Historically, most cultures worldwide have used herbs for health challenges.There is a lengthy and rich history of application in use of herbal medicine approaches and treatments for chronic and acute health issues.
“The oldest written evidence of medicinal plants’ usage for preparation of drugs has been found on a Sumerian clay slab from Nagpur, approximately 5000 years old. It comprised 12 recipes for drug preparation referring to over 250 various plants, some of them alkaloid such as poppy, henbane, and mandrake
The Chinese book on roots and grasses “Pen T’Sao,” written by Emperor Shen Nung circa 2500 BC, treats 365 drugs (dried parts of medicinal plants), many of which are used even nowadays such as the following: Rhei rhisoma, camphor, Theae folium, Podophyllum, the great yellow gentian, ginseng, jimson weed, cinnamon bark, and ephedra.”
Unlike a conventional medical approach, the emphasis in herbal medicine is typically on root cause of disease rather than signs and symptoms. Herbal professionals take into consideration the whole picture of health when treating health issues.
What are herbs?
The term herb refers to a seed-producing, typically flowering plant, possessing non-woody stems which diminish at the conclusion of the regional growing system where the herb resides.
The use of herbaceous plant parts to treat health conditions includes: roots, leaves, seeds, fruit of trees, flowering components, shrubs and woody vines. The extracts of these plants are valued for medicinal and aromatic qualities.
What are the healthful properties of herbs?
Herbs contain unique antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties from polyphenols, vitamins, phytochemicals, amino acids, saccharides, salicyclic acids, and minerals that are important in health maintenance and support of the body’s defense and repair mechanisms for illness and disease.
Some herbs such as garlic, eucalyptus, ginger, onions and others contain powerful anti-viral, anti-fungal and antiseptic properties that can aid in recovery from acute or chronic disease including infections, cold, flus and even degenerative disease such as auto-immune disorders or cancer.
Herbal medicine as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs
Over the past 100 years, the development and mass production of chemically synthesized drugs have revolutionized health care in most parts of the word. However, large sections of the population in developing countries still rely on traditional practitioners and herbal medicines for their primary care. In Africa up to 90% and in India 70% of the population depend on traditional medicine to help meet their health care needs. In China, traditional medicine accounts for around 40% of all health care delivered and more than 90% of general hospitals in China have units for traditional medicine (WHO 2005). However, use of traditional medicine is not limited to developing countries, and during the past two decades public interest in natural therapies has increased greatly in industrialized countries, with expanding use of ethnobotanicals. In the United States, in 2007, about 38% of adults and 12% of children were using some form of traditional medicine (Ernst, Schmidt, and Wider 2005; Barnes, Bloom, and Nahin 2008).
This nurse is an advocate of herbal remedies and treatments over pharmaceutical drugs. 80% of the world population uses plants as their primary medical care approach. She asserts that pharmaceutical substances will never mimic the complexity that plants have and offer to us. VIDEO
Types of herbs for healing and health conditions:
Supports function and detoxification of the digestive tract, especially the liver and gallbladder, for optimal digestive and overall health:
- Burdock root
- Milk Thistle
Anti-inflammatories / pain management and alleviation
For auto-immune disorders, related pain and inflammation due to chronic health issues
- Evening Primrose
- Devil’s Claw
- Dog rose
- Stinging nettle
- Cat’s claw
- Willow bark
- Maritime pine bark
Supports the body’s ability to maintain normal levels of insulin and enzyme production for digestive, metabolic and overall health
- Prickly Pear Cactus
- Russian tarragon
- Ivy gourd
- Bitter melon
- Various Traditional Chinese herbs
Immune support, cold, flu, infections
Used to support function of and strengthen the immune system
- Green tea
- Wild orange
- Holy basil
Brain function, cognitive function, memory, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons, neuro-development and support
- Lemon balm
- St. John’s Wort
- Gingko biloba
- Polygala tenuifolia
- Lycii fructus
- Sage (salvia)
- Huperzia serrat
Heart disease and cardiovascular disorders
Methods herbal medicine preparations
A medicinal preparation made by dissolving a plant in alcohol, usually grain-based.
A beverage, remedy or extract prepared by soaking leaves of a plant or herb in liquid.
Chopped or fresh-torn and partially dried leafy herbs to fill a container, and combined almost to the brim with some type of oil such as olive, jojoba, sunflower or almond oil and sealed with a lid for a period of weeks, usually 4- 6. When finished, the mixture will then be strained through a screen, sieve, or cheesecloth and the remaining oil can be used medicinally.
Use herbs in a jar, fill to the top with boiling water. Cap with a lid and steep for about 10 hours. Strain the herbs into a cup and store remaining liquid in refrigerator. Use tonic and drink daily for several days (use within 36 hours) to treat specific symptoms or conditions.
Melt desired cream in a double boiler, then add dried herbs. Stir mixture until cream takes on color of the added herbs. Remove mixture from heat and strain with sieve or mesh strainer. The remaining cream can be placed in a glass bowl for cooling. When cool, transfer to bottles, dark are best for preservation of herbal properties. Store bottles with herbal cream in a dark and cool location. Use cream within a years’ time.
Similar to a cream. Use a double boiler with bowl as holding mechanism for melting the chosen cream. Add herbs and simmer the mixture lowest possible heat for about a half hour. Strain the mixture and pour into a container. The mixture will thicken into an ointment as it cools. Store ointment in jars or other glass container in a cool location for 6 months to a year.
Dried herbs that are used in boiling water and steeped for 1-5 minutes, usually in a tea ball or tea bag. This is in contrast to a lengthier soak time as with infusions which typically last for several or more hours.
Resources for herbal medicine:
Studio Botanica, Carol Little, Traditional Herbalist
Recommended reading: Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs
Cover image by Paul Morris: https://unsplash.com/photos/d5xQVtmTUeo