Herbal Medicine

Last updated date: 03-Jun-2023

Originally Written in English

Herbal Medicine


Herbal medicine (also known as herbalism) is the study of pharmacognosy and the use of therapeutic herbs, which form the foundation of traditional medicine. There is little scientific proof for the safety and efficacy of plants used in 21st-century herbalism, which typically does not establish purity or dose criteria. Herbal medicine frequently incorporates fungal and bee products, as well as minerals, shells, and animal parts. Phytomedicine or phytotherapy are additional terms for herbal medicine.

Alternative and pseudoscientific techniques of employing unprocessed plant or animal extracts as untested medications or health-promoting substances are referred to as paraherbalism. The assumption that keeping diverse compounds from a specific source with less processing is safer or more effective than produced items is supported by no data.

Herbal supplements are available in a variety of forms, including dried, chopped, powdered, capsule, or liquid, and can be utilized in a variety of ways, including swallowing as pills, powders, or tinctures. When made into tea, when applied to the skin in the form of gels, lotions, or creams, bath water was infused with it.

Herbal supplements have been used for thousands of years. Herbal supplements are now widely used by American customers. They are not, however, suitable for everyone. Herbal supplements are controversial since they are not subject to strict monitoring by the FDA or other regulating bodies. It is advisable to check with your doctor about any symptoms or conditions you are experiencing, as well as to discuss the usage of herbal supplements.


Most commonly used herbal product

1. Saw Palmetto:

Saw Palmetto

The southeastern United States are the only places where you can find saw palmetto. Native Americans historically utilized it to cure genitourinary ailments, alleviate irritated mucous membranes, boost testicular function, and increase breast size. The extract is being used as a supplement to treat benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer.

Saw palmetto has been demonstrated to block 5a-reductase, an enzyme responsible for the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Saw palmetto extracts contain around 90% fatty acids and are high in the saturated, medium-chain fatty acids myristate and laurate. Several studies have suggested that fatty acids are responsible for the inhibition of 5a-reductase, but which one(s) are responsible remains unknown. Saw palmetto also inhibits a-adrenoceptors, muscarinic receptors, and 1,4-dihydropyridines.


2. Garlic:


Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the most extensively examined herbal supplements and the second most commonly used complementary therapy. It has mostly been used to treat hypercholesterolemia and hypertension in the United States.

It has been found in studies to have hepatoprotective, neuroprotective, and antioxidant effects. S-allylcysteine (SAC), a chemical present in garlic, has been shown in multiple studies to have neuroprotective and cardioprotective characteristics by reducing cell damage in the heart, neuron, and endothelium.

SAC has also been proven to destabilize A-beta-fibrils, which are seen in Alzheimer's disease. Allicin is a chemical generated by garlic after it has been cut or crushed. Within 12 weeks, a daily dosage of 0.5g to 1.5g of allicin dramatically lowered HbA1c levels in Type 2 diabetes.


3. Gingko Biloba:

Gingko Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is frequently used to improve memory and cognition in the elderly who have poor cerebral circulation. One notion presented as the primary cause of cognitive impairment is mitochondrial malfunction. Flavonoids and terpene trilactones are the two primary components of Gingko biloba leaves. These substances work together to improve and safeguard mitochondrial activity while also scavenging reactive molecules such as hydroxyl and peroxyl radicals, nitric oxide, and superoxide ions.

Gingko biloba treatment greatly enhanced cognitive performance in dementia patients. It is also useful as an additional treatment for people with persistent schizophrenia. Gingko biloba supplements have been found in new studies to have a favorable effect on Alzheimer's sufferers. Gingko biloba, in particular, has been demonstrated to promote endocrine balance, control hormone sensitivity, preserve endothelial microvascular integrity, and proteolyze tau proteins. Gingko biloba, on the other hand, proved unsuccessful in increasing focus, memory, or executive function in healthy patients.


