There are several ways in which herbalism differs from conventional medicines.
Conventional drugs are made from one isolated or synthesized active ingredient so each one does only one job and this can cause side effects. Herbalists use the whole herb, because the dominant ingredient seems to work more effectively, without side-effects, and for the benefit of the whole body. This is known as synergy.
A simple example of how synergy works, is to compare garlic with antibiotics. Antibiotics kill infection, but they also kill good bacteria, which upsets the body balance. Garlic is a natural antibiotic with ingredients that stimulate the body maintaining the body balance. In effect, herbs are used to restore and maintain health by keeping the body in balance.
Herbal medicines are often prescribed as tinctures, teas or pills, which are taken in much the same manner as conventional medicines.
Because of their balancing effect, drugs such as ginseng are adaptogenic (help the body cope with stress, mainly by supporting the adrenal glands). This term is also used to apply to herbs that have a normalizing effect. Hawthorn is an adaptogen for the heart and circulation as it can stimulate a weak heartbeat or slow a rapid one, depending on what is needed at the time.
Herbalists maintain the belief that we all possess a self-healing mechanism known, as the vital force, which maintains our health. However, this vital force can be weakened and depleted by stress, pollution and poor diet, so we become ill. The symptoms of dis-ease are a sign that the vital force is battling to maintain harmony under the threat of illness and should not be suppressed.
Herbs are prescribed holistically. This means that they are prescribed for the client, not for the illness. In this way herbal remedies are not prescribed to relieve symptoms, but to help the affected body system –
1. Fight the dis-ease state
2. Prevent it recurring
3. Clear the system of toxins
4. Support the immune system
5. Maintain a healthy balance
Herbs, those “old fashioned” medicines, the stuff of “old wives tales” are rapidly being rightfully reinstated at the forefront of modern medicine over their conventional medicine counterparts. We all have the ability within us to “self-heal.”
If you would like more information on techniques described in this article please visit The Herb Scene