Throughout history, human beings have worked with plants as our primary source of medicine and healing, and the practice of working with plants as medicine still continues to the present day. This practice, known as Herbalism or Herbal Medicine, is defined as “the study of the botany and use of medicinal plants.” Though the scope of herbal medicine is sometimes extended to include fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells and certain animal parts.
What is Herbal Medicine?
Medicinally, an herb is any plant or plant part used for its therapeutic value. An herbal medicine is prepared from living or dried plants and contain hundreds to thousands of naturally occurring, interrelated compounds. Most pharmaceutical drugs are single chemical entities that are highly refined and purified and are often synthesized. In 1987 about 85% of modern drugs were originally derived from plants. Currently, however, only about 15% of drugs are derived from plants.
Though herbs are certainly capable of treating illnesses and diseases, herbalists largely focus on promoting the health of the body and preventing illnesses and diseases from developing in the first place. While the use of herbs in America has been overshadowed by dependence on modern medications the last 100 years, 75% of the world's population still rely primarily upon traditional healing practices, most of which is herbal medicine.
The primary focus of the herbalist is to treat people as individuals irrespective of the disease or condition they have, and to stimulate their innate healing power through the use of such interventions as herbs, diet, and lifestyle. The primary focus of conventional physicians is to attack diseases using strong chemicals that are difficult for the body to process, or through the removal of organs. Not only does this ignore the unique makeup of the individual, but many patients under conventional care suffer from side effects that are as bad as, or worse than, the condition being treated.
The Downsides of Prescription Medicine
Taking prescribed medications is the fourth leading cause of death among Americans. Nearly 170 million Americans take a prescription drug, and yearly about 128,000 people die from the side effects of consuming the drugs that were prescribed to them, this is not including overdoses or poor drug combinations and interactions, but the proper use of the drug as directed by their doctor. Often times, the condition that one may have is minor, while the reaction to the drug used to treat that condition can be fatal.
While the number of deaths from pharmaceuticals is staggering, there are far more people that don’t die from pharmaceuticals that still experience adverse reactions to the drugs. Some of the potential side effects of pharmaceuticals include:
- Skin rash or dermatitis
- Dry mouth
- Stomach discomfort
- Suicidal thoughts
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Increased risk of heart attack
Aside from these negative side effects, pharmaceutical drugs typically have an acidic effect on the pH of the body, and can be difficult for the body to process. Not only this, but they may be damaging to the sensitive bacteria in our gut, which researchers are continuing to discover as one of the greatest factors contributing to good health.
Pharmaceuticals focus on suppressing the symptoms of disease without treating the underlying cause. Because of this, people become dependent upon the use of pharmaceuticals, for as soon as they stop taking them, the symptoms of their condition resurface. With so many people prescribed numerous expensive pharmaceuticals, and becoming dependent upon these drugs, the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most profitable industries in the world. Unfortunately, this gives doctors the incentive to continue prescribing drugs, even when they are unnecessary, for the more drugs the doctor can sell, the larger their paycheck will be. The global pharmaceuticals market was worth $934.8 billion in 2017 and will reach $1170 billion in 2021, growing at 5.8%, according to a recent pharma market research report by The Business Research Company.
A Focus on True Healing
Herbalism and alternative healing modalities focus on healing the root cause of the issue, which is more often than not related to diet, lifestyle, environment, and state of mind. Being conditioned by the modern pharmaceutical industry, and its model of offering a pill for every ill, many people are just looking for a quick fix to treat their illness without addressing any of the factors in their diet and lifestyle that may have originally contributed to that illness. To truly heal requires that we look at our lives, observe our thoughts, see what it is we are consuming through our bodies and minds, and inquire into what is causing us health, and what is making us sick.
The body is always seeking to heal itself and return to a state of balance, of homeostasis, of wholeness. To be healthy, we just need to support the natural healing forces of the body, and avoid doing the things that toxify and harm the body in the first place.
The Power of Natural Medicine
Our body is sacred, and when we begin to see it as such, we begin to see all life as sacred, and we begin to honor the sacred earth that we are a part of. Herbs are medicines in their natural form, coming straight from the soil of this sacred earth. Our connection to plants is a fundamental part of our existence as human beings, and the practice of herbalism helps us to remember and strengthen this connection, and when we live harmoniously with nature, then naturally we will be healthy. For health is our natural state, and if we are not healthy, it is because we are not living naturally, but rather we are in a state of dis-ease and dis-harmony with nature. Nature is the original pharmacy, and if only we begin to educate ourselves about the healing power of plants, we can reestablish our connection to this abundance of medicine, and live truly healthy and fulfilling lives.