Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. See Disclosure HERE.
A lot of contradicting information exists around herbal remedies. Mainstream medicine benefits from this whirlwind of data. In the last 100-200 years or so, people have been indoctrinated and at times bullied into accepting doctors as the source of relief from whatever ails them.
The funniest part is this: None of us would be here without herbs. None of the pills, injections, inhalants, sprays or topicals would exist without herbs. Don’t believe me? Look up a few of your favorite medications. Do some research into their origin.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Can’t think of anything? Let me help.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI):
Even at the dawn of 21st century, 11% of the 252 drugs considered as basic and essential by the WHO [World Health Organization] were exclusively of flowering plant origin.
According to Newman and Cragg 2012, the utility of natural products as sources of novel structures is still alive and well. Up to 50% the approved drugs during the last 30 years are from either directly or indirectly from natural products and in the area of cancer, over the time frame from around the 1940s to date, of the 175 small molecules 85 actually being either natural products or directly derived there from.
The use of plants as medicines has a long history in the treatment of various diseases. The plant-derived compounds have a long history of clinical use, better patient tolerance and acceptance. To date, 35,000-70,000 plant species have been screened for their medicinal use.
Plants especially those with ethnopharmacological uses have been the primary sources of medicine for early drug discovery. Fabricant and Farnsworth, (2001) reported that, 80% of 122 plant derived drugs were related to their original ethnopharmacological purposes.
(Veeresham C. Natural products derived from plants as a source of drugs. J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2012;3(4):200–201. doi:10.4103/2231-4040.104709)
In a nutshell: A dizzying number of current drugs came from plants. Moving on…
What Are Herbs Anyway?
The word has been used to cover a broad spectrum, but Meriam-Webster defines it as:
You would be surprised at what can be considered “herbal” these days. The Spruce Eats says:
Way back when we were chasing mammoths for food, the only way we got any roughage or vegetables was from foraging. Included in this foraging were herbs, beneficial plants, roots, and such that became part of our diet.
Today many vegetables and grains have been significantly modified to barely resemble their ancestors. Most herbs remain more closely tied to their primitive selves than grains, potatoes, and many other crops.
A lot of herbalists grow their own vegetables & herbs to avoid hybrid, adulterated, GMO, inorganic produce. Even farmer’s market fare is not completely trustworthy unless the grower can show they are organic farmers using non-hybrid, non-GMO seed.
We want to grow and harvest plants as close to their native, wild forms as possible. For this reason, we will often search for seed handlers who offer organic, non-hybrid seeds. You cannot grow organic produce from GMO or hybridized seed.
You are probably already aware of most of these. Many of them are in your local grocery spice aisle or produce section.
- Citrus fruits
It is a lengthy list. Pretty much anything you can eat or drink that is naturally sourced can be considered “herbal” in nature. As mentioned, a lot of store-bought items are not of “medicinal” strength and quality that herbalists prefer for their preparations.
If like me, you are herbing on a budget, check your spice aisle and go for the organic, non-GMO gluten-free options. They are a little pricier but if you want them for herbal remedies, it is best to go with quality vs cost.
Another resource for quality herbs is an apothecary or herb shop. Your herb shop owner or worker should be able to tell you the sources of their products. They should also be a fountain of information when it comes to other natural remedy locations in the area. And the pricing should be within budget for most of us.
I do not suggest paying a higher price for organic produce. I prefer non-GMO locally sourced produce. I have even lurked around farmer’s markets. Non-GMO items may be smaller and not as pretty, but at least you have produce grown from the earth, not chemicals.
Once you collect your herbs, spices, organic fruits and veggies, what can you do with them?
What Herbs CAN Do
Even if you only use herbs for culinary purposes, you are doing yourself an enormous favor. With herbs, you can support and maintain homeostasis (a state of physiological balance in the body) by replenishing depleted reserves. Herbs can also support immune reactions and help ease pain and muscle tension.
Herbs can be used to treat and improve skin issues and strengthen hair and nails. They can improve the balance of healthy gut flora and help detoxify your system. You can employ herbs for sleep problems, relaxation, low energy, poor circulation, improved memory, and reduced libido.
Generally speaking, if you have an issue physically, emotionally, or mentally, there’s probably an herb or two (or more) for that. *
*These statements are based on my own experience and study and have not been validated by the FDA.
What Herbs CANNOT DO
Most herbs are not an instant fix. Like drugs, you may have a “wash-in” period. Herbs are absorbed and deployed in the body faster than many drugs -because of their natural state- and need to be ingested, applied, or inhaled more often than the 4-8 hours you have with pharmaceuticals or OTC medications.
Herbalists cannot claim to diagnose, treat, or cure a specific condition. There are herbs that have been shown, through the thousands of years of human usage, to be effective in some cases. What works for some may not work for everyone.
You cannot immediately replace a prescription with herbs. Although many pharmaceuticals are plant-derived, it is by far not the same thing. The active ingredient has been synthesized until it hardly resembles the natural source.
It is also not wise to use herbs in conjunction with prescribed medication without your physician’s knowledge. A variety of unpredictable interactions are highly probable and must be carefully considered.
Some herbs increase the potency of certain drugs. This can be highly detrimental no matter your state of health. You could create a toxic reaction if you mix herbs with drugs without the proper precautions. In other cases, herbs can reduce the effectiveness of drugs, which can also be very bad for you.
There is no real way to know ahead of time exactly how herbs will interact with your medications. This is why I insist on anyone who comes to me must speak with their doctor first.
Herbs cannot replace skilled critical care. If you have an extensive injury or a chronic condition that requires frequent medical intervention, see your medical professional as recommended.
In these cases, the only thing herbs can do is help you maintain. Never risk your health and well-being. As stated, some herbs require a wash-in period to become truly effective. The time frame differs by person, but 3 days to 3 months is not unusual.
Don’t Think, KNOW
In the end, the best advice you can follow is to do a lot of research. Discuss what you want herbs for with your physician and with an herbalist. There is no perfect combination. Keeping your care team completely and fully aware is crucial to safely integrate natural remedies into your protocol.
Do not make any changes to your routine until you are certain of the benefits and risks.
Don’t think. KNOW.
One More thing…
I am NOT a medical practitioner.
I am an Herbalist.
Everything I share here is drawn from my studies, my beliefs and my own personal experience. This is NOT a Gospel. Nothing here should be considered “medical” advice. I make no claims that I can or will treat or cure any specific disease or condition.
My goal is to educate and empower you in managing your well-being.
If you chose to explore natural remedies, do your research. Discuss your options with your physician before beginning any herbal regimen.
Until next time,
Take care of yourself!