Herbal Medicine is a traditional medicine or folk medicine. Also known as phytomedicine, botanical medicine or medical herbalism. The use of plants as medicine predates human written history and all traditional cultures have their own pharmacopeia.
Some of the pharmaceuticals currently available to physicians have a long history of use as herbal medicine, such as opium, digitalis, aspirin or quinine. While modern western medicine predominantly uses chemotherapy or synthetically produced medicine, its roots can be found in herbal medicine and today many chemical constituents in modern drugs are plant derived.
Pharmaceutical drugs are often single ingredients on the grounds that dosing can be more easily quantified, and single compounds can be patented and generate income and the pharmaceutical industry has prospered on this basis. Additonally single ingredient synthetic compounds lends itself well to scientific research and there is now a requirement for physicians to be making evidence based decisions while prescribing.
Western herbalists tend to prescribe their own mixture of herbal combinations often in tincture form, rather than a single herb or tablet. Herbalists believe that different phytochemicals present in many herbs will interact synergistically thus enhancing the overal therapeutic effect. They believe that this synergism cannot be duplicated with synthetically produced drugs. Furthermore these phytochemicals provide nutritional and immunological support and benefit, therefore their treatment is both curative and preventative.
Herbal medicine is also based on the idea of \'energy\', as natural ingredients such as plant derived medicines have energetic qualities specific to their genus and in fact each plant and part of the plant has its own specific vibration, such as the root or leaf. This energy impacts the body naturally and favourably, bringing it into a subtle balance. A body which is well balanced is not capable of disease. Homeopathy and Bach Flower Essences are based on this concept of vibrational or energy medicine and these medicines are also aimed at the personality or constitutional type.
Most modern herbalists concede that in emergency situations, where time is of the essence, pharmaceuticals must be used. Additionally in situations where the person has not responded to other treatments and is deteriorating, pharmaceutical medication must be used.
In cases of chronicity however, herbal medicine can offer a great deal of support, especially if its combined with other complementary medicines such nutritional education, lifestyle education, acupressure, acupuncture and emotional and spiritual support.
Many people are not aware that the pharmaceutical drugs that they have been told to consume long term, will most likely be forever and that they may lead to significant side effects. While these drugs are effective and necessary in many cases, they often only treat the symptoms not the causes and in doing so they alter the natural biochemical pathways of the body. Ultimately the body cannot function without them and side effects are the result.
From a Holistic viewpoint the suppression of physical symptoms in chronic illness is to perpetuate ignorance and should be contrary to the highest purpose of medicine. Illness is said to be the spirits attempt to draw attention to some aspect of personal self expression that has been lost or is suppressed.
\"The cure of the part should not be attempted without treatment of the whole. No attempt should be made to cure the body without the soul. Let no one persuade you to cure the head until he has first given you his soul to be cured, for this is the great error of our day, that physicians first separate the soul from the body\". Plato