Herbal drugs

Botanical medicines or phytomedicines, popularly known as herbals drugs, are a category of unconventional drugs and could refer to the seeds, roots, bark, leaves, flower or berries of a plant that are used in the field of medicine. Although herbal remedies date back to 3000 B.C., herbal drugs have acquired a new meaning today with a steep rise in popularity and are becoming more mainstream than ever before with every development. Researches and clinical studies have not only proven how effective herbal drugs are in treating diseases and enhancing well-being but have also increased their quality and efficiency.

- History of Herbal remedies

Herbs have been used as a form of treatment for time immemorial. The application of herbal drugs has been recorded in all cultures including African, Native American, Egyptian, Chinese and Indian cultures. Herbal remedies were common in Ayurveda medicine in the Indian subcontinent with the widespread use of several types of herbal drugs for prevention and treatment of diseases. In the beginning of the 1900s, scientists began to use chemicals to take extract ingredients from herbs and studying them. Then they began to create synthetic forms of herbal compounds and hence pharmaceutical drugs took preference over herbal remedies.

- How do herbs work?

In most cases, it is difficult to put a finger on the one element or ingredient in a herb that is responsible for curing an ailment. A whole herb can be made up of several ingredients which might work collectively to cure a condition. How effectively a herb will work depends on environmental factors like the climate and/or soil quality it was planted in, and how it was harvested.

The use of herbal remedies has skyrocketed in the last 30 years as herbs have become increasingly popular as alternative medicine. Their popularity can also be owed to the fact that herbal drugs work almost as effectively as pharmaceutical drugs, and often without any side effects. Herbs are also certified as dietary supplements. This classification by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of the United States implies that herbal supplements can be sold without safety tests, unlike prescription drugs.

In most cases, a combination of herbs is used as a more effective treatment method and to lower any risk of side effects. When a doctor or herbalist recommends herbal drugs, they should consider several factors such as the plant species, storage conditions, processing and harvesting procedure and if it is contaminated with pesticides or heavy metals.

- Herbal Medicines to Treat Diseases

Herbs have a healing effect on the body and can treat a variety of conditions including migraine, eczema, asthma, premenstrual syndrome, menopausal conditions and fatigue.

Read on to learn about the most commonly used herbs and their uses.

Gingko : It is known to enhance memory. It is used by health care professionals to treat patients who suffer poor blood circulation or circulatory diseases. Some studies have also found it useful in the treatment of neurological conditions such as dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Ginseng : It is recommended to weak patients recovering from ailments to provide strength. It enhances the body’s immune system and healing mechanism. When taken in moderate amounts, ginseng is known to lower down blood pressure and cholesterol. If used in high quantities, ginseng can increase blood pressure.

Echinacea: It improves the body’s immunity, thereby helping it to fight infections. It is recommended for patients with fever and herpes. Studies are underway to find out if Echinacea can help in treating serious conditions such as AIDS and cancer. While it is one of the most commonly used drugs, one should consult their physician before taking it as Echinacea can react with other drugs or cause allergies.

Valerian: It is a safe herb that is recommended for people with sleep problems such insomnia, but it can react with psychiatric drugs and needs a doctor’s consultation. Valerian has an advantage over sleeping pills as it is herbal and reduces the risk of side effects.Besides being used as a sleeping aid, Valerian’s dried roots are also sometimes used as herbal remedy for anxiety.

Hypericum: This is a yellow-flowered plant is the herbal alternative to commonly prescribed antidepressants and can treat moderate depression, insomnia and anxiety. It is popularly known as St John’s Wort. Although it has fewer side effects than antidepressants, it can interact with contraceptive pills, and it needs to be taken under a medical practitioner’s guidance.

- How to Use Herbal drugs Safely?

Herbal drugs are known to have very few side effects as compared to their pharmaceutical counterparts. However, since there are several types of herbal drugs out there in the market, they get mislabeled sometimes, or come with contaminants. This is also because herbal drugs are unregulated. Some herbs are also known to interact with conventional medicines and created unwanted reactions, while some can give rise to allergies. Hence, taking herbal drugs on your own is not a good idea. Even though herbal remedies are safe and gentle for the most part, you must not self-medicate your condition and take herbal drugs without talking to a medical professional. You should also refrain from experimenting with the dosage and intake of conventional drugs without consulting your doctor. Your doctor and/or herbalist should always know about what conventional and herbal drugs medication you are currently prescribed.

- Who Can Recommend a Herbal drug Safely?

Medical doctors and pharmacists should be contacted for expert advice on herbal remedies. Herbalists and naturopathic physicians are well trained in natural therapies and herbal remedies. Homeopathic medicines also use plants, besides animals and minerals. Sometimes, a homeopathic doctor’s prescription overlaps herbalism with a homeopathic medicine to treat a particular condition more effectively. You should only buy herbal drugs on the recommendation of one of the known experts. Since there is no standardized regulation for these drugs, you should always check with the manufacturing company before you buy herbal drugs. Some companies have standardized their herbal drugs, but a medical expert is the best person to consult for dosage and prescription.

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