What is herbal Medicine?
Herbal medicines: These include herbs, herbal materials, herbal preparations and finished herbal products:
Herbs: Herbs include crude plant material such as leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds, stems, wood, bark, roots, rhizomes or other plant parts, which may be entire, fragmented or powdered.
Herbal materials: Herbal materials are either whole plants or parts of medicinal plants in the crude state. They include herbs, fresh juices, gums, fixed oils, essential oils, resins and dry powders of herbs. some of these materials may be processed by various local procedures, such as steaming, roasting, or stir baking with honey, alcoholic beverages or other materials.
Herbal preparations: Herbal preparations are the basis for finished herbal products and may include comminuted or powdered herbal materials, or extracts, tinctures and fatty oils, expressed juices and processed exudates of herbal materials. They are produced with the aid of extraction, distillation, expression, fractionation, purification, concentration, fermentation or other physical or biological processes. They also include preparations made by steeping or heating herbal materials in alcoholic beverages and/or honey, or in other materials.
Finished herbal products or herbal medicinal products: Medicinal products containing as active substances exclusively herbal drugs or herbal drug preparations. They may consist of herbal preparations made from one or more herbs. If more than one herb is used, the term mixed herbal product can also be used. They may contain excipients in addition to the active ingredients.
When did people start taking herbal medicine?: The use of medicinal plants for treating diseases is probably the oldest existing method that humanity has used to try to cope with illness. For this reason, medicinal plants have been used therapeutically all around the world, being an important aspect of various traditional medicine systems. From Ayurveda to Chinese traditional medicine, from Unani to Tibetan Medicine, from
Amazonian to African Medicine, all systems of traditional medicine, although based on different theoretical and cultural models, integrate phytotherapy into their doctrine. In high-income countries, the widespread use of phytotherapy declined at the end of the first part of the twentieth century, due to the development and production of synthetic medicines. During the past few decades, however, phytotherapy has started to be increasingly used even in industrialized countries. In low- and middle-income countries, phytotherapy never stopped being important, often representing the only therapeutic system to which certain people could refer.
How safe is Herbal Medicine?: With the ever-increasing use of herbal medicines and the global expansion of the herbal medicines market, safety has become a major concern for both health authorities and the public. One of the major objectives is to promote the safety, efficacy and quality of traditional medicines. The quality of herbal medicines has a direct impact on their safety and efficacy. There are many control measures for herbal medicines, and the first important step is to control the quality of medicinal plants and herbal materials.
It is well known that there are many contaminants and residues that may cause harm to the consumers of herbal medicines. Many are natural, such as naturally occurring radionuclides, toxic metals or bacteria. Some arise from past or present use of agents or materials that pollute the environment and subsequently medicinal plants, such as emissions from factories or the residues of certain pesticides. Recent research has also demonstrated that herbs may absorb heavy metals during growth. For these reasons, there is currently a potential global danger to the health and well-being of people. This risk can be reduced by ensuring that herbal medicines with harmful contaminants and residues do not reach the public, by assessing the quality of the medicinal plants, herbal materials and finished herbal products before they reach the market. Products with high quality standards are needed to allow the patient to make safe use of phytotherapeutic products.