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HERBAL MEDICINE

Herbal medicine- otherwise referred to as botanical medicine, botany, phytomedicine or phototherapy- is a medical practice involving the use of plant for healing purposes. The parts of the herb used include leaf, seed, flower, root, stem, fruit or bark. Unarguably, herbal medicine is older than the mainstream medicine, and in fact, some conventional drugs have their roots in herbal medicine. Quinine, the widely used anti-malaria is extracted from the bark of cinchona tree while morphine (an analgesic) is produced from the opium poppy.

Herbal medicine has gained acceptance throughout the world from ancient times. The oldest and most important medical reference in ancient Egypt, Ebers Papyrus dates from about 1550 BC documents about 700 compounds, mainly of plant origin. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that about 80% of Asians and Africans use different forms of herbal medicine for primary health care. Additionally, about 25% of modern drugs in the United States are plant-derived according to the same source.

The advantages of subscribing to herbal medicine outweigh any potential disadvantage, if any. Herbal medicine treats the root cause of the health challenge, as opposed to what obtains in the conventional medicine where the symptoms are only hibernated. Thus, herbs help to ensure most effective treatment. In recent times, the side-effects of various surgeries and intake of pharmaceutical drugs are too obvious to ignore. Herbal medicine, once administered appropriately helps avert the risk of unwarranted side effects.

The fact that herbs are natural is enough to prefer them over other forms of synthetic drugs. Remember that the body derives natural healing when natural foods and substances are taken in their natural forms. The more natural our foods and medicines are, the better it is for our overall wellbeing. This confirms the age-long advice of Hippocrates “let thy food be thy medicine, and they medicine be thy food”. Apart from some herbs which serve the primary role of therapeutics, the vast majority of what herbalists use in their treatment plan are foods. Some important herbs which serve as foods/spices include ginger, garlic, turmeric, and others.

It is noteworthy to mention that herbal medicine is not an arbitrary field of study that accommodates every tom, dick and harry. There is the need for extensive knowledge on the phytochemical compositions, toxicological studies and uses and contraindications of various herbs. Researchers and pioneers in this noble field are constantly benefitting the world with their wealth of erudition and experience. Therefore, potential practitioners of herbal medicine must be prepared to take up this herculean task and contribute a great deal to research and knowledge.

The critics of herbal medicine have premised their arguments on the need for enough scientific evidences to substantiate the curative properties of these herbs. The truth is that this argument is one that cannot even hold water. There are more than enough scientific journals and research papers on a wide range of herbs. For instance, as far back as 1959, there have been over 2000 research papers on black seed alone. Black seed remains the most highly researched plant worldwide.
Other heavily researched plants include garlic, turmeric, olive oil, ginger and others. In all, the future is bright for herbal medicine and the sky is the starting point, not the limit. We do sincerely believe that more practitioners will embrace herbal medicine and refine it against all odds.

Member of The British Council For Complementary Therapies (MITBCCT)

Member, Nigerian Council of Physicians of Natural Medicine (NCPNM)

Member, The Open International University for Complimentary Medicines

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