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Herbal Medicine, part three

By Gay Published: August 1, 2009

I am an avid believer in herbal remedies.  However, I also value—and am extraordinarily grateful for—modern medicinal compounds.  Yes, they often are extremely potent, and yes, they can cause problems with organs.  But they (usually) work, and they work quickly.

One of the difficulties of herbal medicine or holistic medicine, as I have previously pointed out, is that the results are not immediate or nearly so.  With modern antibiotics, one often sees a response to the drug within a few hours.    The following is derived from a study by David W. Ramey.  He has not affinity for herbal medicine, and is, in fact, quite skeptical about it.  Let’s look at some of the reasons why.

While it is inarguable that plants may contain pharmacologically active substances, articles and books describing herbal medicine are replete with inaccurate information.  Many of these inaccuracies derive from ancient times, when people used herbs that they were taught cured certain conditions.   Sometimes, these traditions were correct, but often they were not, and they caused harm, rather than cures.  It has been discovered that herbal traditions thousands of year old may have serious harmful effects.   So, the traditional folklore of herbal medicines is very often inaccurate, and even harmful.

Evidence for herbal cures date back to Neanderthal times. It is not always evident what the plants in contact with the bones were seeking to cure.  That the bodies  dead suggests that the cure didn’t work, although it is difficult to determine if the herbs in contact with the bodies were an attempt to fulfill a cure or were simply an abstract connection with the dead and the plants surrounding the community from which the body derived. When the European expansion began, there was usually a biologist aboard, who studied the plants native to the area, and learned of the traditional use of such by the natives.

In  1836, the first  physiomedical college opened, which relied upon botanical medicines in place of traditional pharmaceutical drugs.  The Thomson movement of the mid 1880’s  was very popular because of the use of  herbal remedies, easily available, and, in the case of the Civil War, easily obtainable, which suggested a closer cure for wounds and diseases.

The veterinary application of herbs and botanicals also became popular. Although there was little documentation.

Even though herbal and botanicals have been used for thousands of years, there have been no critical studies on the effects of these substances.  Are they effective?  Effective with what? Bleeding patients was considered a good therapy, and in some case, it was efficacious.  But there were no notes documenting the results of botanicals and herbs.  Because of a lack of documentation, it can not be ascertained that herbals have had any measurable improvement in the life of animals.  In addition, assessments of  herbal therapies are made in comparison of historical and current use of the herbs. Historically, treatment of illnesses had to do more with the symptoms rather than the underlying causes.  Herbal prescriptions had more to do for vague conditions , such as high fevers, than for the condition that caused the symptoms.

Natural does not mean that the medicine is safe or harmless. Non-toxicity is not a given in herbal remedies.    For instance, cruciferous vegetables can  downright dangerous causing cancers and reproductive dangers.  BUT, the concentration of herbal preparations are so small as to negate the toxic potential.

Many herbs were used in extremely deleted amounts, and may have brought about relief from the symptoms of diseases.  Herbal treatments are often used to treat not only the illness, but the over-all well being of  the individual animal.  Echinacea  has been shown to have natural antibiotic properties and is recognized as being a good drug for kinds of infections.  On the other hand, ginseng, long favored as a drug which promoted energy enhancement, has proven to be ineffective in such.

There are three areas in which herbals differ from modern pharmacotherapy:

Whole plants are used.  This allows for the argument that whole plant is used and therefore cause efficacious treatment.  But, in fact, there is no knowledge developed that showcases the  properties of one of the parts that causes an acceptable treatment of the illness.

Herbs are combined.  By combining plants without determining which plant helps an illness, there is no way to understand  which effect is avoided or engaged I treating the illness.

Diagnoses .Herbal practitioners may use different principles that differ from traditional  practices,  Herbs and botanicals are an important market in  many countries.  Herbal medicines in the United Sates are marketed as “food supplement” or “botanical therapies.”  Plant preparations can be DEADLY  Misuse of plants such as nightshade, foxglove or belladonna.  You can NOT simply use a botanical preparation and expect miraculous cures, and the use of plants such as  ergot may have deadly effects.  You have got to use preparations that have been systematically tested, such as the grooming preparations of Parsley Hollow, Inc.

Read parts one and two on herbal medicine.

Written by Gay Fifer, Parsley Hollow, Inc.

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