The term herb we use on this site refers to plants used for medicinal purposes.
While using herbs to help treat illness may seem to some like a modern phenomenon, it has been around for over 5000 years. The medicinal benefits of herbs have been used for centuries by many different cultures. Man has always been dependent on herbs. What was a healing herb a hundred years ago is still a healing herb today. Many of the benefits of herbs are not so much based on scientific study but rather on the observations made by herbal healers through the centuries.
Herbs may be natural, but they are still potent medicine, and should be treated with care and respect. Herbs should be treated like other medicines in that it is important to follow the recommended dosages. Most herbs are typically milder than synthetic drugs and have fewer side effects, they are neither completely safe nor poisonous. Some are even dangerous if taken improperly or for extended periods of time. Most problems stem from overuse and misuse. Herbs, when properly used, are safe, gentle and effective.
Traditional doctors and pharmacists may have little training in herbal medicine, if that is the case ask your practitioner for a reference to an alternative practitioner. Practitioners with knowledge of herbs include herbalists, homeopaths, naturopaths, and doctors of Oriental medicine.
Herbs include leaves, bark, berries, roots, gums, seeds, stems and flowers. They can also be found in the form of tablets, capsules, liquid beverages, bark pieces, powders, tinctures, extracts, creams, lotions, salves, and oils.
Before using any herb, it is important that you follow these important guidelines:
- NEVER self-diagnose. Be sure you have received a diagnosis from a doctor before seeking alternative care. Proper medical care is critical to good health.
- Work with your doctor. If you are currently on medication, you must work with your doctor before discontinuing any drug or starting any herbal treatment. Make sure your doctor knows about any herbal supplements you are taking. There could be possible interactions with other treatments you are receiving.
- If you're pregnant (or trying to get pregnant) or breast-feeding, avoid herbal remedies. Substances in these remedies may pass to your baby.
- Do not be fooled by the word "natural". Natural does not always mean safe. Herbs are natural substances, but that does not mean that they can be used indiscriminately. They are natures medicine, and should be treated that way. Many perfectly natural plants are highly toxic and poisonous. Before trying any herbal remedy, be sure that you know what it does, how to use it, and the possible side effects. Never exceed the recommended dose.
- Keep in mind. Many herbs are effective on their own, but some work even better if they are part of a comprehensive treatment plan focusing on diet and lifestyle changes as well