Herbal Supplements: 101

herbal supplements 101

Herbal Supplements: Empowering Your Health Naturally

We are a society that places such high stakes on maintaining health and keeping fit. Okay, so perhaps not on how we generally value keeping a healthy lifestyle, but more on how we have put such a high price point on healthcare.

We have discovered a cure for many illnesses and the current level of our scientific study is geared towards achieving more discoveries for ailments and health conditions for which we may still have not found a name.

That discovery and continuing practice, however, has not come without a matching price tag and hence the adage we go by, prevention is better than cure.

Which is exactly why herbal supplements have grown in popularity and usage over the past decade. Deterring sickness is better than spending tons to cure it.

The price tag of an ounce of prevention is definitely more attractive than a pint of treatment.

But how does one prevent illness if a complete lifestyle change is difficult and sometimes inconvenient?

Given the daily assault of toxins and health risks to our bodies, is there even a healthy way to be healthy? The answer has come to many of us, and it goes by the name of herbal supplements.

What Are Herbal Supplements

Herbal supplements, sometimes called botanical supplements, are non-pharmaceutical dietary supplements that contain medicinal substances derived from natural plants.

  • They are used to prevent diseases, supplement pharmaceutical drugs
    and conventional treatments or promote general health and wellbeing.

  • Herbal supplements come in tablet, capsule, powder or liquid form.

  • They are essentially food supplements and those who take them need to ingest them orally so that the body’s chemical process of extracting nutrients from food could unleash the benefits of herbal supplements.

Our contemporary consumption of herbal supplements follows the ancient practice of herbalism or using herbs and plants for their therapeutic properties. For medicinal herbs’ accessibility to most contemporary societies throughout the word, as well as their notable health benefits and safety profiles, conventional medicine has not stood tall atop herbalism.

  • In fact the World Health Organization estimates that around 80% of our global population is using medicinal herbs as their primary health care source.
  • Herbalism is also central to the practice of homeopathic, traditional Asian and Native American medicine.
  • The practice of medicine in Europe also relies heavily on herbal medicines.
  • Herbalism coupled with the convenience of store bought supplements have also seeped into countries where conventional medicine is still the dominant practice.
  • In the US, for example, 25% of Americans are now using herbal supplements.
  • About 25% of drugs sold in the US market are also plant derived, with Aspirin derived from willow bark, heart muscle strengthener digitalis from foxglove and cancer therapy drug Taxol from Pacific yew.

Health Benefits

The continuing practice of herbalism owes largely to the fact that medicinal herbs successfully treat illnesses and promote health and wellbeing.

Herbal supplements have grown in popularity precisely because they offer the same successful health results, with several companies now producing and marketing their own line of natural herbal supplements for common health concerns.

Despite this, however, modern scientific studies on the exact and quantitative efficacy of herbs and herbal supplements are rather limited, and it would perhaps take several more decades for modern science to accurately identify the benefits, potential ill effects and degree of efficacy of herbs.

9 Most Popular Supplements

As commonly practiced today and also as a result of scientific studies already conducted, herbal supplements containing the following herbs are used to treat certain conditions and ailments:

  • Chamomile to relieve indigestion
  • Echinacea to boost immunity
  • Feverfew to treat migraine and headache
  • Garlic to lower high cholesterol
  • Ginger to prevent nausea and motion sickness
  • Ginkgo Biloba to promote blood circulation, relieve leg pain due to poor circulation and improve memory
  • Ginseng to improve blood circulation and promote vitality
  • Saw palmetto to relieve inflammation and improve urinary flow
  • St. John’s Wort to treat mild and moderate depression

Caution And Safety

There are, however, some herbs that have been identified to react harmfully when ingested, and it would be best to take caution or altogether avoid using herbal supplements that contain them.

  • Chaparral, which is sold either as tea or in capsule form is marketed as an acne cure, blood purifier, cancer cure and as an antioxidant, has been found to cause non-viral hepatitis.
  • Comfrey used in tea, tablet and capsule supplements has also been linked to liver damage.
  • Ephedra, used as an anti-asthma supplement, is also said to raise blood pressure, cause muscle injury, nerve damage, memory loss, psychosis and even stroke.

Herbal supplements are potent sources of nutrients and plant derived chemicals that the body needs to battle many ailments and heal itself.

Every practitioner of traditional medicine, however, could attest that dealing with herbs could be dangerous if used without sufficient knowledge of the way herbs work and react with other natural substances and chemicals in the body.

Exercising caution and seeking the aid of knowledgeable herbalists and physicians is thus necessary to stay safe and maximize the benefits of herbal supplements.

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