Medical herbalism. Definition. Medical herbalism may be defined as the practice of using products in which all active ingredients are of herbal origin to treat the sick. In practice rather more detail is required. Definition.
Plant-derived materials or products with therapeutic or other human health benefits which contain either raw or processed ingredients from one or more plants.
A substance or combination of substances of herbal origin presented for treating or preventing disease or with a view to making a medical diagnosis or to restoring, correcting or modifying physiological functions.
1. Cleansing the body.
2. Mobilising the circulation.
3. Stimulating digestion.
4. Nourishment and repair.
1. Cleansing the body: removal of toxins and other noxious influences – real or imagined – that might cause a physical or mental barrier to treatment. Diuretics, expectorants and laxatives are involved here.
2. Mobilising the circulation: traditionally disease was seen as a ‘cold’ influence on the body and before any other treatment the body should be comforted by ‘heating agents’. Hot spices and pungent medicines (e.g. ginger) and more gentle warming medicines are available for this purpose.
3. Stimulating digestion: inappropriate or too much heat in the body manifests itself as fevers and inflammatory conditions. Thus, the so-called ‘cooling medicines’ are those used to treat these circumstances, leading to improved digestion. Anti-inflammatories, antiallergics and sedatives are examples of therapeutic classes of drugs that fall into this category.
4. Nourishment and repair: in this phase the herbalist deals with the debility arising from disease in the body. The term ‘tonic’ covers a wide range of medicines used to support the body. Examples include hawthorn (Crataegus oxycanthoides), milk thistle (Silybum marianus) and St John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum).
• The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia gives identification and usage information as well as providing instructions on how medicines should be prepared and the British Herbal Compendium provides up-to-date summaries of the available scientific knowledge on medicinal plants
• The American Herbal Pharmacopeia (www.herbal-ahp.org) began developing qualitative and therapeutic monographs in 1994, and intends to produce 300 monographs on botanicals, including many of the ayurvedic, Chinese and western herbs most frequently used in the USA.
Patients with heart disease are reported to benefit from treatment with herbal medicine with fewer side effects
An example of this would be the use of Echinacea to ward off or reduce the effects of a cold or ginger to prevent motion sickness.
An example of this latter situation would be the use of milk thistle extract in the treatment of cirrhosis of the liver.
• The person may also not be using the herb in a manner that delivers the active agent.
In many herbs (e.g. valerian), the active ingredient is an oil and so is not soluble in water. Hence, steeping it in water and brewing a tea is not going to get you very much of the compound. In these cases, extracts in oil or glycerine (or sometimes in alcohol) or directly consuming the powdered herb are the best way to deliver the agent.