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Healing The Mind, Body and Soul
Alternative medicine centers on healing the mind, body and soul, instead of focusing on healing one major illness like pharmaceutical medicines do. It is easier today than ever before to find health care providers that use both alternative and traditional treatments. This makes it possible for people who want to use a combination of herbal medicine and prescription drugs to get sound advice from their medical care provider.
Herbal Medicine vs. Pharmaceutical Medicine
The majority of traditional pharmaceutical medications on the market today are based on a variety of different active ingredients that are found naturally in plants; however, the minor ingredients that the plants contain are left out. Pharmaceutical medications are typically formulated to treat one specific illness.
On the other hand, herbal formulations, in their natural form, contain numerous minor ingredients that work in conjunction with their main ingredient. These minor ingredients help support the function of the main ingredient as well as help the herbs get to the parts of the body where they are needed.
Long term use of alternative herbal medicine should be avoided because it can result in the body becoming immune to the herbs in the same way the body can become immune to pharmaceutical medicines. Once the body becomes immune to either a pharmaceutical or herbal medication, it will either lose some of its effectiveness or not work at all. There is also a chance that the herbs could build up in the body, the same way pharmaceutical medications can, and cause various side effects.
Today’s health care professionals are finally coming to an understanding that it is possible for alternative medicine and traditional Western medicine to work together hand-in-hand, in part, because their patients are seeking a more natural way to deal with their health care concerns.
Herbal Medicine and Natural Healing
With a good chunk of the world’s population using herbal medicine as one aspect of their primary health care, it is no wonder that alternative medical techniques are gaining so much popularity. But are herbal remedies and alternative medicine techniques based on hype or are they the real deal?
Hype or Fact – A Closer Look at Herbal Medicine
There are numerous advantages and some obvious disadvantages of herbal medicine such as the fact that herbs should not be used for long term care and you still need to talk to your health care provider about interactions with pharmaceutical drugs, correct dosage amounts and various other concerns. However, if you really want a more natural approach to health care, here are just a few of the reasons why herbal medicine is so popular.
When it comes to herbal medicines, advantages include the fact that they are cost effective and convenient. Herbal medicines are generally less expensive than their pharmaceutical counterparts. Herbs have an absence of serious side effects when compared to pharmaceuticals, they are widely available and simple to prepare. Finally, when it comes to our bodies, pharmaceuticals introduce completely new molecules which can lead to complications.
The effectiveness of numerous herbal medicines have been proven through research, and when you consider the fact that many of our pharmaceutical drugs have key ingredients that come from herbs in the first place, it is easier to see that herbal medicines are more than just hype.
Herbal Medicine and Psychiatric Disorders
The potential for treatment as well as increasing use of herbal medicine, and psychiatric disorders patients wanting to use alternative treatment options have lead to the need for psychiatrists to become more familiar with the effects of herbal medicines. Mental health professionals not only need to know what the herbs are but also their contraindications, side effects and risks. Four of the most popular herbs, kava, ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, and valerian, are commonly used for as alternative herbal treatment for psychiatric symptoms.
Ginkgo has been used for more than 2,000 years in China. The Chinese use ginkgo as a tea that is used to treat asthma. In the United States it is used to prevent or treat memory problems and is one of the top three best selling herbal products on the market. Gingko has also been found to be useful in treating patients for disorientation, especially the elderly, treating mild to moderate depression and the vertigo. It is believed that ginkgo works as a circulatory aid which helps to increase blood flow to the brain and is being studied as a possible treatment for cerebral insufficiency.
Kava, piper methysticum, is typically used to reduce anxiety, relieve stress or tension and treat insomnia. The active natural ingredient in kava, named as kavapyrones, has been proven to relax muscles, functions as an anticonvulsant, protects against strychnine poisoning and reduces limbic system excitability. When it comes to herbal medicine and psychiatric disorders, kava certainly comes to the rescue. South Pacific Islanders have used a mildly psychoactive beverage made from the rhizome of the kava plant for centuries to help them relax or induce a sense of calmness. Kava should not be used by anyone taking CNS depressants or alcohol.
St. John’s Wort
St. Johns Wort is the second most commonly purchased herbal product in the United States with a certain percentage of the American population using some type of product that has St. John’s wort in it. St. John’s wort is a very popular choice for herbal medicine and psychiatric disorders treatment. Although St. John’s wort is commonly used to treat depression, it has other useful properties as well such as being used as a topical treatment for nerve or muscle pain, skin inflammation, wounds and burns.
