Herbal medicine is the extraction of herbs or plants which have a medicinal value in treating illnesses and diseases (Brody 1). A herb is known as a plant that does not have a woody stem and usually dies back at the end of each growing season. It is also known as a “natural” drug because they are derived from nature. This is unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which are synthesized from chemicals. Herbal medicine dates back a very long time. More than 4,000 years ago, the Chinese emperor Qien Nong put a book together, or a herbal, of different medicinal plants (O’ Sullivan 2).
It contained descriptions of more than 300 plants. Some of these plants are still used today. The Sumerians, at the same time recorded prescriptions on clay tablets. Also, the Egyptians recorded their information regarding medicine on rolls of papyrus. A very famous papyrus is the Ebers Papyrus, which includes specific information on how to use different plants (Brody 1). The Greeks and Romans learned about herbal medicine from these early civilizations. They also recorded them in books. We know of these works because they are translated into Arabic.
Monks in Europe studied and grew plants for medicinal use. They translated the Arabic and that helped them with the plants. The first drugstores were in Baghdad (which is present day Iraq) in the 9th century (Smith 1). In the 13th century, major trade of herbs and spices occurred in London. Since there were no standards, bad quality herbs and wrong substitutes were often sold. Carolus Linneaus introduced the binomial system of plant nomenclature in 1753 (O’Sullivan 1). This helped identify plants scientifically, which helped to avoid mistakes between different plants.
Many drugs commonly used today are of herbal origin. About one-quarter of the prescription drugs distributed by pharmacies in the United States contain at least one ingredient derived from plant material. Today, everyone from health care consumers to providers are learning about natural options to help with being healthy. “Herbalists, or individuals who use herbal remedies to alleviate pain, are on the rise in the United States” (Tremmel 1). In 1995, a survey was taken with about 600 physicians across the country.
More than half said they refer their patients to practitioners of alternative medicine (including herbalists) (Tremmel 3). Another study showed that last year more than 83 million (more than 40% adults) sought herbal medicine (and some other forms of alternative medicine) for help (Beil 1). Also, another survey showed that last year there were more visits to herbalists (629 million) than primary care physicians (386 million) (Tremmel 2). Though these results are surprising, they are true and they prove that herbal medicine and other forms of alternative medicine are becoming a new popular way of staying healthy.
Herbal medicine is made of an extract taken from a plant (from the leaf, root, flower, and/or bark) used to treat an ailment. There are different types of herbal medicine such as a capsule (i. e. Saw Palmetto), tea (i. e. Back cohosh), dried herbs (i. e. Valerian), and tonic (i. e. Oats). These herbs can have many different effects on the human body. These can be good or bad. Some reactions are: helps fight viruses, decrease pain sensitivity, muscle relaxants, defense against microorganisms, hallucinations, upset stomach, intestinal problems, etc.
Herbs are grown in dry, exposed, and well-drained soil with a lot of sun and low humidity. Manure or compost are often used to help grow different kinds of herbs (Smith 2). Chemical fertilizers, which require a great amount of water, can be dangerous of the formation of herbs. Sometimes herbs are also grown indoors. This chart is a collection of the 10 best and safest, most effective herbs out there today. There are many other good herbs used, these are just a few: Name of HerbWhat it does ChamomileRelieves insomnia, inflammation and upset stomachs EchinaceaHelps prevent colds or keeps them from getting worse.
FeverfewPrevents and treats migraine headaches GarlicLowers Cholesterol GingerHelps relieve nausea Ginkgo bilobaPromotes mental sharpness and concentration KavaRelieves anxiety Saw PalmettoImproves urinary flow in men and treats inflamed prostates St. John’s wortEases mild depression ValerianImproves quality of sleep (Smith 2) Many people think that all herbs are good because they are “all natural. ” However, the truth is that not all herbs out there are good for the body. Some can cause disturbing side effects and others can bring on diseases such as:
Name of HerbWhat it does Chaparral Associated with liver damage ComfreyAssociated with liver damage LobeliaAssociated with impaired breathing, decreased blood pressure, and coma, death YohimbeAssociated with seizures, kidney failure, and death GermanderAssociated with liver damage Willow BarkAssociated with upset stomach and stroke Jil Bu HuanAssociated with lowering heart rate Laxative Teas/Cleansing TeasAssociated with stomach cramps and dehydration EphedraAssociated with increasing heart rate and high blood pressure (Beil 1).
Today, many people think differently about herbal medicine. Many people who use herbal medicine think that it is better to use herbal medicine compared to pharmaceutical medicine because they aren’t putting synthesized chemicals into their bodies. Everyday people are trying herbal medicine and liking it. A story mentioned in the Ladies Home Journal magazine talked about how a child got sick and his mother didn’t want to use traditional medicine. She wanted something more than that. She went out and bought some herbal medicine pills and gave it to him.
He got better very quickly and she has been using herbal medicine since that day for the past eight years. She hasn’t completely ruled out traditional medicine, but she does favor herbal medicine. Another story mentioned talked about a lady who loves herbal medicine. Her main reason is that it’s very effective but inexpensive. She uses it for colds, headaches, premenstrual syndrome, and for cuts and bruises. These are just two opinions of average people. The other side of the argument says that herbal medicine is very dangerous and unpredictable.
They say this because unlike medicines, food supplement (such as herbal medicines) makers do not have to submit studies and wait for the Food and Drug Administration’s approval before they can sell their product (Pan 1). This is why many doctors say it’s very dangerous to just use the herbal medicine although it doesn’t have any scientific evidence of it’s claims and any testing. Also, many people are using the medicine without the consultation of their doctors. This is concerning doctors. There are numerous kinds of herbal medicines available today.
The best way of getting you money’s worth is by asking for the most popular one. This isn’t the only step, but also ask for any clinical trials, consult your doctor, and/or the company of the product. This way you can get the most effective product and be safe at the same time. I think that this new era of using natural herbal medicine is great and I support it greatly. Trying something new for a change is good. Even though some kinds of herbal medicine can produce harmful effects, many of the others are good.
The only problem I see is that the Food and Drug Administration didn’t make it a requirement for the makers to submit studies on the drugs. Therefore, maybe sellers can make specific claims about preventing a disease even though it isn’t true. So if the FDA starts testing the medicines and helps separate the good from the bad then everything will be great. Thus, herbal medicine is medicine made from different parts of plants. They have become very popular in modern times. Some of these herbal medicines can be helpful while others can be harmful.