Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine to heal the body

The known use of medicinal herbs dates back to the beginning of recorded history and most authorities assume that there has always been consumption of herbs by humans for their curative properties based on observation of animals in the wild. Leading zoologists are aware that animals have an instinctive attraction to plants which contains natural medicines and healing properties and the animals seem to know when to ingest them. Herbs are truly “nature’s pharmacy” and many of the most common and effective medications used today had their origins as plant and herb extracts. As examples, the heart medication digitalis comes from the herb foxglove; quinine, a treatment for malaria, comes from the bark of the chinchona tree; a form of aspirin is found in white willow bark; many narcotic pain killers can be refined from the opium poppy. The list goes on and on.

Phytopharmocology, which is the study of medicinal plants and their extracts has experienced greatly renewed interest over the past few years. Research projects in the rainforests of South America are discovering herbal medicines that are available nowhere else in the world. Investigators are developing relationships with tribal doctors, “medicine men”, who, despite their primitive methods by modern standards, are incredibly knowledgeable and may even hold some of the keys to curing cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses that continue to baffle “modern” medicine. Interestingly, research is showing that in their natural state, many herbal medicines are quite complex and occur with chemical “checks and balances” which may make them safer than the very concentrated way in which modern drugs and medicines are manufactured.

While medicinal herbs have always been a mainstay of medical practice in many “third world” cultures, especially China, currently, there is an increased interest and use of medicinal and nutrient herbs by the general public in this country. Of particular popularity are Ginkgo Biloba, which increases brain circulation and seems to improve memory, St. John’s Wort which has anti-anxiety properties without the dangers of popular drugs prescribed for stress and depression, Dong Quai (Angelica root) for menstrual disorders, Ma Huang (Ephedra)* which is used in appetite control and for sinusitis, and Senna leaves which have a laxative effect. There are so many more which deserve mentioning, but the real point is that herbs are for many people an untapped resource for improved health and it is my belief that the near future will find herbs to be a common feature in everyone’s pantry and bathroom cabinet.

* This herb has been known to interact adversely with certain other medications and should not be taken by individuals with a history of high blood pressure, glaucoma, or prostate enlargement. Herbal medicines, like all medicines, should be taken only under the advice and supervision of a qualified health professional.

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