I cannot possibly remember my first contact with herbal remedies but I'm sure it must have been through my Grandmother. She was a pioneer spirit, tough enough to kill a hog to feed her family for the winter. She was amazing and I seem to remember sassafras tea and fresh yellowroot tea from my childhood.
Grandma passed on long ago so I can't ask but I know she loved her garden and had one of the most prolific gardens I've seen.
My conscious use of herbal remedies came a lot later but from the very first exposure to them, I knew this was the way my body wanted to be balanced and healed. Prescription drugs always felt out of balance with my personal energy field so, even though I have resorted to them in acute situations, I have remained almost completely reliant on natural remedies for my health, for decades.
In deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, natural healing surfaced as a primary passion so I began to study herbology and all things natural, including homeopathy, nutritional therapy, and alternative healing.
On that path of purpose, I learned about the differences between herbal remedies and prescription drugs.
I learned that a lot of prescription drugs originated from medicinal plants but that, typically, a single component of the natural herb was extracted. Nature has a wisdom that we really can't improve on, though we keep trying. The extraction of one component from a synergistic whoe, changes that component. Not all those changes are positive.
Another difference between using natural remedies and relying on prescription drugs is the time it takes for each to produce a noticeable effect in the body. Though some natural remedies, such as those for heartburn or headache, can actually work faster than their prescription drug counterparts, typically (and especially in cases of chronic health conditions developed over time, there is a difference in the time it takes for an herbal remedy to work, as opposed to a prescription drug for the same condition.
Because herbals are not concentrated extracts or chemically designed replicas of one component from a synergistic whole, they take longer to work but also work better, more in alignment with true healing.
Herbals are designed to assist the body in rebuilding and balancing itself and that takes time. Prescription drugs, on the other hand and mostly, are concerned with controlling symptoms. Temporary relief of symptoms is usually quickly accomplished where actual healing takes much longer.
Symptom relief vs. true healing:
I believe, in our society today, we have come to substitute symtomatic relief with healing. If the pain is gone, all is good. And if we have to keep taking something for the pain to stay gone, all is still good.
The herbalist has a drastically different view. The wisdom of the body dictates that the most important aspect will be addressed first. Sometimes, the most important thing is not making the pain go away. Underlying healing that needs to occur must come first.
Making the pain go before there is healing is like telling a screaming child to shut up when their finger is caught in the door. The body resists lying. It is eternally truthful.
The gradual reduction in pain that comes from a holistic regimen is indicative of the body response and healing and, as such, is an indicator of how well the formulation is working. Why would we remove such an important diagnostic tool?
Of course, there are herbs that can ease pain as well but they are never the only thing given. If that were the case, an herbalist would be doing the same thing medical doctors often do....treating symptoms, not cause.
When do herbs work best?
In my opinion, herbal medicine is a way of life, not just something grasped at when there is a crisis. In fact, herbs are sometimes not the best choice when there's a crisis. Sometimes, a condition has gone so far that only surgery or prescription drugs can prevent a life-threatening situation.
However, regular use of herbs, vitamins, nutritional supplements and other natural remedies, as a part of day to day life, can definitely help the body maintain wellness.
In non-acute situations, given time to work, herbals can help the body re-balance and heal itself. Because they are natural, and in synergistic balance in whole-plant form, our bodies respond to them with less resistance than to most prescription drugs.
Side effects and drug interactions explored:
While most herbs or nutritionals may have some potential for allergic reaction, if you compare the huge list of potential drug interactions and side effects for practically any prescription drug you care to investigate, you will soon see that the risks when taking prescription drugs far outweighs risks to consider when taking herbal remedies.
There is no denying that almost every prescription drug has substantial risk for side effects or, if taking any other prescription drug with another, drug interaction dangers. By contrast, herbs taken in whole-plant form rarely create serious health concerns. In fact, about the only thing that increases risk when taking herbal remedies is if you are also taking prescription drugs.
All any logical person has to do is read the statistics on prescription drug-related deaths and compare that to the almost non-existent data on herbal complications resulting in death, to see which is safer.
The bottom line for most people is patience. If you are not facing a life-threatening situation, and are willing to give natural remedies the time they need to work, you can enjoy great results, as I have all my life.
Please remember that this information is educational in nature and not intended to replace your need for medical attention, diagnosis or treatment. There are progressive doctors out there, willing to work with adjunctive natural remedies. If you have an interest in herbals for healing, find a doctor like that and you can walk in two worlds.
Some tips for getting the most from your herbal supplements:
Start with a low dose and work your way up. Starting lower than normal can help you assess whether you have any allergic reaction.
Don't add a bunch of herbal remedies at once. You can't tell what's working and what isn't working. If your herbalist or naturopath wants you to take more than one supplement, allow at least three days after taking the first one before you add the second.
Be willing to allow 6 months to a year for the resolve of any chronic condition. You can't just take an herbal remedy for a few weeks and expect your body to have what it needs to reverse a condition, like chronic heartburn, constipation, etc., that you may have had for years.