Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicines are natural compounds from plants that people can use to treat different health problems. They are often used as a complementary medicine, which means that people use them in addition to other medical treatments.

These medicines can be taken in many different forms, including capsules, tablets, teas, and extracts. They can also be applied topically to the skin.

Herbal medicines may offer a variety of health benefits, such as reducing pain, inflammation, and anxiety. They can also help to improve digestion, boost the immune system, and promote sleep.

However, it is important to note that herbal medicines are not regulated by the FDA. This means that there is no guarantee of their safety or efficacy. It is important to talk to your doctor before taking any herbal medicines, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any other medications.

herbal medicine

Table of Contents

What is herbal medicine

Herbal medicines are natural products made from plants that people can use to treat and prevent diseases. They are often used in addition to other medical treatments, and are sometimes called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

There are many reasons why people choose to use herbal medicines. Some people may be dissatisfied with conventional medicine, while others may use herbal medicines to treat mild or moderate conditions, start treatment before taking conventional medicine, boost the immune system, increase energy, lose weight, enhance mood, or improve sleep.

Herbal medicines are a popular choice for many people, but it is important to note that they may not be safe for everyone. If you are considering using herbal medicines, talk to your doctor first to make sure they are right for you.

How to take herbal supplements

Herbal supplements come in many different forms, including tablets, capsules, teas, powders, extracts, and fresh or dried plants.

To take herbal supplements, you can:

  • Swallow them as pills, powders, or tinctures.

  • Apply them to your skin as gels or lotions.

  • Add them to the bathwater.

  • Drink them as teas.

It can be difficult to get the right dosage of herbal supplements. Many factors can affect the quality of herbal supplements, such as the growing conditions, age, and preparation of the plant.

As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all dosage for herbal supplements. If you are considering taking an herbal supplement, talk to your doctor first. They can help you determine the best dosage for your individual needs.

Since conventional medical doctors may not have much training in herbal medicine, you may also want to consult a licensed naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist, or other qualified practitioner of herbal medicine.

Using herbal medicine safely

Always talk to your doctor before taking any herbal medicine. They can help you determine if herbal medicine is safe for you and can interact with any other medications you are taking.

Also, be sure to follow the label instructions carefully and only take the recommended dosage. If you experience any side effects, stop taking the herbal medicine immediately.

Here are some additional things to keep in mind when using herbal medicine:

  • Herbal medicine may not be safe for everyone, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, taking other medications, or over the age of 65.

  • If you are having surgery, be sure to tell your doctor about any herbal medicines you are taking. Some herbal medicines can interact with anesthesia and affect blood pressure and blood clotting.

Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements are natural products that people can use to treat or prevent different health problems. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplements, as they can interact with other medications and have side effects.

Here is a table of some common herbal supplements and their potential benefits and side effects:

Herbal supplement Potential benefits Precautions and potential side effects
Aloe vera Acne, skin injuries, psoriasis, digestive problems Topical use may cause burning, itching, and eczema. Oral aloe latex use may cause abdominal pain and cramping. Oral aloe leaf extract may increase acute hepatitis risk.
Black cohosh Menopause symptoms May cause stomach upset, cramping, headache, rash, vaginal spotting, and weight gain. May lead to liver damage.
Echinacea Common cold prevention May cause nausea or stomach pain.
Garlic High cholesterol Oral supplements may increase the risk of bleeding, so they may be unsafe for people taking anticoagulants, such as warfarin, and those needing surgery. May interact with saquinavir, a drug used to treat HIV.
Ginkgo Age-related dementia, schizophrenia, anxiety, eye health, peripheral artery disease, premenstrual syndrome May cause headache, stomach upset, dizziness, palpitations, constipation, skin reactions. May increase risk of bleeding.
Ginger Mild stomach upset, nausea from pregnancy and chemotherapy, menstrual cramps May cause abdominal discomfort, heartburn, diarrhea, and mouth and throat irritation, particularly in large doses.
Hawthorn Low blood pressure, anxiety, kidney issues, heart disease, digestion May cause dizziness, nausea, and digestive symptoms. May interact in a harmful way with heart medications.
Licorice root Digestive symptoms, atopic dermatitis, sore throat Unsuitable for people with high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney disease. May increase blood pressure and decrease potassium levels. In large doses, it may cause premature birth and infant health problems after birth.
Milk thistle Hepatitis, type 2 diabetes May cause digestive issues. May cause allergic reactions in people allergic to marigold, chamomile, or daisies.
Passionflower Sleep problems, anxiety May cause drowsiness, confusion, and uncoordinated movement. Unsuitable for use during pregnancy, as it may induce contractions.
Peppermint oil Irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, indigestion, tension headaches, cracked nipples May cause nausea, heartburn, abdominal pain, and dry mouth. May cause skin rashes and irritation if a person uses it topically.
Saw palmetto Benign prostatic hyperplasia May cause digestive symptoms or headache.
Soy High cholesterol, menopausal hot flashes, high blood pressure, bone health May cause constipation or diarrhea. May affect thyroid function in people with iron deficiency.
Turmeric Digestive issues, bone health May cause liver injury. May cause mild dermatitis and stomach upset.
Valerian Menopause symptoms, anxiety, sleep problems May cause headache, stomach upset, excitability, uneasiness, and heart issues.

