What is herbalism and why is it important?

Herbalism is by definition the study and practice of medicinal and therapeutic plants. From ancient Greece, to Egypt, to Phoenicia, herbs have been used widely to cure and prevent several conditions. In fact, the beginning of pharmacy as a profession included the manufacturing of herbal tinctures, powders and creams, using the old pestle and mortar method. However, as technology progressed and especially after the industrial revolution, herbs were on the decline. Until now. People started to realize the healing potential of plants again.

This is not to say that pharmaceutical drugs have no value or are ineffective. Not at all. Several conditions cannot be adequately treated with herbs and more often than not, when fast onset and a potent effect are needed, pharmaceuticals have an edge. 

Why choose herbs then? There are a few reasons:

1) Many herbs have been used for hundreds or thousands of years and apart from empirical evidence, a great number of herbs has been studied in placebo controlled studies.

2) Plenty of herbs possess more than one active ingredient and are therefore capable of exhibiting more than one effect. 

3) Herbs are available to anyone. Herbs cannot be patented (in contrast to pharmaceutical drugs) and therefore anyone can buy them without prescription from anywhere and produce their own herbal remedies. Distribution is not limited and therefore there are no monopolies in herbs. You can harvest, grow or buy your herbs and with minimal equipment create your own powders, creams and tinctures. That way you can also enjoy the synergistic effects of mixtures of herbs.

4) Herbal remedies tend to have a slower onset compared to pharmaceutical drugs which allows for reversing the effect in case of an intolerance or allergy.

With great power, comes great responsibility though. Controls and regulations on herbs are loose and therefore you should always do your homework before you try anything and aim for a supplier that is credible and has reviews. Check credible sources such as ScienceDirect and PubMed, talk to your doctor, check your allergies. 

Last but not least: why should you listen to me and take my word for granted? Short answer: Don't. Long answer: I studied pharmacy, qualified and have worked and am currently working in community pharmacy, submitted my university thesis on herbal remedies, took courses on herbalism and have been studying and using herbal remedies for the past 7 years. But science is ever-changing and new studies often come to disprove past theories. Doctors and researchers have been wrong many times. Always cross-check anything you read and doubt the source until you find more evidence. Not just on herbs, on anything.

I hope you enjoyed the post and always feel free to comment below or contact me if you have any questions.

Stay healthy!