Herbal Medicine

What is herbal medicine?
Herbal medicine, herbalism, phytotherapy and botanical medicine are all terms which refer to traditional or folk medicine in which the cures or treatments involve using extracts of plants. The reason that plants have medicinal properties is probably because of the defense mechanisms of plants. This natural mechanism helps plants fend off predators like microorganisms, insects, and animals. These defense mechanisms work by making the plant produce certain substances within them that keep predators or diseases at bay. Practitioners of herbal and natural medicine merely found a way to acquire these substances to help humans fend off diseases as well.

Although some form of herbal medicine has been in existence since the era of the caveman, herbal medications have - at one time or another - been used by people belonging to almost every culture of the world through history. However, in the ancient cultures of India and China such medicine has always been taken very seriously and ancient books on medicine unearthed in these parts of the world show that the herbal practitioners worked on perfecting their concoctions with every experience they had.

Chinese herbal medicine
Herbal Medicine The main difference between Chinese herbal medicines and Indian herbal medicines is that Chinese herbal concoctions usually contain mixtures of about four different kinds of herbs. This is because Chinese herbal medicine practitioners believe that the herbal treatment must include not only a cure for the main health problem but also should include treatment for possible side-effects of the main herb used to treat the main health condition as well as provide relief from any other symptoms that the patient may experience due to the disease.

Thus, though all herbal medicine practitioners use herbal combinations to cure ailments, traditional Chinese medicines may combinations of four to fifteen herbs at a time. The formula for Chinese alternative herbal medicines usually has four different classes of herbs. The first class belongs to the main constituent of the potion which must attack the main disease. Secondary herbs and subsequent classes of herbs must prevent side-effects and other symptoms of the disease as well as prevent the main disease from spreading or attacking any other organs.

Advantages and disadvantages of herbal medicine
The main advantage of herbal medicines and the reason these are gaining popularity in modern times is because they are completely natural medicines and hence do not have chemical components. This translates into fewer side-effects and a lower chance of the patient's exhibiting an allergic reaction to the constituents of the herbal medicine. The danger herbal medicine is associated is based on the fact that such medicines take much longer to take effect than conventional modern medicine alternatives and hence if the disease is progressing rapidly or has been discovered too late, herbal medicines may not be able to help the patient in time. This is why nowadays doctors prescribe herbal medicine supplements which must be accompanied with formal conventional healing methods and supervision by a medical practitioner.

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