Herbs have been used for centuries as both food and medicine. They are great natural remedies that help to nourish, cleanse and balance the human body.
Herbs tend to be greatly misunderstood. One of the first ways that people think when they want to restore health is allopathically. Allopathic means that a disease or condition is treated with a substance that causes the opposite effect of the symptoms. Examples of allopathic remedies include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, beta blockers, proton pump inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, COX-2 inhibitors, etc.
Allopathy works to address symptoms. Symptoms are the body’s way of reporting an imbalance. Merely treating the symptoms does not address the cause of the imbalance. Treating just the symptoms tends to result in greater imbalance sometime in the future.
Finding the underlying causes for the chronic health problems suffered by most Americans always involves nutrition. In searching for answers, I always think of the confession in the Episcopal prayer book. What has been done that should not have been done and what should have been done that was left undone?
The answer typically involves more than just one simple pill. The issues tend to be complex and unique for each individual. In other words, your high blood pressure has a different underlying cause than my high blood pressure.
Part of the reason that the natural remedies seem to be so confusing is that what works for one person may not work for another. Natural remedies work when they correct the underlying cause of the condition and not because they are working to suppress a symptom of imbalance.
Herbs and natural remedies were not meant to be used allopathically except in certain acute situations. Herbs are natural, concentrated packages of particular nutrients that help correct the result of imbalances in nutrition. Specific herbs have an affinity for certain organs and glands. For instance hawthorn berry tend to nourish the heart muscle; dandelion cleans the blood; red beet root cleans and nourishes the liver, etc.
Another way that herbs tend to be misunderstood is the issue of quality. The health supplement industry is big business and with that goes some practices that are more about money than health. This practice is not limited to fly-by-night companies, but is rampant throughout some of the largest companies in the business.
Herbs are priced to the supplement companies based on their quality which is a factor of the level of active chemical constituents in the herb, the absence of pesticides and heavy metals, the area in which the herbs were grown, the method of harvesting, etc. The highest quality herbs go to the highest bidders which tend to be the most reputable herbal companies with strict quality control.
If you are going to use herbs, ask what quality control the supplier has. You may be surprised. Also, keep checking. Large pharmaceutical companies are buying supplement companies and the quality is changing – and not always for the better. Remember that full-service, independent health food stores usually have great information about quality.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.