The chemical make-up of the plant is the reason why St. John’s wort has been successful in supporting depression related medical conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and PMS symptoms. St. John’s wort has also been used as an alternative herbal treatment for patients with hysteria or nervous depression.
Valerian is typically used for patient’s who have sleep problems. This herbal medication has been found to decrease sleep latency, reduce the occurence of the patient waking up at night and improve their overall sleep quality. When it comes to herbal medicine and psychiatric disorders, valerian should not be used as a long term remedy because it can lead to mental depression. As a temporary herbal alternative, however, valerian is a strong nervine which is deemed to be helpful for insomnia.
The use of herbal medicine for psychiatric disorders is growing rapidly making it imperative for mental health professionals to learn about their treatment potential, side effects and possible drug interactions to stay on top of the growing demand from their patients for herbal medicine.
Herbal Medicine For Anxiety and Stress
When it comes to choosing herbal medicine for anxiety there are numerous herbs to choose from, however the herbs alone will not totally reduce the anxiety. The herbs should be used in conjunction with stress relieving techniques for maximum effectiveness. When your body is under stress, it is more vulnerable to free radical damage. Herbal medicine for anxiety should contain natural ingredients such as bilberry, ginkgo biloba or milk thistle which contain flavonoids that help neutralize free radicals in addition to stress relieving herbs such as kava or valerian, which are two of the main herbal medicines used for anxiety.
Stress Relieving Techniques
When using herbal medicine for anxiety it is important that it is not used on a long term basis because the medicinal properties the herbs contain can build up in your system causing unexpected side effects or the herbal formulations to stop working. Taking an herbal medicine for anxiety is not much different than taking a pharmaceutical medicine when it comes to learning relaxation techniques.
To relieve stress it takes more than just a medication. Relaxation techniques should also be incorporated into the therapy. A change in lifestyle that can include the addition of meditation or an increase in positive activities that you enjoy participating in can help relieve anxiety. Sometimes stress relief is simply a matter of taking a relaxing bath filled with essential oils such as clary-sage, rosemary, peppermint or lavender. These essential oils, alone or in combination, are great for reducing anxiety and inducing a sense of calm.
Other natural ways of dealing with anxiety include laughter, journaling and getting a massage. When you use any of these stress relieving techniques in combination with herbal medicine for anxiety you are sure to come out a winner.
A Balanced Sense of Well Being
The use of an herbal medicine for anxiety as well as other non-traditional health care practices such as massage and meditation are getting more attention and acceptance. Countless studies have been performed in regards to the use of herbal supplements as well as their therapeutic benefits. Research has provided strong evidence that the use of herbal medicine for anxiety, alternative medicine practices as well as a healthy diet have a beneficial effect which leads to a healthier lifestyle that promotes a feeling of general well-being that most people do not feel when they use pharmaceutical drugs.
Herbal Medicine For Hepatitis B
The use of herbal medicine for hepatitis B virus is not surprising given the fact that Chinese doctors had knowledge of a disease that corresponded to the hepatitis B infection over 1,800 years ago. Hepatitis B is a serious virus that is responsible for serious morbidity and mortality. Hepatitis B is found in 95% of liver cancer patients in Southeast China. Because of the high risk of infection over an individual’s lifetime, it is a common practice in the United States to inoculate newborns against hepatitis B.
Effective Herbal Medicine for Hepatitis B Infection
When it comes to using herbal medicine for hepatitis B infection, there are several herbs that have been proven to work. Glycyrrhiza, schizandra, salvia, polygonum, curcumna, ligustrum and silybum are all important herbal components when it comes to creating a protocol for treatment of the hepatitis B infection. Each plant contains substances that work to treat some component of the disease, when they work together they become highly effective in treating hepatitis B.
- Curcuma, or yujin as it is known, is one of the three major species used in Chinese herbal medicine which is used as an antiviral remedy against hepatitis B virus.
- Glycyrrhiza uralensis, also known as licorice root, was one of the ingredients in the herbal medicine for hepatitis B virus that Chinese herbalists used in ancient times. It is an antioxidant, promotes production of interleukin-2 (IL-2) and is a useful compound for inhibiting HIV infection of cells.
