It might sound surprising but almost 25% of drugs prescribed all over the world are derived from plants. Further in the essential medicine list of World Health Organisation about 11% are exclusively of plant origin. Morphine, in fact originated 200 years ago as an extract of poppy seeds. The herbal medicine industry today is a multibillion dollar sector with scientists continuously researching on new pharmaceutical products.
Herbal medicines are derivatives of plant based substances that constitute a part of local and regional healing practices. They are extracted from any raw or processed part of a plant and form complex organic chemical compounds.
Some well known practices with herbal medicine include traditional Chinese treatments and Ayurvedic Medicine with the focus being more on prevention than treatment of illnesses. The basic principle behind herbal medicine is that the goal of people should be on overall health improvement through a fine balance of the mind, body and the environment. This can be achieved with healing herbs.
There are many benefits of herbal medicine over conventional medicine.
- Affordable – While data and research on this score is not conclusive herbal products are generally more affordable than pharmaceuticals. For long term treatments especially in post operative surgery and complicated cases, herbal medicine definitely works out cheaper given the high cost of conventional medicines today.
- Easily obtainable – Most herbal products such as essential oils and herbal extracts are available at any health food store without the need for a doctor’s prescription. Moreover, herbs are classified as dietary supplements and hence can be manufactured and marketed without going through the FDA. However, there is a catch here. There is always a chance of spurious or less effective products being introduced in the market as there are no regulatory controls over herbal items. Hence, it is always advisable to buy products after thoroughly reading the labels and ascertaining that the manufacturer is reputed in this field.
- Treatment of Chronic diseases – Herbal medicine is widely applied in the treatment of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, depression, prostrate problems, weak immune systems and inflammation. The effectiveness of herbal medicines can be gauged from the fact that of the 177 drugs generally used in the treatment of cancer, more than 70% are either direct derivatives of natural products or their chemical imitations.
Some of the top herbs used in the manufacture of herbal medicines are ginger, garlic, turmeric, ginseng, milk thistle and Aloe Vera. Each has their own specific properties and benefits. Take the example of garlic. It contains vital nutrients such as oligosaccharides, selenium, allicin and high levels of sulphur. Simply taking a capsule a day or consuming it in raw or cooked form boosts immune systems, regulates blood pressure and helps fights diabetes. Similarly, there are multiple benefits of other herbs too.
Research has proved that herbal products have lesser side effects than prescription drugs. However, it is necessary that only high quality and pure herbal products be purchased from reputed manufacturers only.