4. Echinacea:


Echinacea is a plant that is native to eastern and central North America. Native Americans traditionally utilized Echinacea to cure colds, bronchitis, flu, and respiratory infections. Echinacea is an immunostimulant, meaning it boosts both innate and specific immunity. It has also been shown to have antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties.

Echinacea extract dramatically boosted the expression of CD80, CD86, and MHCII, which are markers of classically activated macrophages (M1), as well as the production of IL-6, IL-12p70, IL-1beta, nitrous oxide (NO), and TNF-a in mouse bone marrow. Bactericidal activity within the cell and increased phagocytosis were also detected.

A randomized, double-blind trial of 473 individuals with virologically confirmed influenza infection found that Echinacea was just as efficient as oseltamivir, but with fewer side effects and a lower risk.


5. Black Cohosh:

Black Cohosh

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) is often used to treat PMS, dysmenorrhea, and menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flashes. It is also becoming more popular among breast cancer patients. Its growing usage may be due, in part, to Women's Health Initiative studies demonstrating that standard hormone replacement treatment raised the risk of breast cancer and had harmful cardiovascular consequences.

Although black cohosh has been demonstrated to have selective estrogen receptor modulator characteristics, the particular chemicals that cause this activity remain unknown. Triterpene glycosides are one class of chemicals that have been proposed as the culprits. Actein, which is also contained in black cohosh, has antiangiogenic properties. Blood vessel development was reduced by 10mg/kg of oral actin administered over 7 days.

In rats, the same amount administered orally for 28 days reduced breast tumor growth and spread to the lungs and liver. Comprehensive studies have demonstrated black cohosh's usefulness in lowering hot flashes and managing vasomotor symptoms.


6. Ginseng:


Ginseng is often used to increase energy, improve physical and mental performance, cure erectile dysfunction, and strengthen the immune system. Ginseng is a general word for numerous species of the Panax genus. Panax quinquefolius L. (American ginseng), Panax ginseng, and Panax japonicus are among them (Asian ginseng). Ginseng has a wide range of active chemicals that influence several metabolic processes. Ginsenosides are among those that have been found to have clinical importance. They are located in the plant's roots, but they have also been identified in abundance in the berries.

Ginsenosides have been demonstrated to activate macrophages and natural killer cells, which are in charge of innate immunity. They also control immunocytes and cytokines, which have an impact on both cell-mediated and humoral immunity. Ginseng has been demonstrated to enhance creatinine kinase recovery, reduce IL-6, and boost insulin sensitivity in the prevention of tiredness.

Ginseng has been proven to have antiproliferative properties in breast cancer. It's also been proven to help with chronic kidney disease, non-small-cell lung cancer, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and septic acute lung damage. Ginsenosides and their metabolites have been shown to influence metastasis, angiogenesis, inflammation, oxidative stress, and stem/progenitor-like features in breast cancer cells.

Ginsenosides have been found in vitro to boost nitric oxide activity in endothelial cells, relaxing the smooth muscles of the corpus cavernosum. When compared to control groups, a daily dose of 1.5g of red ginseng powder for 12 weeks enhanced the quantity, motility, and morphology of spermatozoa in varicocele patients.


7. Hawthorn:


Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is often used as a supportive treatment for heart-related illnesses, notably angina, atherosclerosis, heart failure, angina, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure. They have also been demonstrated to block human neutrophil elastase, which is secreted by active leukocytes after blood flow is restored in previously ischemic myocardium. It inhibited changes in cardiac, renal, and vascular function and structure, as well as deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA) salt-induced hypertension.


8. St. John's Wort:

St. John's Wort

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a popular treatment for mild-to-moderate depression. St. John's Wort has been used as a medical herb since the ancient Greeks, who used it to cure burns, as an astringent to stop diarrhea, and as a diuretic. Several bioactive components in St. John's Wort have been found that work synergistically to produce its antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Phosphonic acids, flavonoids (quercetin, isoquercitrin, quercitrin, epigenanin, rutin, hyperoside), hyperforin, and hypericin are among them. Neurotransmitters such as N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA), g-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and serotonin receptors have been demonstrated to be affected by these substances. St. John's Wort was more effective than conventional antidepressant medication in individuals with mild-to-moderate depression at daily doses ranging from 300 to 1200 mg.

