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)!
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.
Click here for more research on Alterative Herbs.