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Herbal Medicine In Today’s World
Herbal medicine is gaining popularity with over 80% of the world’s population choosing to use herbs for some aspect of their primary health care according to the World Health Organization. Alternative medicine relies on more than a regular dosage of prescribed herbs for the treatment to be effective. A positive mental attitude, exercise and a proper diet are essential components of any health care plan that combines the use of an herbal supplement, alternative medicine and traditional approaches.
Evidence About the Effectiveness of Herbal Medicine
Countless studies have been performed in regards to the use of herbal supplements as well as their therapeutic benefits. The research has provided strong evidence that the use of herbal supplements and alternative medicine practices such as massage and meditation as well as a healthy diet can have a beneficial effect and lead to a healthier lifestyle.
Many of the drugs that are available today are of herbal origin. An estimated 25% of the prescription drugs that are currently dispensed in the United States contain at least one active ingredient that has been derived from plant material. When plant extracts are not used in pharmaceutical drugs there is a good chance that at least one ingredient has been chemically synthesized to mimic the properties of natural plant compounds. Modern medicine is so intertwined with herbal medicine that using the two together shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Some of the more common pharmaceutical drugs that are based on plant origins include Aspirin, Quinine and Digitalis. Herbs have undergone numerous studies and have been researched thoroughly since ancient Greek herbal medicine became the foundation for modern medicine.
When it comes to solid scientific proof though, evidence has been found that supports the claims that various herbal manufacturers make as to the effectiveness of herbs. There is no doubt given the definition of the word drug, which is any substance that has a physiological effect on the body, that herbal remedies do have some effect on the body. The amount of effectiveness and the safeness of the herbal formulation is what is under scrutiny. Numerous useful drugs have been derived from plant sources but so have alkaloid and other deadly poisons.
Is Herbal Medicine Right for You?
Even though herbal medicine is a very popular choice in today’s world, it may not be the right choice for you. The first step in making this decision is to talk to your health care provider. They know your medical history and can advise you on the best solutions. Many doctors are knowledgeable about herbs and other alternative methods of health care. If your doctor is not knowledgeable there is a possibility that they can refer you to someone who is.
Never mix herbs and pharmaceuticals without the advice of a health care practitioner. Remember, herbs are considered drugs by definition just as prescription medication is a drug. It is also important to do some research yourself on herbs. Gathering information on the natural herbal medicine that you are considering taking is just as important as taking the time to learn about pharmaceutical medication before you take it.
Many traditional health care providers use both alternative and traditional treatments because the role that traditional medicine typically plays is being changed as more people look for a natural approach to healing.
Alternative Medicine Through The Ages
Herbal medicine has been around since the beginning of time and predates modern medicine. Herbs have been used throughout history, even before the records of their use were found. This fact has been proven during archaeological digs where human bones were found with herbs carefully tucked around them. Practically every culture has used herbs to heal various ailments, from physical to psychological.
Throughout the millennia herbal medicine has been defined as the use of herbs for the medicinal or therapeutic benefits. The parts used vary from plant to plant but can include the plants seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark or flowers. Herbal medicine, which has been around much longer than conventional medicine, is becoming a mainstream alternative. The popularity of herbal medicine has made some doctor’s today decide to use a combination of both conventional and alternative medicine to treat their patient’s ailments. In the previous millennia herbal medicine was the standard.
Ancient Greek Herbal Medicine
Ancient Greek herbal medicine is considered as the foundation of modern medicine. The ancient Greek society had doctors, surgeons and even gynecologists. The ancient Greeks were the first culture that was known to apply scientific thinking to the art of healing. Herbs were used as medicine, even during surgery. The Greeks had extensive knowledge of herbs and their healing properties making ancient Greek herbal medicine a storehouse of knowledge. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine and an ancient Greek, described many diseases and their treatment in a scientific manner.
Disease and Healing Practices
The ancient Greeks believed that disease was an affliction that was carried out by the gods as a sort of reprimand. Even in today’s modern culture, some people still believe that disease is still divine in origin. Hippocrates is credited with changing the spiritually based ancient Greek herbal medicine practices to a system that is based on logic and observation. When the Romans conquered Greece, the Roman Catholic Church supported Hippocratic medicine which helped establish the theories of the ancient Greek medicine. This establishment of medical beliefs became the basis for medical advancements throughout the world.
Centuries Old Chinese Practices Of Herbal Medicine
The traditional herbal medicine Chinese use includes a variety of techniques such as herbal formulations and acupuncture. The Chinese system of growing, processing as well as the clinical usage of herbs is referred to as the Chinese herbal sciences. The herbal medicine Chinese use has a 2,000 year history that includes continual evolution and refinement.
