There can be a general misconception that plant medicine does not have any evidence of how effective it is, compared to pharmaceutical medicine that is required to undergo clinical trials before it can be put on the market.
The recent Pharmacy Council announcement that they have made amendments to their code of ethics that allows pharmacists to sell complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), alongside their pharmaceutical counterparts has raised some concerns about the validity of plant medicine.
Unlike man-made chemical drugs that have been developed as novel medicines from the 19th century onwards, plant medicines have been used in human healthcare for millennia. They share a long co-evolution with humans and are the foundation of their modern chemistry-based counterparts. Plant medicines are underpinned by empirical evidence. Their pharmacological effects have been formally documented in medical textbooks by trained physicians over a long period of time and are clinically proven to be effective in many areas. For example, research confirms their beneficial effects for rebalancing hormones, aiding sleep, dealing with stress, in depression or strengthening the immune system. Medicinal plants are listed as approved ingredients in international pharmacopoeias such as the European Pharmacopoeia or the British Pharmacopoeia.
Plant medicine can provide you with essential building blocks for organ health that cannot be found through diet alone, and have a cumulative effect on the body to help build or restore your physiology to the optimal levels.
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Traditional plant medicines have a rich history of being effectively used for over 2500 years, and they remain integrated in many international healthcare systems today. In fact, Western biomedicine is historically rooted in plant medicine, given that it was the main form of medicine until the establishment of the new economic order after the industrial revolution.
Plant medicine is recognised as an official form of healthcare in many European countries, such as Switzerland, and their empirically validated effectiveness is increasingly substantiated and validated with contemporary science methodologies.
Since the mid-1980s there has been an explosion of research into complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs), driven by consumer demand for natural medicines. There have been over 40,000 studies conducted over the past three decades. This means that in addition to traditional empirical evidence, we have increasing evidence based on newer methodologies such as randomised controlled trials. They overwhelmingly confirm traditional medical applications of plants.
Traditionally, plant medicine incorporates the whole plant and its extracts, and with this it brings a full spectrum of active constituents that work synergistically on different parts of the body's physiological functions. Plant medicines will only work if they have been expertly compounded – from harvesting the plant at the right time at their peak potency, to careful processing them to preserve their active constituents and then to the correct formulation. This means to reap the many benefits of plant medicine, you must ensure you are getting them form a trusted company or registered Medical Herbalist.