Herbal medicine is the use of plants for therapeutic properties. Preparations are made from plants for their healing properties. These can include tisanes (herbal teas), flower essences, salves, and tinctures. Depending on the plant used, roots, leaves, seeds, and/or flowers can be used to make the herbal preparation.
What types of plants are used?
Many of the plants you see growing wild in fields, along rivers and streams, and sometimes in your own yard, have medicinal properties. One example is the Taraxacum officinale, better known as dandelions, which we see growing wild in many areas. Although many people fight to keep them out of their yard, others use them for their medicinal value. Aloe barbadensis (Aloe vera), Echinacea angustifolia (echinacea or coneflower), Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort), and Calendula officinalis (calendula or marigold) are just a few examples of plants also used as medicine.
Herbal medicine from nature
Using plants as medicine dates back to ancient times. Most of those medications were infusions, decoctions and/or macerations. When we make a cup of tea by immersing the leaves in water for a few minutes, we’ve made an infusion. Decoctions are made by adding the plant parts (typically roots or bark) to the boiling water and letting it boil for up to 20 minutes. Maceration is extracting the medicine from the plant by immersing it in a liquid, usually alcohol or oil, for a specified time. These macerations can sit for a month or more to extract the medicine from the plant.
Different types of medical practices
There are many different types of medicine. Allopathic medicine, also known as modern or western medicine, uses medication and surgeries among other things, to treat diseases and conditions. Osteopathic doctors look at the body as a whole to find what is out of balance since they believe all parts of the body should work together. Homeopathic practitioners believe in a “like cures like” philosophy. A tiny amount of an allergen, for instance, would be made into a preparation and given to someone allergic to that substance, thereby helping the body to heal itself. Chiropractic involves manipulation and adjustment of the spinal column to help the nervous system coordinate the body’s functions. Herbal medicine is one more type of medicine. These are only a few of the choices (and very basic definitions) of what we have for healing.
Why herbal medicine?
There are many types of medicine, all of which have their place. With herbal medicine, we use plants found in nature to help heal our bodies. Plants work on a more holistic scale, working on putting our bodies back in balance. Our tisanes (herbal teas), flower essences, salves, and tinctures are all herbal medicine preparations. Each one is made with different herbs and can be used to help treat different conditions.
As with any other changes used to improve our health, we need to remember the importance of diet, exercise, and sleep in our daily routines. Are you taking care of yourself? What improvements can be made? Small changes made to improve our own care can be very beneficial in moving us along on the journey of better health.
Always check with your medical practitioner before starting any new type of treatment.
What type of herbal medicine would you like to learn more about?