Herbal medicine has been used in traditional healthcare systems around the world since ancient times, and has not only persisted into modern times, but has seen a resurgence of interest. Many people use herbs along with their prescribed pharmaceutical medicines, and sometimes even as an alternative.
Why are so many turning to traditional herbal medicine? There are many reasons, but chief among them is that herbal medicine has been in use for much longer than pharmaceutical medicine, and therefore has a very long history of effectiveness. Modern science is only now beginning to research some of the powerful healing potential of various phytochemicals found in herbs. Afterall, many pharmaceutical medications were originally derived from plants.
There are other important reasons to choose herbal medicine. Traditional Chinese herbal medicine, in use for around 3,000 years, uses herbal formulas with a different goal in mind than pharmaceutical medicine. Where modern pharmaceutical medicine has evolved into a system of symptom suppression and disease management, Traditional Chinese herbal medicine is prescribed to correct the more primary, deeper, energetic imbalances that are the underlying cause of our physical symptoms. Rather than focusing on symptom suppression, it’s focus is on returning the body to a state of energetic balance, thereby supporting the body’s own natural healing potential.
A practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine takes into consideration the whole person – body, mind and spirit – as well as the potential effects of an herbal formula on every organ and body system when prescribing herbs. Because Chinese herbal medicine is so personalized, the potential for adverse effects is greatly reduced. Pharmaceutical medicine, on the other hand, does not treat the individual, but rather treats the disease. Because the uniqueness of the individual is not a driving principle, side effects are common.
Where conventional medicine sees value in isolating single chemical compounds from plants, studying them, and then synthesizing them as medicines for their isolated effects on disease symptoms, Chinese herbal medicine recognizes that an herb is not a single chemical compound, but rather a complex mix of phytochemicals that work together in a synergistic manor, where the whole is greater than its individual parts. Because herbal medicines are a complex mix of different phytochemicals, they should be used with caution under the care and direction of a highly trained and licensed herbalist. Herbs are medicine, and therefore have the potential of interacting with pharmaceutical medications. When used with due precaution by a trained professional, herbs have a long, proven history of safety and effectiveness.