There are many positive aspects that herbal medicine has going for it. Unfortunately, the lack of adequate scientific understanding means that there is no way a doctor can completely take responsibility for what is being prescribed and hence the safety factor involved in taking herbal medicines is suspect.
The drugs that we normally take have to undergo thorough testing and need FDA approval. This entire process ensures that every single chemical in the medicine and its interaction with the human body (and resulting side effects) are well understood, documented, and scientifically demonstrable.
While herbal medicines enjoy the reputation of being less complicated it should be remembered that they are manufactured by Mother Nature and she does not need FDA approval or scientific testing.
Fortunately, thousands of years of development have put herbal medicines into a certain safety zone that has helped many a human being with being cured.
So herbal medicines might be risky but there is no need to worry if you take the simple precaution of consulting your doctor before consuming any herbal concoction Doctors are sort of walking pharmacopoeias and they know more about all those chemicals and stuff. They can advise you properly.
Another thing to know with herbal medicine is that different cultures have resulted in different types of herbal therapies.
Finally, thanks to the Internet and online marketing there is no shortage of frauds selling roots and leaves grown in their backyards. Make certain that when you get herbal medicine it comes from genuine herbs. The wrong herbs might possibly contain toxic chemicals that make a trip to the hospital inevitable.
Some common forms of herbal medicines are as follows:
- Essence. You have probably come across the line “essence of …” followed by some plant or flower when reading an ad for a cosmetic product. While Essences tend to get associated with cosmetic products due to massive advertising of those products, certain essential oils are always available for therapeutic purposes. The popularity of essential herbal oils processed through cold pressing or steam distillation is because many people prefer to get a massage than eating a pill. The most common benefit of essential oils is the help they provide in relaxing. They do not really cure any problems. Their major effect is to provide relief.
- Body massages can release toxins in the muscles, aiding relaxation.
- Head massages can likewise reduce heaviness or, in some cases, cure headaches. Similarly, chest massages using essence of certain herbs can help with congestion resulting from common cold.
- Pills or capsules. There was a time when this alternative was not available. It was a dark time for people who could not stand the taste of raw herbal medicines. The pills and capsules were a godsend for people who wanted to try herbal remedies but were unable to swallow. In order to convert a herb to pill form it first needs to be dried and crushed into powder. What is of interest is that there are hardly any herbal medicines available in pill or capsule form that target specific ailments. They act more like secondary medications to provide moral support to whatever primary medication is being taken. Professionals in herbal medicine believe that the drying and crushing of the herbs robs them of their potency. Others suggest that herbal medicine should be taken in its raw form for complete effectiveness. Anyway, if you are looking for specific herbal medicines instead of general health enhancers and supplements then this option is not for you.
- Infusions. The most popular form of herbal infusion is the drinking of various kinds of tea. Infusion involves the use of the delicate parts (leaves, seeds, and fruits) of a herbal plant and are quick to administer. Some ingredients of infusion tea could be stinging nettle, oat straw, red clover, raspberry leaf, and comfrey leaf. Infusions can be just the tea you drink normally (but using herbs instead of tealeaves) or what is known as Medicinal Strength Tea. Most herbal teas fall into this category though the preparation is slightly different. There are several recipes available on the Internet for making Medicinal Strength Tea.
- Poultice. For injuries, inflammations, cramps, or other spasmodic problems it can become necessary to apply the herbal mixture as a poultice. The required herbs are first macerated or chopped into small pieces. These are then applied directly to the affected area and covered with a hot and moist bandage. In some cases, the herbal mixture can be applied as a layer to the moist bandage before wrapping it around the affected area.
- Raw. As the name suggests, in this case the herbal medicine is taken in its most natural form without any additives or changes to make it palatable. Most people will run a mile in tight shoes to avoid this form of medication. It is the equivalent of taking a regular capsule, pulling it open, taking that powder, putting it on the tongue and trying to suck on it as if it were chocolate. Not done, well at least not if the taste buds are functioning normally. No wonder this method in unpopular. The good news is that most of the herbs that need to be taken raw can alternatively be soaked (or passed through) water to make medicinal strength teas, and those are much easier on sensitive palates. It is also believed that teas increase the effectiveness of raw herbs,
- Tinctures. There are very few kids who get exposed to this form of medicine these days but about twenty odd years ago no kid that got into a scrap in the field escaped the terror of tincture. These are basically herbal medicines in a liquid form. They can be for external as well as internal use. Modern incarnations are a lot milder that their older forms.
- Decoctions. A decoction is a liquid preparation made by boiling a medicinal plant with water usually in the proportion of 5 parts of the drug to 100 parts of water. Typically, certain specific parts of a plant like berries, roots, and herb-bark are used in this process. Depending on the consistency of the plant part being used, it can take up to two hours to prepare a decoction. This process extracts the flavor and increases the concentration of the herb through the process of boiling.
That more or less covers the different types of herbal medicines available. Depending on your requirement and personal taste you might need to take them in one of the above forms.