What is Herbal Medicine?
Herbal medicine is the oldest form of medicine known to mankind and is still the most widely used form of treatment. According to the World Health Organisation, up to 80% of the world’s population depends on herbal remedies for primary healthcare. In addition, many drugs currently used in orthodox medical systems have their roots in traditional plant remedies.
Modern research increasingly supports the efficacy and safety of herbal preparations in restoring the body’s natural function. Herbs contain a wide array of complex chemical constituents which produce positive health benefits with fewer side effects than orthodox drugs that are based on isolated compounds.
Medical herbalists are trained in Western orthodox medical diagnosis but prescribe plant-based medicines for their patients. The majority of herbs used are European; nevertheless, herbs from North America and Asia are included when they are considered the most effective option. A unique combination of herbs is prescribed to suit the individual requirements of each patient. The herbs may be changed as the therapy proceeds.
Herbal medicine can be taken internally in different forms such as:
- Infusions – made by pouring boiling water over leaves or flowers
- Decoctions – made by boiling barks or roots in water
- Tinctures - prepared by extracting plant parts with a mixture of alcohol and water
- Tablets – made by compressing dried herbs or dried extracts of herbs.
For external application of herbs, creams, ointments and poultices are commonly used.
The gentle nature and effectiveness of herbal medicine can be used for a wide range of ailments. In particular, substantial clinical evidence exists for the benefits of herbal remedies for the following conditions:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Functional dyspepsia
- Back pain
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Acute infections such as uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infections, common cold and rhinosinusitis