Herbs have played a major part in medicine for thousands of years. Every culture and every medicinal system, from Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine, has used herbs for therapeutic purposes. There are thousands of herbs with thousands of different uses. But why in today’s world, with all the myriad modern drugs, would a reasonable person continue to use medicinal herbs?
The Transition from Herbal Remedies to Pharmaceuticals
Although many people may dismiss herbal medicines as quackery, the use of herbal botanicals is well established in medical practice. Ancient doctors methodically collected information about medicinal plants and developed well-defined pharmacopoeias to treat a variety of ailments. Despite this and over time, much of Western culture abandoned this people-plant relationship, and turned its’ faith toward modern pharmaceuticals.
Abandonment of herbs was a gradual transition, during which the medical system experimented with everything from bloodletting, trepanation, administration of mercury, and other “cures.” By the dawn of the modern era, gone were the days of hands-on home visits from physicians who had known us since birth, replaced by the efficient, sterile, and often de-humanizing model we currently have. In this model, doctors spend more time looking at our computer records than at our body, despite their best intentions.
Herbal Remedies vs. Pharmaceuticals
Herbal remedies and pharmaceuticals each have their place and purpose. We should empower ourselves to understand the pros and cons of each and use them appropriately. One old adage states “Herbs treat people; pharmaceuticals treat disease.” A pharmaceutical treatment is often prescribed solely based on lab numbers and this treatment relies on distilled chemicals to suppress only the symptoms of a problem. In contrast, herbal remedies work to restore balance and build strength to the entire body.
Herbs can build your immunities and prevent disease. Pharmaceuticals most often act to mask or relieve just the symptoms and do not address the underlying cause of the disease, which often continues to persist. Many people report negative side effects from the use of pharmaceuticals; however, as herbs are easily absorbed into the body and blood stream, leaving very minimal residual effects or side effects. In addition, our bodies can build up a resistance to antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical science isolates one compound within an herb then chemically reproduces that one compound to sell for disease treatment. Herbs are very complex substances with many varied constituents. It is much easier to develop resistance to one substance than to a complex combination of substances.
Another especially favorable aspect of herbs is their ready availability. Most herbs are readily available to the public and available at a very reasonable price. In fact, many commonly used herbs can be grown in your own backyard, are easily processed for use and are just as effective as those purchased. It is possible to have a readily available source of remedies for your family for free! As opposed to herbs, pharmaceutical medicines are only available by doctor visit, an expensive thing in itself, and by prescription to a pharmacy, usually at a very unreasonable price.
A Shift in Perspective
Despite all of this, pharmaceutical drugs, medical doctors and hospitals do have their place, especially in treating injuries and acute and severe illnesses. Many health care practitioners are starting to incorporate natural healing alternatives and herbal remedies into their practices. These practitioners are viewing their patients from a holistic perspective and prescribing pharmaceuticals only in very severe cases. We can do our part by taking good care of ourselves on a daily basis and educating ourselves on all of the various options to support our healing journey. By taking responsibility of our own health and wellness and deciding to work in partnership with our health care providers, we can use critical thinking and our own inner wisdom to decide what is best for our bodies. Together we can help facilitate a shift in perspective and bring balance to the modern approach to healing.
Kim is a natural health enthusiast, herbalist and avid organic gardener who has completed two programs in herbology. As a Holisticate, she shares insights, wisdom and recipes from her journey toward wholeness to inspire and empower others to live a holistic and balanced life. Connect with Kim on Facebook.
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