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What is Herbal Medicine?

How to use Herbs for Health and Wellbeing

Herbal Medicine is the study and practice of herbs and plants for medicinal benefit. Herbs contain chemical components, which when extracted from the plant, have the ability to exert a positive effect on the body. Herbal medicine can be used for many conditions to help support the body and bring it back into balance.

Herbal medicine has been used traditionally for centuries and many cultures around the world use it as a primary form of healthcare. Plants are often the original starting material for many pharmaceutical medicines. Learn more about herbal medicine, what it can be used for and the health benefits of using herbs.

Types of Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicines are made from the leaves, roots, barks and flowers of plants. The active component of the plant is extracted and either dried to make teas, tablets or capsules, or made into liquids for herbal tinctures. Herbs are also used to make creams, ointments and balms. Herbs can often be used for multiple purposes. An example of this is Dandelion, which is used to stimulate digestion, cleanse the blood, promote urination and facilitate bowel motions.

Herbs have the ability to improve the function of an organ, such as improving blood sugar regulation, or elicit a physiological response in the body such as sweating or urination.

Herbs can be combined within a herbal formula, to address different aspects of a person’s condition. Herbalists and naturopaths select herbs after they’ve taken a full case history from the client, enabling them to uncover what imbalances may be occurring.

What is Herbal Medicine used for?

Herbs can be used for the following conditions:

  • Sleep issues and insomnia
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Coughs, colds and flu
  • Hay fever and allergies
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Reducing pain and inflammation in conditions such as osteoarthritis
  • Hormonal issues such as PMS, heavy or erratic periods and menopause
  • Acne, eczema and psoriasis
  • Bloating, constipation and IBS

Benefits of Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine can support the body in many ways, promoting health and wellbeing.

Here are 11 ways herbal medicine may benefit your health:

  1. Support the immune system by stimulating white blood cell production and warding off bacteria and viruses with immune-boosting herbs like Echinacea, Propolis and Elderflower.
  2. Help the body adapt to stress by moderating the way it responds to a stressor; this could be by promoting relaxation, improving performance or increasing energy levels. Siberian Ginseng, Rhodiola and Ashwaganda are all great herbs for stress.
  3. Soothe a sore throat and clear mucous and catarrh from the lungs with Liquorice, Thyme, Mullein and Wild Cherry. These herbs are very helpful when you have a cold or a cough.
  4. Protect and coat mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems. Demulcent herbs like Aloe Vera, Slippery Elm and Marshmallow lubricate, soothe and heal inflamed and irritated tissues.
  5. They have antibacterial, antiseptic and antiviral properties to help the body fight off infection. Herbs include Bearberry, Golden Seal, Thyme and Myrrh.
  6. Enhance memory and cognitive function. Gingko Biloba and Bacopa are two herbs which may help reduce “brain fog”, increase blood flow to the brain and enhance brain function. These herbs are particularly indicated for studying and learning, and for those with ADHD, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  7. Detoxify, protect and strengthen the liver. Milk Thistle, Schisandra and Dandelion are great liver herbs.
  8. Release excess fluid from the body by stimulating the kidneys and increasing urination. This is helpful when someone has high blood pressure or water retention. Diuretic herbs include Dandelion, Nettle and Horsetail.
  9. Relax the body and promote sleep by calming the nervous system and inducing a mild sedating effect. Herbs include Lavender, Chamomile, Hops and Valerian.
  10. Relieve nervous tension and reduce anxiety with herbs such as Oat Seed, Passionflower and Skullcap.
  11. Stimulate circulation and promote cardiovascular function. Those with Raynaud’s disease, varicose veins and poor circulation may benefit from herbs like Rosemary, Butcher’s Broom, Cayenne and Gotu Kola.

Enhance your health with herbs

Herbal medicine has been used for centuries and many cultures around the world utilise it as a primary form of healthcare. Herbs often have multiple actions and herbal formulas can be tailored to address the individual’s needs. The health benefits of herbal medicine are bountiful; herbs may relieve nervous tension and stress, improve digestion and boost the immune system to fight off coughs and colds.

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Blog/Article content reflects the author's research and diverse opinions, not necessarily CNM's views. Items may not be regularly updated, so represent the best available understanding at the time of publication.

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