Herbal medicine is the use of plants and plant extracts to treat disease. Herbs have been used for their medicinal and therapeutic properties for centuries. In fact, herbal medicine is one of the foundations of modern medicine, with a quarter of modern drugs starting out as herbal therapies.

Modern pharmaceutical drugs only contain what they consider the ‘active’ ingredient, or the part of the herb that provides the medicinal benefit. Herbalism on the other hand utilises the whole plant, either in the form of the root, bark, seed or flower for example. The use of the whole plant, active ingredient as well as ‘inactive’ ingredients, is thought to play an important role in the overall synergy, with each of the ingredients tying together to perform a more profound overall effect.

Today, however, herbal medicine is considered part of alternative medicine and despite their powerful potential to treat disease and enhance general health and well-being the mainstream often debunks the benefits of herbalism. It is true that all herbs shouldn’t be considered safe just because they’re natural. However there is extensive research and evidence into the benefits of many common medicinal herbs, which offer the therapeutic benefits without many of the harmful side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. Common herbal supplements include, Echinacea for colds and flu and St. John’s wort for depression.

Fortunately, there are some mainstreamer’s that are cottoning onto the benefits of herbal medicine. According to Dr. Roberta Lee, medical director of the Continuum Centre for Health and Healing at Beth Israel Medical Centre in New York City, herbs and other natural remedies can be just as effective as traditional treatments, often without the same negative side effects. Even today, the World Health Organization estimates that 80% of the world’s population still relies upon herbal medicine for their first line of treatment.

Explore the Daily Health’s Herbs archive to discover all the wonderful healing benefits of herbalism – 80% of the world’s population can’t be wrong!

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