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Studies & Degrees in Herbal Medicine

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Herbal Medicine is considered to be the oldest system of medicine known to man. It is also termed as Botanical Medicine, Herbalism, and Herbology. Despite advances in modern or conventional medicine, it is still widely used worldwide. In fact, many of today’s widely known conventional medicines (up to 25%) originated from active ingredients from plants. Aspirin, for instance, comes from bark of willow trees. Foxglove plant, on the other hand, is an active ingredient of digoxin, a conventional medicine used in treating heart failure. Drug laboratories and pharmaceutical companies produce conventional medicines from combination of active plan ingredient and chemical compounds. As opposed to that, Herbal Medicine is the type of medicine that is 100% from plants or plan extracts.

A medical herbalist is a highly trained practitioner of principles, philosophies, and practices of Herbal Medicine. They have a mission of exploring possibilities of curing illness or promoting wellness through complex elements found in plants. They prescribe and dispense Herbal Medicine in a manner following certain guidelines and protocols. They also provide patients with advice regarding proper diet and nutrition, especially if it has anything to do with the prescribed herbal medicine. They serve as catalyst of advances and credible source of information about herbal medicines. Just like in traditional medicine, medical herbalists follow certain ethical codes in practicing this field, including confidentiality and professionalism. In the United States, there is currently no state registration for medical herbalist (consequently, no statutory regulations available), but the training of these practitioners takes three years of in-depth research and study. In absence of registration or license, a patient may look for medical herbalist who is a member of National Institute of Medical Herbalists.

There is a wide range of herbal medicines that are recognized for its benefits. Ginger is seen to cure vomiting and dizziness; there are claims that lemon balm and sage help people with Alzheimer’s disease; and seed extract of horse chestnut is believed to treat venous insufficiency. These are just some of the many examples. Herbal medicines that are prescribed by highly qualified practitioners are safe and effective, although the level of efficacy is generally difficult to establish in the case of Herbal Medicine.

Due to its popularity, herbal medicines are now commercially produced by pharmaceutical industries in various forms – capsules, ointments, creams, tinctures, tablets, and teas or fruit juices; and these are made available in drugstores and supermarkets for easier access of patronizing public. Aside from claims of its effectiveness, the popularity of herbal medicine may be accounted to people’s notion of it being safe since it is all-natural. This, however, is a misconception. Not all natural products are innately safe. Plants also contain chemical compounds which may or may not be found effective in treating certain ailments. Moreover, wrong prescription of herbal medicine can lead to detrimental effect, such as serious organ damage or even death. Just like conventional medicines, therefore, pharmaceutical companies that produce herbal medicines for public consumption are required to conduct research and series of necessary tests to conclude safety (if not necessarily effectiveness) of herbal medicines.