Herbalism is an ancient practice that actually predates our recorded human history.
Excavations of burial sites that are over 60,000 years old have suggested an early understanding of the use of herbs for medicine. As far as written records, Herbalism has been documented as far back as Sumerian practices, which took place 5,000 years ago. The ancient Egyptians also made use of medicinal herbs, including coriander, mint, opium and garlic. In the Old Testament, the cultivation of herbs for medicinal purposes is also mentioned. Documented history of herbalism in India dates back to 1900 B.C., which includes many of the herbs that are used in conventional herbal medicine.
How Herbalism Works
The principles of herbal medicine focus on enhancing biological functions to improve overall health and well-being. Herbal medicine may be used to treat existing health conditions or may utilize certain herbs to promote good health and longevity.
During the process of evolution, many plants have developed the ability to synthesize certain types of chemical compounds. Some of these compounds have been found to have beneficial effects on humans, giving them the ability to treat certain diseases.
The Difference Between Herbalism and New Age Medicine
Many people mistakenly believe that herbalism is strictly confined to the boundaries of what’s known as “New Age” medicine. This is not entirely true. The “New Age” movement is defined as a “non-religious, Western spiritual movement”, which does indeed focus on holistic medicine (including herbalism) as well as other methods of healing. However, herbalism isn’t always associated with the other principles of New Age medicine, namely the spiritual aspects. While it’s true that some herbalists also employ spiritual beliefs, many herbalists practice only within the realms of scientific results-based medicine. Therefore, it’s extremely important not to simply dismiss herbalism if you don’t share a belief in “New Age” ideals.
Herbalism vs. Pharmaceutical Drug Therapy
There has been a long-standing debate over the question, “Which is better – Herbs or Drugs?”. However, this question entirely misses the point of herbal medicine. Ifan herb is used as a remedy for a health condition, and it contains components that directly influence biological functions, then this herb could be called “medicine”, in the current definitions of this term. We also call pharmaceutical drugs “medicine” for this same reason.
If both herbs and pharmaceuticals are medicine, it then brings us to one of the most important distinctions between the two – safety.
In reference to safety, it depends entirely on the herb or pharmaceutical being discussed. For example, many pain medications offered by the pharmaceutical industry have serious side effects. However, poppy (which is classified as an “herb”) is also used for pain, and can also have serious side effects if abused. As with any treatment method, it’s essential to thoroughly research
Another important aspect to consider is how effective each treatment method is. As far as effectiveness, we only have the data that’s provided to us from clinical trials, which may or may not be accurate. Also, it’s a fact that there hasn’t been a lot of research done by medical professionals about many of the herbs employed in herbal medicine. In some cases, the studies that have been done contradict each-other. Is echinacea really good for your immune system? Does Ginkgo Biloba really help enhance memory? These questions have yet to be answered to the satisfaction of all medical experts, since many of the studies have found conflicting results.