What is Herbal Medicine?

There are many different “types” of herbal medicine that spring from different cultures around the world. All these have the use of medicinal plants in common, but they vary in the plants they use, the way they prepare and use medicines from these plants, and the philosophy of their treatment approaches. Different cultures may also use the same plants but differ in how it is used, or the part they use. Using plants as medicine provides significant advantages for treating many conditions. The therapeutic activity of a plant is due to its complex chemical nature with different parts of the plant providing certain therapeutic effects. Terpenes, Flavonoids, fatty acids, lipids, plant waxes, all play a part in the plants make up and give a synergistic effect to whole plant medicine versus isolated pharmaceuticals. Herbal medicine is increasingly being validated by scientific investigation which seeks to understand the active chemistry of the plant. Many modern pharmaceuticals have been modeled on, or derived from chemicals found in plants.

Wikipedia states that homeostasis is the state of steady internal conditions maintained by living things. This dynamic state of equilibrium is the condition of optimal functioning for the organism and includes many variables, such as fluid balance, being kept within certain pre-set limits. The word homeostasis derives from Greek with “homeo” meaning “similar” and “stasis” meaning “stable.”

Your internal body temperature is a wonderful example of this process. When you are healthy, your body temperature retains a temperature of around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, but the body can control the temperature by either making or releasing heat (sweating.)

An herb is a plant that is used for its medicinal properties, flavor, or scent. Herbs are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes – and sometimes for spiritual purposes. Culinary herbs are usually defined as the leafy green parts of plants. Seeds, berries, bark, root, and fruit are considered to be spices rather than herbs in cooking.

The leaves are often the favored part of the plant, but herbal medicine also uses the roots, seeds, flowers, berries, and bark. Medicinal herbs may be shrubs or other woody plants as well.  Many cultures documented their use of specific parts of plants for medicinal and spiritual purposes. Burning Sage to purify a space is an example of this.

The first written documentation of medicinal plants spans back over 5000 years ago by the Sumerians in ancient Mesopotamia. The Ebers Papyrus, which dates back to around 1500 BCE was written by the Ancient Egyptians and listed over 850 herbal medicines, many from herbs that are recognized and used today!


Khan Academy article about Homeostasis 

An early timeline of herbal medicine

Balancing pH to heal the body



Downloadable pH-Chart