Did you know that more than 80% of the people in the world rely on plant-based supplements and medicines for some part of primary health care? In fact, going by written records of older civilizations across the world, there is mention of herbal medicine in texts more than 4000 years old. At the time, that was the only medicine available. Of the 252 essential medicines listed at the World Health Organisation, more than 10% are exclusive of plant origin. In fact, the first ever pharmacological drug developed almost 200 years ago was extracted from the seeds of the poppy flower, better known as morphine.
After decades of overmedication, side effects and treating the symptoms rather than the root of the illness, the focus is shifting towards plant-based herbal medicines and natural therapies (1).
As of today, herbs are being used in a number of ways to treat various ailments from the common cold to cancer, proving that these herbs still hold their legendary healing properties. Most of these herbs are not too expensive and are a much safer way to go about treating common ailments rather than depending on convention medication.
Herbal medicines refer to naturally occurring, plant-derived substances that are used to relieve one from various illnesses within local, traditional healing practices. Many of these preparations are a complex mixture of various herbs, minerals extracted from raw or pre-processed plant parts. Every culture around the world has developed its own practice of healing with the help of locally available medicinal herbs. Each of these cultures has developed different systems depending on existing social, cultural, environmental and geographical limitations but they all agree on a holistic approach to life. Most of these systems also believe in the ideology that one should emphasise on health rather than on the disease. This is a “wellness first” approach that leverages the importance of prevention over cure. Using herbs, we focus on holistic healing and improving the general immunity of the body rather than focussing on a particular ailment which usually arises from a loss of balance within the spheres of the mind, body and environment.
In the United States, there has been a recent surge of interest in these botanicals in response to the shooting prices of prescription drugs(2).
There are various factors that influence the efficacy of herbal medicines or botanical medicines. The environment in which herbs were grown, the way in which each of them is harvested and prepared contribute directly to the efficiency of the cure. Some herbs are used whole, but many of them need to be macerated or infused into solvents before being used.
Benefits of Botanical Medicine:
1. Affordable as compared to Prescription Medicine: The medicines recommended by Doctors of modern medical science often come with a high price tag. One reason why herbal supplements are catching up is that people are simply unable to keep up with the rising costs of pharmaceutical drugs. Preliminary research on the subject shows that that plant-based, natural health products are way more cost effective than prescription medicines.
2. Ease of Access: Herbs, herbal extracts and essential oils are available in almost every grocery store and one does not need to have a doctor’s prescription to buy them. This puts an onus on the consumer to take charge of one’s own health and make sure that they are obtained from reliable sources.
3. Holistic Healing: Herbs are used to treat chronic to acute conditions. They not only relieve one from the existing symptoms of the ailments but play a significant role in improving the immunity and creating room for holistic healing. Out of the 177 drugs which have been approved worldwide for the treatment of cancer, more than 40% are based on natural, plant-based products or imitations of natural products. (3)
Five Common Herbs to help you achieve your wellness goals:
This power packed rhizome is one of the most commonly used spices in the world. Their therapeutic properties are attributed to gingerols, the oily resin found in the rhizome which has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (4)
Ginger is also one of the many promising herbs in the fight against cancer (5). Ginger could be used in multiple ways. It could be eaten raw, infused into a herbal tea or cooked along with other spices for various savoury dishes. A teaspoonful of finely minced Ginger infused in a cup of boiling water topped with a teaspoon of raw honey is the perfect remedy to soothe a sore throat.
This little underground bulb from the Lily family is used extensively across Asia in various herbal infusions. Garlic can help boost immunity, fight inflammation, relieve allergies and fight cardiovascular diseases. Research shows that Garlic reduces Cholesterol and blood pressure while also increasing antioxidant status (6).
Written texts in Asia which are dated to be more than 5000 years old mention a rhizome with miraculous healing properties. Modern medicine has only begun to understand the sheer importance of this single herb. There are more than 2000 publications corroborating the endless benefits of Turmeric. This powerful rhizome from the Ginger Family can be used either in its fresh or dry form. It has a whole array of benefits including its ability to heal cuts and wounds, reduce inflammation, fight bacteria, regulate cholesterol and fight cancer. Numerous studies have gone to show the antioxidant properties which help scavenge free radicals and inhibit lipid peroxidation (7).
Ginseng has been one of the most commonly used medicines in Asia and the Americas for centuries. The Native Americans used this particularly to relieve headaches and fevers. Ginseng has been touted to have a strong effect on cognition and was also used as a stimulant by the Native Americans (8). A study done in the UK showed that just 400 milligrams of the herb given on an everyday basis improved calmness and the participants’ arithmetic over the course of just a few days (9). Ginseng is used extensively to reduce stress, improve lung function and boost the immune system. It could be used in either dried or in the form of a tea.
5. Aloe Vera:
For millennia, Aloe vera gel has been used extensively to heal various skin ailments including cuts, insect bites, burns and rashes (10). Besides that, this gel when consumed raw has a laxative property and hence used to relieve one from constipation. From the number of varieties of Aloe available in the wild, Aloe vera has been found to be the most biologically active, with an astonishing 75 potential active components which include minerals, enzymes, amino acids, anthraquinones, saponins and salicylic acids. The gel contained within these succulent leaves also has 20 of the 22 amino-acids, being a full-house for all the 8 essential amino acids. Aloe gel can be used either topically or consumed orally.
There are very few Herbal Medicines that cause an allergic reaction, but it is advisable for you to contact a healthcare professional before beginning any treatments with these herbs. Make sure to find good, reliable sources for each of these herbs, find the right dosage and check for possible side effects.
Disclaimer: The above article is sponsored by Thyrve, the world’s first Gut Health Program that incorporates microbiome testing and personalized probiotics to ensure a healthier gut, happier life, and a brighter future.