- Ligustrum lucidum, rich in oleanolic acid, is effective at treating both acute and chronic hepatitis. Patients who have used ligustrum have had a 70% cure rate for acute hepatitis and a 44% cure rate for chronic hepatitis. In the United States, ligustrum is used as a health food to enhance immune functions.
- Polygonum cuspidatum, also known as Hu-Chang, is commonly used to help patients who have been treated with Western medicine for severe viral hepatitis and did not recover. It can be used alone or be used as part of an herbal formula. It is believed to have a greater impact on acute hepatitis but is used as a treatment for chronic hepatitis.
- Salvia, when used individually or as a component of an herbal medicine for hepatitis B virus infection, is used for treating both acute and chronic hepatitis. It is one of the most frequently used herbs in the modern practice of Chinese herbal medicine.
- Schizandra sinensis is considered to be a safe food product in China and is also highly used in the United States for immune enhancement and as an energy tonic. Schizandrin has been proven to cure a good percentage of clinical cases of anicteric infective hepatitis within three months time. In addition it is used for the treatment of chronic hepatitis.
- Silybum marianum is a complex flavonoid whose extracts are sold in the United States. It is used to protect the liver from damage.
Clinical studies conducted in China show that a twelve week treatment period using herbal medicine for hepatitis B virus is satisfactory.
Infertility and Herbal Medicine
If you are considering in vitro fertilization or IVF, herbal medicine can be used three to six months prior to the IVF treatment. Chinese herbal medicine practices such as acupuncture increase the chances of pregnancy when used before the IVF treatments. The success rate of IVF conception without acupuncture was 26.3% and with acupuncture it went up to 42.5% according to the results published in the fertility and sterility survey conducted by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Infertility and Alternative Medicine
Historically, mental stress, was thought to be the cause of infertility. Modern research has shown that mental stress has very little to do with the actual cause of infertility, however, it cannot be ruled out because according to a study done at Harvard University stress can reduce the hypothalamic-anterior pituitary-ovarian axis function. Stress should not be overlooked as a possible cause of infertility during the initial workup nor should it be considered the only contributing factor.
Over the past twenty years traditional medicine has discovered a new field, psychoneuroimmunology, which focuses on how your mind can affect your body. This new principle that the thoughts and feelings of an individual can affect their physical health is a conviction that has always been a part of alternative medicine, possibly this belief is why herbal ?edicine works.
Infertility Treatments and IVF
Acupuncture has been proven to increase the success rate of infertility treatments and IVF. Herbal medicine has also been used with success in the treatment of infertility for thousands of years. It is suspected that the acupuncture needles were pointed at areas that influenced reproductive factors which is why it was so successful. For example, the acupuncture points that were selected were believed to increase the blood flow to the uterus, relax the uterus, stabilize the endocrine systems and improve the flow of energy to the abdomen which resulted in a higher rate of pregnancy.
The exact mechanisms of herbal medicine are not completely understood at this time but it is believed that the formulation of herbs specific to the needs of the patient is one reason why herbal medicine works. Be advised, however, that these formulations should only be prescribed by a board-certified herbalist to help ensure that the combinations and amounts of herbs taken are absolutely safe.
First Three to Six Months
The recommended waiting time for IVF to take place after alternative medicine is administered is three to six months. During the three to six month preparation period, lots of changes are taking place in the body that will make the IVF to have a higher rate of success. Ovarian function will be improved which results in better quality eggs and more follicles. The estrogen and progesterone levels are regulated, resulting in the uterus lining thickening which makes implantation easier. The immune system is strengthened, stress is reduced and the patient relaxes making the possibility of miscarriage less likely, but most important of all, the root cause of the infertility is treated.
When considering IVF, herbal medicine options should be discussed with your health care practitioner if this is an option you wish to pursue in your quest for fertility.
Herbal Sexual Medicine
When it comes to herbal sexual medicine, it is important to understand the working principles of the chemical compounds that are found in herbs. It is also important to know what part of the human body those ingredients have an effect on. Herbal sexual medicine can stimulate the neural system, improve blood circulation, stimulate tissue growth or regeneration, stimulate sexual feelings or stimulate the production of hormones. Herbal sexual medicine can be purchased in the form of tea, pills, tincture or even loose herbs.
