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What is Herbal Medicine?

Herbs have been used for healing for many thousands of years. Even today, herbs form an integral part of traditional medicines used by a majority of people across the globe, such systems of medicine including Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Unani Tibb.

A significant proportion of pharmaceutical medicines have been developed from plants, the most well-known of these possibly being aspirin, which is based on salicin, present in the bark of the willow tree. Today, researchers continue testing plant materials in the hope of identifying more useful compounds to turn into medicines.

Stinging nettle
Stinging nettle, image from Pixabay

Herbal medicine differs from orthodox use of plants, however, in that the whole plant is used in the preparation of medicines, rather than an isolated compound. Herbalists use flowers, berries, bark, leaves and roots in a variety of ways, depending on the plant used and the patients themselves.

Dried plant material can be supplied for you to prepare at home as an infusion or decoction. It can also be powdered and encapsulated, if appropriate for that herb.

A tincture is an alcohol- and water-based preparation which is also used frequently as an effective and convenient way to take herbal medicine. Tinctures are taken in small doses, so the amount of alcohol per dose is correspondingly small.

For external application, herbs can be incorporated into creams, ointments and compresses, or added to foot soaks or baths.