Q. What is Herbal Medicine?
A. Herbal medicine, or herbalism, is the use of plants as therapy. More specifically, it involves the use of extracts and naturally occurring chemical compounds from certain plant parts, which are believed to have therapeutic effects.
Plant parts and extracts aren’t the only source of treatments in this branch of medicine. Herbal medicine may also make use of some animal parts/extracts and other naturally occurring, non-organic chemical compounds.
Herbal medicine is a form of alternative or traditional medicine that is mostly based on folk beliefs and traditions, which sets it apart from modern conventional medicine that is based on scientific research and clinical evidence.
Q. Is Herbal Medicine Just Myths?
A. Most of the widely used herbal remedies today have been known and used for hundreds or even thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Traditional Indian Medicine (Ayurveda), and other eastern cultures. So there must be a good reason that this practice has survived for so long.
In fact, consumers in the west spend billions of dollars each year on herbal supplements, and although the benefits of most supplements are highly questionable, many consumers swear that they do actually work.
Because most herbal remedies have not been extensively clinically studied, their claimed benefits originate from anecdotal evidence, that is personal experiences that vary from one individual to another.
But science has actually shown that many herbs possess pharmacological effects and may be helpful in the management or treatment of certain health problems. However, the concentrations of the active compounds used in clinical studies are usually much higher than those found in supplements on the market, which is why many of the supplements you buy in stores may have little to no perceivable benefits.
Q. Is Herbal Medicine Safe?
A. Although herbal medicine uses natural substances, like plant extracts, that does not necessarily mean it is always safe. What is generally true is that herbal medicine is safer and more tolerated than chemical drugs.
Side effects are rare and insignificant with most herbal products, but some may have considerable side effects. Consuming excessive amounts of certain herbs or their extracts may lead to serious health risks. Interaction between different herbal/natural supplements and other drugs is also possible.
Before you take any herbal medicine you should thoroughly investigate its safety and potential side effects. There are many educational resources on the internet where you can review the available scientific data of many natural and herbal remedies. And don’t be shy to ask your physician for advice!
Q. Can Herbal Medicine Replace Prescription Drugs?
A. For the most part, you won’t get the same efficacy from herbal supplements as you get from prescription drugs. Unlike approved drugs, most herbal treatments have not been scientifically proven to treat or prevent any health condition.
Herbs generally provide a holistic and slow treatment approach which may result in long-lasting benefits in the long run. However, if you are looking for a quick-fix that works instantly and temporarily then prescription drugs are incomparably more effective, albeit at a much higher cost, not just to your wallet but also to your overall health and natural body flow.
Many herbs have medicinal effects in the human body, but that does not mean they can be an effective treatment. If you already take medications that are prescribed by your doctor, you should stick with those as long as you are seeing improvement.
Q. Are All Herbal Supplements Available Over The Counter?
A. In the United States, most herbal supplements are considered dietary supplements, and these are not regulated by the FDA. In other words, they can be legally bought over the counter locally or from online suppliers.
Other countries, especially in Western Europe, have stricter laws regulating the sale of supplements, and some herbs may be prohibited or only available with a prescription. Before you buy any herbal product from the internet, you should review your country’s regulations and restrictions on buying and importing herbal supplements.