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Herbal Medicines

Plants have been utilized for medicinal purposes for the last thousands of years. People all around the globe used herbs ranging from medicinal purposes to healing etc. According to an estimation by World Health Organization, around 80% people across the world use herbal medicines for some or the other primary healthcare reason. Also known as botanical medicines or phytomedicines, herbal medicines refer to the seeds, roots, leaves, bark or flowers of any plant used for different medicinal purposes. A lot of research is being done for proving the clinical effects and uses of herbal medicines. To produce the desired and effective medicinal effect, numerous ingredients of the herbs act cumulatively. These are influenced by a variety of factors such as climate, pests, soil quality and quantity and also the time of the harvesting and processing. As per the experienced herbalists, it is wise to use the whole plant rather than using a single component as the entire plant entity is a combination of varied ingredients that work collectively to produce the desired medicinal result. Also, a combination of different herbs can be used to lessen toxicity as sometimes the synergistic action of the two herbs can be quite effective. Herbalists treat a broad spectrum of diseases including asthma, eczema, depression, chronic fatigue etc. But it is always advised to consume herbal medicines under the guidance of an experienced and skilled herbalist or a doctor.

Let us take a tour of the medicinal uses, side effects, and interactions of some herbs:

Valerian: Its botanical name is Valeriana officinalis. It has a sedative effect with the added advantage of not inducing any hangover on the next day. It treats insomnia and other sleep disorders. It is also used as a muscle relaxant. Valerian also induces some adverse effects. Its large doses can cause stomach ache, mild depression, anxiety, night terrors, apathy etc.

Ginkgo: Its botanical name is Ginkgo biloba. It helps the people suffering from Alzheimer's disease and dementia in improving their judgment and awareness. It also has some side effects such as mild gastrointestinal symptoms, dermal hypersensitivity, headaches etc.

Echinacea preparations: It is extracted from Echinacea purpurea and other spp.). It strengthens immunity to fight against infections and is also used for several skin problems and wounds. There is a large percentage of people who over the years have gained enough information about the herbs. Herbalists, chiropractors etc all utilize herbs for treating ailments. People who believe in naturopathies are of the opinion that our body is a complex machine that needs natural therapies to bolster these varied processes going inside the body. Herbal products undergo unregulated marketing. So often are mislabeled and may be inclusive of some additives and adulterants. These, if consumed, may have lethal side effects. Hence, you need to be cautious when it comes to use herbal medicines. These also can interact with some conventional drugs and may produce some allergic reactions. Also watch out for some self-prescribed herbal products that you are going to use. It is wise to consult a doctor or an experienced herbalist first as such products may increase the scope of risk. Take a tour of the side effects induced by some herbal medicines:

St. John's Wort may cause allergy, chronic fatigue, digestive dysfunctions etc. It may also hamper the effectiveness of many drugs such as warfarin, protease inhibitors, birth control pills etc. It should also not be used in combination with anti-depressant medicines.

Feverfew may induce agitation, skin problems etc. Herbal medicine is in its developmental stages in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prohibited the manufacturers to withdraw from claiming that their products are effective in treating specific diseases. So go ahead and try herbal medicines to treat the general health disorder but take care that you use them intelligently and carefully.
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