Herbal Therapy.

By Cheyenne Hacker.

What medical theory or spiritual belief is the foundation of this therapy?

Plants have been used for medicinal purposes long before recorded history. As early as 3,000 BC, ancient Chinese and Egyptian writings described medicinal uses for plants. Indigenous cultures like those of Africa and the Native Americans used herbs in healing rituals, while others created traditional medical systems that included the use of herbal remedies.

Even modern medicine stems from key ingredients found in plants. Over the centuries scientists have extracted and modified them to create the drugs that are common today. Almost one-fourth of today's pharmaceutical drugs come from botanicals.

Herbal therapy originates from the spiritual belief than anything natural is better for your body. Drugs today are laden with chemicals that do harm to your body, while herbal remedies ultimately lack this.

What results are supposed to be gained by using this therapy?

Herbal medicines are used to treat a plethora of different conditions such as asthma, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer, among many others. Each specific herb has its own healing properties. For example, St. John's Wort is widely used for its antidepressant qualities, while ginger can relieve nausea and vomiting.

What is the treatment process this therapy uses?

Herbal therapy is similar to pharmaceutical drugs in that it is used over a period of time to collect the benefits. There are many forms that herbal therapy can come in, such as syrups, capsules, creams, and tinctures (which are herbal extracts mixed with an alcohol or water base). Some herbs are also available as teas.

Are you required to hold a medical degree or other license to practice this therapy?

Herbalists, chiropractors, naturopathic physicians, pharmacists, medical doctors, and practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine all may use herbal therapy.

To become a medical herbalist and member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists requires a minimum of a recognized degree course in herbal medicine. Recognized courses include:

  • Anatomy and physiology.
  • Pathophysiology.
  • Diagnostic skills.
  • Nutrition.
  • Botany.

How common is this therapy?

Nearly one-third of Americans use herbs for their medicinal qualities. However, herbal therapy is much more common in Western medicine.

What concerns do doctors of traditional medicine hold about this therapy?

Like most alternative and therapeutic medicines, herbal therapy has its risks. Herbal supplements are classified as dietary supplements and, therefore, do not have to be regulated or tested to see if they are both safe and effective. Because of this, many herbal supplements are sold with additives that are not necessarily healthy for your body. Some herbs can cause unforeseen allergic reactions or interact with prescription drugs, and some are toxic if used improperly or at the wrong doses.

Because of these risks, it is extremely important to see your general practitioner before beginning any type of herbal therapy.

Would you ever use this therapy for yourself or your pet?

After consultation with my general practitioner, and barring that she approves of it, I would definitely use herbal supplements. However, because much research has not been done on the effects of herbal therapy on pets, I probably would not use the aforementioned for my animals.