In mice, St. John's Wort extracts were demonstrated to lower PGE2 and NO generation by macrophages by more than 30%. Hyperforin and hypericin, as well as other chemicals identified in St. John's Wort, were discovered to be antibacterial against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. St. John's Wort extracts have significant antibacterial action against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is active against multi-drug resistance bacteria.


9. Goldenseal:


Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) has long been used for its antiseptic properties and ability to treat colds, flu, and nares irritation. It's native to eastern North America and southeastern Canada. Native Americans utilized goldenseal roots to cure skin and eye diseases, as well as gastric disturbances. Beta-hydrastine and berberine are the major chemicals that have demonstrated biological action. The antibacterial action of goldenseal alkaloids was shown to be enhanced by 6-desmethyl sideroxylon, sideroxylon, and 8-desmethyl sideroxylon (berberine).

These compounds block bacterial efflux pumps, allowing berberine to concentrate in bacterial cells. Goldenseal leaf extracts were shown to exhibit antibacterial action against MRSA. They inhibited the synthesis of alpha-toxin by Staphylococcus aureus, preventing injury to human skin keratinocytes. Goldenseal extracts have demonstrated antibacterial action against a variety of drug-resistant Mycobacterium species, including M. tuberculosis. Berberine has been demonstrated to have antiviral action against Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2.


10. Feverfew:


Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) is often used to treat migraine headaches and menstrual cramps. It is native to Asia Minor but is grown all over the world. Sesquiterpene lactones, 3b-hydroxy parthenolide, parthenolide, canin, and artecanin are the most active chemicals discovered in feverfew.

Parthenolide has been demonstrated to have the highest biological activity of them.It is most concentrated in the plant's leaves and flowers.Parthenolides have been demonstrated to be effective in avoiding migraines. Its antimigraine qualities include platelet serotonin inhibition, vascular smooth muscle relaxation, and anti-inflammatory actions.

Feverfew essential oil contains chrysanthenyl acetate, which has been demonstrated to suppress prostaglandins and have analgesic qualities. Parthenolide has been proven to be nephroprotective by reducing the formation of free radicals from CCL metabolism.


Who should avoid herbal medicines?

herbal medicines

Taking a herbal products may not be suitable for:

  • Those who are taking additional medications
  • Persons suffering from major illnesses such as liver or renal damage
  • Pregnant or nursing ladies who are planning to have surgery
  • Children, Herbal drugs, like other medical products, should be kept out of children's sight and reach.


Precautions when choosing herbal supplements

herbal supplements precautions

Herbal supplements can combine with conventional medications or have strong effects on their own. Do not attempt to self-diagnose. Before using herbal supplements, consult your doctor.

  • Educate yourself. Consult your doctor and herbal supplement manufacturers for information to learn as much as you can about the herbs you're taking.
  • If you use herbal supplements, make sure you read the label carefully and only take the recommended dosage. Never exceed the recommended dosage, and research who should not use the supplement.
  • Consult a professional. Seek the advice of a skilled and certified herbalist or naturopathic doctor who has had substantial training in this field.
  • Take note of any negative effects. If symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headache, or stomach trouble develop, lower the dosage or discontinue usage of the herbal supplement.
  • Keep an eye out for allergic reactions. A strong allergic response might make it difficult to breathe. If such a scenario arises, dial your local emergency number for help.
  • Investigate the firm whose herbs you are using. All herbal supplements are not made equal, and it is recommended to stick with the brand of a respected producer. Consider the following:
  1. Is the company conducting its own research on herbal products or merely depending on the efforts of others?
  2. Is the product making outlandish or difficult-to-prove claims?
  3. Is there information on the product label concerning the standardized formula, adverse effects, components, recommendations, and precautions?
  4. Is the information on the label clear and easy to read?
  5. Is there a toll-free phone number, an address, or a website link mentioned so that customers may learn more about the product?


