In this article we have discussed:
1- What are "Herbs and Herbal Medicine"?
2- Benefits and risks of using herbs.
3- What is meant by organic medicine and herbal medicine? Difference?
4- What is a "Food Supplement or Dietary Supplement"?
5- Why we should use "Organic Dietary Supplements"? And what are the precautions?
What are Herbs?
Herbs are the leafy parts of the plants that do not have woody stems. They can be dried or fresh. Any other part of the plant or tree, which is usually dried, is referred to as a spice. Like bark, buds, fruit, roots, seeds, or stems of a plant or tree.
Herbs are either “Culinary or Medicinal”.
Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables, like spices, they are used in small amounts and provide flavor rather than substance to food.
Example of Culinary Herbs:
Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, Mint, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Chives, Lemongrass, cinnamon, etc.
Medicinal herbs are those herbs that are used as medicine.
Example of Medicinal Herbs:
Garcinia, Moringa, Echinacea, Feverfew, Garlic, Ginger, Gingko, Ginseng, Goldenseal. Etc.
Medicine prepared by using medicinal herbs is called "Herbal Medicine"
Health benefits of Herbal Medicines:
Consuming herbs or herbal medicine may help to prevent and manage heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It may also help to reduce blood clots and provide anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties. Research is ongoing but studies have shown that:
- Garlic, linseed, fenugreek, and lemongrass may help lower cholesterol.
- Garlic is useful for people with mildly elevated blood pressure.
- Fenugreek can help control blood sugar and insulin activity (as can linseed, flaxseed, and cinnamon).
- Garlic, onions, chives, leeks, mint, basil, oregano, sage, and many other herbs can help protect against cancer.
- Herbs are rich in antioxidants, especially cloves, cinnamon, sage, oregano, and thyme, by helping to reduce low-density lipoproteins (‘bad’ cholesterol).
The effect of herbal medicine may be pharmacokinetic (movement of drugs in the body) by altering absorption or metabolism and maybe pharmacodynamics (effect of the drug on the body), by changing the final effect of the drug.
For example, an antidepressant herbal remedy if not taken in proper quantity, may pharmacodynamically interact with specific serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), causing serotonin syndrome (a kind of disease).
So proper and measured quantity of herbs is vital for the safe use of herbal medicine.
Herbal remedies can result in indirect health risks when they delay or replace a more effective form of conventional treatment or when they compromise the efficacy of conventional medicines.
What is meant by Organic Herbal Medicine?
Organic means something relating to or derived from living matter.
What is the difference between herbal and organic medicines?
Herbal medicines refer to medicines that are prepared from plants only for their medicinal value. These plants can be grown organically (For example by using animal or plant waste as a pesticide) or by using any manmade chemicals or pesticides etc.
So if herbal medicine is prepared by using organic means then it can be called organic herbal medicine. And every herbal medicine is not necessarily organic.
Organic medicines, on the other hand, means medicines that are prepared and handled using natural organic means only, without using any chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, preservatives, throughout the process. Organic medicines, apart from plants (Herbs), can also have animal sources such as animal fat, oil, and bones, etc. as their ingredients and other organic compounds (such as carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, etc.,) as well.
Organic medicines whether totally herbal or not are nowadays termed as “Dietary supplements or Food supplements”.
Under the European Food Supplements Directive (Directive 2002/46/EC),
“Food supplements” or “Dietary supplement” or “health supplement” or "Nutraceuticals" are defined as foodstuffs that are meant to supplement the normal diet and which are concentrated sources of nutrients.
Examples of Dietary Supplements.
Vitamins, pro-vitamins, multivitamins, minerals, folic acid, iron, proteins, carbohydrates, calcium, potassium, magnesium, omega-3, omega-6, enzymes, herbal extracts, plants & fruit extracts, amino-acids, proteins, fatty acids, carbohydrates, herbal material, including plant fibers, enzymes, algae, non-human animal material including dried material, bone, and cartilage, fats, and oils, etc.
Dietary supplements are marketed in forms such as tablets, capsules, soft gels, gel caps, powders, and liquids, etc.
Why we should use dietary supplements and what are the precautions:
In this busy life and hectic work routine, a balanced food intake is becoming difficult and expensive also. This is where the role of “Dietary supplements” comes in to have proper nutrition and essential nutrients. While dietary supplements can’t take place of a well-balanced diet but they can provide an adequate amount of nutrients when used with care and precautions.
Coenzyme Q10 is beneficial for healthy heart and infertility issues and for muscles also.
Omega-6 fatty acid having GLA, LA is beneficial for heart, anti-inflammatory, useful in skin related problems like dermatitis.
Omega-3 is beneficial for the brain, eye, and nerve development, etc., and beneficial for the immune system.
Calcium intake is important for bones especially in females to fight osteoporosis.
Vitamin-E is most commonly known for its importance for skin etc. Antioxidant also.
Folic acid which is a manmade form of vitamin-B is important for the development of red blood cells, and to prevent neural tube defects and brain development in your baby, etc.
Our famous vitamin-C is important for the development of body tissues, for the absorption of iron, for bones and teeth, etc.
Garcinia, well known for its weight loss benefits and rich in HCA (antioxidant).
The above list of dietary supplements and their benefits goes on and is not limited.
The important thing is how to take them and what are the Precautions?
Dietary supplements are not intended to treat or diagnose the disease but act as a preventive buffer against the disease. Do not self-diagnose any health condition. Work with your health care provider to determine how best to achieve optimal health with these supplements.A proper and measured quantity of herbs and other ingredients used in dietary supplements is also necessary. So before using them we must check the units of ingredients used in those supplements. Furthermore use only certified supplements.