History of Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbal medicine has been firmly established since 200 BC, however a listing of medicinal herbs and formulations were not developed until the first century AD. During the Ming Dynasty (1152-1578), a classic book on medicinal herbs, which lists nearly 2,000 different herbs and extracts, was written by Li Shi-Zhen. When Western conventional medicine began spreading to the East many of the traditional herbal medicines began to be regarded as folklore. Interesting enough the Chinese government has supported the use of both traditional and Western medicine since 1949. Traditional Chinese medicine began to gain popularity in the United States during the 1970’s after President Richard Nixon paid a visit to China and continues to remain a popular alternative today.
What Makes Chinese Herbal Science So Unique
In reality, there is nothing special about herbal medicine Chinese use because many of them are imported from other countries. What is special about it is the science behind the herbs. What makes Chinese herbal science unique is that it integrates the patient’s sensations and perceptions with the perceptions of the herbalist perceptions and experience to arrive at a common sense solution. Chinese herbology is considered one of the most sophisticated systems in the world when it comes to analyzing both clinical indicators and patterns of symptoms with repeatability and consistency.
Properly trained Chinese herbalists follow several essential techniques which then allow them to tailor herbal formulas to each individual body characteristic in addition to the primary symptoms and chief complaints. For example, the palpation of the radial pulse is monitored at several positions and depths on both wrists. The tongue is inspected for overall color, thickness, distribution of the tongue coating as well as color and texture of the tongue tissue. The tongue is inspected using a bright, full-spectrum lamp so the herbalist is sure that they do not misinterpret what they see. Besides inquiring about the patient’s main complaint and the symptoms they are currently experiencing, the Chinese herbalist will also ask about the patient’s metabolic and neuroendocrine characteristics.
These characteristics include the patient’s appetite, general energy level, current moods, mental states, thirst, urination and bowel movements as well as their perception of their body heat or coolness. The crucial philosophical and scientific difference between the Chinese herbal sciences and traditional Western medicine is that Chinese herbalists do not recommend herbal formulations that are based solely on the chief complaint. The formulations are not based on the medical condition that a physician may have diagnosed either.
When it comes to herbal medicine, Chinese style techniques work to improve the patients overall health by attempting to restore balance to the body. Because all the body’s components are interdependent, the entire range of symptoms and clinical signs must be considered in determining a strategy for restoring the patient’s health. In the practice of herbal medicine, Chinese herbalists believe that the use of herbal medicine for treatment helps restore the body’s balance, resulting in the patient being healthier in mind, body and soul.
Focus Of Chinese Herbal Medicine
Maintaining health by restoring the balance of energy, body and spirit is the main focus of Chinese herbal medicine. The difference between the methods of Chinese herbal medicine and traditional methods is that instead of using the herbs to treat a particular disease or condition, the herbs are used to nourish the body.
Traditional Chinese alternative medicine practitioners believe that imbalances in the body can be detected by the appearance of the skin, hair, tongue, eyes, pulse and can be heard in the voice. Treatment for these imbalances include the use of a variety of herbs, in different combinations as required by the individual’s needs, to help restore balance to the body. These combinations of herbs are created to treat the main complaint or patterns of the patient’s symptoms instead of the underlying cause.
The Make-up of Chinese Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine is administered in numerous ways, from teas to powders, pills, tinctures and syrups. Herbal formulations typically contain anywhere from four to twelve different plant based ingredients. In China there are over 3,200 different herbs to choose from. There are over 300 different mineral and animal extracts available. Currently there are over 400 different herbal formulations that are used. To make these formulations effective, one or two herbs are chosen that will have the greatest impact on the major aspects of the problem. The other herbs that are used in the formulation work in a variety of ways from treating the minor aspects of the formula to helping the other herbs work more effectively. The minor herbs also help direct the herbal formula to specific parts of the body.
Traditional Chinese medicine can be used in conjunction with traditional medical practices provided you choose a health care practitioner that is knowledgeable in both fields. As with any medicine there are side effects and possible drug interactions, so before deciding that Chinese herbal medicine is right for you, talk to your health care provider.
Farm grown herbs are favored over wild-crafted herbs, which are herbs that grow naturally without human intervention, because farm grown herbs can be certified organic. With the herbs that grow in the wild, there is no way to know if the herbs have been sprayed with chemicals or other contaminants. Once the decision has been made between wild-crafted and farm raised herbs, the next decision is choosing what form of herbs suits your needs the best. The main forms that herbs are available in are fresh, dried, tablets, capsules and bottled as a liquid. The quality of the herbs is more important than the form the herbs are in. The higher quality the herbs are, the more potent their medicinal values will be.
Chinese Herbal Medicine Shops
Many Chinese herbal medicine shops offer natural products and alternative medical practices that help customers maintain their health by restoring the balance of energy, body and spirit.
