Western herbal medicine involves using plants and plant material to create medicines to help prevent or treat various illnesses. These materials may use some or all parts of a plant, such as flowers, roots, fruits, leaves, and bark.
This modality emphasizes the use of European and Native American herbs; however, herbs from other parts of the world are sometimes used as well.
Traditional Western herbal medicine evolved mostly from the ancient Greeks, who were strongly influenced by Egyptian and Middle Eastern civilizations. Western herbal medicine also has roots in the indigenous practices of the British Isles and ancient Roman traditions. Well-known historical physicians including Hippocrates and Galen are thought to have used herbal medicine in their practices. The use of various herbal formulas is one of the oldest and possibly the most widespread form of medicine.
Herbal remedies are used for many suggested purposes, such as improvement or general support of digestive, respiratory, circulatory, immune, endocrine, and nervous system processes. Herbs are also used to purportedly remove waste and toxins from bodily cells or topically to promote healing of the skin.
Herbs of the Western herbal medicine tradition are the subject of increasing interest in the medical community. Research is currently being conducted in the use of medicinal herbs for various medical conditions. For instance, garlic has been researched as a potential treatment for high blood pressure. In some studies, the whole herb is given to a patient, whereas in other studies, isolated active chemicals, or constituents of a plant, may be extracted, purified, and administered to the patient. Herbal constituents may be concentrated to deliver standardized set doses and may also be synthesized in a lab. They may also have their chemical structure changed and patented. This wide variety of herbal formulations used in clinical, in vivo, and in vitro studies is an area of concern for accurate analysis of research and determination of clinical recommendations.
While both the United States and Europe have a long history of practitioners who use Western herbal medicine, this form of treatment has not always been considered widely available or accepted. The use of herbal remedies in the United States and Western Europe experienced a strong resurgence in the late 1990s, which continues today.
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