Western Herbal Medicine

Herbs were the first drugs that humans used. Every culture on earth, through written and oral tradition has relied on the vast variety of natural chemistry found in healing plants for their therapeutic properties. We learned over time which plants helped and which plants harmed us. For example, echinacea has been shown to increase the activity of the immune cells and help fend off infections from viruses and bacteria when we have a cold. We developed ways to preserve and extract the healing compounds from these plants.

An Herb can be any plant material that is used to alleviate unwanted symptoms or boost overall health. Therefore, in this context, garlic (a bulb), cayenne (a spice) and ginko (extract from the leaves of a tree) are all Herbs.
Western Herbal Medicine then is the use of plants, plant extracts, or plant preparations to improve health. Western Herbal Medicine works with the body to build up the immune system to enhance the body’s innate ability to fight disease and return itself to health. This is in contrast to Western Medicine which is focused at fighting the disease directly (i.e. killing germs). It is important to know that 25% of all pharmaceuticals are derived from plants. The world’s first “wonder drug” quinine to treat malaria was extracted from South America cinchona bark almost 500 years ago. Digitalis used to treat congestive heart failure comes from foxglove. Aspirin was originally an extract from white willow bark and meadow sweet, both of which contain aspirin’s chemical precursor, salicin. Surgical salves that help speed the healing of wounds often contain allantoin, a compound derived from comfrey. The list goes on and on. A more recent discovery of taxol, a compound derived from the yew tree, is used in the treatment of breast and ovarian cancer
. When you have an infection, you might take pharmaceutical antibiotics or the natural antibiotics contained in garlic or goldenseal. Dose for dose most herbs are less potent than drugs. To make conventional pharmaceutical drugs, manufacturers extract unique chemical constituents from plants or create synthetic versions in the laboratory, then pack the substances into pills or capsules. In Herbs, the plant material itself limits how much of the medicinal compounds you get.

There are times when you are in severe pain that you may opt to take a Western pharmaceutical drug with higher drug level potency even at the risk of experiencing side effects. But if you have an ordinary tension headache, you probably don’t need such a strong medicine. The reduced risk of side effects is a big reason why medicinal herbs have become so popular. Like any other medicine, herbal remedies must be used with care. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to assume that because herbs are from plant and are natural that they are completely harmless. For example, Cascara Sagrada is a potent laxative that can help relieve constipation but in large doses it causes abdominal intestinal cramping and diarrhea. The use of simple herbal remedies can encourage us once again to take responsibility for our own health. Instead of trying to obliterate symptoms when they become severe, we need to be sufficiently in tune with our bodies to recognize those symptoms as they develop and treat the likely causes, whether physical, emotional, or spiritual, to restore balance. At Therapeutic Systems we will help you try to find the Western Herbal Medicine that best suits your needs
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