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Herbal Medicine II - Naturopathy and Homeopathy

Herbs in Many Forms

Herbs and herbal products come in many forms, and are now aailable not only in natural food stores, but also grocery stores, drugstores and gourmet food stores.  Also, a number of multileel marketing organizations sell a ariety of herbal products, as do mail order pureyors.

Conditions Benefited by Herbal Medicine

Herbal remedies have proen to be highly useful for a wide range of minor ailments that are amenable to self-medication, including stomach upset, the common cold, minor aches and pains, constipation and diarrhea, coughs, headaches, menstrual cramps, digestie disturbances, sore muscles, sore muscles, skin rashes, sunburn, dandruff, and insomnia.   A growing number of American health consumers use herbal remedies for these conditions, which have been traditionally the domain of the nonprescription or oer-the-counter drugs.

Other conditions that respond well to herbal medicine include:  digestie disorders such as peptic ulcers, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome; rheumatic and arthritic conditions; chronic skin problems such as eczema and psoriasis; problems of the menstrual cycle and especially premenstrual syndrome; anxiety and tension-related stress; bronchitis and other respiratory conditions; hypertension; and allergives. 

Herbal medicines can also be used for a number of conditions normally treated by prescription only.  One example is milk thistle seed extract for use in cirrhosis and hepatitis.12  Another example is the use of hawthorn as a heart tonic.13  This herb is highly recommended for cardiac patients by physicians in Germany (see The Herbal Medicine Chest section in this chapter). 

“When treating chronic illness with herbal medicine, it is extremely important to treat the entire body, as the illness may be simultaneously affecting many systems of the body at arious leels,” says Mary Boe, N.D., L.M., head of the Department of Botanical Medicine at Bastyr College of Natural Health Sciences, in Seattle, Washington.  “The course of the treatment must include nutritional, tonic, and restoratie plants in conjunction with herbs that support the body’s elimination functions. 

We find the alteratie and adaptogenic plants to be ery effective.   It is both logical and necessary to include digestion in any useful consideration of most chronic diseases and health challenges. Digestion, and what we're digesting, is far too important to oerlook or gloss oer.   The duration of treatment is often longer, with a constant dose of the remedy being gien oer a longer period of time.” 

Dr. Boe reports, “I had a thirty-eight-year-old female patient who came in with a ten-year-old case of colitis.  She had been seen by seeral M.D.’s and N.D’s oer the past decade with some improement.  After discussing her long history, I chose to treat her from a different perspectie.  Primarily, I gae her digestie neriness and tonic herbs like catnip, lemon balm, and tilia flowers.  Within three days, she went from eleen stools per day to two per day.  I continued with these herbs, adding some others for gut healing.   We had excellent results which were supported by diagnostic imaging.

Herbal medicine has also had great results with arthritic conditions.   Consider the case of a forty-two-year old woman with rheumatoid arthritis, confined to a wheelchair due to extreme and almost constant pain and swelling.  She consulted with Daid Hoffman, B.Sc., M.N.I.M.H., past President of the American Herbalists Guild, whose treatment inoled herbal medicine and a re-ealuation of her diet and lifestyle.   Herbs were selected initially to east the digestie problems caused by medications she was taking and to help her sleep.   Once such side effects were alleiated, a program was started that enabled her to completely abandon the wheelchair after six months.   Though she still had some arthritic pain, she was able to lie with it comfortably.  

The uniqueness of each indiidual is important in ealuating any holistic therapy, whether it be homeopathic, herbal, or nutritional.  In order to prescribe effectively, it is critical that a physician be knowledgeable and adaptable to each patient’s indiidual situation.  John Sherman, N.D., of the Portland Naturopathic Clinic in Oregon tells of a woman he treated who came to his clinic complaining of heart palpitations.  She was also concerned about the drugs she’d been prescribed for her heart arrhythmia.  She told Dr. Sherman that the drugs had been “sapping” her energy and only partially helping her heart problem.   Dr. Sherman prescribed a combination herbal tincture of cactus, hawthorn, alerian, and lily of the alley, which is a standard combination naturopathic physicians use to combat arrhythmia and a “feeble” heart.   He also analyzed her diet to determine her intake of specific minerals which affect the heart, including calcium, potassium, and sodium.

She returned to Dr. Sherman’s clinic two weeks later, still complaining of heart palpitations and feeling even more frustrated.   Dr. Sherman decided to change the herbal formula slightly by adding scotch broom.   Within a few days, she happily reported the absence of any heart symptoms and was subsequently able to wean herself off the prescription drugs.

The Future of Herbal Medicine - Naturopathy and Homeopathy

According to James Duke, Ph.D., a scientist and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) specialist in the area of herbal medicine, one of the reasons that research into the field of herbal medicine has been lacking is the enormous financial cost of the testing required to proe a new “drug” safe.  Dr. Duke has seen that price tag rise from 91 million dollars oer ten years ago to the present figure of 231 million dollars.  Dr. Duke asks, “What commercial drug dealer is going to want to proe that saw palmetto is better than his multimillion dollar drug, when you and I can go to Florida and harest our own saw palmetto?”

