Herbal therapy is a broad term used to refer to any type of healthcare treatment using fresh or dried herbs. The use of herbs may take the form of supplements, fusions or teas, tinctures, topical creams and poultices. Herb therapy may also include the creation of a healing steam that is scented with various combinations of herbs.
While the origins of herbal therapy are unknown, just about every culture has used herbs as a means of dealing with different physical and emotional illnesses. Perhaps the most ancient documented form of this type of therapy is found in the healing traditions of China. Grounded in Taoist beliefs and principles, Chinese therapy incorporates the use of many different types of herbs in caring for the sick. While in some cases, a single herb is used in the therapeutic treatment, it is not at all unusual for several herbs to be combined in order to prepare medicine for a specific ailment.
One of the strengths of herbal therapies in general is that the use of herbs helps to provide the body with essential nutrients that may be lacking in the daily diet. When the body does not receive sufficient nutrition, various types of aches, pains, and emotional disorders begin to appear. By using herbs to restore a nutritional balance, the body is equipped with what it needs to overcome illness and regain health.
Natural herbal medicine can take many forms. Teas and tinctures are among the most common approaches. Both are efficient ways to quickly introduce nutrients into the body, and may provide quick relief. One noted example is the claims made for a simple tea made with cayenne powder and hot water. The tea is said to ease both the pain and the damage that can be the result of a heart attack in a matter of minutes.
Dried herbs are also a common tool in the practice of herbal medicine. Leaves, stems and sometimes roots are dried and ground into fine powders that can then be ingested as capsules or used topically to prepare poultices to place on the skin. The capsules are considered ideal with there is a need to release the healing agents of the herbs over a longer period of time. In like manner, skin rashes, muscle aches, and joint pain may begin to subside after applying a poultice that contains herbs known to soothe the skin or to ease swelling and inflammation.
Herbal aromatherapy is a specialized type of herbal therapy that utilizes herbs to restore the balance between the body and the mind. Often, the process involves simmering fresh or dried herbs in water to release the scent. For example, simmering lavender is said to help calm the nerves after a trying day and may also be effective in easing the after effects of an anxiety attack.
Various schools of alternative medicine also utilize herbal therapy to treat severe ailments such as cancer and diabetes. With herbal therapy for cancer, the focus is usually on oral preparations such as tinctures and capsules of dried herbs to help strengthen the body’s natural defenses, allowing them to first contain and finally overcome the abnormal cells that make up malignant tumors. Diabetic herbal medicine aims at aiding the body in processing carbohydrates more effectively, thus preventing spikes in blood sugar levels.
Opinions on the efficacy of herbal medicine range from complete skepticism to full confidence in the healing properties of herbs. While some herbs serve as the basis for a number of Western medications, other herbs do not as yet have the backing of scientific proof that they are as effective as folklore claims them to be. Still, there are many people who claim to have found relief from various ailments using herbs after receiving little or no relief from modern medicine.