Let’s talk about herbal medicine

Are you aware that some herbs have really powerful healing properties? We all use herbal medicine, maybe knowingly or maybe unknowingly. When you use herbs such as basil, garlic, sage, mint, rosemary, parsley and thyme, you are adding more than just a nice taste to your meal. For example, if you look at the spices in your kitchen you may find many powerful medicinal herbs, such as horseradish which can help with sinus infections.

Some examples of herbs that can help with specific ailments include

• For digestions, stomach cramps and gas and bloating — basil, cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, dandelion, lemon balm, and peppermint.

• For relaxing and anxiety — chamomile, lavender, elderberry, valerian, and St. John’s wort.

• For sleep issues — lavender, chamomile, valerian, and lemon balm.

• For skin issues and as a moisturizer — aloe vera, burdock, calendula, and red clover.

• For muscle and joint pain — cayenne pepper, ginger, chamomile, nettle, and peppermint.

• For coughs and colds — garlic, thyme, licorice, and echinacea.

Herbs and plants have been used for thousands of years. About 25% of the pharmaceutical industry uses plants and herbs in the preparation and manufacturing of drugs. And it’s very pleasing to see that many people still use herbal medicines as a treatment or prevention for various conditions.

I love this quote by David Winston: “Good Herbal Medicine treats people, not diseases”. And I absolutely wish that we had the same way of looking at all diseases. A good herbalist will treat the person, not the disease, which is actually the best way to help anyone. Unfortunately, modern medicine focuses mainly on symptoms rather than on trying to identify the root causes. Focusing just on the symptom is like putting a bandage on a wound without questioning why the person has the wound in the first place.

We may think that we have a choice to choose herbal medicine or conventional medicine, although they are both approaching things from a very different perspective and doing a completely different type of healing. When a good herbalist combines them together, with good sense, this can actually truly help the patient’s health. It’s important to not approach things with the mindset that certain herbs are good for everyone, but instead to use a specific protocol for the individual person and combine the herbs together that the person needs. For example, in herbal medicine black cohosh will solve menopausal symptom for some women but not for all. No one herb is good for everyone, so a good herbalist will look at which herbs could be beneficial for this specific person and their specific current state of health, while trying to understand what is the root cause of their health problems. A good herbalist will always use herbs in synergy as well.

Herbs can help with both prevention and treatment, but of course we can not rely only on herbs help to heal us. Other factors such as lifestyle, sleep quality, and a nutrient rich diet certainly play crucial roles for our health.

A botanical is a plant, or a part of a plant, that has therapeutic or medicinal properties, contains at least one vitamin, mineral or herb, and is intended to be used to supplement the diet with the goal of maintaining or improving health. They are often sold in fresh form, but in other forms they have to be labeled as a dietary supplement on the packaging and are often available dried, as a liquid, tablet, capsule, powder or other forms (such as herbal tea that is of course often sold in tea bags). Botanicals are used most commonly as teas, decoctions, tinctures and extracts.

For botanical dietary supplements the manufacturers use a process known as standardization to ensure that the supplements that they produce have a consistent quality. In the US there is, however, no specific requirements or legal obligations for standardization, and it is just down to the individual manufacturer to choose their standards. The standardized label on supplements, therefore, is really not a reliable indicator of the quality of the supplement.

Other counties do have more detailed guidelines, for example in Canada herbal remedies must comply with the Natural Health Products Regulations and all natural products require a product license before they can be sold. And in Europe, herbal medicines need authorization by the national regulatory authorities of each European country to show that they have a recognized level of safety and efficacy.

It is also easy to assume that when a label declares something as “natural” that it is safe to use, however many other factors come into play, for example the chemical make up, the preparation method, the dosage, and of course the effect that it has on each person individually. This, combined with the lack of a consistent quality standard, means that it’s really a good idea for everyone to do their own research or ask a professional for help to be sure that they are getting the highest quality. Of course, if you have chronic health problems and/or using medication please share with your physician too because some herbs may interact with drugs too.

Resources

• https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92773/

• Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide Book

• https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/using-dietary-supplements-wisely

• https://www.gaiaherbs.com/blogs/seeds-of-knowledge/a-research-review-on-the-short-and-long-term-use-of-echinacea-1

• https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/herbal-medicine

• https://www.americanherbalistsguild.com

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Ayda Ersoy, is a nutritionist (Dip.C.N., Dip.S.N.), master trainer (CPT ACE, NCSF, CanfitPro), registered yoga teacher, founder, Health Angel Nutrition, Fitness and Wellness, and founder, SMS (Stability, Mobility Strength) Intuitive Training System.

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