Pictured: Alterative Herbs
By: Kathy Sadowski, MS in Aromatherapy, RA, LMT, RYT
Phytotherapy involves herbal medicine to treat illness. A synergistic approach is recognized with phytotherapy in which all components of the plant play a role in contributing to its healing, not just isolated constituents. Further, it is seen that most herbs treat the whole body and it is not as easy to categorize them as treating a single symptom (1). Alterative herbs have a blood cleansing action, best to be taken in small doses over a longer period of time, resulting in whole body wellness of organs and systems. When the blood, whose job is to transport nutrition, oxygen, and infection fighting white blood cells to all the body parts is cleansed and optimal, the whole body benefits. It is common sense to say that when taking an alterative herb protocol to cleanse the blood, it would not make sense to eat unhealthy food, drink unclean water, or be exposed to other pollutants as it would defeat the purpose (2). You are what you eat (and drink and breath)!
Here are a few alterative herbs with an example of scientific research:
- A meta-review indicated that garlic lowered blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and boosted immunity. (3)
- In this review, research on burdock and the following actions were discussed: blood detoxifying, improved blood circulation, improved skin, antioxidant, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, and antimicrobial. (4)
- Tested components of plantain showed immuno-stimulating activities, and may contribute to the traditional claims for using it to treat cancers and infectious diseases. (5)
- Yellow Dock
- Goji berry and yellow dock supplements given to diabetic rats reduced blood sugar levels. (6)
- Red Clover
- Red clover extract and its isoflavones showed powerful chemopreventive activity in vitro. (7)
- Phytoestrogens including estradiol reduced blood cholesterol levels in rabbits. (8)
Differently, allopathy (modern medicine) focuses on treating specific symptoms, and prefers to look at key constituents of a plant to treat one focused issue instead of the whole body. These constituents can be isolated or simulated into standardized synthetic drugs, that are then prescribed to treat a health condition. Scientific research can more easily study the outcome of a single variable (one single symptom), but what is the outcome of taking a drug to the whole body?
Further, treating a person with an isolated constituent leaves less margin for error. Therapeutic margin is the range between the beneficial amount of a drug or herb versus the unsafe dose. Doses that are too high, or taken for too long a period of time can result in side effects, sensitization, and even toxic or damaging outcomes. Further, the more active a constituent, the smaller the therapeutic margin, and the less room for error. Taking whole herbs lengthens the therapeutic margin, and may also take longer to see a therapeutic action, but still deserves the respect of not being excessively used. With both allopathic drubs and herbal remedies, it is important to consider therapeutic margin, proper dosage amount and duration, contraindications, potential interactions, and side effects. Always consult your Doctor before taking an herbal supplement that may interact with existing medications or conditions.
Herbals have more of a focus on preventing illness while synthetics are more for treating the symptoms. Both play an important role in our health. While prevention is the preferred route to go, there are times when we all need to treat a symptom. Found on page 8 of Weiss and Fintelmann’s Herbal Medicine (1), this quote from Rudolf Fritz Weiss, the Father of German Phytotherapy (1895 – 1992) sums up the use of phytotherapy and allopathy:
First the word, Then the herbal drug, Then the great synthetic drug, And last the knife.
- Weiss, R., & Fintelmann, V. (2000). Herbal medicine (No. Ed. 2). Georg Thieme Verlag.
- American College of Healthcare Sciences (2017). Course material from Advanced Herbal Materia Medica I. www.achs.edu
- From: Ried, K. (2016). Garlic lowers blood pressure in hypertensive individuals, regulates serum cholesterol, and stimulates immunity: an updated meta-analysis and review. The Journal of nutrition, 146(2), 389S-396S.
- Chan, Y. S., Cheng, L. N., Wu, J. H., Chan, E., Kwan, Y. W., Lee, S. M. Y., … & Chan, S. W. (2010). A review of the pharmacological effects of Arctium lappa (burdock).
- Chiang, L. C., Ng, L. T., Chiang, W., Chang, M. Y., & Lin, C. C. (2003). Immunomodulatory activities of flavonoids, monoterpenoids, triterpenoids, iridoid glycosides and phenolic compounds of Plantago species. Planta medica, 69(07), 600-604.
- Muselin, F., Brezovan, D., Savici, J., Cristina, R. T., Dumitrescu, E., Doma, A. O., … & Trif, A. (2015). The Use of Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus L.) and Goji Berry (Lycium barbarum L.) in Alloxan Induced Diabetes Mellitus in Rats. Scientific Papers Animal Science and Biotechnologies, 48(1), 373-376.
- Krenn, L., & Paper, D. H. (2009). Inhibition of angiogenesis and inflammation by an extract of red clover (Trifolium pratense L.). Phytomedicine, 16(12), 1083-1088.
- Asgary, S., Moshtaghian, J., Naderi, G., Fatahi, Z., Hosseini, M., Dashti, G., & Adibi, S. (2007). Effects of dietary red clover on blood factors and cardiovascular fatty streak formation in hypercholesterolemic rabbits. Phytotherapy Research, 21(8), 768-770.
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