herbal health tips

herbal health tips

It is estimated that 80 percent of the earth’s population depends upon herbal health care to treat common ailments. The use of herbs for medicinal purposes is centuries old. Depending upon what culture you are from will most likely determine your attitude towards this type of health care.

It has long been know that herbs contain powerful ingredients that, when used correctly, can help heal the body. Herbal health care remedies can

  • Nourish your immune system
  • Stimulate the regeneration of damaged liver tissue
  • Strengthen the adrenal glands
  • Counter the adverse reactions to chemotherapy
  • Help balance the endocrine system
  • Improve night vision and prevent certain eye diseases
  • Assist the body in preventing illness and disease
  • Help to slow down the aging process

Two Basic Categories

Generally speaking, herbal health care falls into two basic categories : tonic and stimulating. Tonic herbs help the cells, tissues, and organs maintain tone and balance throughout the body. They supply these cells, tissues and organs with important nutrients to help them function properly and optimally. Tonics are typically taken for three to nine months. During this time they gently strengthen and improve the overall health of the organs and tissues.

Stimulating herbs have stronger actions. They are typically used to treat particular ailments. They are usually taken in smaller doses and for shorter periods of time.

Phytomedicine

Over the last 25 years there have been a large number of pharmacological and clinical studies done to validate the health care benefits of herbs. This has given rise to the term phytomedicine. This term refers to herbal medicine that is from a whole-plant preparation, rather than a single isolated chemical compound. The pharmaceutical industry is learning that single isolated chemical compounds carry greater health risks because there are no counterbalances.

Phytomedicine preparations are derived from a whole plant or plant part and may contain hundreds of individually active components. To help bring herbal health care into the scientific and medical realm of the 21st century, there is an effort to standardize certain set percentages of specific active ingredients for their therapeutic value. This process has been widely recognized in Europe and is beginning to make its way into the United States and Western culture.

Some health insurance companies will now cover the cost of herbal medicines when they are prescribed by a licensed health care professional. Although herbal supplements are not subject to the same standards as prescription and over-the-counter drugs, there is an effort being made to create a certification process that will set :

  • Quality standards
  • Label accuracy
  • Purity standards
  • Manufacturing and packaging standards

As people continue to rethink their own personal health care and aging process, maybe we will begin to approach the Chinese view that medicine and food are the same thing. Believing that what is good for the body is medicine while at the same time it is also food.

Herbal Health Care Preparations

Commercial herbal health care preparations can be found in bulk quantities, medicinal herb blends, teas, oils, tinctures, fluid extracts, and tablets or capsules.

Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts that have been derived from either steam distillation or cold pressing. They contain high concentrations of natural hormones, vitamins, antibiotics, and antiseptics. Due to these high concentrations, they should not be taken internally because they can irritate mucous membranes and the lining of the stomach. In their natural form, they will evaporate easily in air. This is why they are typically placed in a vegetable oil base.

Fluid extracts are made when a crude herb is mixed with a suitable solvent such as alcohol and/or water. This method is the most effective because the active ingredients are highly concentrated and can be standardized to guarantee potency. Most fresh herbal extracts retain almost all of the plant’s original benefits and are quickly absorbed by the body.

Teas can be commercially made or homemade. Herbal teas can contain thousands of beneficially active ingredients with their own distinctive healing uses. Dr. Varro Tyler of Purdue University states that “herbal teas are very good for relieving mild to moderate ailments such as upset stomach, sore throat, coughs, stuffy nose, and insomnia.”

Tinctures are created when the plant components are either insoluble or only partially soluble in water. The herb is soaked in alcohol or glycerol for a period of time, then pressed to render the tincture. The nice thing about tinctures is that they can preserve the extracted active ingredients for twelve months or more.

Tablets or capsules are another method of delivery for either a single herbal ingredient or a combination of different herbal ingredients depending upon a particular health need. Tablets sometimes use binders, fillers and coatings that do not allow the tablet to properly breakdown in the body. It is one of the reasons why the nutrition industry has gotten such a bad reputation with physicians. They see the whole or partially digested tablet in the bed pans of their patients. I would always recommend capsules over tablets. If you are a vegetarian, then ask if you can obtain your herbal health care product in a vegetable capsule.

Tips and Precautions

The world of herbal health care is enormous with lots of information. Please understand that herbs act gently to help rebalance a person’s health. If you’re expecting dramatic, immediate results then you might be disappointed. Many herbs work better in combination with other herbs than by themselves.

Just because an herb is “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe. A good example is ephedra. This natural herb was used inappropriately by the diet industry to boost metabolism to fuel weight loss. The result was the uncontrolled use of an herbal product that resulted in several unnecessary deaths and a black eye to the industry. Like synthetic drugs, herbal health care preparations may be toxic in the right situations, can cause allergic reactions, and/or could affect your response to other medications.

Common sense combined with forethought and research is important. With this in mind, here are some general guidelines for herbal health care :

  • Read the directions on the label and use the recommended amounts for the recommended period of time.
  • Use the correct herb for the correct health care concern.
  • Start with minor ailments first with the goal to bring your body back into harmony. For serious and life-threatening conditions always work with a qualified health care provider who truly knows herbal health care.
  • Buy only from reputable companies.
  • If you collect and/or grow your own herbs, then be absolutely positive in your identification of that herb and/or herb part when using it for any health care concern.
  • Use the correct part of the plant since different parts can have widely different usages.
  • If you’re using an herbal health care remedy for the first time, then start with a smaller dosage or amount to test for possible allergic reactions.
  • If you are pregnant or planning for pregnancy, then review your herbal health care products with a qualified medical physician.
  • Do not take herbal health care products if you are nursing.
  • Children are not adults so do not give them herbal health care products without first consulting with a qualified health care practitioner.