Baraka Herbal...Africa's Herbal Medical professional Praticitioner
Herbal medicine :Overview:
What is herbal medicine?  














Herbal medicine is the medicine of the people. It is simple, safe, effective, and free. Our ancestors knew how to use an enormous variety of plants for health and well being. Our neighbors around the world continue to use local plants for healing and health maintenance. You can too.


Information on herbs and their uses has been passed down to us in many ways: through stories, in books, set to music, and incorporated into our everyday speech. Learning about herbs is fun, fascinating, and easy to do no matter where you live or what your circumstances. It is an adventure that makes use of all of your senses. Reading about herbal medicine is fascinating, and a great way to learn how others have used plants. But the real authorities are the plants themselves. They speak to us through their smells, tastes, forms, and colors.

Anyone who is willing to take the time to get to know the plants around them will discover a wealth of health-promoting green allies. What stops us? Fear. We fear that we will use the wrong plant. We fear poisoning ourselves. We fear the plants themselves.


Safety First

Because our sense of taste protects us against poisonous plants, it is always best to take herbs in a form that allows one to taste them. Consuming just one plant at a time, with as little preparation as possible, gives us the greatest opportunity to taste poisons and is therefore the safest way to use herbs.

One herb at a time is a "simple." When we ingest a simple herb-- raw, cooked as a vegetable, brewed fresh or dried in water as a tea or infusion, steeped in vinegar or honey, dried and used as a condiment -- we bring into play several million years of plant wisdom collected in our genes.

When we ingest many plants together, or concentrate their natural poisons by tincturing, distilling, or standardizing, we increase the possibility of harm. Powdering herbs and putting them in capsules is one of the most dangerous ways to use them, especially those containing poisons. For ultimate risk, play with essential oils; they are far removed from the plant, very concentrated, and as little as one-quarter ounce can kill.





















Herbal medicine -- also called botanical medicine or phytomedicine -- refers to using a plant's seeds, berries, roots, leaves, bark, or flowers for medicinal purposes. Herbalism has a long tradition of use outside of conventional medicine. It is becoming more mainstream as improvements in analysis and quality control along with advances in clinical research show the value of herbal medicine in the treating and preventing disease.

What is the history of herbal medicine?

Plants had been used for medicinal purposes long before recorded history. Ancient Chinese and Egyptian papyrus writings describe medicinal uses for plants as early as 3,000 BC. Indigenous cultures (such as African and Native American) used herbs in their healing rituals, while others developed traditional medical systems (such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine) in which herbal therapies were used. Researchers found that people in different parts of the world tended to use the same or similar plants for the same purposes.

In the early 19th century, when chemical analysis first became available, scientists began to extract and modify the active ingredients from plants. Later, chemists began making their own version of plant compounds and, over time, the use of herbal medicines declined in favor of drugs. Almost one fourth of pharmaceutical drugs are derived from botanicals.

Recently, the World Health Organization estimated that 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some part of their primary health care. In Germany, about 600 - 700 plant based medicines are available and are prescribed by some 70% of German physicians. In the past 20 years in the United States, public dissatisfaction with the cost of prescription medications, combined with an interest in returning to natural or organic remedies, has led to an increase in herbal medicine use.












What is herbal medicine good for?

Herbal medicine is used to treat many conditions, such as asthma, eczema, premenstrual syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine, menopausal symptoms, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer, among others. Herbal supplements are best taken under the guidance of a trained health care provider. For example, one study found that 90% of arthritic patients use alternative therapies, such as herbal medicine.Be sure to consult with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any herbs. Some common herbs and their uses are discussed below.

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) has been used in traditional medicine to treat circulatory disorders and enhance memory. Although not all studies agree, ginkgo may be especially effective in treating dementia (including Alzheimer's disease) and intermittent claudication (poor circulation in the legs). It also shows promise for enhancing memory in older adults. Laboratory studies have shown that ginkgo improves blood circulation by dilating blood vessels and reducing the stickiness of blood platelets. By the same token, this means ginkgo may also increase the effect of some blood thinning medications, including aspirin. People taking blood thinning medications should ask their doctor before using ginkgo. Caution should also be taken with people with a history of seizures and people with fertility issues; speak with your physician.
Kava kava (Piper methysticum) is said to elevate mood, enhance well being and contentment, and produce a feeling of relaxation. Several studies have found that kava may be useful in the treatment of anxiety, insomnia, and related nervous disorders. However, there is serious concern that kava may cause liver damage. It's not clear whether the kava itself caused liver damage in a few people, or whether it was taking kava in combination with other drugs or herbs. It's also not clear whether kava is dangerous at previously recommended doses, or only at higher doses. Some countries have taken kava off the market. It remains available in the United States, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a consumer advisory in March of 2002 regarding the "rare" but potential risk of liver failure associated with kava containing products.







Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a popular alternative to commonly prescribed medications for sleep problems because it is considered to be both safe and gentle. Some studies bear this out, although not all have found valerian to be effective. Unlike many prescription sleeping pills, valerian may have fewer side effects, such as morning drowsiness. However, Valerian does interact with some medications, particularly psychiatric medications, so you should speak to your doctor to see if Valerian is right for you.
Echinacea preparations (from Echinacea purpurea and other Echinacea species) may improve the body's natural immunity. Echinacea is one of the most commonly used herbal products, but studies are mixed as to whether it can help prevent or treat colds. A review of 14 clinical studies examining the effect of echinacea on the incidence and duration of the common cold found that echinacea supplements decreased the odds of getting a cold by 58%. It also shortened the duration of a cold by 1.4 days. Echinacea can interact with certain medications and may not be right for people with certain conditions, for example people with autoimmune disorders or certain allergies. Speak with your physician.

Is there anything I should watch out for?

Used correctly, herbs can help treat a variety of conditions, and in some cases, may have fewer side effects than some conventional medications. But because they are unregulated, herbal products are often mislabeled and may contain additives and contaminants that aren' t listed on the label. Some herbs may cause allergic reactions or interact with conventional drugs, and some are toxic if used improperly or at high doses. Taking herbs on your own increases your risk, so it is important to consult with your doctor or pharmacist before taking herbal medicines. Some examples of adverse reactions from certain popular herbs are described below.

Some herbal supplements, especially those imported from Asian countries, may contain high levels of heavy metals, including lead, mercury, and cadmium. It is important to purchase herbal supplements from reputable manufacturers to ensure quality. Many herbs can interact with prescription medications and cause unwanted or dangerous reactions. For example, there is a high degree of herb/drug interaction among patients who are under treatment for cancer. Be sure to consult your doctor before trying any herbal products.