The thought of using herbs for their medicinal attributes seems to be a rather controversial one! The controversy surrounding medicinal herbs is a relatively young one, since, for thousands of years people have been using their herbal remedies to help deal with ailments. How did we then get from using them freely to being almost completely dependant on doctors and chemists and all their various ‘goodies?’
One thing that likely changed the view of herbal remedies is that anyone (especially older women) who had a knowledge of herbs and healing in the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe were viewed as ‘the Devil’s earthly agents’ and consequently a great superstition arose around it. There are actually many today that still have a slight inclination to think, however unfounded, that herbalism is mixed up with the occult in some way! This, however, is not the main reason herbs have fallen out of favour..
Not one plant is exactly the same as another. They are living things, just like humans, insects and fungi. This means that not each plant has exactly the same amount of constituents as another of the same plant. The volatile oil content of one sprig of thyme will not be the same as another sprig of thyme. In our ‘modern’, apparently more ‘efficient’ world (one can only scoff!), unless something is uniform it cannot be regulated. A doctor cannot prescribe a treatment with something that is not exactly the same every time around. Also, herbs have a variety of constituents that make up the plant, all having an effect on different things, unlike the pills and tablets used in the medical profession which try to target a specific symptom.
After reading the above one might think that it is unwise to use herbal remedies. However, the benefits of using them overwhelmingly outweigh any perceived ‘disadvantages’.
Our Medicines are Derived from Plants
The majority of our medicines are derived from plants, anyway. For example, the Madagascan Periwinkle is used to treat Leukaemia and Hojgkins’ Disease. Save the chemists the hassle of deriving the necessary parts, or trying to synthesize them, and use the original thing.
Treat a variety of symptoms
This is mentioned above as a possible reason that the medical profession doesn’t trust them. Rather, this is a good thing. Many are aware of the fact that most medicines made by chemists all come along with a long list of side effects. (One tablet used for anxiety actually lists anxiety as a possible side effect!) Take for example Aspirin. This was originally taken from a plant that has a similar action to Asprin with the Latin name of Filipendula ulmaria. This herb is also used to treat inflammation. However, while aspirin erodes the stomach lining, Meadowsweet (the common name of the plant) because of its mucilage content, coats the inside the of stomach, preventing any ‘erosion!’ Herbs have complementary actions!
Trial and Error and Experience
Remember that herbal remedies have been used for thousands of years. People have experienced different ailments and which herbs have been effective and which haven’t. Why would so much confidence be placed on these remedies if they were known to be ineffective? People in the past were not somehow inferior to us today. In many ways they were far more advanced. Just think of how in tune they all were with their surroundings, how they all lived in harmony with nature. Then think of how ‘advanced’ humanity thinks they are now and then look at how the earth is suffering! Along with its inhabitants, human and animal. The problem with many people today is that they think they know a lot. People are far more ‘book-smart’ today than in the past, this is without doubt. However, the problem is that many base all of their suppositions on their book-knowledge and not on experience. Therefore, new drugs that are produced and tested and given to people are based on what people know. Stick to what has been used for thousands of years and not just the last 100. Far too often, a few decades after a drug has been proved ‘safe’ by the experts, it has to be withdrawn because of negative effects that it produced. *
While the medical profession doesn’t usually have many different pills to treat the same symptom, there are many herbs which have similar actions. This means, that herbal remedies rarely ever treat just one symptom, rather, the herbalist will try and use a herb based on your whole range of symptoms, some of which people don’t even think of as symptoms. This usually indicates a herb that will deal with the cause of your problems and not just the symptoms. This will lead to a longer-lasting fix.
If there is any lesson that has been learnt over the last 100 years or so, it should be this: Artificial, synthetic means of doing anything is always detrimental. This is enough reason to try and treat yourself with what is available right there, growing all around us, possibly even in your own garden. In fact, another great advantage to using herbal remedies is that you can grow them and thus treat your ailments free of charge.
Use herbs – they are all around and are so beneficial. Besides their medicinal uses, we can use them for cosmetic benefits and, of course, culinary purposes. Just think of making your own shampoo; cheap and with no harmful chemicals. Picture yourself going into the garden and picking a sprig of rosemary or some borage flowers to add to whatever you are preparing to eat. The benefits are endless!
Watch this space for articles about specific herbs, on how to grow and use them!
*This article is in no way an attack on the medical profession and so must not be seen in that light. In fact, doctors, chemists and surgeons have done and are doing some amazing things. However, it is about time that we became less dependent on them.