What is Herbal Medicine?

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine, also called herbalism, botanical medicine and phytomedicine, is the practice of using plant parts — roots, stems, bark, leaves, flowers, seeds — to reduce pain, bring you comfort, and improve overall quality of life.

What is an Herbalist?
An herbalist is a person who is trained in herbal medicine and studies the healing properties of plants.

Forms of Herbalism

Planetary Herbalism

Combines the herbal wisdom of the Earth’s three major healing systems — Western Herbalism, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Western Herbalism

A broad term that encompasses traditional European, Eclectic and Native American philosophies of herbal medicine and healing practices.

Folk Herbalism

Sometimes called ‘the people’s medicine’, this refers to local or regional healing traditions that, over time, develop a level of acceptance through common use.

Ayurveda

An ancient system of medicine originating in the region of India. Ayurveda, which means the ‘Science of Life’, brought us the concept of doshas, or 3 basic types of energy present in every body — kapha, pitta and vata. Disease is said to be caused by an imbalance of these doshas, or the presence of ‘ama’, or toxins. Ayurvedic medicine focuses on disease prevention by keeping us balanced through healthy living practices like good diet, exercise, a healthy mind and herbs.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine [TCM] is a 5,000 year-old system of healing that incorporates the use of herbal medicine, acupuncture, energy work and other specialized techniques such as moxibustion and abdominal massage. For thousands of years, the Chinese have used plant, animal and mineral substances that not only relieve symptoms of disease but restore imbalances at their root.

Chinese medicine incorporates highly specialized pulse and tongue reading to assess the human body. The Chinese were perfecting the arts of pulse and tongue assessment to detect subtle changes in the human body long before MRI’s, blood tests and modern science and research methods were developed. A few thousand years later, we’re still astounded at the depth of knowledge and experience Chinese medicine offers to our modern understanding of disease. I incorporate these methods into every patient assessment, along with questions about physical and emotional symptoms.

Herbalism Worldwide
The World Health Organization reports that a majority of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some part of their primary health care. It’s no surprise considering that plant-based medicines have been in use at least since the beginning of recorded history. Herbal medicine offers you a holistic, natural alternative to health and wellness.  A holistic approach means that as your body begins to come into balance, the mind and spirit share in a renewed vitality and strength. A feeling of ‘wholeness’ returns. That is the essence of holistic healing and the heart of herbal medicine.

What is an herb?

An “herb” is another name for a spice or plant that grows in nature and gets put to use in a medicinal way.

How do herbs work?

Herbs flavor…
Have you ever added cinnamon to a holiday cookie recipe, or seasoned a Thanksgiving stuffing with sage? If you have, then you already know how an ordinary kitchen herb can improve the flavor of food. Herbs have lots of great qualities, including medicinal properties that make them indispensable as healers.

Herbs nourish…
As researchers study how plants affect human physiology, science continues to confirm what trained herbalists and ordinary people have known for millennia — herbs nourish and balance your physical body and mind the way fresh, whole food does — with essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients working together in a beautiful chemistry that we have yet to reproduce in laboratories.

Herbs improve health!
Whole plants concentrated into herbal medicines have a profound effect on specific health problems. For instance, Lavender flower is a favorite herb in teas that relax and promote sleep. Lavender flower is also included in many herbal formulas that calm and soothe upset stomach and indigestion. The same essential oils that make lavender infused products smell so lovely have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of mild depression.

Why use herbs?

That would be a very long list of reasons, but here’s a short summary of health problems I’ve personally seen improve with herbs:

  • Mild to moderate chronic headache pain
  • Pre-menstrual breast tenderness, irritability and bloating
  • Irregular, short or long periods
  • Painful menstruation or excessive bleeding
  • Flooding, clotting and other menstrual irregularities
  • Indigestion, heartburn and chronic abdominal pain
  • Chronic constipation, diarrhea or both
  • Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • Night sweats, daytime sweats and hot flashes
  • Anxiety and mild depressive mood
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Joint pain and/or swelling
  • Low libido
  • Menopausal hair loss
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