The use of plants and plant substances for healing purposes is as old as civilization itself. Herbal traditions of the Americas, Europe and Asia have recorded the uses of plants, to alleviate many illnesses and to promote health. Some modern day drugs came originally from herbs. Sometimes one can use herbs as one would use a drug: only to control a symptom. Plants can also be used for a deeper level of healing.
Many clinical and scientific studies verify the herbal traditions of the past. Simply stated, we can say that herbs provide special substances, that the body uses, to regain health, just like green vegetables contain vitamins and minerals to maintain health.
When using medicinal herbs for health purposes, it is necessary to be aware of the natural environment where they are grown, when and how they are harvested, how they are dried or processed, and in what forms they need to be administered in – whether as a tea, capsule, extract, tincture or external liniment – in order for them to be effective as medicine.
It is also necessary, when seeking to use herbs for health purposes, to have guidance from a qualified health care practitioner, who is familiar with medical diagnosis and treatment, natural healing treatments and the specific knowledge needed, to use plants as medicine.
Herbs can be used for both acute and chronic health problems. A particular herb will be effective when it addresses the cause of a condition.
For acute health problems, such as the sudden onset of a cold or flu, back ache, or sciatica etc., ideally speaking, an initial evaluation from a practitioner will determine whether there is an additional underlying health condition or cause, that must be treated, in order to get relief.
When treating chronic health problems, a thorough health history is taken, including the current diagnosis, medications, signs and symptoms, and factors, such as, diet, occupation, current life goals, stress and climate, and family health history. A physical evaluation, to identify which body systems are in need of attention, may include reviewing past diagnostic tests or ordering new ones, to clarify the diagnosis.
Herbal healing involves the creation of a strategy, particular to each individual’s situation.
Different single herbs and formulas are utilized at different times. The herbal approach changes when particular goals are realized. The purpose of the strategy is to solve problems, then, move on to the next ones, and, at the same time, address the health of the whole person. This strategy does not occur in a vacuum, but continues to consider all the factors in a person’s health history mentioned above, as well as, nutritional needs, medications and other medical treatments a person may be undergoing.
If a person has had a serious health problem for some time, it may take some time to heal. A competent healing strategy will pay off in the long run. Many things are possible, but one needs to be willing to put in the effort to reap the rewards. One cannot always expect instant results.
Herbs can have side effects. Although herbs have beneficial effects, they can also have harmful effects, if they are prescribed without taking into account the unique constitution of the person receiving them. They may have side effects that can cause unpleasant symptoms or they may not do what you would like them to do.
It is important to have an open communication with your practitioner, so that the goals of your herbal program are clear and adjustments can be made, if necessary.
Herbs have chemical constituents and they also have energetic properties. These energetic properties relate to and interact with the body’s energy pathways and points:
For example, cinnamon bark is warming in nature and descending in direction – a helpful herb for low back pain that is accompanied by coldness. Therefore, the herbal practitioner can not rely solely upon biochemical studies when using herbs. The color and appearance, the temperature and taste, and the growing environment provide additional information in understanding the nature of a plant and it’s energetic properties. The diagnosis and constitution of the patient, further guides the herbal practitioner in knowing which herb to use, and which herb not to use.
Herbs, as valuable as they are, work best when they are combined with other healing techniques to help create a lasting change in one’s health.
Acupressure, therapeutic massage, acupuncture, chiropractic and other natural healing therapies can remove blocks to healing and assist in the absorption of herbs in the body. Practices, such as, medical meditation and tai chi movement also assist in the balancing of the body’s energy pathways and points, and set up a positive mental equivalent toward healing. Lifestyle counseling and psychological therapy can be very helpful for those that need the insight, release and support that these offer.
Integrating herbal therapy with conventional medical monitoring and treatment is appropriate in many circumstances.
Lastly, a healthy diet, regular, healthy exercise, a good hobby or creative pursuit and time to enjoy nature and life’s relationships are also health giving activities that one can consider as part of a . . . healing program.