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Herbal Medicine

Plants have the ability to synthesize a wide variety of chemical compounds that are used to perform important biological functions, and to defend against attack from predators such as insects, fungi and herbivorous mammals.

An herb is a plant or plant part used for its scent, flavor or therapeutic properties.

Plants have the ability to synthesize a wide variety of chemical compounds that are used to perform important biological functions, and to defend against attack from predators such as insects, fungi and herbivorous mammals.

Many of these phytochemicals have beneficial effects on long-term health when consumed by people, and can be used to effectively treat diseases. At least 12,000 such compounds have been isolated; a number estimated to be less than 10% of the total.

How it Works

Chemical compounds in plants mediate their effects on the human body through processes identical to those already well understood for the chemical compounds in conventional drugs; thus herbal medicines do not differ greatly from conventional drugs in terms of how they work. This enables herbal medicines to be as effective as conventional medicines, but also gives them the same potential to cause harmful side effects.

Benefits

The use of herbs to treat disease is almost universal among non-industrialized societies, and is often more affordable than purchasing expensive modern pharmaceuticals. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of the population of some Asian and African countries presently use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care.

Studies in the United States and Europe have shown that their use is less common in clinical settings, but has become increasingly more in recent years as scientific evidence about the effectiveness of herbal medicine has become more widely available.

Precautions

Chemical compounds in plants mediate their effects on the human body through processes identical to those already well understood for the chemical compounds in conventional drugs; thus herbal medicines do not differ greatly from conventional drugs in terms of how they work. This enables herbal medicines to be as effective as conventional medicines, but also gives them the same potential to cause harmful side effects.

To use an herbal product as safely as possible:

  • Consult your doctor first
  • Do not take a bigger dose than the label recommends
  • Take it under the guidance of a trained medical professional
  • Be especially cautious if you are pregnant or nursing

Summary

Herbal medicine products are dietary supplements taken to improve one's health. Many herbs have been used for a long time for claimed health benefits. They are sold as tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts and fresh or dried plants.

Source:

  • Wikipedia contributors. Herbalism. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. November 26, 2012, 22:12 UTC.
    en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Herbalism&oldid=525028532. Accessed November 27, 2012.
  • NIH: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
    nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/herbalmedicine.html