Alternative Medicine - Herbal Medicines
Herbal medicine is the world's most ancient form of medicine. Every ancient civilisation used plants for healing and in many cultures herbal knowledge was said to have been handed down from the gods.
Herbal medicine is the oldest form of healthcare known to mankind. Herbs had been used by all cultures throughout history. It was an integral part of the development of modern civilization. Studies of herbs and their medicinal properties were prominent in the ancient civilisations of China, Egypt, Greece, Tibet, Persia and India. Much of this knowledge is still used today.
Herbal Medicine, sometimes referred to as Herbalism or Botanical Medicine, is the use of herbs for their therapeutic or medicinal value. An herb is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, aromatic or savory qualities. Herb plants produce and contain a variety of chemical substances that act upon the body.
Many well-established medicines come from plants. For example morphine comes from poppies, aspirin from willow bark, and digoxin (a treatment for an irregular heart beat) from foxgloves.
Traditional herbal medicine is just one of the many different approaches to using plants as remedies. Others include phytotherapy and Chinese herbal medicine. Traditional herbal medicine has been used in Britain for centuries and it remains popular, even in the era of scientific medicine and modern pharmaceuticals.
Like many complementary therapies, herbal medicine aims to be holistic - it aims to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms, and to encourage the body to heal itself. Herbal practitioners believe that the delicate chemical balance of the whole herb is needed for greatest effect and to reduce potential side-effects. Different parts of the same plant, such as the flowers or seeds, can have very different actions. Herbal medicine is not about isolating the active ingredients from a plant which is the way that conventional medicines are often derived.
Just because a herb is natural doesn't mean it's safe. Some plants are highly toxic if taken in large dosages, or may have side effects when combined with other herbs or medicines. Although some alternative herbal medicines, may be helpful for certain problems, this does not necessarily mean they are safe in all situations. They should not be used during pregnancy. Like any alternative medicine, herbal remedies can have side-effects and may interact with other drugs. So if you are thinking about using a herbal medicine it would be a good idea to check with your physician about possible adverse reactions and interactions with medications you may be taking before starting.
For a list of the most widely and commonly used herbal medicines, take a look at the left side of the menu.
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