A special thanks to Mo Siegel and Nancy Burke for writing the book “Herbs for health and happiness”, which inspired me to produce this series!
Herbal remedies are treatments that have been around probably since the beginning of mankind, and have been used by civilisations to cure ailments and reduce the severity of symptoms. After all, they are natural; and natural things are surely the best? Just because we have an advanced pharmaceutical industry that can make all sorts of pills doesn’t mean we can discard natural remedies, such as these herbs. Most drugs, in fact, are derived from natural ingredients which enhance the effect of the treatment.
What is herbal medicine?
Herbal remedies involve the usage of natural and biologically based products and practises with the aim to treat physical and emotional conditions.
Did you know?
-30% of the US population uses herbal remedies each year
-WHO claims 80% of the world population use some sort of herbal remedy as part of their treatment.
So- what’s the big deal about herbal remedies anyways? One of the most obvious is that there are a lot less side effects that come with herbal remedies in contrast to synthesised medication. Since these remedies are natural, the body is more favourable to them in contrast to a chemical drug. By replacing synthesised drugs with natural herbal remedies, patients slowly reduce or even eliminate the number of side effects experienced on a daily basis.
There is a lower cost that comes with herbal remedies in contrast to synthesised drugs too. Synthesised drugs are highly processed, whereas producing herbal remedies has fewer steps. A lower production cost often means a lower retail cost too. In addition, herbal remedies teach individuals on how to manage conditions, alongside developing the knowledge to prevent illnesses and promote self-healing. This promotes a healthier lifestyle, and in turn will reduce long-term chronic illnesses. This saves treatment costs too!
For many, the use of herbal medicine is more about knowing your body and taking control of personal health, even more than actually healing the problem! It reminds me of those Chinese inner healing exercises, which uses the mind to improve health. A good natural healer will educate individuals about what the body needs and how to keep it healthy, not just prescribe medication or teach the body how to hide pain.
Additionally, because herbal medicine contains vitamins, antibodies and other substances nutritious to the human body, it serves to strengthen the overall body. As a result, a person who chooses natural remedies versus prescription medications may be better able to fight infections than those who rely on synthesised medication. Herbal medicine also promotes gut health. It does this by enhancing digestion and nurturing an environment in which microbes (beneficial ones!) can live healthily.
But herbs don’t come risk-free. Just because they are natural doesn’t mean they will be 100% safe. Like synthesised drugs go through trials, this isn’t the case for herbal medications. There are no assessments which study the risks, safety or benefits. There are also no regulations or standards for the preparing and packaging of herbal medication, hence doses may not be consistent.
A combination of high dosage vitamin supplements and herbal remedies can cause serious reactions in the body. It is specifically harmful if you combine herbal medications with heart medications, asthma medications, blood thinners, antidepressants and antibiotics. This means you need to take special care when choosing what natural substances you can take- including fruits.
Certain herbs are not suitable for consumption. Some also have adverse reactions and side effects; for instance, some herbs make you more sensitive to direct exposure of sunlight. Since herbal medication is not reviewed like synthesised drugs, some manufacturers might not include safe amounts or concentration when selling their products. This is why it is important to be careful when deciding what herbal remedy you are taking.
Herbal remedies aren’t new in the fields of medical treatment. Even 100 years ago physicians used herbal remedies as methods of pain relief and curing diseases; antibiotics were only discovered in 1928 and paracetamol in 1950! But just because they are natural doesn’t mean you can use them freely without considering side effects. Even in the past, chemists used to sell poison which typically consisted of herbs- that’s what Romeo bought from the Apothecary in the Shakespearean Play. There needs to be a balance between synthesised and herbal remedies used as a part of treatment. And like all things, natural remedies need to be used in moderation too.