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Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine has been successfully used for thousands of years.  All cultures developed their own traditional herbal medicine.

Modern pharmaceutical medicine has only been used from the 1900’s and many drugs are based on the active ingredient from herbal medicines.

Researching and using the active constituent from effective herbal medicine allows the drug companies to patent the medicine.  A natural medicine cannot be patented so there is no profit to be made.

Drugs that are derived from the active ingredient of traditional herbal medicine include:

ASPIRIN – derived from Willow Bark – painkiller and blood thinner

DIGOXIN – derived from Digitalis – used to stimulate the heart in congestive heart failure

ARTEMISININ – derived from Artemesia annua – patented as the most effective anti-malarial drug.

However, using the active ingredient relieves symptoms very effectively, but without all the other (often unknown) constituents in the plant, unpleasant side effects occur, or the full benefit of the herb is not achieved.

All the constituents in the complete herb work synergystically together to heal effectively without side effects.

HERBAL PRESCRIBING

Most Western herbal prescribing involves 1 to 6 herbs in a formula for a particular condition.

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For a truly individualized prescription, a herbal tincture can be made up from the individual herbs.

Many herbal and nutriceutical companies are making herbal formulas in tablet or capsule form to suit particular conditions.  An advantage of these formulas is that vitamins and minerals can be added to increase effectiveness.

HOW DO HERBS WORK?

Herbal medicine is holistic medicine.

Usually free from side effects, herbal medicine stimulates the body’s natural healing responses without switching off the brain’s control, as pharmaceuticals often do.

HAYFEVER

For example, the medical treatment for hayfever is an anti-histamine.  These commonly used drugs are very effective at reducing the over-active response to pollens or grasses and very successfully reduce nasal secretions, sneezing and itchy eyes.

But if this medicine is taken long term, it switches off the brain’s natural healing response to the allergens and disrupts the immune response in general.  Consequently, if the medicine is stopped, the symptoms came back more severely.  This can escalate each year and become a vicious cycle that is very hard to break.

The herbal treatment for hayfever supports the natural immune response and retrains the body’s response to the allergens.  Thus there is no rebound worsening if it is stopped.

Caution:  If you decide to try the herbal medicine after long term use of anti-histamines, expect your symptoms to worsen in the first week or 2, as the body starts to mount its normal healing response.  So best to start on a day you aren’t working.  It is okay to still use an antihistamine occasionally during the herbal therapy if the symptoms are unmanageable.  Always discuss this with the doctor who prescribed the medicine.

Herbal medicine can be safely used for almost any health condition

For more information use the search box to search for specific conditions.

Are there any reactions between herbal medicine and pharmaceutical medicine?

Yes, there a contra-indications for taking certain herbs with prescribed medications.  A register is being updated all the time to record any adverse events from mixing drugs with herbs.

Some examples of drug-herb interactions are:

1.  St John’s Wort (Hypericum) should never be given with anti-depressants as it can amplify the effect of the drug and cause serotinergic syndrome, where agitation and mania can sometimes occur.

In addition, St John’s Wort is a liver tonic and can reduce the half life of prescibed medicine by metabolizing it too quickly.  So many doctors will warn patients of this when prescribing drugs.

2.  Blood thinning herbs such as Willow Bark are contraindicated with blood thinning drugs, such as warfarin, as the blood can become too thin and cause internal bleeding.  In addition, Fish Oil, Vitamin K and Vitamin C can also cause excess blood thinning if used with these drugs, so are always contra-indicated.  Ginkgo biloba, however, is safe to take with blood thinning medications.