Using herbs to benefit from its medicinal or therapeutic value is commonly known as herbal medicine. Chemical substances contained in the herbal plants can be induced to act upon the body of the person consuming it.
Humanity has known of this form of healthcare based on herbs since ancient times. History is replete with details of cultures benefiting from herbal medicines. It played a vital role in the progress of modern civilization. The early primitive men discovered that the herbs provide not only a cure but also food, shelter and clothing.
Many of the common drugs used by us today are derived from herbs. According to various sources at least one basic ingredient from plant materials form part of some of the prescription drugs available in the United States.
According to WHO – World Health Organization – nearly 80 percent of the worlds population or 4 billion people currently use some aspects of herbal medicine in their health care process. The common element in Native American Indian medicine, traditional oriental medicine, naturopathic, homeopathic and Ayurvedic medicines is herbal medicine.
Today, for the treatment of high blood pressure, heart disease, asthma, pain, and other problems, a large proportion of commercial medications use substances derived from plants. To treat symptoms of asthma and other respiratory problems, Epedrine is used. This is an active ingredient in ephedra, a traditional Chinese herb.
The foxglove plant is another example pointing towards the use of herbal extraction by modern medicine. The leaf from this plant is powdered to stimulate cardiac digitalis and provide relief to a large number of heart patients.
Traditional Chinese Herbalism, Ayurvedic Herbalism and Western Herbalism are some of the various systems of herbal medicine prevalent today. Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbalism developed into a successful system to treat various health disorders. Western Herbalism is yet to achieve this level of advancement and remains a system of folk medicine.
Some of the herbs used in Ayurveda are successful in reducing diabetes and cholesterol. In recent years, there is a growth in the use of herbal medicines due to the success stories of St. John’s Wort, which replaced Prozac to treat mild depression. In the United States, the popularity of Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba is rising due to is curing effects.
Herbal medicines can be marketed in US only as food supplements. Without FDA approval, herb manufacturers or distributors cannot make specific health claims.