Common Questions about Herbal Medicine

What is herbal medicine used for?


Also known as botanical medicines, herbal medicines are made from plants and have been used for thousands of years to treat almost every condition. Before drugs, natural medicines like herbs were the main treatments.


Before the 1900s, there were no scientific studies that could tell why herbs were effective. Doctors used their experience with the herbs and their patients to understand how to use them. Eventually, a large body of evidence was compiled that described the actions of each herb, and enough information became available to allow doctors to confidently use the herbs for particular conditions.


Presently, research continues to show us exactly why and how herbal medicines are capable of helping your symptoms, and many herbs can be safely used together with medications. However, some drugs and herbs are known to interact, which can cause unwanted side effects or other dangers. Always speak to a doctor before using an herbal medicine.


Much more is known today about why herbal medicines are effective for various conditions such as the following:



How does herbal medicine benefit the body?


Herbal medicines contain thousands of different chemical compounds. Plant compounds are also called “phytochemicals,” and they each have different effects on the body. One example are antioxidants, which help protect our cells from damage. Antioxidants are often found in fruits and vegetables, as most people have heard before.


Each herbal medicine contains a variety of different chemical compounds, which means they all have a unique effect or “action” on the body. Other examples include tannins, alkaloids, and phytosterols (plant steroids).


You are probably already getting some benefit from tannins, as they are found in high amounts in tea and coffee, which most people drink on a daily basis. One benefit of tannins is that they have been shown to inhibit growth of bacteria and other micro-organisms that live in the digestive system.


In other cases, herbal medicines like Rauwolfia serpentina have been shown to reduce blood pressure.


Herbal medicines can be used for a variety of purposes and have many benefits when used appropriately. Some more uses for herbal medicines include the following:



What are some examples of herbal medicines?


Some of the most popular herbal medicines include St. John’s Wort, Ginseng, Peppermint, and Lavender. Each of these herbs is used for different conditions.


1) St. John’s Wort


Most commonly used as an antidepressant, it can also help with other conditions. One of the most well-studied chemical compounds in St. John’s Wort is called hypericin, which is thought to be the main compound responsible for its beneficial effects. Other compounds such as hyperforin show beneficial effects for mood, similar to the way that antidepressant medications (SSRIs) work.


2) Ginseng


Ginseng is a popular herb often used in Chinese Medicine to improve energy and immunity. There are different kinds of Ginseng such as Siberian Ginseng and Indian Ginseng. They all have similar effects but are used for different reasons.


3) Peppermint


Most commonly used to help with digestion and gas, peppermint can also help to relieve stomach cramps and pains. It has a cooling effect on the gastrointestinal system. It is also commonly used in chewing gum and candies for its minty flavor.


4) Lavender


Lavender is related to peppermint but is used more commonly for anxiety. An easy way to experience the calming effect of lavender is to visit a lavender field or to put lavender essential oil into an oil diffuser.


Getting Started with Herbal Medicines


One of the best ways to experience the benefit of herbal medicines is to visit a Naturopathic doctor who can make you an herbal formula, which is a combination of herbs.


Naturopathic doctors are trained experts in the use of herbal medicines.


Herbal medicines are commonly used in combination because herbs work better when they are used together. An herbal formula is usually created based on your unique symptoms and needs. This means that they will be created for you after you visit a doctor.


It is important to understand that the brand and quality of herbal medicines makes a difference in the effectiveness of the herbs.


Dr. Pistoia has access to professional-grade herbal medicines made by companies with rigorous quality control standards. If you’re interested in trying herbal medicines for your symptoms, give us a call today to learn what your options are.


References

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