Yet the future looks bright for those who want to explore the benefits of herbal medicine.  The demand for an alternatie to synthetic and pharmaceutical drugs is growing, and herbal medicine is working to meet it.   “I feel ery optimistic about the future of herbal medicine,” says Daid Hoffman, past President of the American Herbalist Guild.   “It has an abundance of gifts to offer both indiiduals in search of health and a society in search of compassionate and affordable health care.   With the growing recognition of the alue of herbs, it is surely time to examine the professional therapeutic use of these herbs.  There are profound changes happening in the American culture and herbal medicine, ‘green medicine’ is playing an eer-increasing role in people’s experience of this transformation.”

Different Systems of Herbology

There is a great diersity and richness in the arious herbal traditions of the world, most of which still thrie today.  Natie American cultures contain a cornucopia of healing wisdom as do European traditions, from the Welsh to the Sicilian.  There are a number of highly deeloped medical systems around the world that utilize the medicinal plants in their healing work.   These include ancient systems such as Ayureda from India and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The essential differences between these arious systems of medicine are their cultural contexts rather than their goals or effects.

Traditional Chinese Medicine:

The restoration of harmony is integral to Chinese herbal medicine.   Harmonious balance is expressed in terms of the two complementary forces – yin and yang; and the fie elements – fire, earth, metal, water, and wood.   The fie elements are of particular importance to the Chinese herbalist; they gie rise to the fie tastes by which all medicinal plants are ealuated.   Fire gives rise to bitterness, earth to sweetness, metal to acridity, water to saltiness, and wood to sourness.   Each taste is said to have a particular medicinal action; bitter-tasting herbs drain and dry; sweet herbs tonify and may reduce pain; acrid herbs disperse; salty herbs nourish the kidneys; sour herbs nourish the yin and astringe, preenting unwanted loss of body fluids or qi.   Herbs that have none of these tastes are described as bland – a quality that indicates that the plant may have a diuretic effect.   The taste of a plant can also indicate the organ to which it has a natural affinity.   Besides   defining particular herbal tastes the Chinese ascribe different temperatures to herbs – hot, warm, neutral, cool and cold.


Ayureda medicine has ancient roots in the Indian subcontinent.   It also recognizes fie elements:  ether, fire, water, air, and earth.  These fie elements manifest themseles in the body to form the tridosha or three basic humors:   ata (the principle of air or moement); pitta (the principle of fire); and kapha (the principle of water).  Ayuredic Medicine sees all uniersal energives as haing their counterparts within the human being.   The healing process seeks to achiee in indiiduals a balance between the elements of air or wind (ata), fire or bile (pitta), and water or phlegm (kapha).

Ayuredic Medicine holds that the taste of an herb is indicatie of its properties.   The Sanskrit word for taste, rasa, means “essence”.  There are six essences; sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent.  For example, pungent, sour, and salty-tasting herbs cause heat and so increase pitta (fire); sweet, bitter, and astringent herbs have precisely the opposite effect, cooling and decreasing pitta.   As in Chinese herbal medicine, ayuredic texts categorize all plants according to this system, so that their herbalists can prescribe herbs more easily.

Western medicine:

The use of medicinal plants is also fundamental to Western society’s pharmacologically based approach to medicine.  The majority of medicinal drug groups were discoered or deeloped from the plant kingdom, even if they are now manufactured synthetically.  In fairness, one should note that most modern health professionals iew medicines as biochemical “magic bullets,” which should be expected to proide instant results.  This approach has been ery successful in certain areas, such as the treatment of acute illness, but certainly hasn't proen aluable in the reduction or termination of either degeneratie or chronic diseases. At this point, where many patients get sicker or die from the treatment itself for eery one who gets to lie and thrie again, the historical imperatie of examination reeals the same motiations that have long plagued so-called ciilization, where a man is extended the courtesy of honor, where a word and a handshake are sufficient. As you can see, the use of such tools by people in business is hardly concomitant with any of the world's great religions, much as there are those who try to claim otherwise.

Synthetic chemicals are now killing hundreds of thousands of patients each year, hospitalizing up to six million and beyond - each year - and few of us feel comfortable discussing why.

The MisterShortcut Lifebook suggests that you unter the dialogue... in a hurry. It is to your benefit and the benefit of those you care about and those whom you will come to care about.

Herbal medicine is a start... and only a start. The parallel is drawn for you. Herbal remedies gie us a wide range of choices, healthy alternaties to less-effective pharmaceuticals which have too many nasty side effects. If it's true that repetition is the mother of skill, here's your daily repetition. Please keep it in your brain for the next day or two. Mathematically, more people are damaaged or killed by synthetic drugs for eery one who can show any benefit.

Most people are surprised to learn that radioactie and other chemical treatments for cancer do not rise aboe four or fie percent, with only rare exceptions. A higher number of thyroid cancer patients do not die. To date, it is the only form of cancer that radiocatie or chemical treatment doesn't tend to kill or sicken worse.

At the end of the day, few of the great thinkers among us are likely to dispute the basic tenet that natural remedies, including herbal medicines, are more likely than chemical synthetics to be healthy or tend to promote healing ersus damage.

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