Herbal Medicine is the use of any of several traditional medical systems (European, Traditional Chinese, Ayuvedic) that uses plant extracts to manage Medical Conditions.
How much Evidence is there for Herbal Treatments?
Answering this question depends upon what you accept as evidence. There is less scientific evidence for the use of herbal therapies than more modern interventions, although the proof is growing. However, it is often suggested that herbal therapies are derived from up to 4000 years of traditional usage and therefore should be accepted as proven on these grounds.
It should also be remembered that many pharmaceutical medicines have been derived from herbal medicine such as aspirin from Willow bark and Digitalis from fox glove.
What Herbs should I use?
This will depend upon your Medical Condition or Dysfunction. Review these in the appropriate section.
Is there any Problem with combined Nutritional/Herbal Supplementation?
No. Many of the best function or disease specific formulae mix the best of herbs and nutritional supplements specific to a particular condition.
What about the Standards of Herbal Medicine Products?
Unfortunately these can be less than ideal depending upon the manufacturer, which is why quality products need to be chosen.
Whilst knowing that a herb may be effective is helpful, the extracted component of the herb in a supplement must be the active ingredient appropriate to the Medical Condition treated. For instance, different effectiveness is found for Echinacea augustifolia compared to Echinacea purpurea, as well as the aerial component of the herb compared to the root component.
The extract must also be proven to effectively cross into the body and avoid degradation during its first pass of the liver.
So you should Purchase a Quality Product?
Yes, or an extract formulated by a quality herbalist. Like nutritional supplementation, ‘Practitioner Only’ supplementation provides a higher standard of care that you should be able to trust.
If you do purchase from a Health food store, discuss with the retailer which product has the highest quality. Paying a little more for a quality product may mean the difference between positive health benefits and a herb formula that is ineffective.
Are Traditionally Blended Products Acceptable?
They may be as varied and safe as the integrity and the training of the practitioner. Quite often, however, there is very little regulation of the imported raw ingredients, so a risk does exist.
What about a Herbal "Multivitamin"?
Herbal multivitamins can be effective, particularly for women’s health where the benefits of specific herbs are known. However, herbal multivitamins can be difficult to assess for drug-herb interactions due to the complexity of their broad range of ingredients.
Can Herbs be Dangerous?
Rarely on their own, but there are problems that exist due to the possibility of drug-herb-nutrient interaction.
For instance, on its own, St John’s Wort has proven effectiveness in the treatment of mild to moderate Depression, however it risks interacting with both the SSRI and MAO anti-depression drugs.
For this reason, if you use prescription medicine of any type you must have your Doctor review any risk of drug-herb interactions.
Are there Fresh Herbs and Spices you can Use?
Yes, but in general you need to consume a lot of a single herb to achieve the same result as an equivalent herbal extract. Herbs and spices that are valuable in your diet include crushed garlic cloves, crushed ginger, powdered turmeric, fresh coriander, oregano and most other leafed herbs. Cloves can be effectively used for dental conditions.
Herbal Medicine is another tool usable to the integrated practitioner or team. It is important that all drug-herb reactions are identified prior to simultaneous use and t,hat standardised quality products are chosen. However once this is taken into account various herbal medicines can be a very helpful modality in integrated prescription.