Botanical medicine has been used by humans (and animals) since the dawn time to treat illness and even today the World Health Organization estimates that more than 60 percent of the world's population continues to use botanicals as its primary source of medicine.
Often people are surprised to discover that a significant number of pharmaceutical drugs prescribed by medical doctors (up to 30 percent) are derived from plants. These drugs are basically synthesized versions of the botanicals that have long been used by indigenous societies worldwide to restore and maintain health.
Sometimes referred to as herbal medicine, botanical medicine uses substances that can be derived from any part of the plant, including the seeds, flowers, berries, bark, leaves and roots. In many cases, scientists have yet to determine exactly how botanical medicines work, but what is known is that they contain many phytochemical compounds which alone or together have specific effects on the human body.
Botanical medicine can be used to treat many common ailments, including:
- premenstrual syndrome and menopause
- rheumatoid arthritis
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- irritable bowel syndrome
One of the many benefits of botanicals is they often have fewer side effects than the pharmaceutical drugs used to treat the same ailments. That's not to suggest that botanical medicines are risk free. Drug interactions, allergic reactions, and side effects have all been associated with botanical medicines, which is why it's important to seek the advice of a licensed practitioner in order to select the remedies that are right for you. Naturopaths are trained to know the risks as well as the benefits of these medicines and can make sure you steer clear of the pitfalls associated with any course of treatment.
Many botanical medicines are mass-marketed and readily available in the supplement section of health food stores for reasonable prices.
Botanical medicines come in many forms, including:
- powdered herbs and capsules
- fluid extracts
- herbal tinctures
- herbal teas
The quality of these products can be highly variable, so some research is required to determine the most effective brands so that you don't end up spending a lot of money on something that may ultimately be of little value to you. This is another area where the advice of a qualified professional can be useful.