Integrative Medicine – The Growth of Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine refers to the use of plants to treat and prevent disease. It is regarded as the oldest medicine in the world.
Plants serve as the vital basis of all higher life forms on earth. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA have stated that landplants account for 80 per cent of the total biomass, with bacteria across all ecosystems a distant second at 15 per cent. Most plant-based chemicals or phytochemicals are made by plants and have similar structures to chemicals in the human body.
Cultures around the world have used plant-based herbal medications for thousands of years. Today, an estimated 70,000 species of plants are used for medicinal purposes globally. Complementary and Alternative Medicine research studies have confirmed that herbs contain the richest mixtures of phytochemicals-natural chemicals such as bioflavonoids that offer medicinal and nutritional value.
Herbal medicine is often referred to as botanical medicine. Herbal medicines are made from either the plant’s seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers. The increasing market for Herbal Medicine has been attributed to a growing preference for ‘natural’ medicines from the Traditional Medicine systems of Ayurveda, Unani, and Traditional Chinese Medicine which are largely comprised of plant-based medicines.
Herbal medicines are often marketed as dietary supplements. They are sold as tablets, capsules, powders, teas, extracts, and fresh or dried plants. What the general public does not realise is that many pharmaceutical drugs originate from plant sources, and most of the few effective drugs are plant-based. Examples include aspirin (from willow bark), digoxin (from foxglove), quinine (from cinchona bark), and morphine (from the opium poppy). Having worked as a pharmaceutical researcher, I can confirm that all the major drug companies are engaged in the random-screening of thousands of herbs for pharmacological activity.
Evidence-based practice is one of the main tenants of Integrative Medicine clinical practice. Holistic treatment often incorporates Herbal medicine, i.e. Eastern and Western. Optimal Integrative Medicine treatments and methods based on holistic properties are needed to modify and finalise the safe treatment administration.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine Study
A 2018 Complementary and Alternative Medicine study by Welz et al. investigated the use of herbal medicine in Germany. The study found that the majority of people from all ages primarily used herbs for treating mild to moderate illness, but preventing disease and health promotion were less used. Over 60% of the participants in this investigation were females.
The investigators further determined that prevention of chronic or acute illness with herbal medicine was especially important for middle-aged and elderly participants, but not for the younger group. Furthermore, dissatisfaction with Conventional Medicine led to looking for alternative treatment methods such as herbal medicine.
This study provides some indication of the increasing popularity of herbal medicine in the Integrative Medicine model. However, herbal medicine in the wrong hands can be dangerous. They should only be prescribed by practitioners of herbal medicine, and only practitioner-grade herbs should be used. Herbal medicine should not be used by children or the elderly or when:
• Taking pharmaceutical medicines
• The patient has a severe health condition
• About to undergo surgery
• Pregnant or breast-feeding
Herbal medicine can be used to great effect to treat many acute and chronic disease but the should be prescribed by experienced herbal medicine practitioners.