by Dr. Richard Schulze
Herbal medicine has been THE medicine of every single group of people, of every single culture, and in every single country on this entire planet, since the beginning of time. But still, I am asked all the time, “How do herbs work?”
A number of years ago while I was out shopping, I ran into a woman who was a wonderful customer. She told me that she used and loved my herbal medicines. She then told me how much success she had, healing herself over the years from a few quite serious illnesses. She also was pleased to tell me that she had also helped some family members, too. Mainly, she wanted to hug me and express to me that she felt so empowered, to be able to heal herself, and to help others, especially loved ones, to heal themselves. But most of all, she loved NOT having to run to the medical doctor or hospital emergency room anymore, every time someone had some illness.
But then she told me that she gets a lot of ridicule from her husband, who is a pharmacist at a major drug store chain. He told her that herbs don’t work at all, they are just hocus-pocus and a load of bull, and that any benefit that she thought she had, was all in her head, and at best, just a placebo effect. She was very upset and with tears in her eyes, she asked me for my response.
How Herbal Medicine Works
First, herbal medicine has been THE medicine of every single group of people, of every single culture, and in every single country on this entire planet, since the beginning of time. Herbs grow wild on this planet, and have been THE medicines of the people on this planet, forever. Chemical medicines are the new kid on the block, the new fad, and have only been around for a few hundred years. And, most drugs were originally made from plants anyway.
Herbal Medicine has recorded roots dating back over 6,000 years in China, India and the Middle East, just to mention a few places. Even today, the vast majority of the people on this planet still use herbal medicine as their first-choice medicine, and do not trust pharmaceutical drugs, at all. In fact, 50% of all drugs are either made from botanicals or synthesized to duplicate a chemical that was originally found in a plant.
Digitalis, the most famous of all heart drugs, gets its name from the herb Digitalis lanata, the Foxglove plant that it is made from. This plant, like many plants, contains some very powerful chemicals, often referred to as phytochemicals meaning “plant-chemicals”. The most powerful chemicals in this particular plant are called glycosides, specifically cardiac glycosides that affect the heart muscle in many ways. This is just one small example of one herb that has now become one of the most famous drugs used today. I could list over 1,000 additional drugs here that are plant-derived, but I just wanted to make a point.
How Do Herbs Actually Work?
Well, it is actually very simple. All foods and plants (basically anything that grows) contain chemicals. And when you ingest plants, your body breaks the plant material down, using everything from saliva to digestive juices, and then your body assimilates these various chemicals.
One of the reasons that we eat food is so that our body can assimilate the Phyto-chemical nutrients from the plant. Nutrients that sustain life, like vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, protein, fat, carbohydrates, etc. Without plant nutritional chemicals, we couldn’t survive.
Herbs are also foods, but usually, people don’t consume them for food, as they taste stronger. Sometimes we do, like raspberries, artichokes, dandelion, burdock, etc. But, when it comes to the stronger tasting ones (like coffee) most cultures have discovered that these plants have more medicinal uses, instead of nutritional uses. These stronger tasting plants taste stronger because they have stronger chemicals in them. This is one way that nature protects us and tells us the difference between food and medicine–raspberries taste great, digitalis does not.
Anyway, when we ingest these medicinal herbs, the same way as food, we break down the plant and assimilate the chemistry in the plant. But, with many herbs, it is these stronger medicinal chemicals that we assimilate, instead of nutrients.
So when we consume medicinal herbs by just chewing them or using herbal teas, tablets, capsules or liquid extracts (like tinctures and tonics), instead of nutrition, we assimilate the medicinal plant chemicals or phytochemical medicines. The way in which herbs work is not rocket science and is actually very basic chemistry.
Then Why Do Medical Doctors Often Ridicule or Condemn Herbal Medicine?
Well first, you must understand that they have no training in Herbal Medicine, nor even in Nutrition. So asking the average medical doctor about using herbs, or about your food program is like asking your plumber about the condition of your home’s electrical system. They may have an opinion, but it is probably not a valid one.
The second reason is insecurity. Many people, including medical doctors, are very insecure about anything they don’t know or understand. They either fear it and condemn it, or will tell you to stay away from it. A better, more enlightened answer would simply be, “I have no training in herbal medicine, so I suggest that you seek the advice of a qualified herbal doctor.” But, you will NEVER hear that answer from someone whose ego is not in check.
Another reason why medical doctors generally condemn herbal medicine is that modern medicine is a TWO TRILLION DOLLAR a year business in the US. Additionally, Medical Groups spend more money influencing government with lobbyists in Washington than any other private business organization. Considering that doctors and hospitals don’t want to lose your business and since pharmaceutical companies are making more money than any drug cartel ever thought of, well, you can expect that you are going to see and hear some occasional negative publicity warning you about any competition, and consequently not to use herbs. Either you will be warned that herbs are dangerous and unsafe, or that they are totally ineffective. (You’ll notice these two answers completely contradict each other.)
Usually, most of these warnings come from medical doctors who work for a system that makes a living off of helping people manage their diseases, but never quite actually healing them. (An example is that no diabetic ever heals his or her pancreas using insulin. In fact, when the pancreas detects artificially induced insulin, it gets weaker.) The medical cure for most diseases in America is not actually a cure at all, but more accurately, management. In fact, the use of the term “Health Care” would be more accurate—and more appropriate—if it were changed to “Disease Care”.
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