DEFINITION OF HERBS!The botanical definition herb is, a plant without a woody stem, that bears seeds, and dies back after blooming. The other definition of herb, and the one which in herbalism is any plant or part of a plant that is used in herbalism. Under this definition, herbs include leaves, flowers, buds, stems, roots, bark, berries, seeds, mushrooms, rhizomes—any plant or part of a plant. Herbalism is the practice of using plants and parts of plants to support health, whether through offering nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, or a more direct action through powerful chemical constituentsPlants and herbs have sustained the health and well-being of humankind for tens of thousands of years. They are our nourishment, medicine, shelter, clothing, and our inspiration for art; we are their caretakers and cultivators. Together, we are part of the beautiful and mysterious cycle of life. HOW DO HERBS WORK?Plants manufacture chemicals to protect themselves from insects, to attract pollinators, to heal themselves, and for many other reasons still being discovered. Constituents synthesized by the plant can be classified into two categories: primary metabolites and secondary metabolites.Primary metabolites are those chemicals that the plant uses to maintain its growth and include among others, starches, proteins, and lipids (Hoffmann, 2003).Secondary metabolites are chemicals used by the plant to intervene with outside forces, including pollinators, bacteria, viruses, and herbivores – including us – and are sometimes quite toxic. It is believed it is through these secondary metabolites that herbs work to affect human health (Hoffmann, 2003).Alkaloids are a type of secondary metabolite. Morphine, for instance, is an alkaloid synthesized from the opium poppy. Caffeine from the coffee bean and nicotine from the tobacco leaf fall into the alkaloid category and have insecticidal qualities. Alkaloids are often very bitter, which dissuades potential herbivorous attacks.Other secondary metabolites include terpenoids and phenolics. Terpenoids include such plant chemicals as aromatic insect-repelling menthols.Salicin is a phenol used by plants to protect itself against fungus. Once consumed by humans, salicin converts to salicylic acid, which has pain relieving and anti-inflammatory properties. Native American groups used willow bark and roots for fever reduction, sore throats, and pain relief.Using the whole herb and synergy.Using the whole herb creates – The activity of the whole herb is safer and more effective than using isolated chemicals extracted from a few of its parts. Many potentially toxic chemicals found in plants are often naturally buffered by other compounds that come along with the entire plant. It’s the isolation of chemicals, like morphine from the poppy and cocaine from the coca plant, which leads to toxicity.Synergy refers to the process of using multiple herbs formulated in a specific way so that they work together harmoniously. An elegant formula is accomplished when one or more herbs buffer the potential side effects of each other, and/or enhance the activities of another, allowing the body to respond positively to the intended actions of the herbs.TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE!TCM was recorded in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine between 200 BCE and 100 CE. To the Ancient Chinese, TCM provided a way to imagine humanity’s place in the cosmos.TCM is rooted in the concepts of qi (chi), the vital force, and in the balance between yin and yang , which are considered the expressions of a dynamic force between two inseparable polarities. Whether something can be considered yin or yang depends on its relationship. For example, in relationship with the Earth (yin), humans are yang. But in relation to the universe (yang), humans are yin (Wainapel, 2003). In a nutshell, yin is earth energy that eventually flows upwards to heaven; yang is heaven energy that eventually flows to earth. Everything in between is a channel for this flow of energy or Qi. Yin and yang are interdependent and give rise to each other in a continuous flow (Richardson, n.d.).The qualities of yin are soft, slow, feminine, associated with the earth, moon, night, and water. The organs associated with yin are the Liver, Heart, Spleen, Kidneys, and Lungs, as they are considered to be solid, deeper, and associated with fluid and substances.Yang is fast, hard, masculine, associated with the sky, sun, day, and fire. Yang organs are Stomach, Gall Bladder, Large Intestine, Small Intestines, and Bladder. In general yang, organs are hollow, more superficial, and are associated with actions like excretion and dividing.Five Element Theory of TCM incorporates the concepts of yin and yang and views humanity as a microcosm of nature. The elements are Wood/Spring; Fire/Summer; Earth; Metal/Autumn; Water/Winter (Williams, 1996).TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, is a profound pathway to create the life you truly want to live, the life you were born to live. It’s a timeless bridge that can initiate and support change and growth in any and every life dimension: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Every TCM principle, theory, and healing practice reflects and harmonizes with the relationships that exist within natural law. TCM teaches you how to live a life of balance, wellness, and harmony. Four Key TCM Principles
- Your body is an integrated whole. Each and every structure in your body is an integral and necessary part of the whole. Along with your mind, emotions, and spirit, your physical body structures form a miraculously complex, interrelated system that is powered by life force, or energy.
- You are completely connected to nature. Changes in nature are always reflected in your body. TCM factors in the particular season, geographical location, time of day, as well as your age, genetics, and the condition of your body when looking at your health issues.
- You were born with a natural self-healing ability. Your body is a microcosm that reflects the macrocosm. Think about it: nature has a regenerative capacity, and so do you. Sometimes, this ability may appear to be lost or difficult to access. In most cases, it is never completely gone.
- Prevention is the best cure. Do you know your body is continually revealing signs about the state of your health? Let’s face it, it’s common to ignore these signs or symptoms until something more complicated arises. TCM teaches you how to interpret what your body is telling you.
- Chinese herbal medicine. The Chinese Materia Medica (a pharmacological reference book used by TCM practitioners) describes thousands of medicinal substances—primarily plants, but also some minerals and animal products. Different parts of plants, such as the leaves, roots, stems, flowers, and seeds, are used. In TCM, herbs are often combined in formulas and given as teas, capsules, liquid extracts, granules, or powders.
- Acupuncture is a family of procedures involving the stimulation of specific points on the body using a variety of techniques. The acupuncture technique that has been most often studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metal needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.
- Tai chi. Tai chi is a centuries-old mind and body practice. It involves gentle, dance-like body movements with mental focus, breathing, and relaxation.
Keep in Mind!!
Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.