Herbal Medicine & Botanical Medicine

Herbal medicine and botanical medicines are a large part of my medical education, experience, and practice.

Herbal medicine has been used for thousands of years. It involves the medicinal use of plants to treat disease and enhance general health and wellbeing.

According to The World Health Organization (WHO), it is estimated that up to four billion people (representing 80% of the world’s population) use traditional medicines such as herbal medicine. And it has been estimated that one third of the US population uses herbs for some of their healthcare needs.

Herbal Medicines are products made from botanicals, or plants, which are used to treat diseases or to maintain health and are called herbal products, botanical products, or phytomedicines among other things.

You may have heard the word “Phytochemicals” or “Phytonutrients” and wonder what that really means.

Phytochemicals can be defined as any plant derived chemical. Phytonutrients are plant derived nutrients. So, everything in a plant, whether useful for health, or whether we know what it actually does, is a phytochemical. It can be in fruits, vegetables, grains, herbs, barks, roots, fungi, etc.

Herbs and botanical medicines or food medicines are available everywhere you look because they are in nature, including in your own garden. Many of our culinary herbs that we cook with have medicinal properties.

Each part of a plant has different constituent combinations of phytochemicals and uses.

How Herbal Medicines are used

  • Swallowed as pills or tablets,
  • Made as teas, infustions
  • Swallowed as solid extracts or tinctures
  • Incorporate powders into foods
  • Steam Inhalation
  • Smell including sprays and aroma infusers
  • Topically applied to the skin as lotions, creams, ointments, or oils
  • Topically applied to skin using poultices, etc.
  • Vaginal or Rectal suppositories
  • Added to bath water
  • Steam baths or saunas
  • Integrated in foods, both cooked and raw

Examples of common herbs and uses that you may already know or have in your home

Tumeric – Curcumin – The root is used. This is used for seasoning in foods, in powdered pill form for numerous inflammatory conditions, topical paste or cream

Dandelion – The root is used for liver issues. The leaf is used for kindeys and is high in minerals so even though a diuretic that loses minerals, it also resupplies some of them.

Chamomile – Flowers are used for teas. Also, in aromatherapy.  And topically for skin conditions.

Cinnamon – The bark is used. Wonderful in many foods. This is good for blood sugar balancing.  Also, research showing good for brain health and for helping decrease inflammation.

Senna – From the leaf. You can find this is some teas that are used for constipation. You can also find it is over the counter conventional medicines as a laxative

Catnip – Although it makes gives cats an interesting exciting effect, it can be used in a calming tea for people.

Echinacea (Coneflower) The roots, seeds and aerial parts can be used. You can make a tea, get in a tincture, use in a cream topically or get powdered and in a capsule.  So many options for this wonderful immune supporting herb.

Elderberry – from the berries/fruit- This can be taken as a yummy syrup, in gummies, powdered capsules.  It is used for immune support and upper respiratory viral infections.

Botanical Medicines are wonderful and powerful tools.

Herbal medicine is effective and powerful and can help heal, but sometimes can also cause harm if not used correctly.

It is ideal to get a a knowledgeable guide for how and when to use herbs. This is where a licensed naturopathic physician comes are helpful. In order to be licensed as a Naturopathic Doctor, I was required to not only have book and academic study, but internships utilizing these medicines, using them in conjunction with other treatments. It is an in-depth part of our professional licensing exams.

Many people pass down this information in families as well…for home remedies. I help people learn a number of those to restart that transfer of education within families or home remedies that can be made from one’s own kitchen or garden.

Be aware herbal medicine can interact with other medications

  • Please remember, like with any medication, there are potential interactions between herbal medicine and conventional drugs, whether over-the-counter medicines or prescription medications.
  • Taking herbal supplements may increase or decrease the effectiveness of other drugs you are taking or may increase the risk of negative side effects.
  • When you add an herbal medicine discuss with your medical provider and/or your local pharmacist.

Quality of Herbal products and supplements matter

It is important to make sure the herbal medicines you take are high quality and safe.

It is ideal to know which companies do testing on both the raw materials and finished products to ensure they are clean and the dosage the bottle says and does not contain heavy metals and contaminants, such as lead, arsenic, conventional drugs mixed in, bacteria or fungi or other contaminants. I can help guide you to high quality, clean and reputable companies and sources.

Herbal Medicine & Botanical Medicine from Dr. Lara Litov