Plants and herbs have been integral parts of medicine for centuries. Written records of medicinal plants date back around 5,000 years, and they’ve been used in cultures around the globe.
With the rise of modern medicine, herbal medicine faded into the background. Some have viewed it as bogus medicine or associated it with people who don’t believe in conventional treatments.
Despite the more negative views, it never really disappeared. In fact, they’re starting to gain popularity again as alternatives to conventional prescription medications. One herbal remedy, in particular, that’s gained popularity in recent years is medical marijuana.
Herbal Medicine vs. Pharmaceuticals
Herbalism is the study or practice of the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of herbs and other plants. It involves using the various components of natural botanicals to support physical and mental health.
How does herbal medicine differ from pharmaceuticals or conventional medicine? Where modern pharmaceutical medications typically consist of synthesized chemicals created to treat, cure, or prevent diseases or promote overall well-being, herbal medicines consist of fresh or dried plant material.
Many pharmaceuticals do contain plant products. However, manufacturers use isolated, purified compounds or ingredients. Herbal medicines, on the other hand, have a variety of compounds or phytochemicals from the original plant, which may help enhance the remedy’s healing properties.
Another significant difference between herbal medicines and pharmaceuticals is that modern prescription medications require FDA approval. The agency classifies herbal remedies as foods, not drugs. Therefore, they aren’t subject to the same manufacturing, testing, and labeling requirements.
Examples of Herbal Medicine
Herbalists, who are individuals that practice herbal medicine, can create botanicals from the whole plant or specific parts of it (such as the flowers, stems, bark, or roots). They may prepare remedies in a variety of different ways, including:
- Tinctures (extracts)
- Brewed into a tea
- Powdered and encapsulated
- Infused into creams or lotions for topical application
The following are a few common herbal medicines:
- Echinacea: A flowering plant in the daisy family commonly brewed into a tea and used to treat or prevent colds
- Elderberry: A fruit frequently found in syrup or lozenge and often taken to shorten the duration of a cold or flu
- Gingko biloba: A plant native to China used to treat a variety of ailments including cognitive decline and heart disease
- Ginger: A root that many use to treat nausea
- Turmeric: A root known for its bright orange color and anti-inflammatory properties
- Valerian: A flowering plant whose roots are usually dried and encapsulated or brewed into a tea to treat insomnia
- St. John’s wort: A flower used to treat depression
- Milk thistle: A flower used to treat conditions such as liver disease and high cholesterol and may also reduce the growth of cancer cells
Another plant that’s been gaining popularity as an herbal remedy is medical cannabis (medical marijuana). Like other herbal medicines, people have used cannabis for thousands of years to treat a wide array of ailments. One of the first written records of the plant’s uses dates back to 2800 BC China. Various ancient texts from other cultures, including Assyrian, Greek, Roman, and Hindu, mention it as a treatment for conditions such as arthritis, pain, inflammation, and amenorrhea. It also appears in the Kama Sutra.
The Benefits of an Herbal Approach in Self Health Care
Many people turn to herbalism because they want an alternative to conventional prescription drugs. Several conventional medications, including common antibiotics, can have harsh side effects such as gastrointestinal upset, appetite loss, difficulty concentrating, and dizziness. Some prescriptions can have even more significant side effects like insomnia, heart palpitations, stomach ulcers, and liver damage.
Herbal medications are typically gentler on the body and have fewer side effects. That doesn’t mean they have no side effects, though. For example, someone allergic to flowers in the daisy family may have an adverse reaction to echinacea. Additionally, some plants and herbs can interact with essential prescription medications. St. John’s wort, for instance, may decrease the effectiveness of Warfarin, a common blood thinner.
Another reason people turn to herbal remedies is to take a more holistic approach to their overall health and wellness. Where modern medicine sometimes involves addressing the symptoms rather than the root causes of health issues, holistic medicine involves the wellness of the whole person. It goes beyond the symptoms and looks at a person’s lifestyle, nutrition, stress levels, and more.
Herbal medicines are often part of a holistic approach. They work with the body to restore balance, allowing it to protect and heal itself.
What Are the Potential Applications of Medical Marijuana in Self Health Care
Like other herbal remedies, medical marijuana can work with your body to help restore and maintain balance. Studies have shown that it may provide several potential benefits including:
- Pain relief. One of the most common reasons people use cannabis is to help with chronic pain management. Several studies have shown that it can be an effective treatment.
- Anti-inflammatory. Cannabis may help alleviate inflammation, including joint inflammation in patients with arthritis, as well as the neuropathic pain it may trigger.
- Anti-anxiety. The potential for cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety disorders is another common reason people use it. Research shows it may be beneficial for social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and PTSD.
- Cancer treatment. Some cancer patients use cannabis as a way to manage the side effects of chemotherapy, including neuropathy, nausea, and appetite loss. Some research also shows that the cannabinoids in medical marijuana may also slow and even stop the growth of cancer cells.
Tips for Using Herbal Medicines
If you’re interested in integrating herbal medicine, including medical marijuana, into your life, here are a few tips to get started.
- Talk to your doctor. Speaking with your physician first is especially important if you take medications or have known health conditions. Your doctor can help you understand potential interactions and adverse effects, as well as help you figure out appropriate dosing.
- Do your research. Herbal remedies, cannabis included, aren’t regulated by the FDA. You want to make sure you research different companies to ensure you’re purchasing high-quality products.
- Find an application method that works for you. Herbal medicines come in many forms, including tinctures, capsules, and topicals. Consider your needs and goals to find the best delivery method for you.
Herbal Medicine and Medical Marijuana: Is It Right for You?
Are you considering medical marijuana as part of a more holistic approach to your own health care? After speaking with your doctor, take a look at VidaCann.
As part of our mission to help you live your healthiest life, we offer an array of high-quality medical-grade cannabis products, including fresh flowers, prerolls, edibles, tinctures, and topicals. All of our products undergo third-party testing to ensure quality, consistency, and patient satisfaction. For more information about our Florida marijuana products, visit VidaCann today!