Herbal medicine refers to using a plant’s seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers for medicinal purposes. Herbalism has a long tradition of use outside of conventional medicine. Herbal medicine has its origins in ancient cultures including those of the Egyptians, American Indians and Chinese. 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.
In recent years, interest in herbal medicine has skyrocketed, leading to a greater scientific interest in the medicinal use of plants. Many international studies have shown that plants are capable of treating disease and improving health, often without any significant side effects.
A pharmaceutical drug typically uses a synthetic version of a plant’s active ingredient. Herbal medicine practitioners maintain that an active ingredient can lose its impact or become less safe, if used in isolation from the rest of the plant. For instance, salicylic acid, found in the plant meadowsweet, is used to make aspirin, however Aspirin can cause the lining of the stomach to bleed, but meadowsweet naturally contains other compounds that counteract the irritation of salicylic acid. According to herbal medicine, the effect of the whole plant is greater than its parts.
Herbal medicine is used to treat many conditions, such as asthma, eczema, anxiety, arthritis, depression, high blood pressure, hormonal imbalances, such as premenstrual tension, insomnia, migraines, nausea, menopausal symptoms, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer, among others. Herbal supplements should always be taken under the guidance of a trained health care provider.