Herbal medicine refers to the use of any plant’s seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers for medicinal purposes. Long practiced outside of conventional medicine, herbalism is becoming more mainstream as up-to-date analysis and research show their value in the treatment and prevention of disease.
Plants had been used for medicinal purposes long before recorded history. For example, ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings describe medicinal plant uses. Indigenous cultures (e.g., African and Native American) used herbs in their healing rituals, while others developed traditional medical systems (e.g., Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine) in which herbal therapies were used systematically. Scientists found that people in different parts of the globe tended to use the same or similar plants for the same purposes.
In the 19th century, when methods of chemical analysis first became available, scientists began extracting and modifying the active ingredients from plants. Later, chemists began making their own version of plant compounds, beginning the transition from raw herbs to synthetic pharmaceuticals. Over time, the use of herbal medicines declined in favor of pharmaceuticals.
Recently, the World Health Organization estimated that 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some aspect of their primary healthcare.
It is always safe to advise those customers who are pregnant or nursing, to consult with a health care professional prior to taking any herbal preparation. There is always the possibility of a drug/herb interaction. Customers should always be advised to speak with their doctor prior to starting an herbal preparation.
*Herbal information below was sourced from National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), the Integrative Medicine division of the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and the Complementary Medicine Department at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Please visit their websites for additional information.