People in all cultures have used herbs as natural remedies for centuries. Herbs have passed the test of time and have proved to be safe and effective. Millions of people have recovered from various ailments. Unlike prescription drugs, with herbal medicine, each diagnosis and treatment is tailored to fit the individual. Today, increasing number of people are seeking herbal treatment as an alternative to synthetic drugs that could be hazardous to health in the long run.
It may be weird that modern drugs are being replaced with grandma's powders and teas, but with the knowledge that most modern drugs are synthetic versions of plant substances, people are opting for the original.
There was a time when herbs have been dismissed and herbal treatments not valued, but things are changing as herbs contain properties that are far superior to synthetic drugs and are more in tune with the human body. They create far fewer and harmless side effects if any, and bestow 'side' benefits instead of side effects. There are several side effects of prescription drugs, some long lasting and some which cause permanent damage or impairment to the body parts. To cure one part, another part of the body has to be compromised, and this can be totally avoided with herbal medicine.
Let us take the example of 'ginkgo biloba', which improves memory and also boosts blood circulation in the legs and arms. 'Garlic' is used to enhance the immune system and also lower cholesterol.
Herbal medicine has proven to fulfill roles roles that synthetic drugs cannot. The whole range of adaptogens found in herbal medicine have no equivalent in modern medicine.
Europe has a stronger history of herb use when compared to the United States. European doctors always retained an interest and skill in prescribing herbal medicine in conjunction with modern drugs.
The difference between treatment with modern medicine and herbal medicine is enormous. When treating, herbal medicine practitioners pay attention to all aspects of the individual's health, looking at building their health and not just covering up a specific ailment. Another difference is that, herbal medicine doctors look not only at the chemical and molecular components of herbs but also their energetic aspects. Herbal medicine believes that all living things, including plants contain energy. The Chinese call this vital energy force 'qi'. Where the modern medicine is concerned about treating the illness itself, Chinese medicine looks at this illness as a blockage to the vital life force. It aims at removing that blockage.
This concept is better understood with the example of acupuncture. Acupuncture is based on unblocking flow and the 'unseen' energy pathways of the human body. The huge success of acupuncture speaks for itself. The right herb to open the blockage is all it takes to allow the body's energy to flow, thus healing.
All this certainly may seem strange to the mindset of modern medicine. But herbs have been proven to work for the human body without any serious side effects.
Herbs are the original source for at least 25% of all pharmaceutical drugs. For example, morphine which is used as a pain killer, comes from opium poppy; digitalis, a cardiac stimulant, comes from foxglove; resperine, a sedative and antihypertensive, comes from rauwolfia (Indian snakeroot).
While modern medicine looks for active ingredients in a plant and extract it and discard the rest of the plant, herbal medicine depends on the synergistic action of the complete plant, to take the benefit from the thousands of compounds present in the plant. While prescription drugs have a rapid and targeted action, which is also the reason why side effects are caused; herbs tend to work slowly but gradually, in the process strengthening the body's defenses over a period of time.
Of course, herbs too have to be taken with caution and used responsibly, and preferably under guidance. For example, ephedra should never be used by people with weak hearts, especially in combination with synthetic ephedrine. In any case, if one herb causes a problem, there are others that can be taken.