Herbalism is a traditional medicine or folk medicine practice based on the use of plants and plant extracts. Herbalism is also known as botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbal medicine, herbology, or phytotherapy. The scope of herbal medicine is sometimes extended to include fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and certain animal parts.
Science is just beginning to uncover the myriad benefits and countless applications of various herbs and herbal extracts in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle. As the benefits of herbal supplements are becoming more widely known and accepted, more and more people are turning to these natural remedies to improve their health and promote general well-being.
Herbal products are an integral part of eastern medicine, and their benefits have been known for centuries. Herbal products can promote general health and well-being by aiding in digestion, providing antioxidant protection, boost energy, supplement the immune system, support memory and neural processes, reduce stress and improve vision. Herbal products can also be used to enhance sexual libido and promote tranquility and general sense of well being.
Precautions with herbal products
Herbal products are generally safe, but some interact with each other. It is important to talk to your physician before you combine herbs or take herbs with conventional western medications. Herbal products such as aloe vera, bitter orange, milk thistle, ginger root, gingko biloba, green tea, black cohosh, and dong quai are well known for their power in fighting disease. Natural food stores and vitamin shop’s shelves are lined with herbs.
The problem with the increased popularity of herbal medicine comes with their regulation, or lack thereof. Herbal nutritional supplements are not strictly regulated in the United States. For many products, there is no guarantee of the quantity or quality of the herb included.
Working with an integrative physician or holistic medicine doctor can help you sort out what herbs you need and also about the quality of these herbal products.
Types of Herbal Medicine
The use of herbs to treat disease is almost universal in eastern culture. A number of traditions came to dominate the practice of herbal medicine at the end of the twentieth century:
• The "classical" herbal medicine system, based on Greek and Roman sources
• The Siddha and Ayurvedic medicine systems from various South Asian Countries
• Chinese herbal medicine (Chinese herbology) (zhongyào)
• Unani-Tibb medicine
• Shamanic herbalism: a catch-all phrase for information mostly supplied from South America and the Himalayas
Role of herbal products in modern society
The use of, and search for, drugs and dietary supplements derived from plants have accelerated in recent years. Pharmacologists, microbiologists, botanists, and natural-products chemists are combing the earth for phytochemicals and leads that could be developed for treatment of various diseases.
• Three quarters of plants that provide active ingredients for prescription drugs came to the attention of researchers because of their use in traditional medicine.
• Among the 120 active compounds currently isolated from the higher plants and widely used in modern medicine today, 80 percent show a positive correlation between their modern therapeutic use and the traditional use of the plants from which they are derived.
• More than two thirds of the world's plant species - at least 35,000 of which are estimated to have medicinal value - come from the developing countries.
• At least 7,000 medical compounds in the modern pharmacopoeia are derived from plants