Common Myths About Herbal Medicine
There are many myths and misconceptions about herbal medicine. Some have a bit of truth to them, but many are preventing people from trying a very effective healing modality. Here’s the truth about the most common myths we encounter.
#1 Herbal medicine is not supported by research.
There is a growing body of research related to herbal medicine. Many healing properties of herbs have been known for generations, and every year, more healing plants are being “discovered” by science.
Scientific evidence is important, but there is also a lot you can determine about a plant by using your senses. The taste, smell and colour of a plant can tell you a lot about the plant’s properties, as can the sensations you experience when you pay close attention to your body’s reaction to it.
#2 I can’t take herbal medicine if I’m taking allopathic medications.
It’s true that some herbs do interact with allopathic medications, but that doesn’t mean the two are mutually exclusive.
A qualified herbal practitioner will know which herbs interact with which medications, and there are many herbs that can be taken along with medication to support the immune system and general health. Many herbs are gentle and nutritive, giving the body the vitamins and minerals it needs to repair itself without interacting with other medications.
It is always important to check for contra-indications before taking any new medicine, allopathic or herbal. Inform your herbal practitioner about all medications you are taking, and inform your doctor about the herbs you are taking.
#4 Herbal medicine is natural, so it’s always safe.
Herbs are safe, when used properly at the recommended dose, but natural doesn’t always mean safe. Some herbal medicines are very potent, and care must be taken to use the correct dose, for the proper length of time.
There are many gentle tonic herbs that are generally safe and non-toxic. These are safe for most people, barring any contraindications.
Herbs and herbal preparations vary in potency, and many plants are toxic in high doses, but when given in the appropriate dose by a trained herbalist, even some toxic plants can be effective treatment for certain conditions.
#5 Herbs must be taken for weeks or months before they work.
This is not always true. All herbs work differently depending on what they’re being used for. They may be needed for a long time to treat chronic conditions and bring the body back into balance, however some treatments can take effect after just one dose, or even a taste. The pungent herbs such as cayenne pepper, ginger and horseradish can stimulate the sinuses within minutes. Plantain poultice applied to a bee sting will take away the pain and draw out the stinger within 10 minutes. The bitter taste, found in herbs such as dandelion root, will stimulate digestion immediately.
#6 Herbal medicine is expensive.
Not all forms of herbal preparation are expensive. Herbal remedies in pill and tincture form tend to be most expensive when purchasing from a retail shop. Herbal teas are relatively inexpensive, costing as little as $5 for a bulk herbal tea to last 4 weeks.
Many herbal preparations such as tinctures, syrups and salves can be made at home, from herbs grown in your garden or sustainably harvested in the wild, which significantly reduces costs.
#7 Herbal medicine is the same as homeopathy.
Herbal medicine and homeopathy are two completely different therapies.
Homeopathy is a form of energy healing, in which the essence of a plant, animal or mineral. The substance is diluted to such a degree that there are no molecules left of the original substance in the final product.
Herbal medicine uses medicine from plants – either using the whole plant, or parts of the plant, and a variety of extraction methods, to make the active constituents available.
How to Safely Reap the Benefits of Herbal Medicine
#1 Positively identify plants
Going for a herb walk is a great way to get introduced to plants in their habitats. If there are no herb walks happening around you, get a good field guide and use it to familiarize yourself with the plants in your area. Our favourite field guide is the Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America.
#2 Consult with a professional herbalist
Find more information about our clinic here.
#3 Disclose any medications you are taking to your herbal practitioner & disclose any herbs you are taking to your medical doctor
If you plan to take both pharmaceuticals and herbal medicines, both your doctor and herbal practitioner should be know what you’re already taking to avoid prescribing conflicting remedies.