Medicinal herbs for health and fitness …
Medicinal herbs have been used to treat disease, promote health and used as a food source throughout human history. Ancient medical systems such as Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Western Herbalism have thousands of years of experience treating disease and maintaining health and wellness. These systems have used scientific inquiry with experiential knowledge to learn how diet, lifestyle, environment and herbal therapies affect human beings.
Herbal medicine is an important pillar of health and is currently being used by billions of people throughout the world. The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of the world’s population continues to use herbal medicine for health care. Even in the US, surveys have found that nearly half of all Americans use herbs. Though this contemporary use of herbs in the US has become more accepted in the past 25 years or so, there are still a lot of misconceptions and concerns when it comes to using herbs.
There are many good reasons to take medicinal herbs to supplement your health. The best reason is the fact that medicinal herbs and herbal products have been used for thousands of years, throughout the world by various civilization and contemporary cultures while providing real benefit and an excellent safely record. All herbs considered to be poisonous or toxic by FDA are not available to the public for use. According to a 174-page report just published in the National Poison Data System, in 2008 there were zero deaths across America by vitamins, minerals, amino acids or herbal supplements.
Compare this to the 100,000 or so Americans who die every year due to pharmaceuticals alone. Aspirin and aspirin containing products alone account about 30,000 deaths per year. After heart disease and cancer, Iatrogenic death, or medicine induced death is the third leading cause of death in the US today.
According to the July 1998 issue of The American Journal of Medicine:
“Conservative calculations estimate that approximately 107,000 patients are hospitalized annually for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)-related gastrointestinal (GI) complications and at least 16,500 NSAID-related deaths occur each year among arthritis patients alone.”(Singh Gurkirpal, MD, “Recent Considerations in Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug Gastropathy”, The American Journal of Medicine, July 27, 1998, p. 31S)
So if NSAID’s alone were accounting for 16,500 deaths in 1998, and numbers are much higher today (since the use of these drugs has risen significantly) and natural supplements are killing ZERO people, why such fear of taking natural supplements?
In this article I will outline some of the reasons you should consider using medicinal herbs to supplement your diet and lifestyle. I will explain some practical uses of medicinal herbs, the benefits of this approach, and frequently asked questions about herbs. However before I teach you about benefits of using herbs, we need to first answer other important questions:
What are herbs?
An herb is defined as “a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory, or aromatic qualities.” So any part of the plant or the whole plant is considered an herb as long as it is used for treatment or prevention of disease, to flavor or season foods and for their aroma in fragrances and perfumes.
What are the benefits of using medicinal herbs?
Herbs have been used throughout human history and have been “tested” through their documented use for thousands of years in India, China, Tibet, Middle East and parts of Europe.
Herbs are traditionally used in their whole plant form unlike most pharmaceuticals where one chemical constituent is isolated, extracted and synthesized. Mother nature has created herbs in their whole plant form over millions of years. This has resulted in the herbs having a balanced structure with potentially thousands of biologically active constituents (Active constituents are special chemicals and combination of chemicals that are present in the plant) with complex chemical and energetic qualities.
All these biologically active constituents making up the herb work synergistically (together to balance) to exert the herbs desired effect. So some of the constituents increase activity of others, while some modify activity of others to reduce their negative side-effects. So, because of this “checks and balances” system within the whole herb, herbs have few side-effects compared to pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceuticals on the other hand are usually made by making a synthetic copy one active constituent from the herb and without using the other naturally occurring balancing constituents in the whole herb. So without the “checks and balances” system of the other constituents in the whole herb, this often results in harmful side-effects from the pharmaceuticals.
(However I want to make it clear that Pharmaceuticals are very powerful and have an important place in medicine. They are extremely effective for acute emergencies, surgeries and certain life threatening conditions. Though in my opinion they are not very effective for chronic diseases, prevention of disease, health and wellness. )
Herbs are also great at restoring body’s homeostasis or natural balanced state. They act to bring the body back into balance. Medicinal herbs are extremely effective at not only treating disease but to help maintain physical and mental well-being. They help build the strength and health of the body so it is better able to fight off disease on its own.
What herbs are used?
There are thousands of herbs used in Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine and Western Herbalism. Hundreds of these are available in the US to treat disease and improve health and fitness.
What are some common ways to take medicinal herbs?
1. Whole Raw Dried Herbs: These are usually boiled in water and decocted. The concentrated tea is taken warm. This method is labor intensive and can take 30-45 mins.
2. Dry Powdered Herbs: These are taken in capsule, pill or as loose herbs with some warm water or honey.
3. Tinctures: are made by soaking raw herbs in alcohol for an extended period. Herbs in this liquid format are potent and taken in small quantities with a dropper.
4. Herbal Jams: are created by decocting herbs and condensing the extract with sugar. 1-2 teaspoons of this jam is consumed.
5. Naturally Fermented Herbal Wines: Herbal decoctions are fermented for a certain amount of time and taken as herbal wines. This alcohol extract has subtle and fast acting qualities.
6. Herbal oils: are usually used externally as a delivery mechanics to get the herbs into the body via the skin. Your skin is the largest organ and it is lipophilic ( lets oils in) and hydrophobic (doesn’t allow water in). So this is a good delivery mechanism to get herbs into the body to address health issues and for general health/fitness.
7. Fresh Herbal Juice: is obtained blending fresh herbs with water and straining the pulp. Cilantro is one readily available herb used in this form to relieve hives and skin irritation.
8. External linaments, plasters and poultices made from herbs are for topical use only. Usually to address joint, muscle and nerve injuries.
Side effects of herbs:
Herbs generally do not have negative side effects when taken in the right dosage and under proper guidance. Occasionally one might experience a change in bowel movements or frequency of urination and this is often as a result of the herbs clearing out toxins from your body. Occasionally one might feel slight nausea if herbs are taken on an empty stomach. So it is often better to take them with or after food.
Quality of herbs:
Before each batch of herbs or herbal products is manufactured, the product should go through rigorous safety tests. Among the tests performed are: heavy metal count, bacteria count, e-coli test, salmonella test, mildew and mold count, insect residue test, moisture levels, and others.
Are herbs safe to take with other medications?
Most herbs are safe to take with most medications, however it is always a good idea to consult with your practitioner or physician if you have any questions. When taking herbs, do not take them at the same time as the rest of your medications. Rather, space them about 2 hours or more apart.
1. Akerele, O. 1992. WHO Guidelines for the Assessment of Herbal Medicines. Fitoterapia 63(2):99-104.
2. Anon. 2000. Consumer Use of Dietary Supplements. A Publication of Prevention Magazine.
3. Bennett, J. and CM Brown. 2000. Use of Herbal Remedies by Patients in a Health Maintenance Organization. Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association 40(3):353-358.
4. Bronstein AC, Spyker DA, Cantilena LR Jr, Green JL, Rumack BH, Giffin SL. 2008 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 26th Annual Report. Clinical Toxicology (2009). 47, 911-1084.
*This article is for educational purposes only. Please consult with your physician, physical therapist or medical practitioner before starting any exercise program or trying any of the herbal products/recommendations mentioned in this video/article. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
(C) Copyright 2012 Manu Kalia All Rights Reserved