Herbal medicine is the safe use of plant and herb extracts for their therapeutic value. Most plants contain and produce chemical substances that aid in healing and other physical treatments.
Proper and safe use of herbal remedies and medicine have been practiced for years. Some plants - Some Herbs - contain deadly poisonous chemicals!
This is not scaremongering, it is FACT. For instance, the common Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) which is often mentioned as a herb, contains a potentially lethal substances:
Digitalin, which is a very powerful heart stimulant and digitoxin - a digitalis preparation used to treat congestive heart failure or cardiac arrhythmia. However, used properly then Herbal medicines and remedies are safe.
Agatha Christie well knew the lethal properties of the common foxglove! She knew that the young foliage of the Foxglove is very similar in appearance to the rather delicious (in salads) Comfrey which relieves anxiety attacks fast without side effects! Both plants often grow side by side in old cottage-style gardens! It proved to be a very effective manner in which to kill off one of her many unfortunate victims! In this case - Herbal Medicine was Not Safe!
Echinacea | Hypericum - St johns Wort |Crataegus - Hawthorn
Nevertheless, herbal medicine and its safe use is our oldest and most reliable form of healthcare. It got us all where we are today! Most modern drugs are based upon chemicals obtained, or synthesised from plants. For instance, the humble willow tree is the forerunner of aspirin - containing Salicylates from the bark of the willow (Salix). Cows are well aware of this, and often seek out a willow when they have a headache! (Now there's a thought - a cow with a headache! But perhaps we have something to learn from them about safe use of herbal medicine!)
Just to prove that some cows do get headaches. The cow got out ok!
Back in the days when technology was unheard of, primitive men - and women - used the vast array of plants around them to the fullest extent, observing both plant and animal life and their components, eventually giving birth to herbal medicine. This is still the case in many areas of the world today.
A study by the World Health Organization on herbal medicine use, found that about 80% of the world's populace still rely on herbal medicine to cure certain ailments and approximately 74% of the drugs we use today contain at least one botanical element.
Herbal medicine is, first and foremost, holistic. It aims to address not just a particular symptom, but also to help the whole body rejuvenate strengthen itself in a safe manner. Whilst there is no scientific evidence that all herbal medicines have healing powers, a number herbal medicines that have been placed under clinical testing have proved their worth. The list of known kinds includes Echinacea, which is used to temper colds, St John's wort, used to treat mild depression (without using Prozac), and hawthorn berries, which help in the recovery process from mild heart failures. All of these are safe herbal medicines.
Herbal medicines are still medicines and share the likelihood of having side effects as regular commercial drugs. Some of us have this misconception that because herbal medicines are natural, they are 100% safe. This is not true all the time!