Since times immemorial it has been man’s consistent effort to discover new remedies of the prevailing ailments. The ancient Greeks were probably the first few in the civilized world to practice proper medicine.
Hippocrates, known as the father of modern medicine established the first medical school in Kos where he was born in 460BC.
Hippocrates is credited with being the first person to believe that diseases were caused naturally, not because of superstition and gods.
He believed that diseases were the product of environmental factors and living habits and not an act of the wrath of the gods as was the common belief of the times.
The philosophy of Greek Medicine was that man is essentially a product of nature or the natural environment. Health is living in harmony with Nature, and disease results when this harmony and balance are upset.
It was a generally held notion that the use of herbal medicine was not exclusive to humans for animals in the wild when sick would eat herbal plants till they got better.
It was thus that herbal medicine amongst humans first evolved as an imitation of this universal healing practice of the animal kingdom.
Herbal medicine is presently a universal practice among all the world’s traditional medical systems, which developed systems or models of herbal healing based on the holistic healing principles and concepts inherent to that system.
In the olden days, when there were no such things as antibiotics people relied on this form of healing. The village healer would use a certain herb for the certain ailment and another for another ailment.
The origins of herbal medicine lie in the common empirical experience of the human race, in observing which plants the animals ate when they were feeling sick, and following their example.
From these origins, augmented by centuries of experiential trial and error, a body of knowledge and lore developed in each region of the world, which became the world’s indigenous folk medicine traditions.
Over time the medical practice has evolved by leaps and bounds and as a result of modern research and technology medical practitioners find it easy to analyze, diagnose and treat an ailment in the shortest possible time.
There is no denying that herbal medicine does have it curative power but we live in such a fast-paced age that like the fast food we prefer an instant fix or in this case a quick cure for everything.
Strong antibiotics provide an instant cure for ailments like flu, fever, aches and pains.
With time, herbal medicine was less practiced and people nowadays prefer latest drugs.
Although, Traditional healing wisdom and good old common sense told the common man for hundreds, even thousands of years that Nature’s botanical medicines were the best way to health and healing.
All the world’s great religions all have passages from their sacred texts advocating the use of herbs for health and healing.
So what exactly is herbal medicine and how does it compare with pharmaceutical drugs.
Herbal medicine is the use of plants and other natural substances in healing. Although plants and botanical medicines are the mainstays of the world’s great herbal healing traditions, not all the natural substances used for medicine are of plant origin. Botanical medicines make up about 85% of traditional pharmacopeias, with mineral substances comprising about 10% and those of animal origin about 5%.
Plants are used both for food and medicine and with medicine as well as with food, the more natural, whole and unrefined a substance is, the higher it is in nutritive value, and the better it is assimilated and metabolized by the body.
A pharmaceutical drug is a very potent, refined substance that has been designed for a very narrow, specific purpose; and so, it is not metabolized in a balanced, harmonious way by the body and its humor, which creates a whole host of negative side effects.
In order to comprehend the curative powers or the healing potential of herbal medicine, it is necessary that we compare the differences with that of pharmaceutical drugs.
The main advantages are ;
Herbs tend to work with nature not against it by increasing the natural functions and defensive healings reactions of the organism.
Pharmaceutical companies administered drugs, however, tend , suppress key bodily functions and block these natural healing reactions.
Over the long term, this negative approach wears down the inherent vitality and resistance of the organism.
Herbs have less after effects and are gentler whereas the negative side effects of pharmaceutical drugs cause thousands of unnecessary deaths every year.
Herbs have a nutritive value that drugs lack. No pharmaceutical drug that your doctor can prescribe will be able to rebuild your body; only whole foods, nutritional supplements, and herbs can do that.
Many herbs are nutrient-rich superfoods; as whole natural substances, their nutrients are better absorbed and retained by the organism than even the finest natural vitamins, which are fractionated, concentrated extracts.
Herbs are living medicines that can vitalize and energize the organism; synthetic drugs, as lifeless substances, can’t do this. Also, the biological intelligence inherent in herbs gives many of them a bivalent capacity to adjust or optimize key bodily functions, like digestion, circulation, metabolism, and immunity.
Synthetic drugs, which lack this biological intelligence, work only in one direction, and their dosages must be closely monitored to avoid excess or overdose.
The wheels of nature and herbs grind slowly and work well , Herbs usually take longer to work than synthetic drugs, but they work naturally and get to the root of the problem.
Synthetic drugs may give you the quick fix, but this is often deceptive; many times, pharmaceutical drugs merely mask the symptoms, suppress the body’s natural healing processes, and may even drive the root cause deeper into the organism. The choice is yours: Do you want to be healed slower, but better, or quickly but not as well?
Pharmaceutical companies are constantly researching and developing drugs but it seems that sooner or later they will have to go back and adopt herbal medicine in their scheme of things strategy.
There are many who avoid antibiotics because of negative reactions. Elderly folk prefers the traditional herbal medicine as they fear new and powerful drugs.
Although pharmaceutical companies spend billions on research and development of a drug and test new drugs and its effects, first on animals and then humans it has to go through various checks and balances especially in the U.S.A where the Federal Drug Administration , the government’s official watchdog is very strict in its guidelines.
People in the less developed countries still follow the traditional system of herbal where superstitions and taboos exist and the are very scared to use quality pharmaceutical drugs.
With a growing population, the world is running short of resources water, power, gas as well as quality drugs. One must not forget that healthcare should be our foremost priorities for there is a universal saying “ Health is Wealth” for if health is lost all is lost.
Cassandra Quave is Ethnobotanist based at Emory university in Atlanta.
On a visit to her father’s ranch in Arcadia, Fla her eyes witness what she describes as a vast botanical tapestry, rich as a Persian rug. A Smilax vine dangled menacingly on a wire fence pointed leaves, like a necklace of shark’s teeth. Beneath it, tiny wild daisies and mint ornamented the grass with pink tassels and purple corners.
Up above, on the sloping branches of oak trees, whiskery bromeliads, Spanish moss and the gray fronds of resurrection fern tangled in a miniature jungle all their own.
Each of these species intrigued Quave. Her eyes lingered enough to merit a pause, a verbal greeting, a photo. An ethnobotanist based at Emory University in Atlanta, Quave, 38, has an unabashed fondness for all citizens of the kingdom Plantae. But on this evening, her attention lingered on certain species more than others: those with the power to heal, with the potential to help prevent a looming medical apocalypse.
Ethnobotany is a historically small and obscure offshoot of the social sciences, focused on the myriad ways that indigenous peoples use plants for food, shelter, clothing, art and medicine. Within this already-tiny field, a few groups of researchers are now trying to use this knowledge to derive new medicines, and Quave has become a leader among them.
Equally adept with a pipette and a trowel, she unites the collective insights of traditional plant-based healing with the rigor of modern laboratory experiments.
Over the past five years, Quave has gathered hundreds of therapeutic shrubs, weeds, and herbs and taken them back to Emory for a thorough chemical analysis.
She is one of the few researchers who believes that sooner or later the World will have to use herbal medicine as a looming medical crisis looms globally.
There are a growing number of diseases emerging in the world and with it frantic efforts to have alternative drugs to cure the same. The world wants to be cured of ailments whether from herbal medicine or pharma drugs. They don’t want to be part of the squabbling.