People have become conditioned to view pharmaceutical drugs as the only “real” medicine. Many people today may be unaware that phytotherapy (plant-based medicine), dates back as far as the Neanderthal period. On top of that, at least 30% of pharmaceutical drugs that are in use today,are directly derived from plants.
The usage of medicinal plants to heal and restore the body balance is called phytotherapy (“phyto” means plant). Phytotherapy is an invaluable treatment option, especially considering the hefty list of side effects that accompany many pharmaceuticals. It’s also a wonderful choice because it has the ability to adapt to the biochemical uniqueness of each patient.
What Is Phytotherapy?
Phytotherapy is the study of the use of extracts of natural origin as medicines or health-promoting agents. Phytotherapy medicines differ from plant-derived medicines in standard pharmacology. Where standard pharmacology isolates an active compound from a given plant, phytotherapy aims to preserve the complexity of substances from a given plant with relatively less processing.
Phytotherapy is distinct from homeopathy, and avoids mixing plant and synthetic bioactive substances. Traditional phytotherapy is a synonym for herbalism and regarded as alternative medicine by much of Western medicine. Although the medicinal and biological effects of many plant constituents such as alkaloids,have been proven through clinical studies, there is debate about the efficacy and the place of phytotherapy in medical therapies.
Growing Plant-Based Medicine
More and more doctors are relieved to have such safe, effective and natural options to offer their patients. Of course, there is a time and place for most prescription drugs.
But, phytotherapy can work wonders for many, either alone or alongside drugs. It is a particularly good first option for many common health concerns.
Owing to the global spread of information, the use of alternative medicine, especially phytotherapy, has significantly increased over the past couple of decades. Understanding how phytotherapy works helps explain why herbs can be so effective.
Phytotherapy taps into plants for healing purposes. We can use plants therapeutically as whole foods, or in a variety of other forms, such as standardized extracts and supplements.
Medicinal use of herbs has been around for centuries, yet some people may still be hesitant to even try them. Worries range from concern that herbs might be dangerous or, conversely, that plants will be too weak to help.
Benefits Of Phytotherapy
Pharmaceutical companies identify active components of plants, and chemically modify them to magnify their actions. Then those companies can sell the products as patented drugs. Unfortunately, this process disrupts the natural balance of the plant — one big reason for the high incidence of side effects from pharmaceutical drugs.
Unlike pharmaceuticals, medicinal herbs rarely produce side effects. They’re inexpensive, and because they’re found in nature, plant-derived remedies are readily accessible to people all over the world. While a drug usually contains an amplified active ingredient, a whole plant (or plant extract) generally contains an assortment of constituents that are synergistic (working together).
This not only enhances the plant’s effectiveness, but also reduces risk of toxicity. Phytotherapy uses cell signaling to benefit our bodies early in the process of disease and imbalance, whereas pharmaceuticals are generally designed to only eradicate isolated symptoms. This does nothing to target, and resolve, the underlying cause of those symptoms.
How Safe It Is?
Plants can adapt to their environment.It is good news for your body.With phytotherapy — particularly those adaptogenic herbs that tonify (stimulate energy flow) and nourish — the body can usually get what it needs, and only what it needs.
Like a gardener caring for a plant that needs more water on some days than others, most medicinal herbs are capable of both responding actively and quietly ‘listening’ to your cells to gauge what your body needs.
Adaptogenic herbs are normalizing to your system and can be taken safely long-term. Synthetic drugs cannot mimic the brilliant adaptogenic effect or the level of safety provided by medicinal herbs.
Guidelines For Using Herbal Medicine Effectively
When it comes to phytotherapy, couple of universal principles can encourage success:
- Be patient. While some herbs act quickly, others require more time to do their gentle work. The natural healing of longtime metabolic imbalances doesn’t ,and shouldn’t happen overnight.
- Know your body. We’re all genetically unique and don’t always clear molecules through the liver with the same efficiency. If you know you’re generally sensitive to therapeutic agents, vary your dosage accordingly. Partnering with a practitioner experienced in these therapies helps with this. And we always advise letting your practitioner know what you’re taking, and why.
- Choose standardized extracts.Standardized extracts provide pure, active components of plants at levels already demonstrated to be effective, and are usually the best option when going it alone. For deeper information, consult a licensed professional herbalist to choose the best formulation for you.
- Monitor your progress.Follow recommended dosage guidelines and remember — more is not necessarily better. Today negative interactions and side effects are uncommon with herbal remedies because harmful plants have already been removed from herbal pharmacopoeia. Even so, some herbs may interact with pharmaceutical medications.
- Be alert for herb-drug interactions.Discuss any herbs and meds you’re taking with your healthcare provider. If you drink, smoke, or take prescription meds consider potential herb–drug interactions before starting a new herbal therapy. For example, St. John’s wort may cause problems when taken with some antidepressants or other drugs because the herb can alter their clearance out of the body.
- Go for quality.Make sure that you’re using products from a reputable company that values the highest quality of manufacturing. Unfortunately, some herbal product manufacturers are less reliable than others. No nonsense money-back guarantees are a good sign you’re working with a trustworthy company.
Listen The Plant Language
Plant medicine has the ability to ease the body back into balance without the overwhelming effects pharmaceuticals can have. While there is a real need for drugs and surgical intervention for certain concerns, phytotherapy is a safe, natural and effective starting point.
What can it do for you?