What is a Herb?
Botanically, a herb is a plant with a non-woody stem which withers and dies down after flowering. In common usage, however, the term applies to all plants whose leaves, stems, roots, flowers, fruits or seeds have culinary or medicinal uses (herbs that heal).
The Practice of Herbal Medicine – Herbs that Heal
The practice of herbal medicine dates back to the very earliest periods of known human history. There is evidence of herbs having been used in the treatment of diseases and for revitalising body systems in almost all ancient civilisations – the Indian, the Egyptian, the Chinese and even the Greek and Roman civilisations. Plants were the mainstay of medicine and credited with mystical and almost supernatural powers of healing. So much so that in Britain herbs became a focus of superstition, reaching their peak of importance in the Middle Ages when every village had its witch, and every witch had her herbs and potions.
In India, records indicate, that herbs have been in use for treating diseases since ancient times. Herbs play a significant role, specially in modern times, when the damaging effects of food processing and over-medication have assumed alarming proportions. They are now being increasingly used in cosmetics, foods and teas, as well as alternative medicines. The growing interest in herbs is a part of the movement towards change in life-styles. This movement is based on the belief that the plants have a vast potential for their use as a curative medicine.
How are Herbs used?
Herbs are used in many different ways. However, the ultimate objective of their use is that they should interact directly with our body chemistry. They may be used in various forms like food, medicine, cosmetics, or fragrance, but in all cases, their active constituents must be absorbed into the body for deriving the required benefits. Once they are absorbed in the bloodstream, they circulate to influence our whole system. The skill of the herbalist is to use this effect to balance and strengthen the body’s own healing mechanism instead of suppressing or disturbing it, as many modern drugs tend to do.