Herbal Medicines

For centuries, people around the world have used herbal medicines to stay healthy.

Even though modern medicine has advanced, people still want herbal medicines. In fact, the herbal medicine industry is worth about $60 billion every year.

Some herbal medicines may be cheaper and easier to get than conventional medicines. Many people also like to use herbal medicines because they fit with their personal health beliefs.

But you may wonder if herbal medicines really work.

Here are 10 of the world’s most popular herbal medicines, their main benefits, uses, and safety information:

  1. Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba, also known simply as ginkgo, is a herbal medicine made from the maidenhair tree. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years and is still a popular herbal supplement today. Ginkgo contains antioxidants that are thought to have many health benefits.

Ginkgo is said to treat a wide range of conditions, including heart disease, dementia, mental problems, and sexual problems. However, studies have not shown that ginkgo is effective for any of these conditions.

Ginkgo is generally safe for most people, but it can cause side effects such as headache, heart palpitations, digestive problems, skin reactions, and an increased risk of bleeding.

You can buy ginkgo online or at supplement stores.

  1. Peppermint

Peppermint is an aromatic herb that is known for its refreshing scent and taste. It is also a popular herbal medicine with a variety of health benefits.

Peppermint is most commonly used to treat digestive problems such as indigestion, nausea, and vomiting. It can also be used to relieve headaches, migraines, and muscle pain.

Peppermint contains a number of active compounds, including menthol and menthone. These compounds are thought to be responsible for many of peppermint’s health benefits.

Menthol has a cooling effect that can help to soothe the stomach and intestines. It can also help to relax the muscles and reduce muscle pain.

Menthone has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It can help to reduce inflammation and fight infection.

Peppermint is generally safe for most people to take. However, it can cause side effects such as heartburn and diarrhea in high doses.

Peppermint is available in a variety of forms, including capsules, teas, and essential oils. You can also find peppermint-flavored candies and chewing gum.

Here are some ways to use peppermint for its health benefits:

  • To treat digestive problems: Drink a cup of peppermint tea after a meal or take a peppermint capsule.

  • To relieve headaches and migraines: Apply a drop of peppermint essential oil to your temples or forehead.

  • To relieve muscle pain: Massage peppermint essential oil into the affected area.

It is important to note that peppermint is not a substitute for conventional medical treatment. If you are experiencing any health problems, be sure to talk to your doctor.

  1. Elderberry

Elderberry is a plant that has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including headaches, nerve pain, toothaches, colds, viral infections, and constipation. Today, it is most commonly used to treat symptoms of the flu and common cold.

Elderberry is available as a syrup or lozenge, and some people prefer to make their own syrup or tea. Test-tube studies have shown that elderberry has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties, but there is not a lot of human research on its effectiveness.

A few small human studies have shown that elderberry may shorten the duration of flu infections, but larger studies are needed to confirm this. Elderberry is generally considered safe for short-term use, but the unripe or raw fruit is toxic and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

You can find elderberries at most health food stores and online.

