Herbal Medicine – Definition, Overview and Safety Concerns

Herbal Medicine – Definition, Overview and Safety Concerns

What is herbal medicine? It is simply the use of plants for their therapeutic or medicinal value. And it has been around much longer than modern, Western medicine. In fact, all cultures have some form of herbalism – the study and use of herbs for their healing properties.

by David Stone

While modern medicine has its place, there is a growing movement back to herbalism and natural remedies.

This is likely due to the fact that they are often more effective than synthetic drugs and have fewer side effects. But before you start self-medicating with herbs, there are some things you should know.

Here is a brief overview of herbalism as well as some safety considerations.

How Does Herbal Medicine Work?

ceremonial tea set on wooden surface
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The active ingredients in plants interact with the human body in a variety of ways. They can be eaten, inhaled, applied to the skin, or absorbed through mucous membranes.

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The goal is to restore balance in the system and allow the body to heal itself.

Herbalists believe that diseases are caused by an imbalance in the body and that herbs can restore this balance. So, for example, if someone has high blood pressure, an herbalist might prescribe a diuretic herb to help remove excess fluid from the body and thus lower blood pressure.

If you are interested in trying herbal medicine, it is important to consult with a qualified professional. This is because herbs can interact with other medications you are taking and may not be appropriate for certain medical conditions.

It’s also important to be aware that not all herbs are created equal. Herbs that are sold as dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way that drugs are.

This means that there is no guarantee of their quality or safety.

When buying herbs, look for those that have been certified organic and/or wildcrafted whenever possible. These will be of higher quality and more potent than those grown commercially.

Dosage is also important when taking any medication, including herbal remedies. Be sure to follow the dosage instructions on the label or as recommended by your healthcare provider.

Taking too much of an herb can be just as dangerous as taking too little.

Common Safety Concerns With Herbal Medicine

There are some common safety concerns associated with taking herbal medicine including:
drug interactions; side effects; contamination; potency; and pregnancy/breastfeeding safety.

As with any medication – prescription or otherwise – it’s always best to err on the side of caution and consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new medication, even if it is an herb.


Herbal medicine offers a safe and effective alternative to traditional medications with far fewer side effects.

But as with any medication, it’s important to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new medication, even if it is an herb.

Be sure to follow dosage instructions carefully and buy only certified organic or wildcrafted herbs to ensure quality and potency.

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