Author: Megan Dempsey Editor: Donya Mann
Herbal medicine is a treatment that is derived from plants, either using leaves, bark, roots, seeds, etc. The history of herbal medicine as a natural health cure spans back centuries and across several cultures. We can find examples of herbal medicine used in ancient China, Egypt, and with indigenous peoples of North America and the continent of Africa. Today they are still used as a form of alternative medicine and even some pharmaceuticals are made from botanicals. In holistic medicine, herbal medicine is used either by itself or in conjunction with scientifically backed traditional practices. In modern times, herbs are applied for a variety of conditions like inflammation, cardiovascular issues, depression, anxiety, and boosting the immune system. Many of these plants have antioxidants, which fight free radicals and slow damage to the cells. A holistic doctor may add an herbal medicine regime to a patient's treatment as a way to manage chronic or other types of illnesses alongside treatments, like acupuncture or massage.
Herbal medicines can come in multiple forms including:
- Tablets or Capsules
- Topical treatments (ointments or salves)
- Raw Dried Herbs
Some Common Herbal Medicines
- Ginseng- The root is generally used as a tonic and can be made as tea or turned into a powder. Ginseng is considered to be good for reducing inflammation and improving immunity.
- Elderberry- This ancient herbal medicine is made from the Sambucus nigra tree. The berries are typically used to treat flu or the common cold symptoms. They can actually be poisonous if ingested raw, so always be sure to cook them.
- St. John’s Wort- These yellow flowers are most popularly used to treat mild depression. Although it is unknown how well it works against severe depression or suicidal thoughts. It can also potentially interact negatively with other prescribed medications, so talk to a doctor before using it.
- Echinacea- Can be administered as a tea, supplement, or topical treatment. It is another herb that is used to boost the immune system and as a treatment for cold or flu symptoms.
- Ginkgo Bilbola- The leaf extracts from this plant contains many antioxidants to improve conditions in the body. It is mostly used to treat mental disorders associated with aging, such as memory loss and dementia.
- Garlic- Aside from general cooking, garlic is also considered to have medicinal properties. Many use it for cardiovascular conditions and as an anti-inflammatory. There is also a belief that it can help reduce cholesterol.
- Valerian- The root of this plant is steeped as tea or consumed as a capsule and can help with insomnia and other anxiety-related issues.
- Chamomile- It is a flower that people use to make one of the most popular herbal medicines. The leaves of the flower are used for tea, medicinal extracts, and topical compresses. It helps with relaxation and anxiety. Many people drink chamomile tea to help them fall asleep at night.
- Ginger- Super easy to find in the produce aisle of any grocery store. Ginger is another herbal medicine that is mostly brewed as a tea or taken as a capsule. While it treats several issues, it is most known in modern times to settle the stomach and relieve nausea in pregnant women.
- Cranberry- This tart fruit can either be consumed as juice, capsules or just the raw berries by themselves. They are generally promoted to help with UTIs (urinary tract infections). Research also suggests cranberries can help prevent UTIs.
Of course, there are many more herbs and herbal medicines/supplements that are used alone or as part of complementary therapies in holistic practices. To learn more about herbs, such as names, potential side effects, scientific research, and additional resources, please visit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health’s website.
What to Watch Out For
When using alternative herbal medicine, it is vital to stay informed to avoid any negative health complications. Work with a holistic doctor to ensure your safety, as they can monitor you and change the course of care if need be. You should also keep an eye out for any side effects and be sure to discuss them with your doctor, so they know whether they need to adjust your treatment. Additionally, be sure to follow instructions on labels, if taking supplements, and do not exceed the recommended dosage. Research the supplements you use to make sure you are getting them from a trusted brand. For any allergic reactions, get medical help immediately.
Why Holistic Health
There are several reasons why a person may choose to seek out holistic health. Holistic medicine seeks to treat the individual and a person can receive a more comprehensive plan of care than they might get with a traditional doctor. Holistic medicine takes a whole-body approach and cares for patients with the philosophy of creating balance in the mind, body, and spirit. The belief is if there is an imbalance then illness will occur in a person. So, to bring back this balance, a holistic practitioner will work with the person to treat all aspects of their health, rather than just the disease. People often turn to holistic health for the affordability of natural medicines and if it is more in line with a person’s belief system, especially if they are wary of synthetic chemicals used in traditional Western medicine. Also, there is typically a sense that patients are really listened to about their issues, often unlike in traditional Western practices, and it is not just about managing symptoms. All of these different factors may influence someone to go to a holistic doctor and it is never a bad thing for people to consider all of their options when it comes to taking care of their health.
Naturopathic v. Holistic
Herbal medicine does fall under the category of naturopathic medicine, but it is also practiced in holistic medicine. The difference is that holistic medicine is, usually, practiced specifically by a doctor who has been trained in traditional Western medicine. They also have the holistic philosophy of treating the whole person. Someone who solely practices naturopathic medicine does not have that same background and only has training in different types of natural remedies, such as herbs, massage, acupuncture, and homeopathy. Naturopathic medicine relies solely on natural remedies to heal people and will not use any traditional practices. However, naturopathy is often used in holistic or integrative medicine alongside conventional methods.
Have Questions About Holistic Herbal Medicine
If you are interested in learning more about holistic herbal medicine and what it can do for you or want to look into combining it with your traditional medical treatments call Shakthi Health and Wellness Center today! Dr. Jyothi Rao is a highly skilled and experienced physician who can effectively evaluate your symptoms and optimize your body’s vitality. Call (301) 703-5067 and speak to our concierge staff to schedule your appointment today.