  1. Echinacea 

Echinacea is a flowering plant that has been used for centuries to treat and prevent a variety of ailments, including the common cold. It is usually taken as a tea or supplement, but can also be applied topically.

Research on the effectiveness of echinacea is mixed, but some studies have shown that it may reduce the risk of catching a cold by up to 20%. There is less evidence that it can treat a cold once you already have it.

Echinacea is generally considered safe for short-term use, but it may cause side effects such as nausea, stomach pain, and skin rash in some people.

You can find echinacea in most supermarkets and health food stores, as well as online.

  1. Ginger

Ginger is a spice that is also used as an herbal medicine. You can eat it fresh or dried, but the most common medicinal forms are tea and capsules.

Ginger has long been used in traditional and folk practices to treat colds, nausea, migraines, and high blood pressure. It is best known in modern times for relieving nausea caused by pregnancy, chemotherapy, and medical operations.

Some test-tube and animal research suggests that ginger may also be helpful for treating and preventing diseases such as heart disease and cancer, but the evidence is mixed. Some small human studies suggest that ginger may reduce the risk of blood clot formation, but it has not been shown to be more effective than conventional treatments.

Ginger is generally very well tolerated. Side effects are rare, but large doses may cause mild heartburn or diarrhea.

You can find ginger supplements at most supermarkets and online.

  1. St. John’s wort

St. John’s wort (SJW) is an herbal medicine made from the flowering plant Hypericum perforatum. It has been used for centuries to treat a variety of conditions, including depression, insomnia, and wound healing.

Today, SJW is most commonly used to treat mild to moderate depression. Studies have shown that SJW is as effective as some conventional antidepressants for short-term use. However, there is not a lot of data on its long-term safety or effectiveness for people with severe depression or suicidal thoughts.

SJW is generally safe for short-term use, but it can cause side effects such as allergic reactions, dizziness, confusion, dry mouth, and increased light sensitivity. It can also interact with many medications, including antidepressants, birth control, blood thinners, certain pain medications, and some types of cancer treatments.

It is important to talk to your doctor before taking SJW, especially if you are taking any other medications. SJW is available online and in many stores.

  1. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice that has been used in cooking and medicine for centuries. It is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and may be especially helpful for treating pain associated with arthritis.

Curcumin is the main active compound in turmeric. It is thought to be responsible for many of turmeric’s health benefits.

Studies have shown that turmeric and curcumin supplements can be as effective as some common anti-inflammatory medications for relieving arthritis pain.

Turmeric is generally safe to take, but very high doses may cause side effects such as diarrhea, headache, or skin irritation.

You can use fresh or dried turmeric in dishes like curries, but the amount you typically eat in food is not likely to have a significant medicinal effect. If you are looking for the medicinal benefits of turmeric, it is best to take a supplement.

  1. Ginseng

Ginseng is a plant that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. It is usually made into a tea or a powder. People use ginseng to reduce inflammation, boost immunity, improve brain function, and increase energy levels.

There are many different types of ginseng, but the two most popular are Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). American ginseng is thought to help people relax, while Asian ginseng is thought to give people more energy.

Although ginseng has been used for centuries, there is not much scientific evidence to support its effectiveness. However, some studies have shown that ginseng may have neuroprotective, anticancer, antidiabetic, and immune-supporting properties. More research is needed to confirm these findings.

Ginseng is generally considered safe for short-term use, but its long-term safety is not well known. Potential side effects include headaches, poor sleep, and digestive problems.

You can find ginseng at most health food stores and online.

  1. Chamomile

Chamomile is a flowering plant that is one of the most popular herbal medicines in the world. It is most often used to make tea, but the leaves can also be used to make tea, medicinal extracts, or topical compresses.

Chamomile has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of ailments, including nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, urinary tract infections, wounds, and upper respiratory infections.

Chamomile contains over 100 active compounds, many of which are thought to have health benefits. Test-tube and animal studies have shown that chamomile has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. However, more human research is needed.