Safety of herbal medicine

Safety of herbal medicine

Herb consumption may have negative consequences. Furthermore, "adulteration, incorrect formulation, or a lack of understanding of plant and medicine interactions have resulted in severe responses that are occasionally fatal or life-threatening." Before medicinal usage, proper double-blind clinical trials are required to establish the safety and effectiveness of each plant.

Although many people feel that herbal medications are safe since they are natural, herbal medicines and synthetic pharmaceuticals can combine and create toxicity in the consumer. Herbal therapies can also be severely polluted, and herbal medicines with unknown effectiveness may be mistakenly utilized to substitute pharmaceutical medications.

Standardization of purity and dose is not required in the United States, yet even goods manufactured to the same specifications may differ due to biochemical changes within a plant species. Plants contain chemical defense systems against predators, which can be harmful or dangerous to people. Poison hemlock and nightshade are two examples of severely deadly herbs. They are not promoted as herbs to the general public since the hazards are widely known, owing in part to a long and colorful history in Europe linked with "sorcery," "magic," and intrigue.

Although not common, adverse responses to herbs in common usage have been observed. Herb use has been connected to major negative results on occasion. A instance of severe potassium deficiency has been linked to prolonged licorice use, and as a result, expert herbalists avoid using licorice in situations when they are aware of the risk. A case of liver failure has been linked to black cohosh.

Few research on the safety of herbs for pregnant women are available, however one study discovered that using complementary and alternative medications is related with a 30% lower continued pregnancy and live birth rate after fertility therapy.

Aconite, which is frequently a legally restricted herb, ayurvedic remedies, broom, chaparral, Chinese herb mixtures, comfrey, herbs containing certain flavonoids, germander, guar gum, liquorice root, and pennyroyal are examples of herbal treatments with likely cause-effect relationships with adverse events.

Examples of herbs that may have long-term adverse effects include ginseng, which is unpopular among herbalists for this reason, the endangered herb goldenseal, milk thistle, senna, against which herbalists generally advise and rarely use, aloe vera juice, buckthorn bark and berry, cascara sagrada bark, saw palmetto, valerian, kava, which is banned in the European Union, St. John's wort, khat, betel nut, the restricted herb ephedra, and guarana.

There is also concern about the numerous well-documented interactions between plants and medications. Usage of herbal remedies should be clarified in consultation with a physician, as some herbal remedies have the potential to cause adverse drug interactions when combined with various prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, just as a patient should inform a herbalist of their consumption of orthodox prescription and other medication.

For example, dangerously low blood pressure may arise from combining a herbal cure that reduces blood pressure with a prescription drug that does the same thing. Some plants have been shown to enhance the effects of anticoagulants. Certain herbs and fruits, as well as ordinary fruits, interfere with cytochrome P450, an enzyme required for many drug metabolisms.



Herbal Medicine

The use of plants for healing predates recorded history and is at the root of much modern medicine. Many traditional medications are derived from plants: a century ago, most of the few successful drugs were plant-based. Aspirin (from willow bark), digoxin (from foxglove), quinine (from cinchona bark), and morphine are a few examples (from the opium poppy). The development of medications from plants continues, with pharmaceutical corporations doing large-scale pharmacologic screening of herbs.

Chinese herbalism is one of the most widely practiced traditional herbal traditions today. The effects of herbs on specific bodily systems are emphasized in modern Western herbalism. Herbs, for example, may be utilized for their anti-inflammatory, hemostatic, expectorant, antispasmodic, or immunostimulatory characteristics.

In the United States, consumer spending on herbal products is projected to reach more than $5 billion per year, primarily through self-prescription of over-the-counter remedies. This form of herbal drug use is often predicated on a straightforward correlation of a specific plant to certain disorders or symptoms, such as valerian (Valeriana officinalis) for sleep disruption. Herbal medicines, which were formerly exclusive to health food stores, are now available in a wide range of regular pharmacies and retail outlets.