Medicinal plants and herbal medicine

Medicinal plants and herbal medicine

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Herbal medicine: how to treat yourself with plants

Herbal medicine is called herbal therapy (from the Greek phyto = plant and therapeia = care).

It is a therapy which uses plants or galenic forms derived from plants excluding the principles of pure extraction isolated from plants. Thus many galenic forms can be used: herbal teas (infused, decocted, etc.), powders, dry extracts (nebulisates, lyophilisates, etc.), liquid extracts, etc.

Across the world, all ethnic groups have a traditional pharmacopoeia made up of a dozen medicinal plants selected for their effectiveness over the centuries and passed down from generation to generation. This knowledge of medicinal plants has formed into pharmacopoeias, which are collections of knowledge and practices linked to the therapeutic indications of these plants.

The learned medicines of written tradition, Greek, Arab-Persian, Ayurvedic and Chinese based their transmission of medical knowledge on these pharmacopoeias. In Europe, the knowledge of medicinal plants was formalized with Greek medicine developed by Hippocrates from the 4th century BC. In the Middle Ages, Arab-Persian medicine took up the bases of Greek humoral theory and l ‘developed by incorporating plants from Ayurvedic medicine. These Arab-Persian treatises were then translated into Latin from Andalusian Spain in the 13th century and formed the basis of European medicine. In other regions of the world, such as Africa or the Americas, the transmission of knowledge has been mainly oral.

How to know if a plant is medicinal ?

In France, plants are considered medicinal when they are included in the list of medicinal plants of the French Pharmacopoeia. Brought back from the Americas like cinchona, from Africa like cola nut or from China like ginseng, these exotic plants have been gradually integrated into the French Pharmacopoeia. During the second half of the 20th century, few new plants obtained the status of medicinal plants in France. However, over the past fifteen years, new plants have entered this list. These are plants from the overseas departments, which have provided around fifty new plants from the traditions of these overseas communities. At the same time, around sixty Chinese plants were also included in this list and were the subject of control monographs at the European Pharmacopoeia. For its part, Africa conceals many interesting medicinal plants, widely used at the traditional level and often well studied scientifically, but whose use has not yet been recognized by local or international institutional bodies.

Why treat yourself with medicinal plants ?

Man has always sought in nature the means to heal himself.

Although medicine has made tremendous progress through chemistry and recently through biology, drugs that are developed to treat severe illnesses are often ill-suited to chronic conditions that start out mildly and then get worse and worse. the bed of much more serious problems. This disproportion between the evil and the remedy has become blatant. Too many drugs, developed to treat serious diseases, then spread to the population of small chronically ill patients who thus benefit from their shock effectiveness, but also suffer from the risks and undesirable effects which are attached to them. In pharmacology the law of “who can do more can do less” does not apply.

Herbal medicine has its place in this gap between the end of the means. It has its place with therapeutic effects that may be less powerful at the moment, but less problematic in the long term and that it is possible to maintain over long periods without difficulty.

The objective of the phytotherapy articles on the Soin et Nature blog is to promote the recognition of common medicinal plants in the world, some of which already have a regulatory status in certain countries, in order to be able to diversify our therapeutic arsenal with plants, many of which have made their mark. evidence in their respective cultures and in scientific validation studies.

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