A herb is a plant or plant part that is valued for its medicinal, aromatic or savoury qualities. Herb plants used for medicinal purposes contain a variety of chemical substances that act upon the body. Many drugs commonly used today are of herbal origin, such as digitalis, derived from foxglove, in cardiac conditions. Around 50% of pharmaceuticals today, are derived from compounds first identified or isolated from herbs/plants and organisms such as algae. The WHO also states that out of 119 plant derived pharmaceutical medicines, around 74% are used in modern medicine in ways that directly correlate with their traditional uses by native cultures. Many pharmaceutical companies are currently conducting extensive research on plant materials gathered from all around the world for their potential medicinal value.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 4 billion people worldwide use herbs. Herbs have been used for medicinal purposes by all cultures throughout history up until the present day in primary health care. An increasing number of people are choosing to use herbal medicine to treat their health conditions.
Whereas conventional medicine tends to use only the active ingredient of a plant, herbal remedies use the whole plant. Herbalists proclaim that the mixture of chemicals in the whole plant work together to give a better effect (called synergy) than a single active ingredient.
The minimisation of side effects whilst maintaining clinical efficacy is a principal benefit of herbal medicine. Their comparatively gentler action reduces the potential for side effects that drugs can cause. Using single herbs such as those extracted in pharmaceutical medications, require higher dosages to achieve therapeutic effects thus increasing potential side effects such as in drug therapy. Using whole plants and combining herbs with similar functions that moderate each other’s actions into a herbal formula, herbalists are able to lower dosages of individual herbs, so minimise the likelihood of reactions. Although rare, side effects are generally linked to changes in bowel habits, gas, and indigestion, and will stop when the herbs dosage is reduced or discontinued.
Yes. Many conditions treated by western drugs can also be successfully treated with herbal medicine. Examples include: hypertension, diabetes, headaches and pain conditions, fibromyalgia, allergies and sinus infections, skin conditions, menstrual cramping, peri/ post-menopausal syndrome, parkinson’s disease, anxiety, depression and so on.
Because drugs are a strong and powerful medicine, they can have a tendency to negatively interact with other substances such as foods and herbs. It is important to understand drug interactions if you are taking pharmaceutical interventions. What causes the interactions is a biochemical process explained as a competition for ‘binding sites’ on cells that enable them to absorb substances and nutrients through the cell wall. Each cell has a limited number of binding sites that substances can ‘lock onto’ in order to gain entry into the cell. When many different substances try to gain entry to the cells simultaneously, they flood the available binding sites and are unable to get in. This causes the interaction problem. Taking herbs and drugs 2 hours away from each other will usually eliminate the cause of this scenario. Please ensure you communicate any supplements and prescription drugs you are taking in your consultation, and if any interactions are possible this will be addressed.