Can Herbal Medicine Really Have an Impact on Your Health?

You may have heard of herbal medicine, but can a few plants really have an impact on your wellness? We spoke to complementary wellness expert O.C. Madu to find out just what herbal medicine is, and which herbs really have a medical effect.


1. Where Does Herbal Medicine Come From? According to Madu, ‘Plants have been used for medicinal purposes long before recorded history, for example ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings describe medicinal plant uses. Indigenous cultures in Africa and America used herbs in their healing rituals, while others, developed traditional medical systems such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine in which herbal therapies were used systematically. Scientists found that people in different parts of the globe tended to use the same or similar plants for the same purpose. In the early 19th century, when methods of chemical analysis first became available, scientists began extracting and modifying the active ingredients from plants. Many modern pharmaceuticals have been modelled on or derived from chemicals found in plants. An example is the heart medication digoxin derived from foxglove.’


2. Where Is Herbal Medicine Still Going Strong Today? ‘Recently, the World Health Organisation estimated that 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some aspect of their primary health care,’ Madu details. ‘No wonder [Nigeria’s] current Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, proposed that traditional medicines should be incorporated into the current medical curriculum. The article further stated that medical practitioners ought to equip themselves with expert knowledge of traditional medicines.’


3. What Issues Can Herbal Medicines Help to Treat? Madu points out, ‘Recipes for the treatment of common ailments which are reported almost on daily basis include hypertension, dysentery, low sperm count and weak erections, coated tongue, piles, menstrual disorders, leucorrhoea and fevers.’


4. Why Are More People Becoming Interested in Herbal Medicine? Madu asserts, ‘Interest in medicinal plant as a re emerging health aid has been fuelled by the rising costs of prescription drugs in the maintenance of personal health and wellbeing and the bio-prospecting of new plant derived drugs. Based on current research and financial investments, medicinal plants will, seemingly, continue to play an important role as a health aid. Modern medicine complements traditional practices as is obtainable in industrialised societies e.g. China and India. In these societies, herbal remedies have become more popular in the treatment of minor ailments and also, account of the increasing costs of personal health maintenance. Indeed, the market and public demand have been so great, that there is a great risk that many medicinal plants today face either extinction or loss of genetic diversity.’


5. Which Specific Herbs Can Help with Health Concerns? ‘These natural herbs are very effective in boosting the resistance to infections, healing the allergies, raising and renewing the body vitality,’ Madu comments.

  • Garlic: Also known as allium sativum, poor man’s Treacle, Bawang Bauarrg and monocot pernial, garlic is readily available and inexpensive. Moreover, Madu adds, ‘Garlic may be the first line of defence in treating high blood pressure and dealing with common skin and fungal infections.’
  • Ginger: This spice also goes by many names, including zingber officinale luyang Dilaw and perennial monocot reed. Madu explains, ‘Ginger combines well with many herbs improving taste and potency. Ginger speeds up the delivery of healthy plant chemicals into the bloodstream while adding a spicy, hot zest to your favourite dishes.’
  • Basil: Madu notes, ‘Indian Basil has been used for thousands of years in the traditional medicine of India, Ayurveda, known to Hindus as Tulsi.’
  • Myrrh: The wise men must have given myrrh to the baby Jesus for a reason – to look after his health and wellbeing! ‘Myrrh was used in religious rituals in ancient Egypt,’ says Madu. ‘Myrrh’s antifungal, antiseptic and astringent [properties] helps the treatment of infections.’

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