A Brief Overview
Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest
in botanical medicine. People are discovering how well herbs work and
how few side effects they have. Some of what you are reading about
in the newspapers and seeing on TV is new knowledge - and much of it
is the rediscovery of what people have known for thousands of years.
Researchers discovered that some of these isolated
constituents were very powerful medicines. The painkillers aspirin and
cocaine were two important drugs developed from plants. The development
of our modern drugs began with the study of plant medicines. (
Herbs the Source of Many
Modern botanical medicine is a complex and sophisticated
area of medicine. In Europe, there are four-year botanical medical schools
teaching the use of herbs exclusively. Used in several ways, herbs are
effective for illnesses of short duration like colds and flus, to target
a particular organ of the body, or as general tonics aiding in overall
health. Echinacea and Goldenseal are two easily recognizable herbs most
often used to treat short term illness. The herb, Gymnema sylvestre
is an organ-specific herb that targets the pancreas and is helpful in
Type II Diabetes. (Care must be used with this type herb to avoid interactions
with conventional drugs.) Still other herbs have a more general tonifying
effect and can be safely used with regular drugs.
Today people are discovering how well herbs work and
how few side effects they have. As a result of this new interest, herbal
and pharmaceutical companies are isolating components of the herbs and
promoting a few herbs as panaceas. For example, Echinacea is an effective
herb in stimulating the immune system. People are not cautioned that
Echinacea may be too stimulating for the elderly and those with weakened
immune systems. A less stimulating herb like Astragulus may be more
effective. Another example of this is St. Johns wort. St. Johns
wort primary action is for injury to the nervous system especially with
shock or contusions with shock. Its secondary action is as a mild to
moderate anti-depressant. It will do a fine job as a mild anti-depressant
but then there are many herbs that may be more specific to the various
types of depression.
Herbs come in several forms: tinctures (and extracts),
pills, and bulk (usually used in teas). By far, the most convenient
is the pill form. It is easily transportable and has minimal taste.
However, it is not absorbed as well as either tinctures or teas. Generally
speaking, Americans have poor digestion. Antacids and hemorrhoidal creams
sell extremely well in American pharmacies. Both of these are signs
of sluggish digestion and possible poor absorption. Herbal tinctures
are more easily absorbed. Because they are often alcohol based, they
should be avoided by anyone who has a personal history of alcohol abuse.
For all others, placing the tincture in some boiling water may neutralize
the alcohol. Herbal teas are excellent for digestive and urinary tract
problems. They go directly to both of these areas and are extremely
effective. The downside of herbal teas is some people find the taste
unpleasant. You can add some sort of flavor to make the tea more palatable.
I find that people like the flavors of Cinnamon, Orange Peel, Lemon
Peel, or Glycerrhiza added to the tea.
Often people tend to take too little rather than too much of botanical medicine. If trying to ward off a cold or flu, an adult can take 1 dropperful of tincture each hour for 1 day or for several hours until he/she feels better. Then the dose should be decreased and continued for 1 or 2 days more. Pills are more difficult to make dosage suggestions as there are varying milligrams in the capsules or tablets. Look in your books for signs of overdose. While this is rare, it is a good idea to be forewarned.
There are several herbs with which to be cautious. Among the more popular herbs, use Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) and Licorice (Glycerrhiza glabra) carefully. Goldenseal has many properties. While best known for its antimicrobial effect on the body, it also increases the secretion of digestive acids in the stomach. For anyone with stomach or duodenal ulcers, this would be an incorrect herb to take. Pregnant women should not use Goldenseal. Licorice is an extremely versatile herb that is appropriate for almost everyone except those with high blood pressure. There is a deglycerated form of licorice that should be used in these cases. ( top )
Some herbs can
raise blood pressure or interact negatively with other medications.
For more complicated and chronic medical conditions, especially when
both conventional and herbal medicine are being used, it is best to
get the aid of someone experienced in this form of medicine. Then you
can have the benefit of the most current research in botanical medicine
and the experience of someone who also has a medical background.
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About the Doctor
Dr. Juniper Martin
11825 SW Greenburg Road, Suite A2
Tigard, OR 97223