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Herbal remedies are natural compounds from the leaves, seeds, flowers, bark, or roots of plants that are used for medicinal purposes.

While some people use herbal remedies as alternative medicine, many others use herbs as complementary medicine.

The use of herbal medicine dates back to ancient times, long before the development of what is now conventional medicine. From the earliest times, human beings have used herbs for their healing and pain-relieving abilities. Over the years, various cultures developed differing traditions and medical practices, for which herbs played a central role.

A burial site excavated in Iraq, dating to about 60,000 years, contained eight different medicinal plants, and their presence in the grave site suggested that they held supernatural significance as well as medicinal value. The 4th-century BCE Greek philosopher, Aristotle, believed that plants had a psyche, and Hinduism holds that many plants are sacred to specific divinities.

Even in Western cultures, similar beliefs weren't unheard of. Indigenous people throughout North America used herbal remedies for healing, and there was a spiritual aspect to it, as well.

A separation of healing and medicine from spirituality began, in some cultures, even prior to the Current Era. For example, Hippocrates (460-377 BCE) did not include ritual ceremonies or magic with the healing arts, and some Chinese medical texts from the 1st Century BCE emphasized rational medicine, although other Chinese healers continued to incorporate spirituality.

Herbal remedies were very much in use among both factions, however. When trade routes between Europe, the Middle East, India, and Asia were established by the 2nd Century BCE, there was a lively trade in both medicinal and culinary herbs.

Today, while there continues to be a gap between traditional folk remedies and modern medicine, several contemporary pharmaceuticals had their roots in traditional herbal remedies, although some of them have been synthesized. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 25% of modern drugs were originally derived from plants. Examples include aspirin, morphine, and quinine,

While there are people in New Age and other contemporary cultures, both religious and secular, who would forego contemporary medicine in favor of herbal remedies, there are many more who incorporate both regimens, finding that traditional herbal remedies can work in tandem with Western medicine.

Changes in public awareness of herbal medicine as a complementary regimen have led to large numbers of people who participate fully in contemporary Western medicine, yet supplement these treatments with various herbal remedies or, perhaps more often, to strengthen and enhance the immune system in the hope of warding off disease. It could be difficult to determine precisely when a healthy diet leaves off and herbal medicine steps in.

Herbal remedies are closely related to holistic medicine, in that the former plays a significant role in the latter. It is reasonable to assume that a wide variety of factors might contribute to the onset of illness, and, while signs and symptoms are the most obvious indicators, the existence of these indicates that the illness is already there. If we are to believe that a good diet can contribute to good health, then it is difficult to deny that herbs could be a part of this diet.

The human body consists of trillions of cells, all of which must function in harmony in order to maintain good health. Herbal practitioners believe that herbs, when used wisely, can work in tune with our bodies, supporting, stimulating, or restraining various sets of cells in their assigned tasks, maintaining a healthy balance within our body systems.

We know that emotions have a role in health, so it's not unreasonable to consider that spirituality may play into it, as well.

Herbal remedies can strengthen an individual's resistance to disease, improve the vitality of weakened tissues, and enhance the ability of the body to return to a state of good health.

In the event that a severe illness is in place, it might be too late for an herbal approach to be successful. In these cases, stronger or quicker-acting pharmaceuticals or medical procedures, such as cardiac medication, antibiotics, or surgery, may be necessary in order to maintain life. When used in this manner, herbal remedies used in conjunction with conventional medicine would be a part of a complementary medical approach.

While many practitioners of conventional medicine eagerly accept the role that herbal medicine can play in the health of an individual, others find it difficult to accept any role that herbal medicine can play, even as they prescribe medications derived from herbs.



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