Some small human studies suggest that chamomile may be helpful for treating diarrhea, emotional disturbances, menstrual cramps, and pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis.

Chamomile is safe for most people, but it may cause an allergic reaction, especially if you are allergic to similar plants, such as daisies, ragweed, or marigolds.

You can find chamomile at most grocery stores or online.

 

  1. Valerian

Valerian is a plant whose root is thought to have calming and relaxing properties. It is often used as a natural sleep aid and anti-anxiety remedy.

Valerian root can be taken in capsule form or steeped to make tea. It has been used for centuries to treat restlessness, tremors, headaches, and heart palpitations.

Today, valerian is most commonly used to treat insomnia and anxiety. However, the evidence supporting its effectiveness is weak.

One review found that valerian may be somewhat effective for inducing sleep, but many of the study results were based on subjective reports from participants.

Valerian is generally safe, but it may cause mild side effects such as headaches and digestive problems. You should not take valerian if you are taking any other sedatives, as it may increase the risk of side effects such as drowsiness and fatigue.

You can find valerian online and at many health food stores.

Conclusion

Herbal medicine is a vast and complex topic, with a wide range of herbs and plants that have been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. While there is still much research to be done on the efficacy and safety of many herbal remedies, there is no doubt that they can be a valuable part of a holistic approach to health and wellness.

If you are considering using herbal medicine, it is important to talk to your doctor first, especially if you are taking any other medications or have any underlying health conditions. Some herbal remedies can interact with other medications or cause side effects.

It is also important to purchase herbal medicine from a reputable source. Make sure the herbs are properly labeled and that the dosage instructions are clear.

Herbal medicine can be a safe and effective way to treat a variety of health problems, but it is important to use it responsibly.

Here are some tips for using herbal medicine safely and effectively:

  • Talk to your doctor before using any herbal remedies, especially if you are taking any other medications or have any underlying health conditions.

  • Purchase herbal medicine from a reputable source.

  • Make sure the herbs are properly labeled and that the dosage instructions are clear.

  • Start with a low dose and increase gradually as needed.

  • Be aware of the potential side effects of any herbal remedies you are using.

  • If you experience any negative side effects, stop using the herbal remedy immediately and consult with your doctor.

FAQs

Herbal medicines are made from plants, and people have been using them for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. However, it’s important to remember that herbal medicines are not always safe, and they can interact with other medications you are taking.

Just like conventional medicines, herbal medicines can have side effects. It’s important to talk to your doctor before taking any herbal medicines, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.

No, herbal medicine is not a pharmaceutical. Pharmaceuticals are drugs that have been tested and approved by the FDA for the treatment of specific medical conditions. Herbal medicines, on the other hand, are not subject to the same rigorous testing and approval process.

This means that there is not always scientific evidence to support the claims that herbal medicines make. Additionally, herbal medicines can interact with other medications you are taking, so it is important to talk to your doctor before taking any herbal medicines.

Some herbs have been used for centuries to treat infections. However, it is important to note that herbs can also cause side effects and interact with other supplements or medications. It is always best to talk to your doctor before taking any herbs, especially if you have any underlying health conditions.

Here are some herbs that have been shown to have antimicrobial properties:

  • Echinacea
  • Goldenseal
  • Garlic
  • Neem
  • Pau D’Arco
  • Manuka honey
  • Oregon grape
  • Ginger

It is important to note that more research is needed to confirm the effectiveness and safety of these herbs for the treatment of infections. It is also important to note that herbs should not be used as a substitute for conventional medical treatment.

Yes, herbs can have side effects, just like any other medication. Some common side effects of herbs include allergic reactions, rashes, asthma, headaches, dizziness, agitation, dry mouth, seizures, fatigue, tachycardia, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Severe side effects have also been reported.

It is important to talk to your doctor before taking any herbs, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any other medications. Herbs can interact with other medications and cause serious side effects.

Herbal medicine is a type of medicine that uses plants or plant-based products to treat diseases or improve health. It can include herbs, herbal materials, herbal preparations, and finished herbal products. The active ingredients in herbal medicine are parts of plants, other plant materials, or combinations of both.