Herbs: Ancient Therapies Come of Age

 

For thousands of years, certain civilizations , notably, the Egyptians, Greeks and Chinese , have revered herbal remedies for their beneficial healing properties. But in many countries, especially the U.S., twentieth century medicine has put herbal healing on the back burner, making pharmaceuticals the primary form of medical treatment. It's only in the last decade that renewed interest in alternative therapies and preventative health care has brought attention back to herbs and their beneficial activities.

In Europe, herbal medicines have played a more significant role in health care. Regulations support clinical research into phytomedicines (plant medicines), and countries such as Italy, Germany and France have already integrated herbal medicines into their health care systems. Commission E - a committee which includes physicians, pharmacologists and toxicologists assembled by the German government - has compiled the most accurate information available on the safety and efficacy of herbs and phytomedicines called, the commission E Monographs. This, along with the results of other European research studies, will significantly impact the use of herbs in the U.S.

Much of this research, which has focused on identifying and purifying active herbal constituents and understanding their specific actions - has revealed the benefits of standardized herbs.

A standardized herb is created by extracting a selected active herbal constituent or constituents from the whole herb and concentrating it into set amounts of key active compounds. Standardization guarantees that consumers receive reliable, repeatable amounts of the active constituent in every tablet or capsule.

But standardization alone is not enough. Traditional herbal medicine teaches that the whole herb is more valuable than its component parts. Herbs contain a host of important ingredients, including pharmacologically active constituents, phytochemicals and compounds not yet identified. By isolating and standardizing only one or two components, the herb's effectiveness may be reduced or lost.

Blending standardized herbal constituents with the whole herb produces a potent herbal supplement with consistent and reliable levels of the active components, plus the important synergistic herbal components found in nature.