Chinese herbal medicine shops have changed very little over the centuries. Today’s herb shops still contain row after row of herbs in jars and various containers, herbal soaps, teas and other health related items. Some herbal shops are decorated with items such as dried sea horses, snake skins, bones, dried mushrooms as well as other mysterious substances to give their shop a mysterious, old world look. The herbs that are available at most Chinese herbal medicine shops can range from the very common to the extremely rare with price tags to match.
What to Expect in a Chinese Herbal Medicine Shop
When a person enters an herbal shop looking for a cure for a certain ailment, an herbalist, a book or sometimes both, is consulted. Once it is determined what herbs are needed, the herbs are weighted out in individual doses and given to the customer in raw form. The customer pays for the herbs they have chosen and then takes them home. Then the customer can convert the dried herbs into whatever form they wish from pills to tinctures.
Some Chinese herbal medicine shops have herbalists on staff that can help the customer by asking about their symptoms and then preparing an herbal formulation that is specifically for them. This is generally a better way to go, especially if you are not sure of the proper combination of herbs or the right dosage amounts. Besides offering a wide variety of herbs, the help of an herbalist or knowledgeable staff, some Chinese herbal medicine shops offer massage therapy, acupuncture or other forms of alternative medicine in a separate room of the shop.
Herbal Medicine Supplements
Herbal supplements, alternative medicine practices and healthier food choices aim to promote a feeling of a general well-being that most people do not feel when they use pharmaceutical drugs. When combined with traditional medicine, it can provide a more complete health care regimen.
Not everyone who chooses to use an herbal supplement, alternative medicine or other non-traditional approaches will completely turn away from traditional medical care, nor should it be that way. Traditional Western medicine has its place in society, just as herbs have their place. When the scientific methods work together, a greater good can come about. Alternative medicine practices on the other hand, such as massage therapy, meditation, acupuncture or Reiki can make one feel good immediately and generally do not have any side effects associated with them, although rare cases have occurred where there have been side effects.
Regardless of the approach you decide to take when it comes to herbal supplements and alternative medicine practices, it is good to find a licensed health care provider in your area that understands your choice and is knowledgeable about the use of alternative methods of healing. There is no reason why a patient cannot use an herbal supplement, alternative medicine and traditional health care together and still be treated by one physician who understands how these practices work together to create a healthier lifestyle for their patients.
Approved Philippine Herbal Medicine Supplements
Philippine herbal medicine supplements that have been approved by the Philippine Department of Heath are also endorsed by them. The parts of the plants used vary greatly but can include the seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark or flowers.
Herbal Medicine Endorsement Program
Currently, there are several herbs that have been tested in the Philippines and have been clinically proven to have enough medicinal value to offer relief or treatment for various ailments. Below is a list of herbs that are commonly used:
- Allium sativum – Commonly known as bawang or garlic, lowers the risk of further heart attacks in myocardial infarct patients and helps to control blood pressure because it helps reduce cholesterol in the blood. Garlic has many medicinal properties besides the ones above. It is also a stimulant, diuretic and has antiseptic properties.
- Blumea balsamifera – Commonly known as sambong, helps with the dissolution of urinary stones, is a cure for colds and is an expectorant. Sambong is one of the most commonly used herbs in Philippines.
- Cassia alata – Commonly known as akapulko, ringworm bush or bayabas-bayabasan, has anti-fungal properties and is a common ingredient in shampoos, lotions and soaps. It is also used to treat ringworms and fungal infections in skin.
- Clinopodium douglasii – Commonly known as peppermint or yerba Buena, helps relieve the body of aches and pains, is an aphrodisiac, a blood purifier and is often used as a treatment for insomnia, colds and fevers.
- Ehretia microphylla – Commonly known as tsaang gubat, is used as a mouth wash, an antispasmodic, for colic and cough and is effective in treating intestinal motility.
- Momordica charantia – Commonly known as ampalaya, bitter gourd or bitter melon, is used as a treatment for diabetes in non-insulin dependent patients. It is also believed to help inhibit HIV-1 infection and has been known to act as an anti-tumor agent.
- Peperomia pellucida – Commonly known as ulasimang bato or pansit-pansitan, is used for fighting arthritis and gout, is an anti-inflammatory and has analgesic properties.
- Psidium guajava – Commonly known as bayabas or guava, can be used to treat tooth decay, gum infection, diarrhea, sore throats, to disinfect wounds and as an antiseptic. It is best to eat guava fresh.
- Quisqualis indica – Commonly called niyog-niyogan or Chinese honeysuckle, helps eliminate intestinal worms, treats skin diseases, fever and diarrhea.
- Vitex negundo – Commonly called lagundi or chaste tree, helps relive coughs, disperses the swelling of joints in rheumatism, helps with burns and scalds and is also used to help relieve asthma. It is the second most important treatment for chronic bronchitis in Chinese medicine.
Philippine herbal medicine is no different than any other herbal medicine, the common name may change, but the medicinal properties of the herbs do not.