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The Benefits of Herbal Medicine: Power of Plants

WTHN Team/01.05.20

Holding herbal medicine

If I asked you to name a few herbs, where would you begin? Probably with something like parsley, sage, rosemary + thyme. 

If I asked you what herbs could do, you might rattle off the different culinary ways you use your go-to herbs. 

But what if I told you herbs have a place not only in your pantry, but also in your medicine cabinet? Herbs have been used as medicine for thousands of years in China. In fact, there’s evidence of herbal remedies being prescribed as early as 1100 BCE. 

What exactly is herbal medicine?

Traditionally, herbal medicine works to aid, restore + harmonize opposing forces of energy known as yin + yang. This is usually accomplished through a combination of plant elements, but throughout herbal medical history animal by-products + minerals have also been thrown into the mix. 

So the term “herbs” can refer to a lot of different things in medicine – roots, flowers, leaves, stems, bark, seeds + even stones! These are all therapeutic parts of plants which have natural healing properties that can promote wellbeing in both the body + mind in their own ways. Herbal medicine is an incredibly elegant system – hundreds of individual herbs can each have unique properties + functions. Individual herbs can definitely be used on their own, but they’re more often combined into formulas to enhance their unique healing qualities + target particular conditions. 

So herbal remedies come in many forms, can be prescribed in any of these different forms and can be used both internally + externally. For internal use traditionally, raw herbs are boiled, simmered + then drank as a tea. Today, to avoid the often bitter taste of herbal concoctions, herbs also come in powdered form and as capsules, tinctures + tablets. For external – aka “topical” use – herbs are used as a wash or formulated into a cream, lotion or salve.

What can herbal medicine treat?

In any form, herbs are used to treat a wide range of conditions. They’re prescribed during an herbal consultation or alongside an acupuncture session – like we do at WTHN. Acu + herbal remedies work best when combined, so your healing journey will often be enhanced by taking an herbal supplement while receiving regular acupuncture. 

In Chinese Medicine, practitioners diagnose your ailment and design your treatment plan based on complex diagnostic patterns, theories + systems. Herbal formulas are selected to match your specific, individual presentation of the ailment. 

How often should herbs be taken?

Like any prescription, it’s important to follow daily dosage + frequency recommendations from your practitioner – especially because you may be used to western medicinal remedies, the effects of which tend to be felt immediately. It can take a few days to start feeling the effects of herbal medicine. 

To many, this incorrectly implies that herbal medicine is less effective than a western prescription. But this is just another example of western civilization prioritizing quick + easy results over long-term, sustainable solutions. Instead of just treating a symptom, herbal medicine goes to work on the root of the ailment that created your symptom(s). 

Modern research shows that the therapeutic benefit of herbs comes from the effect they can have on the body’s systems. Herbs can be…  

  • adaptogenic – meaning they help the body adapt to stress by exerting a normalizing effect upon bodily processes 
  • nootropic – meaning they enhance memory or other cognitive functions
  • immunomodulatory – meaning they modify the body’s immune response
  • anti-microbial – meaning they fight bacteria or funguses
  • anti-viral
  • anti-inflammatory
  • antioxidants – meaning they stop the chemical reaction in the body that can produce free radicals + damage cells

Thanks to all of these properties, herbal medicine can effectively treat so many common ailments, including digestive issues, musculoskeletal pain, stress, anxiety, insomnia + fertility.

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