Herbal medicine uses herbs to heal a variety of ailments from hemp for treating glaucoma to fringe tree bark for liver disease. For medicinal purposes, herbs are considered to be anything taken from a
plant, such as the leaf, stem, bark, root, or any other part.
The herb may be made into a powder, tablet, capsule, extract, tea, essential oil, ointment, balm or tincture. Herbal healing goes back at least as far as the dawn of recorded history.
Ancient Egyptian writings indicate that garlic and other herbs were used medicinally as early as 1800 B.C.E. Hippocrates, the Greek physician and father of modern medicine, classified herbs and foods according to their “hot,” “cold,” “damp” or “dry” qualities.
Herbal healing played a major role in Roman and Arabian medicine, and continues to play a prominent role in Oriental, Ayurvedic, Native American and other healing arts. Herbal medicine was swept aside by the rise of Western medicine in this country, but has never been completely stamped out.
In one sense, herbal healing has been wildly successful, as many powerful Western medicines are based on old herbal remedies. As many as one fifth of all today’s medicines may have originally been derived from plants. And because only a small percent of the world’s plant species have been thoroughly investigated for medicinal properties, there may be a wealth of healing potential hidden away in forests, deserts and jungles.
Unfortunately, since herbs cannot be patented, the major pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to invest the millions of dollars necessary to research, locate and test each herb. Many herbs are used today by herbologists, doctors of Oriental medicine, naturopaths, Ayurvedists and other healers.
Which herbs, the amounts, and the ways in which they are used depends upon the healer. Some common herbs include apple, borage, burdock, chicory root, comfrey, elder, Feverfew, flax, golden rod, honeysuckle, hyssop, juniper, lavender, lemon balm, lobelia, lungwort, marigold, mint, motherwort, mulberry, myrrh, nutmeg, tarragon, walnut, white birch and wormwood. Depression has long been treated with an herb called St. John’s Wort.
Recently, an extract of elderberry called Sambucol has demonstrated an ability to prevent the influenza virus from entering body cells. There is neither a widely accepted school of herbology to set standards, nor a body or board that certifies or licenses herbologists. As a result, herbal treatment may vary from practitioner to practitioner.