Herbal medicine is the extraction of herbs or plants which have a medicinal value in treating illnesses and diseases (Brody 1). A herb is known as a plant that does not have a woody stem and usually dies back at the end of each growing season. It is also known as a "natural" drug because they are derived from nature. This is unlike pharmaceutical drugs, which are synthesized from chemicals.
Herbal medicine dates back a very long time. More than 4,000 years ago, the Chinese emperor Qien Nong put a book together, or a herbal, of different medicinal plants (O' Sullivan 2). It contained descriptions of more than 300 plants. Some of these plants are still used today. The Sumerians, at the same time recorded prescriptions on clay tablets. Also, the Egyptians recorded their information regarding medicine on rolls of papyrus. A very famous papyrus is the Ebers Papyrus, which includes specific information on how to use different plants (Brody 1).
The Greeks and Romans learned about herbal medicine from these early civilizations. They also recorded them in books. We know of these works because they are translated into Arabic. Monks in Europe studied and grew plants for medicinal use. They translated the Arabic and that helped them with the plants. The first drugstores were in Baghdad (which is present day Iraq) in the 9th century (Smith 1). In the 13th century, major trade of herbs and spices occurred in London. Since there were no standards, bad quality herbs and wrong substitutes were often sold. Carolus Linneaus introduced the binomial system of plant nomenclature in 1753 (O'Sullivan 1). This helped identify plants scientifically, which helped to avoid mistakes between different plants.
Many drugs commonly used today are of herbal origin. About one-quarter of the prescription drugs distributed by pharmacies in the United States contain at least one ingredient derived from plant material.
Today, everyone from health care consumers to providers are learning about natural options to help with being healthy. "Herbalists, or individuals who use herbal remedies to alleviate pain, are on the rise in the United States" (Tremmel 1). In 1995, a survey was taken with about 600 physicians across the country. More than half said they refer their patients to practitioners of alternative medicine (including herbalists) (Tremmel 3). Another study showed that last year more than 83 million (more than 40% adults) sought herbal medicine (and some other forms of alternative medicine) for help (Beil 1). Also, another survey showed that last year there were more visits to herbalists (629 million) than primary care physicians (386 million) (Tremmel 2). Though these results are surprising, they are true and they prove that herbal medicine and other forms of alternative medicine are becoming a new popular way of staying healthy.
Herbal medicine is made of an extract taken from a plant (from the leaf, root, flower, and/or bark) used to treat an ailment. There are different types of herbal medicine such as a capsule (i.e. Saw Palmetto), tea (i.e. Back cohosh), dried herbs (i.e. Valerian), and tonic (i.e. Oats). These herbs can have many different effects on the human body. These can be good or bad. Some reactions are: helps fight viruses, decrease pain sensitivity, muscle relaxants, defense against microorganisms, hallucinations, upset stomach, intestinal problems, etc.
Herbs are grown in dry, exposed, and well-drained soil with a lot of sun and low humidity. Manure or compost are often used to help grow different kinds of herbs (Smith 2). Chemical fertilizers, which require a great amount of water, can be dangerous of the formation of herbs. Sometimes herbs are also grown indoors.
This chart is a collection of the 10 best and safest, most effective herbs out there today. There are many other good herbs used, these are just a few:
Name of Herb
What it does
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