Herbal medicine has been around over 5000 years, which is just when the first written records occur. It is thought through archeological evidence that it dates back much, much further than that. Chinese herbal medicine was established by determining the energetics of the material, (usually plant, sometime animal) and utilizing it to create change in the energetics of the body and symptoms that were presenting. Even today Chinese herbal medicine is based on energetics and known uses for each herb. Research is finally catching up as well to confirm what has been known for thousands of years.
Here are benefits you should know about:
1. You don’t have to be on them long term- Most herbs and herbal formulas are not meant to be continuous. They are meant to help return your body back to balance. If you get a cold, you get herbs that help push it through and boost immunity, if you have diarrhea you get herbs that will bind things back together, if you have anxiety you get herbs to help calm your spirit. It’s possible to be on herbs for several months, however it’s also possible to be on them for a much shorter amount of time, or cycling on and off.
2. It’s all natural- Many medications are synthetic and often our bodies do not know how to treat those things once we ingest them. That’s why medications tend to have more side effects, because it creates a toxicity in the body that the liver then has to expend energy dealing with. There are hundreds of effective herbs used in the Chinese Pharmacopeia on a regular basis, thousands listed in use overall. Most of those substances are plant material, although there are a few that come from animals. Most practitioners are very conscientious about the use of animals in any herbal formula. It’s possible to make an effective formula without utilizing animal parts, so please feel free to speak to your herbalist about any concerns you may have. Herbal medicine does not contain any synthetics, and there are rules and regulations on herbal medicine that provide testing for quality of materials to avoid anything that could cause harm.
3. It works with the energetics of your body to create change- Herbs are ascribed energetic qualities such as cold, warm, neutral, acrid, sweet, and astringent, just to name a few. Those qualities are matched up with symptoms that someone is experiencing to help return the body closer to homeostasis. For example, if someone were to have a sore throat, that would indicate heat. Therefore, that would be taken into consideration and an cooling herb would be chosen to assist with it. All symptoms and diagnosis give the practitioner an indication of which herbs to use to put your body back into a healthy pattern. Herbs do not struggle against a symptom, they create an environment that promotes the body’s natural healing ability to engage.
4. Little to no side-effects-Anyone with a degree in herbal medicine will have the knowledge to prescribe herbs to cause no harm. Licensed Herbalists with a degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine learn contraindications, side effects, and any negative effects herbs may have. We are also armed with some very powerful resources that can check for interactions with other herbs and medications. Some herbs are only meant to be used for a short amount of time, your educated practitioner will be aware of what those are. Also, it’s always important to communicate with your provider, they will be able to answer any questions you may have about your concerns. The important take-away is that herbal medicine is a safe route to go in healing, without provoking other symptoms or issues.
5. Can be used in conjunction with medication- As I mentioned earlier, herbalists have references that we can look up interactions with other medications. Research in herbal medicine, as well as, medication is always growing and things may come up that we didn’t know before. However, thousands of people benefit from herbal medicine daily without interaction to medications.
6. Can be created for a specific set of symptoms-Each presentation of symptoms is different, even if two people have allergies their symptoms will express themselves differently. Herbal medicine provides a unique prescription for a set of symptoms. There are many patent formulas that will cover a set of symptoms and are safe for multiple users. However, specialty formulas can be developed on a case by case, symptom by symptom basis. You can’t really say that about medication can you?
7. Thousands of years of use-As I stated before, this medicine has been in use for millennia. Think about it being tried and tested over time to provide clinical data that it works. In scientific research there are case studies. This is where individuals are observed and studied for how a procedure, medication, or intervention helps them so that it can be replicated with others. Herbal medicine has thousands of years of case studies.
8. It can be modified as your symptoms change-If you are provided a formula and your symptoms begin to change, that formula (if it is made in granules) can be modified to add herbs that will assist in any new symptoms that arise. That means the opposite is also true, if symptoms begin to disappear herbs can be removed that are no longer needed to continue assisting your body in the correct direction without over compensating.
9. It is meant to help you heal, not cover up symptoms-One of the greatest differences I see between herbal medicine and pharmaceuticals is the outcome. Herbs, again, are meant to get you back to a place of health, balance, and strength. Meanwhile, many medications tend to mask the symptom, provide a method to cover it up so you don’t have to deal with it, and even sometimes create other symptoms in its wake.
10. It’s a personal journey-Because herbs can be used for almost anything you can possibly imagine from symptoms of a cold, GI disorders, emotional disorder, stress management, menstrual issues, and so much more, you can decide how to move forward. Working with an knowledgeable practitioner provides an opportunity to try a new way of being proactive in your health, healing, and being empowered in choices around your body. Have the conversations about how to use the herbs, what timeline you might be looking at, how that might change over time, and really look at what the benefits are in how it can help you.
Herbal medicine can be a real gift in prevention, as well as healing. It works synergistically with the body to create an environment where everything works in the natural, healthy flow that was created to be.