Herbal medicine, an alternative healing therapy, is the system of using herbs to heal and/or maintain wellness either internally in foods and teas or topically in creams or salves. The use of herbs in medicine dates back to ancient times and is a valuable and effective method of healing a variety of complaints along with sustaining good health. Essential to living a holistic health lifestyle, they are an effective natural means of healing many conditions and are often used in conjunction with homeopathic remedies.
Herbs are most effective when used over the long term to help the body resist disease, with a focus on prevention and cure of illness and disease rather than immediate treatment of a condition. Countless herbs have medicinal properties and provide dietary and immune system support. Many herbalists grow their own herbs and often use extracts from the roots or leaves of plants in formulations of herbal remedies.
Approaches to Use of Herbal Therapies
There are several predominant approaches to the use of plants as medicine, including:
- The chemical approach, wherein herbs are researched to determine the basic ingredients and classified according to their group of chemicals. Herbs contain an infinite range of chemicals including water, salts, proteins and alkaloids, as well as:
- Organic acids such as citric acid found in lemons
- Alcohols such as menthol in peppermint
- Unstable oils such as eucalyptus oil
- Carbohydrates such as the sugar in apples
2. The energetic approach, as used in Ayurveda, wherein herbs are considered to affect the body’s energies.
3. The spiritualist approach, which is utilized by shamans and other non-traditionalists wherein the herbs are purported to affect the soul or spirit.
Popular Herbal Remedies
The most popular herbal remedies are sold in the form of essential oils, herbal teas and herbal extracts. They include chamomile, ginseng, echinacea, garlic, ginkgo biloba, saw palmetto, aloe, goldenseal, St. John’s Wort and cranberry. Other herbs used as medicine include:
- Aloe vera for treatment of burns
- Calendula for constipation and cramping
- Cranberry for urinary tract infections
- Echinacea for treatment of colds
- Feverfew for the treatment of migraine headaches
- Garlic for treatment of high cholesterol
- Ginger for treating nausea
- Grapefruit for treatment of obesity.
- Honey for healing wounds and reducing cholesterol
- Milk thistle extracts for liver protection
- Tea tree oil for treatment of acne
- Peppermint for stomach and bowel disorders
- Rose hips for treatment of osteoarthritis
- Soy for treatment of menopause symptoms
- St. John’s Wort for treatment of depression
- Stinging nettle for use as an inflammatory
- Valerian root for treatment of insomnia
Administration of Herbal Products
There are many ways in which herbs can be dispensed, including:
- Topicals such as essential oils, balms, creams, salves and poultices
- Tinctures, which are herbal extracts combined with alcohol
- Tisanes, which are hot water extracts of herbs such as chamomile
- Vinegars, which are herbs combined with acids
- Elixirs, which are herbs soaked in spirits such as vodka
- Inhalation such as in aromatherapy
- Extracts made by evaporation, freeze drying, vacuum distillation, or boiling bark or roots
Conscientiously using herbal remedies in a system of holistic health care
is an effective, natural way of sustaining physical, emotional and mental health and assists in bringing about healing on all levels.
Carina Bachman / CrystalSpringsHealing.com
photo: unsplash-Lauren Coleman