Natural Herbal Remedies: Supplements and Herbal Healing
Herbal remedies are probably mankind's oldest medicine. The history of
herbal healing stretches back at least 5,000 years in Western culture. The
history of herbal healing worldwide is likely far older: All cultures
possess herbal remedies based on the herbs and plants in their geographic
While herbal healing and herbal supplements are now considered alternative
medicine, they were considered standard practice for most of medical
Herbal Healing in North America
Herbal remedies enjoyed a long history in North America, but were replaced
by pharmaceuticals in both the United States and Canada over the last
century. In recent years, public interest in herbal healing has renewed,
with more people exploring herbs and supplements as alternatives to
A number of reasons account for the revival of herbal remedies in North
America. An interest in natural healing has blossomed in recent years in
response to the side effects of many pharmaceuticals. Herbal supplements
generally have fewer side effects and less toxicity than pharmaceuticals.
Furthermore, many herbs, unlike most conventional medicines, can be taken
as preventive medicine, guarding against illness rather than treating the
illness. There is also the unavoidable fact that herbal remedies cost less
than most pharmaceuticals.
Who Shouldn't Use Herbal Remedies?
Herbal supplements are not advised for children, as herbal dosages and
safety vary with age. Pregnant women should also avoid herbal remedies, as
some herbs can have adverse effects on fetal development. Even
breastfeeding mothers should avoid using herbal remedies until their baby
If you live with any of the following conditions, please consult with a
medical professional before using any herbal remedies or supplements:
· blood coagulation disorders
At least one week before any surgery, including dental surgery, stop all
herbal supplements. Certain herbs can interfere with anesthesia and blood
Herbal Healing and Remedies for Common Complaints
Herbal remedies are available for a long list of health conditions. In some
cases, the claims of herbal remedies have been proven by medical science.
Other herbs' healing properties have not been scientifically validated, but
are supported by a history of anecdotal evidence and tradition. Remember:
Like any other healing therapy, no herb is completely safe. If you have any
doubts, consult a medical professional or professional herbalist.
Evening Primrose oil
Essential fatty acids in flaxseed oil and evening primrose
oil thin the sebum that causes acne.
Peppermint tea or several drops of peppermint oil on the
tongue freshens breath, as does chewing a sprig of parsley.
Echinacea and goldenseal boost the immune system and reduce
cold symptoms. Goldenseal tea also relieves sore throats.
Dong quoi and ginseng are used in traditional Chinese
medicine to treat fatigue.
Flaxseed oil is high in fatty amino acids, which the body
requires for proper functioning.
Ginger relaxes the digestive tract, lowering the chance of
both possess sedating and muscle-relaxing properties.
Peppermint tea has a soothing effect on the stomach's mucus
Ginger relieves nausea without the drowsiness of
Safety of Herbal Remedies
Herbal remedies are generally gentler on the body than pharmaceuticals, but
some cautions must be taken when using herbs and other botanicals.
"Natural" should not be confused with "safe." Many of today's more potent
pharmaceuticals were derived from herbs or herbal remedies. Aspirin, for
example, was developed from compounds in willow bark.
Self-diagnosing and self-medicating with herbs is not advisable if a health
condition is serious or fast-acting. A rapidly developing bacterial
infection such as pneumonia, for instance, responds to treatment much
faster with standard antibiotics than with herbal remedies. Herbal healing
takes time to affect health and some health complications require much
Herbs and herbal supplements can cause unwanted side effects, especially
when supplements are taken in large amounts. Examples include:
St John's Wort
Can cause dizziness, confusion, tiredness, upset stomach, tiredness,
dry mouth and photosensitivity.
Ephedra (Ma Huang):
Known to cause hypertension, irregular heartbeat, insomnia, headaches,
strokes and heart attacks.
May cause tiredness, skin rashes, unusual mouth or tongue movement, and
May cause indigestion and other stomach problems (instead of
supplements try incorporating natural turmeric-curry-into your
High doses can result in insomnia, headaches, skin rashes, upset
stomach, breast tenderness, anxiety, and increased menstrual bleeding.
While some of the side effects listed above are severe, it should be noted
that many conventional medications have possible side effects just as
severe as those associated with some herbs. If in doubt as to the safety of
an herb, consult either your doctor or a professional herbalist.
Herbs and Drug Interactions
Certain herbs and herbal supplements can cause adverse reactions when mixed
with pharmaceuticals. Ginkgo biloba, for instance, interferes with
aspirin's anticoagulant properties, and should not be taken with any
anticoagulant medication. St. John's Wort, while often used to treat mild
depression, should not be taken with prescription antidepressants or
anti-anxiety medication. Treat all herbs with respect, and be sure to let
your doctor know which herbal supplements you plan on using, especially if
you already take medication.
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