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The Herbal Alternative

Aug 17, 2007
Plants are nature's remedies. The use of plants for healing purposes predates human history and forms the origin of much modern medicine. Herbal traditions have been passed down and refined with scientific understanding, providing information to assist in health maintenance.
Today, our diet mainly consists of foods rich in fats, oils, and complex carbohydrates. This is a huge problem in today's society, leading to certain chronic diseases. Many dietary and herbal approaches attempt to balance the body's nutritional well-being. This includes dietary supplements and herbal medicine.
What are herbal products?

Herbal products (medicines/dietary supplements) fall under the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) which refers to the practices that aren't integral parts of conventional medicine according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Herbs are valuable sources of natural medicine, vitamins and minerals that have a remarkable history of curative effects, when used in the proper way. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that there are 4 billion people or 80 percent of the world population who are presently using herbal medicine for some aspect of primary healthcare.
Herbal treatments may come in different forms.

Forms of Herbal treatments:

Teas made by pouring boiling water over fresh or dried herbs
Liquids made by boiling herbs in water, then using the concoction to make oils or syrups
Solids such as powders, tablets and capsules
Although herbs have both nutritive and medicinal values and perceived as generally safe, care must be practiced with regard to their use and dosage. Always consult with your health care provider concerning the use of herbals, especially when pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from chronic illnesses.

Advantages of Herbal treatments
Nowadays is the era of everything that is herbal and natural. Millions of "all natural," "all herbal" health and dietary supplements are swamping the markets today. Some of us are puzzled as to where and how the sudden exaggeration for those things started. Maybe it was because we became suddenly concerned and watchful of our health and well-being. On the other hand, maybe the media has so much influence over us that we often fail to see beyond the glamorous models and endorsers.

History of herbal medicines
In any way, do not fail to recognize that usage of herbal medicines and natural remedies dates back millions of years ago. Archaeological remains from early civilizations have revealed that plants were used in burials and other rituals. The earliest written account of herbal remedies comes from China and dates back to 2800BC.

Herbal medicines have had a chequered history ever since, in and out of favor with the great and the common man. But throughout the last 5000 or so years, they have continued to develop until today, when in the light of growing concern about the efficacy and side effects of many synthetic drugs, herbal medicines are once again providing a safe and natural alternative treatment for many everyday complaints.

Among the listed advantages of herbal medicines and natural alternatives are as follows:
1. Cost - Herbs cost less than prescription drugs. They are certainly much more convenient. Without a prescription, you can go to the health food store and buy whatever you want. However, it is always wise to consult with your doctor first before taking ANY medications. Natural does not necessarily mean safe for you. Many natural substances can be harmful. However, it is also important to note that medicines are not categorized as drugs. Alternative medications are treated as food, not medicines, because they are considered "natural".

They can be sold as dietary supplements without a prescription. Supplement claims are not subject to the same scientific scrutiny as prescription medications. Unlike prescription medicines, herbal products do not have to be tested to prove that they work well and are safe before they are sold. In addition, herbal products may not be pure--they might have other things in them, like plant pollen or contaminants that could make you sick. At the present time, testing and standardized manufacturing of herbal and other supplements is needed.

2. Effectiveness and Potency - Reasons for seeking alternative treatments include dissatisfaction with traditional healthcare, although the efficacy of herbal medicines is mostly subjective to the patient. Potency may vary, depending on genetic variation of different strains of herbs, growing conditions, timing and method of harvesting, exposure to air, light and moisture over time and type of preservation.
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