This is a question I am often asked. And it saddens me because in the not too distant past everyone KNEW that herbal medicines work. They were used day in and day out for everyday ailments. Mild, gentle, low cost, home made remedies that eased pain and suffering.
That is until the use of antibiotics became an option. And, don’t get me wrong, I would not wish to be without that option in the world. But, I believe it should not be the first choice remedy in every case.
When antibiotics came along, herbal home remedies were seen as inferior. And conventional medicines in contrast were generally viewed as miracles cures. Herbal medicines were cast aside and people wanted the new medicines.
Yes antibiotics had their problems. They didn’t do anything to prevent future infections for instance. But that wasn’t a problem any more as we had antibiotics to defeat the germs. Or so everyone thought.
But, within a few years of use, the bacteria worked out how to avoid being killed off by the antibiotics. They developed resistance. And, new antibiotics had to be created to continue to win the fight against the germs. This process has continued. And now, we are fast coming to the end of options for making new antibiotics.
Perhaps, we will turn back to herbal medicine. Research shows that herbs have a lot to offer in preventing and fighting infection.
Unlike antibiotics, which are single ingredient medicines. Herbs have many, sometimes dozens, of medicinally active constituents. These active constituents work together synergistically. In other words, the benefits of the whole herb are greater than the sum of the individual constituents.
These beneficial effects might include:
- direct action against microbes
- stimulation of the immune system
- supportive tonics to the affected tissues
Plus, herbal medicine is usually prepared as a formula containing several herbs. This means that in each dose of herbal medicine, there are likely to be hundreds of active constituents. Instead of just one single ingredient medicinal, such as with antibiotic medications. When exposed to herbal medicine the bacteria are faced with hundreds of different compounds. This is why bacteria are still vulnerable to the effects of herbs. It is just too difficult to work out how to protect themselves against a multitude of constituents all at once.
For example, myrrh, mentioned in the bible as one of the precious gifts given to the baby Jesus. Myrrh is a herbal medicine that has been used for thousands of years. Myrrh preparations have been used both as an oral medicine and topically on the skin to control infection. Even after generations of use in infection control it is still effective against bacteria today.
You might think that Myrrh is not used any more. But there are hundreds of products available today containing myrrh. Mouthwash and toothpaste, skin care products, throat sprays, over the counter cold and flu remedies, and multivitamin formulas. Myrrh still has a medicinal role in the modern world. As do many other herbs.
Herbal medicine is the oldest form of medicine. In some places around the world it is the only form of medicine available. I hope I have gone some way to show that herbs and herbal medicine still have a role to play in our modern world. I suspect they will still be around long after the current use of medicines such as antibiotics is a distant memory.