- Alternative & Natural Medicine
Tips About Herbal Medicine
Since prehistoric times, plants have been used to treat various diseases. Even today, not only are herbs used to treat ailments but also to manufacture beauty care products. This practice has become popular particularly over the last decade or so.If we observe closely, we will discover that we rely a great deal on herbs - from relieving headaches by chewing prunes to treating dandruff with herbal shampoos containing amla and lemon.So, is herbal remedy safe? Most people would say ‘yes'. But folks, always remember that no one who earns his living through prescribing herbal medication would say that they have bad side-effects. So we should not follow herbalists blindly.One reason for herbal medicine's popularity is price. A herbal remedy often costs half or less than half as much as a allopathic/homeopathic drug.American, German and European scientists, in a recent research report, have admitted that there is reliable data about the safety and efficacy of herbal medicine. But one should never forget that different patients require different treatment according to their needs. So avoid experimentation.Various European experts also caution that all herbal medicines are not risk free. They usually are categorized as ‘dietary supplements' and are not subject to the same safety standards that conventional drugs are. And when taken in high doses, some herbs can have dangerous consequences.There is the case of a 35 year-old-person who took twice the recommended dose of ‘natural' pills and soon complained of a racing heart and a headache. He died a few hours later. Experts say that most herbs, if abused, can cause adverse effects that most people don't realize.
It is recorded in numerous books on "Herbs" that in early ages, people used wild plants in food and medicines. By trial and error and experimentation, poisonous ones were also discovered. Knowledge about herbs with positive outcomes was soon disseminated throughout different lands and cultures via trade routes.
In the middle-ages, Hebrews used herbs like thymes and rosemary. Around 2000BC, herbal medicines were prepared in Babylon. Ancient Egyptians also imported oils and spices from India and other places. The Greeks possessed great knowledge of herbs. Hippocrates who is called ‘Father of Medicine' had a number of students who learned the use of herbs. The Romans also used medicinal herbs, and introduced about 200 types of herbs to Britain. Many books, written during the 15th to late 16th century, like Herball, Theatrum Botanicum and The English Physician contain centuries of knowledge about herbs.
After late 18th century, the use of herbal medicine increased and people even started to grow herbs in their home gardens after recognizing their practical value. Today, herbs have infinite potential uses and are grown for decorative, fragrant and cosmetic purposes.
Risky herbal products
A number of herbal products have been invading leading outlets. Though they aren't processed or neatly packed, they always capture one's attention.
During a recent visit to a market, I saw ordinary tea labelled as "safe herbal product", targeting people who want to reduce their weight. This is all just a hoax. It was reported in the ‘Time' magazine, that these diet teas can cause fainting, loss of bowel function and even death from cardiac arrhythmia. So beware of such things.
This list is a round up of useful, safe herbs and other plants:
- THYME: Available in many species and varieties, used for culinary, medicinal and aromatic purposes, it is consumed as an extract or tea. It is useful for fighting bronchitis, cough and other respiratory inflammations. It is also used as a hair conditioner and for stimulating, cleansing and toning.
- FEVERFEW: Considered as an important herb possessing medicinal potential to treat headaches and fever, it may also decrease the frequency and pain of migraines. It is considered most effective in the form of fresh or recently dried powdered leaves and leaf extracts.
- CHAMOMILE: It is usually taken as a tea. It eases upset stomach and aids digestion. It is also available as an oil, used in ointment and lotions.
- CINNAMON: The powdered form can relieve indigestion and flatulence.
- GINGER: One gram taken as tea before travelling is an effective motion-sickness remedy. Remember not to exceed a daily dosage of four gram because that may cause depression of the central nervous system. It is also a good painkiller for headache and toothache; apply its paste on the forehead and on gums to relieve pain.
- GARLIC: It is a top herbal remedy. It has proved to lower cholesterol and reduce high blood pressure. Some studies suggest it may even have cancer-fighting properties.
- FENNEL: It soothes mild stomach upset and flatulence and can also reduce inflammation of the nose and throat during a cold. It improves eyesight and prevents sleep disorders.
- HENNA: It has wonderful healing properties and has been used as a cosmetic for over 5,000 years. It prevents thinning hair. In hot climates, it reduces swelling and cools and heals the skin. It cures nail diseases. If you have painful mouth ulcers that usually develop due to eating acidic foods, chew a few henna leaves and spit them out to relieve them.
- ALOE VERA: It is available in 500 varieties and is a highly effective remedy for minor burns, surface wounds and skin irritations. For acne, dandruff and sunburn, it is an effective remedy. Nowadays, the cosmetic industry is using it in manufacturing sun blocks, cleansers, shampoo, soaps, deodorants, body lotions, shaving gels, moisturizers and skin care creams.
- LEMON: It is a rich source of calcium, vitamin C and phosphorous. It controls cholesterol and obesity, prevents wrinkles and improves complexion.
- ONION: It prevents eye disease and is a good remedy for sunstroke.
- PEPPERMINT: Its tea or oil treats indigestion.
Remember folks! It is always a good idea to inform your doctor of all the medicines and supplements you take including herbs. Specially ask about their effects. Only use identified herbs and purchase from reliable herbalists or shops.