Herbs have been used for many thousands of years and were valued for health and wellbeing by many ancient civilisations. Over time human societies have observed both the good and bad effects of rubbing, eating, or drinking extracts from the roots, leaves and berries of various plants. In some cultures, only a select one or two (such as the shaman or medicine man) would have the knowledge of their medicinal properties and how to prepare herbs for healing. While in other communities,especially throughout Europe, every village and rural community had knowledge of their local herbs and their medicinal use, which was passed on from one generation to the next.
Until about the 1930-1940s, every culture in the world used herbal plants as the basis of their medicine. In fact, many pharmaceutical drugs used today originated from plant material. With the development and refinement of chemical technology, chemists identified and isolated active constituents from many plants, such as morphine from the opium poppy, and synthesised laboratory medicines progressively became mainstream.
Contrary to modern pharmacology, herbalists believe that the health benefits of a plant are not simply found in an individual constituent, but from preparations using the whole plant part. Herbal plants contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and numerous active constituents, all of which are believed to act synergistically together, providing the overall therapeutic benefit.
Culinary Herbs – Food as a Medicine
Many culinary herbs, basil, thyme, garlic, ginger, chilli, turmeric, coriander, and rosemary to name a few, have been used in food preparation for hundreds of years to add beautiful aromas and flavour to food. In addition, culinary herbs are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and can be beneficial in the treatment and prevention of many diseases.
Herbal teas, also known as an infusion, have many uses and can be made from a single herb or several herbs in combination. They can be consumed as a pleasant tasting beverage to simply replace tea or coffee, or as a therapeutic medicine to treat a variety of conditions such as anxiety, I.B.S, urinary tract infection, hypertension and arthritis.
Herbal Liquid Extracts and Tinctures
Liquid extracts and tinctures typically use alcohol as a solvent to extract most of the plants constituents with minimal processing, producing a concentrated herbal remedy. Liquid extracts and tinctures have a number of advantages as they are preserved by the alcohol, making them available all year round, and enable the herbalist to formulate a remedy that includes a number of different herbs that are indicated to treat the individual as a whole. In addition, liquid extracts can be added to creams, lotions and applied topically.
Herbal Capsules and Tablets
Some herbs are available dried as a capsule or tablet.