Types of Herbal Sexual Medicine
There are six general kinds of herbal sexual medicine on the market today and each one does something different. It is important to know what you want the medicine to do as well as know something about the various herbs that the medicine contains. The six types of herbal sexual medicine currently available claim to do the following:
- Increase sexual desire
- Increase feelings in the genitals
- Offer better sexual performance
- Offer better lubrication
- Increase the strength or the size of the genitals
- Increase fertility
About the Herbs
Sexually stimulating herbs typically work on both men and women although there are some that work better on a man than a woman. Many times, sexually stimulating herbs will stimulate the human organism at more than one point which means they will have various effects. Here are a few of the most common herbs used in herbal sexual medicine:
- Catuaba, which stimulates the central nervous system, especially the functions that control sexual response, is the most important sexually stimulating plant in South America. It has also been used as an aphrodisiac by the Indians.
- Cayenne pepper, a common spice, stimulates tissue regeneration and growth. Because of this it is believed that cayenne can make the sexual organs stronger and more efficient.
- Damiana is especially effective for women because it strengthens and stimulates the female hormone progesterone.
- Epidemium, or horny goat weed as it is commonly called, is an East Asian herb that is used to stimulate the sensorial bodies in the sexual organs. This increases sperm production, improves fertility and induces stronger sexual feelings.
- Ginseng stimulates and normalizes the blood flow in the sexual organs. It also stimulates sperm production which results in stronger arousal, better genital functions and stronger physical feelings.
- Hawthorn fruits stimulates blood circulation which in turn improves sexual functions.
- Peppermint stimulates the secretion of lubricating substances in the genital system.
Herbal sexual medicine, as with any herbal or pharmaceutical medication, should be used under the supervision of a health care provider and should not be used long term.
Chinese Herbal Medicine For Hair Loss
Chinese herbal medicine hair loss treatments include alternative techniques such as massage and meditation in addition to herbal formulations that are designed to help hair re-growth. One of the most common herbs used is the root of a common vine, polygoni multiflorum, also known as Foti or He Shou Wu. The common name of Old Mr. He refers to a story about an older villager who became lost in the woods. It is said that he survived by eating the root of polygoni multiflorum. When he was finally rescued by members of his village, his white hair had turned black and his youthful appearance and vitality had returned. This story has made polygoni multiflorum the traditional herb for Chinese herbal medicine used in hair loss formulas.
Causes of Hair Loss
Hair loss happens when the flow of blood to the scalp is compromised. This is known as a blood deficiency and happens when the blood lacks nourishing components. The Chinese belief is that healthy hair depends on an abundant flow of qi, which is the body’s energies, electrical, chemical, magnetic and radiant properties. Qi means “air” and it can be figuratively translated as “material energy”, “life force”, or “energy flow”. Qi is the fundamental principle in Chinese traditional medicine as well as Chinese martial arts.
According to the Chinese, a restrained flow of qi occurs when stress and emotional constraints are present. This restricts the flow of blood and qi to the chest, neck, shoulders, face and head. The flow can be restored through the use of alternative herbal medicine such as massage, meditation, relaxation techniques and herbal formulations. Besides blood flow and qi, sometimes genetic factors such as weak or tiny blood vessels can play a part in hair loss.
Herbs for External Use
If you prefer not to take herbal medicine internally, there are several external options that are widely used to treat hair loss. Aloe vera, onion, red pepper and safflower oil are popular herbal remedies for hair loss that are used externally.
- Allium cepa, commonly known as an onion, has a high sulfer content which is believed to help hair heal.
- Aloe vera gel activates the production of nitric oxide. Aloe vera gel also contains an enzyme known as superoxide dismutane. Together these two substances stimulate hair re-growth. Aloe vera gel is especially effective on men who are losing their hair due to the male pattern type of baldness.
- Red pepper, when used on the scalp, is believed to help draw blood and nutrients to the scalp. It is believed this helps encourage the release of histamines which help to stimulate cell division and hair growth.
- Safflower oil is believed to help dilate the blood vessels which allows more blood and nutrients to reach the hair follicles.
Chinese herbal medicine techniques for hair loss have been used for centuries but whether they will work in your case is not known. However, historical data seems to prove there is a good chance that they will.
With more people turning away from pharmaceutical drugs because of their possible side effects or the desire to improve their health in a more natural way, the use of herbal supplements, alternative medicine and other non-traditional health care practices are increasing in popularity. However, you should also keep in mind that while herbal medicines are natural products, they may also produce unwanted effects such as allergic reactions, rashes, headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and other complications that can range from mild to severe. So you should always check with your health care professional before you start using herbal medicine for any reason.