentions some work by a German botanist. This clearly shows that plants had become a subject of analysis across Europe for reasons other than food.
Modern Use of Herbal Medicine
Naomi Boldon, a medical herbalist at Madison Acupuncture & Holistic Health reported that in 1997 the Gall up poll indicated that 40% of Americans were using herbal medication as their first line of treatment. She also said that 70% of physicians in Germany prescribed herbal remedies in a country where more than 600 herbal medications were available.
Among the most popular herbs worldwide are Aloe Vera, Bitter Melon, the Apple plant, Catuaba, California Poppy, Black Seed Oil, Coconut Oil, Cinnamon, Devil’s Claw, Dandelion Root, Comfrey, Garlic, Ginger Root, Ginseng, Ginkgo Biloba, Hemp Oil, Hops, Passion Flower, Rosemary, Stinging Nettle, and Passion Flower.
Medicinal Benefits of Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine enhances the biological healing mechanism hence speeding up the body recovery system. With proper use, herbs serve to stimulate glands responsible for producing hormones. The hormones in turn send signals to the relevant body parts jumpstarting the healing process.
Due to their propensity to stimulate the healing process, regular consumption of herbs even when one is healthy means that your immune system is strengthened to fight against various ailments. Think of herbs like a natural vaccine.
Metabolism and Nutrition
Regular use of the right herbs improves your body’s absorption of nutrients which is why most herbal regiments forbid consumption of junk foods.
At the same time herbs like ephedra act as appetite suppressants for those of you interested in losing a little weight. Herbal medicine also helps in lowering blood pressure, suppressing diabetes and preventing allergies like asthma.
Aloe Vera which is arguably the most popular herbal product contains saponin, a chemical compound with anti-microbial properties. It has therefore been successfully used to cure different skin ailments. The fame in its cosmetic value has catalysed its use in body lotions. Since can also be taken orally in beverages for medical reasons, its demand has increased significantly. That demand has triggered efforts in mass production of the plant around the globe. Aloe Vera has therefore become both a domestic and commercial plant in most countries even in Africa. Others like ginger, ginseng and garlic have also significantly increased in their commercially value.
Heal Yourself with Plants