Herbal medicine often conjures feeling of ambiguity in people who, despite realizing its expansive history, question its curative powers.
While it is easy to think of newer, synthetic drugs as superior, the healing potential of plants should not be limited to supplemental medicine.
In fact, certain plants have positive effects that cannot be replicated by synthetics. For example, milk thistle promotes the growth of liver cells. This is crucial for liver protection in cases of damage from alcohol consumption, among other ailments, and remains beyond the efforts of artificial development.
So technology’s presence comes not as a rival to make herbal medicine obsolete. On the contrary, technology creates new possibilities for herbal medicine, as our knowledge of each plant’s potential uses grows.
Perhaps because of this, matched with the concern about the safety of pharmaceuticals, herbal medicine is reemerging as a preferred form of medical treatment. Certainly, its use is widespread in developing countries, where pharmaceuticals are either too expensive or inaccessible to the general population.
Of course, even in developed countries a growing population of people without insurance can’t afford their prescriptions.While these people could also benefit from natural, cost effective treatments, it is less likely they’ll have proper knowledge at their disposal of how to use medicinal herbs at home.
Though it is best to consult a physician for information on different forms of medical treatment, western physicians are no longer required to study natural medicine. Because of this you may find some physicians supportive of your wish to try herbal treatments, though usually as a form of complementary medicine, and others who discourage it.
Either way, due to a lack of training in natural medicine, many doctors are unable to advise patients on the proper use and dosage of herbs. This may account for undesired results when attempting a new ‘herbal remedy’ at home. Because people are not fully informed of how to use an herb, the remedy fails, causing doubt about the effectiveness of herbal medicine itself.
Another factor that stunts the awareness and accessibility of medicinal herbs is the capitalistic ideals that are taking root in many developed countries. As the fewer medicinal alternatives there are, the more profit companies can make from pharmaceutical sales.
This isn’t to say that natural pills and supplements aren’t a growing business in technologically advanced countries. In fact, they are currently a five billion dollar market in the U.S. alone. However, it is best to take herbal medicine directly from the source, in form of teas, tonics, or oils; rather than capsule form. Because, as with vitamins, capsules are not as potent as receiving nutrients from the source itself.
Still, if used with tact and consideration, medicinal herbs can have remarkable results, though it is best to consult your physician before hand. Just remember to do a little research on the type of herb you are using, as well as the ailment for which you intend to use it.
Maybe someday you’ll have your own medicinal garden, at kitchen’s reach. And perhaps the art of natural medicine will return to its rightful place in standard medical curricula.
National Geographic Guide to Medical Herbs: the World’sMost Effective Healing Plants, Tierona Low Dog, M.D., Rebecca L. Johnson, Steven Foster, David Kiefer M.D., Andrew Weil (Foreward), Copyright 2012
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