The Importance of Herbal Medicine



Herbal Medicine is the use of herbs and medicinal plants as the first medicines is a universal phenomenon.  Every culture on Earth, through written or oral tradition, has relied on the vast variety of healing plants for their therapeutic properties.  The majority of herbal products available today were originated from the same traditional formulas or ingredients.


Herbal medicine is about 70% of Traditional Chinese Medicine – going in deeper within the body to treat the root cause.  Traditional Chinese Medicine embraces the tools provided by the outside environment to assist the body to return to a balanced state.  Herbal medicine creates a more potent, effective and efficient treatment to ensure quicker responses to re-establish health and balance.


With nearly 9000 individual entries, there are an incredibly vast number of medical substances and compounds used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, like plants, minerals, animals and insects.  The ensemble of these parts is known collectively as Chinese herbal medicine.  All parts of a medicinal plant are used: roots, branches, twigs, stems, leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds.  All have separate functions; for instance, the leaves are the most superficial part of a plant and therefore are potent at treating acute and superficial diseases (common cold).


Today, scientists incorporate past knowledge and continually advance scientific research and testing for toxicity, potency, effectiveness, etc.  Ground breaking documentation is being proven for herbal medicines treating diseases with little to no treatment options.  Herbal medicine can provide a better quality of life (when recommended by a trained professional).


In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal medicine is a main part of the foundation for your health.  TCM practitioners believe that nature provided us with the tools we need to prevent and treat disease.  Along with acupuncture, the body can speed up the healing process with the use of these natural medicines. 


Chinese herbs have been used for centuries.  The first herbalist in Chinese tradition is Shennong, a mythical personage, who is said to have tasted hundreds of herbs and imparted his knowledge of medicinal and poisonous plants to the agricultural people.  The first Chinese manual on pharmacology, the Shennong Bencao Jing (Shennong Emperors Classic of Materia Medica), lists some 365 medicines of which 252 are herbs, and dates back the early Han dynasty (202 BC).  Since then, lots of empirical herbal formulae had been archived by ancient Chinese.  The most important work among them was the Compendium of Materia Medica (Bencao Gangmu) compiled during the Ming dynasty by Li Shizhen, which is still used today for consultation and reference.


Herbalists, however, believe that nature provides other ingredients in the same herbs to balance the more powerful ingredients.  These other components, though they may be less potent, may help to act as buffers, synergists, or counter-balancers working in harmony with the more powerful ingredients.  Therefore, by using herbs in their complete form, the body’s healing process utilizes a balance of ingredients provided by nature.


Many people believe that herbs are just as effective as drugs, but without the side effects.  Herbs do perform many healing functions in the body, but they must be used appropriately and recommended by a trained professional.  Although herbal remedies are less likely than most conventional medicines to cause side effects, herbs nevertheless can be very potent.


Moreover, not all plant life is beneficial.  There are poisonous plants, and some of them are deadly, especially if used for long periods of time.  In fact, it is important to point out that qualified herbalists use herbs with great care.  Also, since herbs contain active ingredients, one should be aware that some of these elements may interact negatively with prescribed medications.  Certain herbs should be used only for healing purposes and not for extended periods of time.


Herbs can be of great value when used in a program of health care and preventive medicine.  Due to the variation in strength from gentle remedies that can be eaten like food to potential lethal poisons, medicinal plants should always be used under the supervision of a Health Care Professional.  A practitioner can advise which of the milder “tonic”" herbs, such as dandelion and nettle, are safe and appropriate for your condition.  A number of culinary herbs — including thyme and rosemary, which act as digestive stimulants and antiseptics — may also be used in a preventive health program.


Herbal therapy has been criticized because medicinal plants have not been tested for efficacy according to rigid pharmaceutical standards.  However, there’s continuing debate over whether such testing should be performed on the entire herb or only on its active ingredients.  Some remedies depend on the actions of several components (or several herbs) working together.


When choosing between modern Western medicine, and alternative and complementary medicines, it is pretty clear that very often synthetic remedies made of chemicals not only fail to cure diseases, but often cause more adverse side effects than the ailments they aim to relieve.


Erica will show you the benefits of herbal medicine by taking you through the history of traditional Chinese herbal medicine.  We'll look at common contemporary health problems, and then show you some of the exotic herbs used to treat or cure these health problems and their properties.  We also share with you recent scientific case studies using these medicinal herbs or herbal remedies.  Finally, we offer you health solutions using these herbal supplements.


The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 billion people, 80% of the world's population, presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care.  The WHO notes that from 119 plant-derived pharmaceutical medicines, about 74% are used in modern medicine in ways that correlated directly with their traditional uses as plant medicines by native cultures.  Major pharmaceutical companies are currently conducting extensive research on plant materials gathered from the rain forests and other places for their potential medicinal value.  About 25 percent of today’s prescription drugs are at least partially derived from plants.

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